Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, June 27th, 2007.


Chirp

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Bush Administration

So Ann Coulter was on Chris Matthews’s Hardball yesterday. Did I mention the walking freak show was the only guest for the entire hour? Today, the entire hour focused on the fallout from yesterday’s show.

I didn’t watch it all, but I checked every ten minutes or so to see if he’d moved on to a new topic. Nope.

In other words, on the same day the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, Tweety doesn’t have anything else to talk about but the spectacle he made of himself yesterday.

At Crooks & Liars, John Amato commented yesterday and today.

Send your thoughts on this to hardball@msnbc.com.

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And Away We Go

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Bush Administration

Laurie Kellman, Associated Press:

The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office Wednesday for documents relating to President Bush’s warrant-free eavesdropping program.

Also named in subpoenas signed by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., were the Justice Department and the National Security Council.

The committee wants documents that might shed light on internal squabbles within the administration over the legality of the program, said a congressional official speaking on condition of anonymity because the subpoenas had not been made public.

My understanding is that the committee vote was 13-3, and that all ten Dems on the committee (Leahy, Kennedy, Biden, Kohl, DiFi, Russ, Schumer, Durbin, Cardin, Whitehouse) voted to issue the subpoenas, plus three Republicans. Hatch, Specter, and Grassley. Three Republicans must have voted no, and three more must not have voted.

The White House and the Cheney House will fight this. Could get interesting.

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More Sicko

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Health Care

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks appeared on CNN’s Paula Zahn show last night to talk about health care and the film Sicko. You can watch the video here. Be sure to check out the spokesperson for the Right, Amy something.

My comments:

The young lady representing the Right kept going on about how she didn’t have health insurance because she was self-employed and wanted some kind of tax credit so she could afford it. However, I’m reasonably certain self-employed people already can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums from their federal income taxes (Form 1040, line 29). So I’m not sure what other tax incentives she might need.

Which takes me to the next point — she was complaining about those awful “regulations” that make insurance so expensive. When the COBRA policy from my last job ran out I was able to purchase a private Blue Shield HMO policy, even though I am 55, overweight, and have high cholesterol. This is thanks to New York state regulations. I’m paying almost $700 a month for it, but by damn I’m insured. In many states I probably could not have purchased private insurance at any price.

This is, I think, critical: Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield could not deny my application because I applied the same month my COBRA insurance expired. I didn’t have to get a physical or anything; just provide proof of my prior insurance. This was New York law, they told me. Had I waited more than a month, they could have turned me down. In many states I wouldn’t have had even the grace period; I could have been denied coverage just because. These are the kind of “regulations” the Right says are so onerous.

Also in New York, if you start a new job, your new employer’s health insurance provider has to insure you even if you have pre-existing conditions. There may be some loopholes somewhere, but I have never heard of an employed co-worker being denied coverage in all the years I’ve lived around here. That’s another of those damn “regulations” the Right wants to do away with.

Ms. Amy the Tool (who is a pretty girl, but a twit) exemplifies another problem with “The System.” She’s young and healthy and thinks it doesn’t make sense for her to purchase health insurance when she sees a doctor maybe once or twice a year. Never mind that she’s gambling she won’t be in an accident or come down with something serious. Insurance is about risk sharing, and if healthy people aren’t in the system it drives up costs for everyone else.

Finally, the segment implied that Sicko focuses on the problems of uninsured people, but it’s more about insured people who have been ripped off by their insurance providers.

I hope I’m not being too hard on Cenk, who did good.

Also: Nice commentary on Sicko by Maggie Mahar.

Update: I forgot to answer one other thing — Ms. Amy Something mentioned all those Canadians who are dropping dead while on waiting lists for elective surgery. I don’t remember the number she gave. I want to repeat something I wrote last month:

Nearly a year ago the Institute of Medicine issued three reports (key findings here) saying the nation’s emergency rooms are inadequate and getting worse. Among other things, it found:

  • Demand for emergency care has been growing fast—emergency department (ED) visits grew by 26 percent between 1993 and 2003.
  • But over the same period, the number of EDs declined by 425, and the number of hospital beds declined by 198,000.
  • ED crowding is a hospital-wide problem—patients back up in the ED because they can not get admitted to inpatient beds.
  • As a result, patients are often “boarded”—held in the ED until an inpatient bed becomes available—for 48 hours or more.
  • Also, ambulances are frequently diverted from overcrowded EDs to other hospitals that may be farther away and may not have the optimal services.
  • In 2003, ambulances were diverted 501,000 times—an average of once every minute.
  • After these reports came out, David Brown wrote in the Washington Post:

    The number of deaths caused by a delay in treatment or lack of expertise is especially uncertain, though it may not be small. San Diego established a trauma system in 1984 after autopsies of accident victims who died after reaching the ER suggested that 22 percent of the deaths were preventable, said Eastman, one of the Institute of Medicine committee members.

    Our system doesn’t kill people by putting them on waiting lists for elective surgery. Out system has other ways to kill people. If it doesn’t kill them in the ER, it kills them by denying them necessary surgeries. Experimental, you know. And it kills them when it denies them basic medical care.

    A report came out in 2002 that 18,314 people die in the US each year because they lack preventive care services, timely diagnoses or appropriate care. They lack these things because they are uninsured.

    Those people would have been better off in Canada, wouldn’t you say?

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    Unserious?

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    Bush Administration

    Yesterday I wrote about Sen. Richard Lugar’s apparent shift on Iraq policy. Matt Yglesias is skeptical.

    On the subject of US foreign policy, Lugar is one of the most knowledgeable senators, and certainly the Republican member who carries the most respect around town.

    Then again, he’s criticized Bush before and nothing’s ever come of it. “In the past, the administration has been inclined not to disregard congress but to not take congress very seriously,” Lugar said in late December when the administration was floating the “surge” proposal, “I think this time congress has to be taken seriously.”

    Congress, of course, was against the surge. And Bush didn’t take that opposition seriously at all. And when Democratic congressional leaders attempted to make him pay a price for his defiance by attaching to the war funds the administration sought a requirement that troops be withdrawn from Iraq, Bush showed how unseriously he took congressional opposition by vetoing the bill and then accusing congress of denying funds to the troops.

    Democrats made a token effort to override the president’s veto, but with the Republican Party opposed – including Lugar – the veto was sustained, the surge continued, and so it will go until enough Republicans defect to the other side.

    And after Senator Lugar’s speech calling for a new direction in Iraq, one of the Senator’s spokespersons told the Associated Press that the speech was not a signal Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

    Which begs the question, what does Lugar hope to accomplish, and why? Surely he knows Bush doesn’t care what he thinks, so he can’t be expecting to influence Bush’s policy choices. Lugar just won re-election in 2006, so his Senate seat won’t be up for grabs again until 2012. He doesn’t have to tapdance around an angry electorate. If he doesn’t intend to vote his conscience on the war, what was this week’s speech about? Matt asks,

    The shame of it is that he clearly knows better. When Bush pursues a misguided policy in Iraq, we can at least believe that Bush believes in it. When GOP legislators back his misguided policy, we can choose to believe that they, too, are misguided. Lugar, however, can see that Bush’s policies aren’t working. Indeed, dating all the way back to before the war he was raising reasonably prescient warnings and even cosponsored a resolution with Joe Biden that would have thrown some roadblocks in the path of war.

    He knows Bush’s policy won’t work, but in effect – with his votes, when it counts – he’s backing Bush anyway. The question is why?

    You could ask the same thing of nearly every Republican in Congress, of course. Lots of them have been willing to break ranks with Bush over his immigration policy, but not the war. I assume this is because more Republicans still support the war than support Bush’s immigration policy. The latest CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll says “Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war.” The article doesn’t say how much of an increase 38 percent represents, just that it’s an increase, and it’s still a minority. In any event, Republicans are sharply at odds with the public as a whole, two-thirds of which oppose the war.

    Surely Senator Lugar and other Republicans must realize by now that as long as George W. Bush is free to conduct the war at his discretion, he will make no substantive changes in Iraq policy. Congress can pass resolutions till the cows come home; if there are no binding dates or other non-discretionary benchmarks and no veto-proof majority, Bush will ignore them.

    Simon Tisdall reports for The Guardian:

    Mr Reid will test Republican support for Mr Bush’s policy next month by forcing a series of votes on a withdrawal deadline, a funding cut-off, and restricting the length of combat tours. Until now only a handful of lesser-known Republicans in the House of Representatives have dared to publicly challenge Mr Bush’s conduct of the war. But latest polls suggest that 38% of Republican voters now support a withdrawal, and pressure on the party’s elected politicians is beginning to tell.

    Willing to put your votes where your mouth is, Senator Lugar?

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