There it was, in full view of the cameras. The three large insurance corporations whose executives were testifying had canceled coverage for 20,000 people who had gotten seriously ill.
They couldn't do it for everyone. Contracts are contracts. There had to be something wrong with the initial coverage. So when folks got sick, they were told they had tried to defraud the companies by having pre-existing conditions. It's kind of like insider trading. If you know you are sick, and the insurance company doesn't know it, it isn't a fair bet for the insurer.
The problem is the companies canceled coverage on sick folks who had not tried to defraud anyone. By the thousands, cases were reviewed. They were horrific, involving negligible errors on complex paperwork. One lady was told her surgery for breast cancer would not be covered because she had not reported a case of childhood acne and a minor heart fluctuation having nothing to do with her cancer. Acne? Another was denied coverage because she did not think to report a weight-loss medication she was no longer taking and irregular menstruation. A man died after denial of coverage because of potential problems his physician had noted but never mentioned to him.
Policyholders with serious illnesses were targeted for such investigation and employees who succeeded in denying coverage, no matter how tenuous the reasons, received corporate recognition. The practice is called rescission. One employee was applauded with "a perfect 5" on a performance review for "exceptional performance" for depriving thousands of seriously ill policyholders of coverage.
Here's the thing: Companies are, and ought to be, in the business of making money. If their duty to their investors conflicts with their social responsibilities, as long as they don't break the law and don't feel they are cheating, social responsibility gets dumped.
That's one reason some lawmakers argue so hard for a "public option" in health reform. After all, this is not about home repair. This is about life, death, and health. Let consumers choose. But that is not public policy quite yet. If Republicans and a handful of conservative Democrats prevail, it never will be.
But fair is fair. As long as the system is as it is, companies do have a right to keep from being defrauded, don't they? The President of WellPoint was vehement. "I want to emphasize that rescission is about stopping fraud and material misrepresentations that contribute to spiraling healthcare costs."
Lawmakers considered the passion and logic of the argument. They offered a compromise. Would the insurance corporations agree not to cancel coverage for a sick person unless fraud is present on that person's part?
The companies, all of them, every one, said no.
There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.
- - President Richard Nixon, Oval Office, Newly released tapes
Today, senior diplomats of some Western countries, who addressed us diplomatically up until today, have now removed their masks. They are showing their true faces.
They are showing their enmity against the Islamic Republic system and the most evil of them is the British government.
- - Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran
Comment: In the good old days, America was "The Great Satan"
We have been reduced to a mere secondary evil.
Do we really have to be political wonks to be awed by the splendor of the legislative maneuverings this year?
In Tennessee, Republicans had a one vote majority. They had won it fair and square. So they could vote their guy in to run the Tennessee house, appoint the leadership of all the committees, and pretty much get things their way. Democrats would vote as a bloc for their choice for Speaker, then Republicans would cast their votes, win by one vote, and spend the rest of the day laughing at those Democratic losers (excuse me, that's Democrat losers in Republican speak). And life would go on.
So, as predicted, Democrats began the vote, all voting for .. are you ready for this? ... a moderate Republican. Huh? So when the Republicans got their turn, they all voted as a bloc, except for the guy the Democrats had all voted for. He shrugged his shoulders and voted for himself. He became the speaker, and rewarded the Democrats by putting them in power.
Now it's New York's turn in the center ring of the political circus. Democrats got a majority in the State Senate for the first time in a gazillion years. They put their guys in power and found a lot of skeletons hidden away. Unknown buildings everyone had thought were empty turned out to be secret broadcast centers for political advertising at taxpayer expense. People few had ever heard of had been on the public payroll for years.
A few months later, a couple of Democrats agreed to switch sides. Democrats got wind of it. So, just as Republicans were set to call on a vote on a new Senate leader, Democrats began to scream out motions to adjourn. Later on, Republicans insisted they would still take over. They had the votes, right? But Democrats had the keys to the Senate chambers, so the Republicans were locked out. Republicans said they would hold the Senate vote out on the lawn. Then it turned out one of the two legislators who were switching had a set of keys. So they could vote like dignified politicians.
Now one of the switchers is switching back. This leaves the Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. So, there is now a new legal theory. Republicans insist the newly elected Senate head, a Republican, can break the deadlock by voting twice. Yup. He will try to vote twice. Once with the rest of the Senate, and a second time to break the tie.
The totally unpopular David Paterson, the only Governor in the history of New York to actually have poll numbers below zero, is urging the Senators to resolve their differences. His argument is one seldom heard publicly. All the wrangling means nothing is getting done. That is unfair to THE LOBBYISTS who have worked so hard to swing votes to the special interests. We can't let all their efforts go for nothing. I'm not making this up.
So come on. Isn't this better than baseball?
On Whether NY Senators Can Receive Salaries During Dispute:
It turns out that both conferences have come together and signed appropriate documentation to continue receiving their salaries. So there is a power sharing agreement -- but it only includes getting paid. If the leadership of the Senate can agree on a way to keep getting paid, they can reach an agreement to get back to work for the people of New York.
- - Marissa Shorenstein, speaking for Governor David Paterson
I was startled when I saw it on C-SPAN. I was working on some papers and had the television on in the background, so I thought I had heard it wrong. It was a celebration of that extremely old (now dead) racist Strom Thurmond, who had attained yet another year and achieved a full century of destructive life. He had gone from pro-segregation Dixiecrat, running on a racist platform for President in 1948, to a Republican convert, helping Richard Nixon compose a Southern strategy. What a guy.
Trent Lott put the unthinkable into words. "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
Others picked it up. Conservative friends in internet chatrooms and meeting halls tried to minimize the words. It was an innocent compliment. It was taken out of context. It was exaggerated. And we, on the left, enjoyed quoting Lott's words in full, asking for whatever context we may have missed.
National conservatives stepped up to the plate. Republicans began demanding Lott's head. "Oh, God," Said Bill Kristol. "It's ludicrous. He should remember it's the party of Lincoln." Peggy Noonan was more definitive, "when Strom Thurmond ran for president in 1948 he ran explicitly as a segregationist who would attempt to stop the civil rights revolution. He never, ever should have been elected president of the United States. It is truly weird for a person who lives in our world, in the modern world, to say otherwise."
Trent Lott went on a sort of apology tour, and Civil Rights leaders were quick to forgive their frequent adversary. But Republicans wouldn't have it. He was voted out of any leadership position. He stayed out for years.
A former GOP official in South Carolina posted on the internet a little joke. A gorilla had escaped from the Riverbanks Zoo, but he said, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors -- probably harmless." Well, boys will be Good Ol' Boys. He deleted the comment after being called on it. He was also "sorry as could be..." wait for it "...if I offended anyone." He said the obvious, as if it was mitigating: "The comment was clearly in jest." Well, duh. Then he sought to calm things down a bit with a reasonable explanation. "The comment was hers. Not mine." His point was that Michelle Obama had been claiming that she was descended from apes. What a card, that First Lady!
Another South Carolina Republican posted a joke about President Obama taxing aspirin "because it's white and it works." Apologies all around. And a Tennessee GOP staffer sent a photo of all the Presidents. In Obama's place was a black frame with two white eyes. Get it? A Negro in the White House? The apology went like this: "I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button." So, how's the sensitivity training going?
We must learn from these sad errors. 1) Always send racist material to the right people. 2) The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Limbaugh.
Regarding a joke about the amazing lack of intelligence among black people:
I have been asked to send this apology for my earlier email. I am sorry that it was received in a negative manner. I do hope that we are going to be allowed to keep our sense of humor.
As you can now see, it went to very few people. I did add Todd Marks in this apology, as he is in the mix now. I am also sorry to learn that some of these persons are not real team players. There really was no reason for this to go beyond those that I emailed (8 people).
- - Carol Carter, Florida Republican Committeewoman, now resigned
When the jury at the OJ murder trial brought back its verdict, reactions were mixed. Depending largely on demographics, folks were heartened by the repudiation of justice too often unjustly applied in Los Angeles, or outraged by the tossing out of a mountain of evidence on the basis of a racial appeal.
My skepticism did not flow so much from the evidence as from the process. The massive testimony and analysis, the competing interpretations, the timelines, the coincidences, the DNA questions took nine and a half months to present. The hyper-efficient jury managed to weigh every piece of disputed evidence, resolve every issue, and dispose of the case in a mind bending 3 hours and 40 minutes. One juror even managed to retain enough energy to give a power salute to the accused murderer while filing out.
I thought of that jury as I watched the election in Iran. Authorities were crushed by a mountain of paper ballots. Even with computers in some precincts aggregating the tallies, each vote had to be counted by hand.
Misconduct was evident before the polls opened and grew by the minute. Internet communications were impeded, then cell phones were cut off. As suspicious crowds grew increasingly restive, official reaction to protests became brutal. Reports of live rounds being fired into crowds, with deadly results, lend an image of a Middle East version of Tienanmen Square.
The Obama Administration is credited by experts with striking the right note with exactitude. Skepticism is expressed: sympathy short of endorsement. There is no call from Iranians themselves for any US involvement. The danger of Iranian authorities branding opponents as stooges of America has been avoided. The opposition has not been delegitimized. The more primitive of US conservatives call for precisely that sort of intervention, but the administration has done what is right as opposed to what makes us feel good.
Some neo-cons who favor current Iranian authorities over their challengers want to advance the possibility of war. They point to polls that indicate the possibility that an Ahmadinejad victory may have been legitimate. They have not addressed just how the main challenger lost in his own hometown or how another major candidate got less than 1 percent of the vote.
It was an OJ vote tally. 39.2 million paper ballots were hand counted, tabulated, and the results posted in 12 hours. It remains an intimidating display of accelerated human mentality. We must hope such staggering ability never falls into the wrong hands.
As events teeter between laughable official claims and tragic official oppression, people overcome a lack of electronic communication by shouting from rooftops. Iranians are "sending them a message": "They" may be well advised to actually count those ballots.
Put yourself in their place. Walk a mile in the shoes of Republican office holders. The climate is changing, and not for the better. The base is melting fast and a hot environment is getting hotter. It's been going on for a long time, largely unnoticed at first except by a few Casandra like political specialists.
The observable process is a political death spiral. The party is conservative, very conservative. Moderates don't much like their position in the GOP, and, like the ancient Argonauts, they find the siren call of independence irresistible.
As a few moderates leap overboard, the party becomes proportionately more conservative. This alienates more moderates, so they jump ship. Without their influence, the party becomes extremist, and the beat goes on.
This is nothing new. Democrats have gone through their own death spiral. In England, Labour (or Labor, for those of us who are victims of American education), went through the same process. The cure was simple. A couple of electoral losses became the shock therapy of democracy. Labo(u)r turned around. The Democrats became a resurgent party. It was painful. It required re-examination of basic viewpoints. But the next election loomed menacingly, and so it was done.
But that is not happening for the GOP. They have lost the popular vote in 4 of the last 5 Presidential elections. Midterm elections showed a similar pattern. Republicans lost seats in 5 of the last 7. The long term trend has not been reassuring. But Republicans are not going through the same re-examination that began past recoveries for both parties. Technology is the culprit. Internet and cable television have joined with talk radio, providing conservatives with a protective cocoon, keeping reality away. Rush Limbaugh (popular leader of the GOP), Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly soothe anxious conservative nerves. You don't need to change.
So back to leadership and Hobson's classic choice. In this case it is a death choice: burn or freeze. If you go along with the base, you lose elections. If you try to moderate the party, the base tosses you out on your ear.
So what is a loyal party member to do? One possibility is to hunker down, survive for the moment, and hope the country crashes. Republicans vote as a block against economic recovery programs. Eric Cantor (R-VA) says efforts to save the U.S. auto industry are “almost like looking at Putin's Russia." Mark Kirk (R-IL) works behind the scenes, begging Chinese leaders to be skeptical about America's future, warning them the US is a bad bet.
“Republicans should stop the name-calling, roll up their sleeves, and start working with the president and congressional Democrats to turn the economy around,” says Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
On one Republican's advice to China about investing in America:
After helping get us into this current economic crisis by supporting President Bush's failed economic policies, Congressman Mark Kirk went to China and told Chinese officials that the American government was not to be trusted.
- - Ryan Rudominer, Democratic Spokesperson
...lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.
- - Page 7, April 2009 Intelligent and Analysis Assessment (pdf)
US Department of Homeland Security
Affirmative Action as Opposed to Jim Crow Segregation:
One prefers the old bigotry.
- - Pat Buchanan writing in Human Events
It was a dramatic moment in 1954. Joseph Welsh, a patrician lawyer from Boston was totally unused to the new medium called television. He faced a demagogue who considered himself made for the cameras, Joe McCarthy. McCarthy had destroyed people with non-existent lists and innuendo. Welsh was hired by the Army, McCarthy's latest target.
As Welsh needled Roy Cohn, McCarthy's assistant, who also appeared as a witness before a special Senate committee, McCarthy seethed. Finally the Senator from Wisconsin decided to hit Welsh where it hurt. He waved about evidence, actually made public by Welsh months before, that an associate of the lawyer had inadvertently allied himself while in college with a liberal organization. McCarthy called the fellow a subversive.
Welsh answered sadly and solemnly, rebutting the charges, and talked of the harm to an innocent young man. Then, with two sentences, he ended the upward trajectory of McCarthy's career. "Have you no sense of decency, sir?' he asked the astonished Senator. "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" McCarthy was finished. Censured by his colleagues, he lived out his remaining years in decline, and died of alcoholism.
Recently, liberal sites leaped all over Bay Buchanan. Two years ago, a young employee assaulted a surprised black woman, a stranger to him, on a Washington street. He shouted racial epithets as he beat her about the head before being arrested. The man is now the director of two anti-immigrant organizations established by Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo.
Bay Buchanan has published a frank and moving defense. She describes the employee as having been deeply depressed, going from doctor to doctor for unsuccessful treatment. He was exhausted and close to suicide, as he turned to alcohol and experienced a profound loss of sleep. "As he sat in my living room my heart broke," she writes. After the assault, the young man served his sentence and turned his life around, applying to law school.
She turned her guns on the liberal bloggers and others who picked up the story. "What happened next was a modern day lynching by a faceless, angry, ignorant mob who reveled in the collective assault on their victim." A group of students petitioned the school and his admission was denied.
Her reprise of the Welsh role pales 55 years after the real thing. The indignation seems misplaced. Her account strikes me as a good defense, based what must be legal insanity. She concludes with this: "He deserved a second chance -- as do all of us." Must we not emulate her compassion?
As she excoriates those who noticed the story, and declares the fellow to be the victim, perhaps some bit of that compassion might be devoted to the woman who suddenly was assaulted on a sidewalk for the color of her skin. If the young man was a victim of illness, she was a victim of racial violence.
On President Obama:
Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office.
- - Rev. Jeremiah Wright
The single shot traveling at twice the speed of sound hit Aleesha, drove through her chest and exited, then nicked the ear of her half sister, 4-year-old Jailene Jones. The bullet then struck and killed Ashley.
- - St. Petersburg Times account of the killing of a six year old girl.
The shooter was outraged at Ashley's interracial family.