It is finished

Standard

Late in the midnight hour, the President addressed the nation basking in the glow of a landmark political triumph over right-wing massive resistance to health care reform. His understated demeanor and measured words belied the enormity of this breakthrough.

Ted Kennedy would be so proud that his dream of universal health care is on the path to reality. His instinct that Barack Obama was the president we needed was vindicated in last night’s roll call. At the president’s side in this fight was the most effective Speaker of the House in living memory, Nancy Pelosi.   She refused to let this effort die and she helped revive the push for reform the pundits thought dead.

Nobody but Barack Obama could have pulled off this legislative victory.  Behind the genial exterior and megawatt smile is a disciplined, ruthless, pragmatic pol equipped with a flawless mastery of policy minutia.

The president’s  politically expedient compromises with the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies greased the skids of the legislative process and ultimately resulted in the enactment of a recycled package of Republican proposals from the last health care showdown 16 years ago that provide at last a framework for health insurance for most Americans.

While others focused on progressive goals like covering everyone, bringing down health care costs and providing competition, Obama focused on getting a passable bill that partially addressed those goals. This President is interested only in the art of the possible.  Ideology is secondary.

Obama won and left the Republicans sputtering unintelligible nonsense for over a year.  They showed their arses last night, every flat hairy butt cheek. They used every arrow in their quiver to defeat reform: fear, deception, xenophobia, and racism.  They still lost.

Over the course of the next few years, 32 million Americans will finally gain access to health insurance they should have had all along. It is the most expensive in the industrialized world and doesn’t cover what it should, but it is better than nothing at all. 

My hat is off to the Commander-in-chief for this triumph over unadulterated Republican evil.

I still want a public option.

“Victory”

Standard

On the cusp of a landmark “victory” on health care reform, President Obama dramatically addressed a boisterous throng of well-wishers convinced that his industry written reforms constituted positive change. The President glowed and fed off the positive energy in the air. He seemed revitalized and renewed as the crowd roared its approval.  The president’s earnest entreaties are beguiling and difficult to resist.  The recession weary public desperately wants to believe that “change we can believe in” is at last on the way. It isn’t.

Many on the left in the progressive blogosphere believe that “change we can believe in” was killed in the crib. The corporate infanticide of change was facilitated by a conspiracy between the Administration and the insurance lobby that gutted the public option, instituted weak cost controls, enforced a mandate to buy private insurance and left the anti-trust exemption, which allows insurance companies to engage in the most egregious price gouging, largely intact.  The reality leaves me drained and dispirited.

The average black person I meet is trapped in a post inaugural cocoon of black pride.  Any constructive criticism of the President provokes a defensive scorn, as if you called their upstanding, god fearing, churchgoing grandmama a trifling whore.  The relationship between the Obamas and the black community is not political but familial. They meet every benchmark of acceptability and are like the new bougie couple that just joined the church that everybody wants to get to know. We see ourselves in them.  Unfortunately, we’ve become so lost in the reflection of ourselves that we failed to notice that the black community is drowning in an ocean of narcissistic b.s. and benign neglect.

The Stockholm syndrome is so profound that if the Congressional Black Caucus had determined to sink Health Care Reform without a public option, blackfolks would have eaten them alive.  Some folk seem to think that God put them here on earth to be Obama’s pep squad.  The President may be black, but he is also a politician like all those that came before him who told us what we wanted to hear and then broke their backs to do the bidding of their corporate paymasters.

The absence of a real urban agenda, what some refer to as a “black agenda,” is a festering wound that will never heal without progressive policy solutions that address the corporate theft of predatory lending, support for mass transit, massive infrastructure improvement,  job training programs, de-escalation of both the prison and military industrial complexes and support for public education.  The president has done some good work on the education piece with a reform of student loans, but much more needs to be done.

Don’t get me wrong, the stimulus was a tremendous help in stabilizing the economy, but we are in such a deep hole that we need much more. Everybody knows that there ain’t no damn jobs out here. State budgets are still tight and teacher layoffs, public school closings, and the loss of thousands of state and local government jobs is still a daily reality. The president damn near had to fight the civil war all over again with some ignorant Republican from Kentucky just to extend unemployment benefits for a short time.

Here in the Carolinas, Republicans  in the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to the eliminate  state support for the entire budget for HIV/AIDS  prevention and assistance. That also includes the AIDS drugs assistance program that provides a lifeline to HIV positive people who cannot afford their anti-retroviral medications.  Republicans are the same people that spread the death panels red herring they claimed was embedded in Obama’s health care reform bill that would “pull the plug on grandma.”

The political calculus implied by this heartless proposal is that the people in the program are not Republicans and that helping them extend the quality and duration of their lives is unnecessary and too expensive.  Given the disproportionate numbers of HIV infections in black South Carolinians (8 times that of Whites), the racial animus behind this move is crystal clear. South Carolina has the eighth highest rate of new  HIV infections in the country and the Republicans in the South Carolina legislature would rather pretend that this isn’t a problem as HIV ravages the black community unchecked.

The Health Care Reform proposal making its way through congress will do nothing to stop state governments from making draconian choices like South Carolina.   I pray it will provide something commensurate in the way of relief for the victims of state sanctioned indifference.  Health Reform still leaves out 24 million people from coverage because health care, despite the histrionics of the socialist obsessed right-wing, is still not a right.

The gluttonous plutocracy that masquerades as American Democracy is alive and well. If we truly want the victory over our corporate overlords, we need to stop putting our trust in personalities and parties and stick with our principles.

I want the public option, dammit

Standard

I want the public option, dammit.

I’m tired of sharecropping on Blue Cross Blue Shield’s corporate plantation.

I’m tired of weak politicians that don’t have the courage of their convictions.

I’m tired of the lies, misinformation, ignorance, and racial fears that stupid people cling to for dear life. Some folk would opt to place their lives in the hands of corporate predators hungry for excessive profits rather than trust Barack Obama or a public option no different than the Medicare they trust already.

I’m tired of people dying unnecessarily.

I’m tired of being sick and tired. My patience is damn near gone.

I’m tired of trusting Negroes who believe that everything will be alright as long as a Democrat is in the White House.

But most of all I am tired of politicians with two faces telling the public that they support the public option at the same time that they’re a cutting deal in a Capitol Hill backroom to kill the very thing they say their for.

This is your life, y’all. Don’t let your member of Congress get away with lying to your face and stabbing you in the back. Fight. Support the public option because your life, or someone you love, might one day depend on it.

The Health Care Reform Summit

Standard

The Republicans didn’t bring anything but the standard right-wing talking points composed of lies, misinformation and fear. They didn’t bring any policy ideas because they believe tactically that they must scuttle reform in order to gain seats and possibly take back the congress this year. They lost the message war today because they had nothing to offer but a lame arse call to start the process over which is nothing more than their way of trying to kill reform.  Nobody with a brain bought the b.s. they were selling.

The Republican game was to look earnest in discussing health care reform with the president while offering nothing of substance. They used their time to pander to whitefolks fears. That is ultimately a losing strategy. It is a larger part of their strategy to demonize the president and scare the stupid into believing that the insurance companies and their outrageous premium increases and denials of care are as American as apple pie and something that they should accept instead of fight.

The president had policy, facts, and the American people on his side. The Republicans have fear. Fear lost today.  He handled his critics with his trademark grace.

The President elegantly byotch slapped John McCain during his angry tirade and told him gently but firmly, “…We’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.” Barack Obama is what class looks and sounds like.  The Republicans cannot reconcile themselves with that reality.   So instead they deal the race card from the bottom of the deck and call him condescending which is a sophisticated way of saying the president is an uppity nigra that doesn’t know his place.

I am disappointed that he didn’t use some time to defend the public option which I believe to be critical to achieving meaningful health care reform. I will be writing my senator to ask why she hasn’t signed onto the public option.   It is probably in vain but I’ll do it anyway because she needs to hear more voices from the black community.

The President clearly enunciated his goals today:

Rather than start at the outset talking about legislative process and what’s going to happen in the Senate and the House and this and that… let’s talk about the substance: How we might help the American people deal with costs, coverage, insurance, these other issues. And we might surprise ourselves and find out that we agree more than disagree. And that would then help to dictate how we move forward.

His evenhanded and calm moderation of a serious discussion belies the wingnut talking points that attempt to demonize the president by painting a portrait of a violent, dangerous, left-wing radical.  The president is a centrist politician that seeks to govern by consensus.  He is not divisive or disagreeable by nature.  Any attempt to make it seem so is disingenuous.

In my humble opinion, the President won the day hands down and should now proceed towards reconciliation which includes a public option without delay.

A few thoughts on the Tavis Smiley controversy

Standard

I’ve seen some interesting commentary on Tavis Smiley deciding to bring back a black discussion forum on Obama’s. CPL over at Jack and Jill Politics and also Shanti over at WEE SEE YOU. Here is my take:

Given the remorseless hate, vitriolic racism and disingenuous histrionics that rain down on President Obama from the right, it is hard not to give in to the impulse to rally around the flag and reflexively defend his every action. Some on the left, especially the gay community, seem to think that projecting their hostility and frustration onto their Negro president, instead of fellow whites that have rejected every marriage referendum, will magically produce the civil rights they long for.

The same could be said of the “fauxgressives”—yawl’s word, frustrated by the health care stalemate. White fear, stoked by misinformation, is killing the progress that could be made in a progressive direction by this president. He has made some mistakes along the way. For example, he’s allowed himself to believe that he could work toward consensus with the insurance industry and bad actors on the right, but what really seems to be driving the debate about all things progressive are the ridiculous fears of some whitefolks that President Obama is somehow out to get them.

Support is collapsing for health care reform in some Democratic quarters on Capital Hill because some members of congress don’t have the intestinal fortitude to push back against the smears and are reluctant to confront the ignorance, racism and fear enveloping their constituents back home. They would rather cut and run or just plain cave in and validate the fear.

It is easy to be lulled into a sense of false security that an urbane, sophisticated, and intelligent President will come out on top no matter what happens, or that the compromises he inevitably makes will preserve the progressive change that people overwhelmingly voted for—that would be wrong. President Obama will only be as good as the pressure we apply. Holding the President accountable, as Tavis suggests, doesn’t mean that we don’t love and admire him and Michelle; it is that our love for them is not a substitute for progressive policy and will not sustain black and brown communities under siege by recession and centuries of racism and economic injustice.

While it is true that Barack Obama has done some great things, like the stimulus package, we need him to do some truly astounding things because times are so damn bad. In order for him to be the president we need him to be we can’t be afraid of criticizing him when it is warranted. Agreeing to a bailout of Wall Street with no strings attached was not the best move, lets be honest. Failing to stem the foreclosure crisis which is hitting black and brown communities particularly hard is yet another. Nobody has to like Tavis Smiley, you don’t even have to agree with him, but you should at least listen when he makes a valid point about a black agenda.

Let’s not mimic some whitefolks and project our anger and frustration over a lack of progressive progress onto those that don’t deserve it. We really ain’t mad at each other or Tavis Smiley for pointing out the lack of a black agenda. We’re mad at those on the right attempting to stymie what little progressive progress this president is willing to fight for. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are a little peeved with Obama for not fighting harder.

Obama Chooses Sebelius for HHS

Standard

sebelius

According to OpenLeft and the NY Times, President Obama has settled on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to Secretary of Health and Human Services.  I couldn’t be more pleased. 

Hat Tip : By PETER BAKER, NY TIMES

 

WASHINGTON – President Obama has settled on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, a key ally with a record of working across party lines, as his top choice for secretary of health and human services, advisers said Wednesday.

 

Should she be nominated, Ms. Sebelius would bring eight years of experience as her state’s insurance commissioner as well as six years as a governor running a state Medicaid program. But with Mr. Obama about to begin a drive to expand health coverage — an issue on which the parties have deep ideological divisions — her strongest asset in the White House view may be her record of navigating partisan politics as a Democrat in one of the country’s most Republican states.

 

Ms. Sebelius resolved a state budget crisis on Tuesday and plans to be in Washington from Saturday through Tuesday for a meeting of the National Governors’ Association. Asked about the cabinet job, her spokeswoman, Beth Martino, said the governor “is focused on the economic challenges currently facing Kansas, including our state budget and the impacts of the federal stimulus package.”

 

Mr. Obama’s first pick for the job, former Senator Tom Daschle, withdrew over his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes until nominated, provoking a storm of criticism and a presidential mea culpa.

 

With his economic recovery plan signed into law, Mr. Obama plans to turn his attention more to health care next week with a budget blueprint that will begin to advance his ideas about covering the uninsured, advisers said. He may also make health care an important theme of his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, they said.

 

It remained unclear whether the White House would finish vetting Ms. Sebelius in time to finalize her nomination by next week. Advisers described her as “the leading candidate” and said there were no others to mention, although they emphasized no final decision has been made.

 

 

 Governor Sebelius, you’ll recall, is the woman I supported for Obama’s Vice.  

Phil Bredesen, Corporate Pedophile

Standard

Imagination Library Week

When Skeptical Brotha regular Zeitgiest9000 posted yesterday that the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder is reporting that the Obama Administration is vetting Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen for Secretary of Health and Human Services, my head exploded. I damn near stroked out, y’all. A diehard Hillarycrat, this is his transparent way of saying that we would have been better off with the Queen of Triangulation, and by extension, her approach to health care reform. I don’t know if that’s true, but if Barack Obama gives a mutha%$#*ing bastard like Phil Bredesen the reins of HHS, I do know we’ll all wish we had been volunteer slaves on the Clintons neo-liberal plantation.

Placing Governor Bredesen in charge of the Administration’s health care reform effort is analogous to giving a pedophile unfettered access to children. At least an establishment tool like Tom Daschle has a few scruples left; a capitalist pig like Phil Bredesen has none. It’s my moral obligation to sound the alarm so that this capitalist piggy screams “wee, wee, wee,” all the way home.

I know what you’re thinking. “Damn, Skeptical Brotha has gone off his meds.” If you must know, I ain’t on no meds, at least not for that, but if I were, and I depended on Tennessee’s Medicaid program, for example, a mutha%$#*a like Phil Bredesen would be rationing my sh*t to “2 name brand drugs and 3 generic prescription drugs monthly, the lowest in the country.” This is done without any regard for the maladies people have or what doctors say their patients need. Thanks be to Gawd that my therapist thinks my depression is situational and not clinical. That is a conversation for another day and I need to stay on task.

Let me be clear so there can be no misunderstanding. Phil Bredesen is a corporate pedophile whose unconscionable greed as a former HMO executive made him a multimillionaire and unscrupulous politician who elects to balance Tennessee’s state budget on the backs of sick children and vulnerable adults by using the spurious pretext of cost to deny them access to proper medical care.

Old habits die hard and Bredesen’s unconscionable greed was made manifest by the deliberate denial of medical care to an unsuspecting public covered by his HMO. His private sector “success,” in turn, made him the type of slimy prick the corporate power structure encourages to run for public office. He began his career as the Mayor of Nashville and subsequently became Tennessee’s Governor. If I do this right, he’ll never receive a cabinet appointment in the Obama Administration because of his shameful record as the business lobby’s nefarious servant directing the state of Tennessee to follow his callous and right-wing business model.

Before Bredesen eff’ed it up, TennCare was the most generous and cost-effective Medicaid program in the country. Not only did it cover indigent care, its intended function, it also drew down ample federal subsidies to expand coverage to adults who couldn’t gain access to health coverage because of pre-existing conditions or prohibitive cost. The subsidies kept hospitals and clinics operating in areas that provided essential care to the isolated rural poor and reduced the rate of uninsured to one of the lowest in the country. The program operated in the black until a Republican governor started messing with it. Bredesen was (s)elected by the power structure in 2002 to finish the job.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund wrote to the Governor in 2004 about their fear that Bredesen’s “reforms” would give the state or its contractors “sole discretion to decide whether a service is covered, without meaningful regard to widely accepted standards of medical care or appropriate deference to the professional judgment of the treating physician.”

“…This invites physicians and/or the TennCare Bureau and its contractors to apply a standard of care to an already vulnerable population that could threaten a patient’s health and cause ‘life-threatening consequences.”

Given the terrible way in which the black poor were and continue to be treated and the fact that forty percent of the African American population of Tennessee was dependent on the state’s Medicaid program for basic access to medical care; a number, which included at least 50 percent of black children, the NAACP’s fears were well founded.

Bredesen ignored the concerns of his detractors and they sued the hell out of the state. They attempted to make the Governor and his minions accountable for a draconian, bare bones Medicaid program that cut over two hundred thousand elderly and disabled people off from assistance they formerly received resulting in “an increase in preventable deaths by a rate that equals an additional death every 30 hours.”

A federal Court found in 2001 that the state and its managed care contractors were systematically violating quality of care standards governing the treatment of low-income TennCare children, including those in the state’s troubled foster care system. There was extensive evidence that children suffered serious harm as a result of those violations. In 2006, state officials claimed to have fixed the problems. But a panel of court-appointed monitors issued a lengthy report last year (2007) finding that the state had not proven that claim, and there remained evidence of widespread problems.

In June last year, a federal appeals court authorized a computer expert to determine whether the Bredesen Administration had altered computer records to evade court orders to produce records documenting the state’s systematic denials of care to 650,000 children covered by the state’s Medicaid program. According to the Tennessee Justice Center, “the Governor and other officials disclosed that they had used Bredesen’s personal email system and their personal computers for state business. They claimed that by putting the public records on personal computers, officials could shield them from inspection.”

Bredesen’s heartlessness is borne out by numerous horror stories documented by Families USA:

Could you sleep at night if your budget cuts eliminated an elderly woman from receiving treatment for schizophrenia and lung cancer?

Could you cancel a prostate cancer operation for an elderly senior living on less than $1000 a month just days before the procedure?

Could you look at yourself in the mirror if you prevented anyone suffering from emphysema or some other respiratory condition from getting round-the-clock oxygen?

Could you face the public knowing that you cut off insulin dependent diabetics from their medication?

Phil Bredesen can because he is a monster. The cumulative impact of his evil is unfathomable. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why Republicans vote for him or why my favorite neo-liberal ass clown’s at the New Republic fetishize his massive cruelty.

Any sentient Democrat who believes that a bastard like Phil Bredesen merits consideration for Barack Obama’s cabinet should be fitted for a straight jacket and locked away forever in a padded cell. I am compelled to write today. I am ringing the bell and sounding the alarm. Let the word go forth, from this time and place, that the progressive blogosphere finds a Bredesen appointment totally unacceptable. It is the highest insult for progressives for him to even be vetted by this Administration. His appointment would be a stench in the nostrils of God and a sick joke on the most vulnerable among us, especially sick and disabled children and adults, like the elderly and the uninsured, the people his green eyeshades target as the expendable poor that are socially acceptable to kill.