Family Research Council push polls The Nabobs

At around 12:10 pm today we received an interesting phone call at Nabob Headquarters. It began as a recored ‘robo-call’ from something called “ABBC Research.” It asked us to agree or disagree to several questions.

The first asked: would we support health care reform even if it allowed the government to pay for abortions?

Though this is a suspicious question (to the best of our knowledge the the reform bill does not look to change the current law by allowing federal funds to pay for abortion) we emphatically said, “yes!”

The next question confirmed our suspicion that this was a ‘push-poll’ by asking: would we support the health care reform bill even though it will raise our premiums, create a government run health care system, use federal money to pay for abortions, create panels run by unelected officials to deny coverage, start rationing care, raise taxes, dig up the graves of 9/11 victims and use their remains to club babies to death, ban christianity and burn the bible?

Though we aren’t sure about the accuracy of the last few questions, the poll was clearly meant to mislead and implant ideas in the heads of the poll’s respondents. We waited through the rest of the poll’s dubious questions our suspicions were confirmed; the ‘poll’ was actually sponsored by a conservative organization, namely the Family Research Council, the anti obscenity, anti-abortion conservative holy-holler christian right group founded by James Dobson.

Nuff said?


Public Option compromises

There have been rumors today of ideas that may replace the badly compromised compromise to a compromise Public Option:

Lower the age of Medicare eligibility:

The proposal would lower the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 55, though an age limit of 60 has also been suggested. Crucial details — such as the timing of the implementation of such a reform — were not provided due to the sensitivity and ongoing nature of the deliberations. A high-ranking Democratic source off the Hill confirmed that such discussions are taking place.

Lowering the floor for Medicare is one of several ideas being discussed as a way to pacify progressives upset over the potential elimination of a public option for insurance coverage, one of the sources added. Senate Democrats held discussions this past weekend about replacing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s version of a public plan with one that would be non-profit-based. The alternative proposal would be offered in state exchanges, run by private insurers but monitored by the Office of Personnel Management.

“The Office Personal Management proposal that has been out there for the past couple days is one of the leading ideas to represent the public option in a modified bill. But there are a series of things that progressives are negotiating in exchange for dropping the [public option] opt-out,” said the source.

What about people 27-55. That doesn’t seem like a great compromise to us!

The other idea would basically allow everyone into the same health insurance pool as federal employees.


Obama: Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good

Remember back in July when Obama spoke about what he would do to help the health care bill along once we got to this point, when the bill got to conference comity?

The House bills and the Senate bills will not be identical. We know this. The politics are different, because the makeup of the Senate and the House are different and they operate on different rules. I am not interested in making the best the enemy of the good. There will be a conference committee where the House and Senate bills will be reconciled, and that will be a tough, lengthy and serious negotiation process.

I am less interested in making sure there’s a litmus test of perfection on every committee than I am in going ahead and getting a bill off the floor of the House and off the floor of the Senate. Eighty percent of those two bills will overlap. There’s going to be 20 percent that will be different in terms of how it will be funded, its approach to the public plan, its pay-or-play provisions. We shouldn’t automatically assume that if any of the bills coming out of the committees don’t meet our test, that there is a betrayal or failure. I think it’s an honest process of trying to reconcile a lot of different interests in a very big bill.

Conference is where these differences will get ironed out. And that’s where my bottom lines will remain: Does this bill cover all Americans? Does it drive down costs both in the public sector and the private sector over the long-term. Does it improve quality? Does it emphasize prevention and wellness? Does it have a serious package of insurance reforms so people aren’t losing health care over a preexisting condition? Does it have a serious public option in place? Those are the kind of benchmarks I’ll be using. But I’m not assuming either the House and Senate bills will match up perfectly with where I want to end up. But I am going to be insisting we get something done.

Now that we are at the point of reconciling (not to be confused with reconciliation) the House and Senate bills, it is important to hold Obama to the promises that he made to progressives back in July.

Cap and (something that rhymes with Trade)

Wow. Today in the New York Time Paul Krugman praises Cap and Trade for having helped find ‘market based solutions’ to the Acid Rain problem of the 80s and 90s.

Only 3 or so links down, the Editorial Section blasts Cap and Trade and explains why it is a myth that this helped end Acid Rain:


The acid rain controversy of the 1980s was in many respects a dress rehearsal for today’s fight over climate change. Then as now, right-wing ideologues denied the science. Then as now, industry groups claimed that any attempt to limit emissions would inflict grievous economic harm.

But in 1990 the United States went ahead anyway with a cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide. And guess what. It worked, delivering a sharp reduction in pollution at lower-than-predicted cost.

The New York Times Editorial:

Supporters of cap and trade point to the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that capped sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-burning power plants — the main pollutants in acid rain — at levels below what they were in 1980. This legislation allowed power plants that reduced emissions to levels below the cap to sell the credit for these excess reductions to other utilities whose emissions were too high, thus giving plant owners a financial incentive to cut back their pollution. Sulfur emissions have been reduced by 43 percent in the two decades since. Great success? Hardly.

Perhaps the NYtimes has rebuked an Opinion piece in the same days better, but we can’t think of another example like this.

A Rich opinion piece that Frankly makes us wonder about the war in Southern Asia

Frank Rich writes forcefully and passionately about President Obama’s new commitment in Afghanistan today. Unfortunately, his piece gets mired in a weakly trying to find importance in the White House Party Crashers non-story. This portion of his opinion piece today could have been edited out without the least bit effect on the article usefulness, but the rest speaks for itself:

It’s not just that Obama is fielding somewhat fewer troops than the maximum Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested. McChrystal himself didn’t ask for enough troops to fight a proper counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in the first place. Using the metrics outlined in the sacred text on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus’s field manual, we’d need a minimal force of 568,000 for Afghanistan’s population of 28.4 million. After the escalation, allied forces will reach barely a quarter of that number.

If the enemy in Afghanistan today threatens the American homeland as the Viet Cong never did, we should be all in, according to Obama’s logic. So why aren’t we? The answer is not merely that Afghans don’t want us as occupiers. It’s that such a mission would require a commensurate national sacrifice. One big difference between the war in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan that the president conspicuously left unmentioned on Tuesday is the draft. Given that conscription is not about to be revived, we’d have to spend money, lots more money, to recruit the troops needed for the full effort Obama’s own argument calls for.

Some Americans may be surprised to learn that we do not have half a million more troops to spare. As Spencer Ackerman reported in the Washington Independent:

If President Obama orders an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, he will be deploying practically every available U.S. Army brigade to war, leaving few units in reserve in case of an unforeseen emergency and further stressing a force that has seen repeated combat deployments since 2002.

We’re not experts by any means, but we doubt that deploying all of your troops to war is the best way to manage the military.

The President should be thanked for not injecting the tired Bush/Cheney jingoism that we are used to at these speeches of military escalation. But he has continued the practice of avoiding the mention of a shared sacrifice of even a single tax increase to pay for the perpetual war in Southern Asia (unlike the war in Southeast Asia in the 1960s which required major sacrifice at home).

In this, he’s like most of the war’s supporters, regardless of party. On Fox News last Sunday, two senators, the Republican Jon Kyl and the Democrat Evan Bayh, found rare common ground in agreeing that an expanded Afghanistan effort should never require new taxes. It’s this bipartisan mantra that more war must be fought without more sacrifice — rather than Obama’s tentative withdrawal timeline — that most loudly signals to the world the shallowness of the American public’s support for any Afghanistan escalation. This helps explain why, as Fred Kaplan pointed out in Slate, the American share of allied troops in Afghanistan is rising (to 70 percent from under 50 percent at the time George Bush left office) despite Obama’s boast of an enthusiastic new coalition of the willing.


Barack Obama has often said, as a means to quiet the doubters of his health reform plan, that “if you have insurance and you like it you can keep it.”

We wonder in what way he plans on helping those who have extremely expensive health insurance that they don’t like.

Several people we know have received letters from their health insurance companies informing them of increases on their premiums.  A family member received a 16% rate increase on an already gougalicious insurance plan through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. She is a few years away from Single-Payer Medicare but has too many assets to qualify for Medicaid. She is in that precarious place in the middle which the health reform bill does not even address.

As far as we can tell, the health reform plan will help cover up to 50 million more people, which will end up covering around 94% of the population. But it won’t help reverse the high cost of insurance. As far as we can tell it doesn’t even try to.

We wonder what the hell the Democrats are thinking. It’s wonderful to cover everybody in the U.S, and this reform plan will basically do this. But how will this plan help in any way if it does not create a government run Public Option to really compete with private insurance companies? Or absent that, put a limit on insurance company profits or limit the percentage that insurance companies can spend on administrative costs.

These seem like obvious questions to us. We would like some answers.

Just in time for the holidays: Aetna raises rates in order to drop 600,000 customer’s health insurance

Anti-trust laws exist to protect consumers from this very industry practice because Price-fixing is often a result of industry collusion. Both Coca Cola and Pepsi, for example, cannot get together and decide to raise their prices at exactly the same time.If the heads of Pepsi and coke got together and decided that they would jack-up their prices by $1 at the same time, then consumers would have no recourse other than to stop buying soft-drinks all together. Either that or consumers would have to pay exorbitant prices for soft-drinks. But the soft-drinks are very important to us, and so we have Anti-trust laws in this countrty which makes this practice–which can be described as collusion-illegal.

If coke were to raise its price by $1 and Pepsi stayed the same price, many people would leave Coke and buy Pepsi instead. And so Coke and Pepsi are both inexpensive.

In the United States, logically, the insurance industry is exempt from antitrust laws under the McCarran-Furgeson Act, and so your health insurance company may collude with other insurance companies and discuss raising prices at the same time. This appears to be what they did. Only it seems that Aetna was more candid about the effect of these rate hikes on the customers.

Aetna’s president explains:

“The pricing we put in place for 2009 turned out to not really be what we needed to achieve the results and margins that we had historically been delivering,” said chairman and CEO Ron Williams. “We view 2010 as a repositioning year, a year that does not fully reflect the earnings potential of our business. Our pricing actions should have a noticeable effect beginning in the first quarter of 2010, with additional financial impact realized during the remaining three quarters of the year.

Aetna estimates that their New Years rate hikes will effect “between 300,000 and 350,000 members next year from its national account as well as another 300,000 from smaller group accounts.” Merry Christman.

This is just one more reason to support health reform that has a strong Public Option, especially if you are one of those Aetna customers who must forgo health insurance because of the companies obligation to it’s shareholders and the bottom line. If health reform does not have a Public Option than these rate hikes will still happen, but you will be MANDATED TO STILL HAVE EXPENSIVE INSURANCE.

Lest you think that there is little recourse right now, especially if you are sick and can’t get new insurance because you have a preexisting condition, take some comfort: You can always go and fucking DIE.