Northwest Love for Bernie

So after a night of Springsteen, a couple days off. Time for some quiet. Get away from the maddening crowds. . . Oh wait, Bernie Sanders is coming to town, finally on a day I have off!  Then the next day is caucusing, and I switched days off so I can come in person.

Spoiler alert. . .Seattle loves Bernie, really loves Bernie. . .and the rest of Washington State. . . loves him more. . .

First, though he got some Portland, Oregon love. . .They put a bird on it . . .A real bird on it. . .

We didn’t have a bird. We had a long and winding line. . . and a guy with a goat. . .a guy with a goat named Deer. . .who can’t vote. . .Not sure if he made it past the Secret Service check point. . .

It took awhile to get us all in. Bernie did not disappoint. . .healthcare, jobs,  income inequality, racial injustice, getting money out of politics . . . for starters. . .and without taking money from big donors or forming PACs. . .from we the people, averaging $27 donations.

Funny, some people were claiming it was all over before this.

Caucus lines were long too the next morning, too. . .looping around the neighborhood of the middle school where mine and a lot of other caucuses voted.

Almost in! Beautiful old school. Caucusing for Bernie '16

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Total chaos, started over an hour late with everyone coming in, and how were all the precincts assigned to the gym going to caucus in such a small space?

The scene at this point. Line still not in yet! Go Bernie! Caucus '16. . .

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Actually, my precinct went out to form a circle on the basketball court. All five of our delegates went to Bernie! Even counting the absentee ballots (allowed for those working, having religious services, military duty or ill), Hillary had only 6 votes, less than 1% with 15% needed for even a single delegate. Bernie had, I think, 75. We voted for 5 delegates and 5 alternates (who have to show up for the next two meetings of Legislative District and King County so we don’t lose our delegates).

Washington went overwhelmingly for Bernie – 72.7% to 27.1% Hillary. What I found interesting was the margin was even higher in the rest of the state, in rural areas, than in King County (where Seattle is located).

http://www.wa-democrats.org/caucus-results

Is it a crazy way to pick candidates instead of elections? YES. Is it unfair, leaving a lot of people out? OH, HELL YES. Crazy and crowded as it was, as Danny Westneat pointed out in his column, only about 5.8% of registered voters show up. Do I think the WA State Democrats should get rid of it and go to primary elections, by mail, like everything else? YES. It seems to me ironic they tell us we’re packed in such small places and need money from us to pay for the rather expensive rent as there still are a lot of buildings that needed to be rented and they’re not cheap, when the party could save the money buy just letting the ballot we’re still going to get by mail actually count.

Don’t get me started on superdelegates.  Although I’m sure I will later. So far all our elected officials who are superdelegates are going for Hillary.

Occupy Town Hall – Establishment Tells The Ki. . .MIC CHECK!

The words to The Times They Are a Changin’ were running though my mind at Town Hall Saturday night, especially the lines “Your old road is rapidly agin’/Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand.” I’ll admit at times being frustrated and/or befuddled the mostly young Occupy Seattle members, but I was always inspired.

JM Wong from Occupy Seattle Speaks

While I may not fully understand the people’s mic (everyone echoing what the speaker says), or at least the usefulness of it when there are real microphones, the fact that everyone learns to really listen seems to really have made the movement “leader-full” as they put it, rather than leaderless.  We have not seen a generation of young and/or marginalized people find their voice like this since the 60s. . .and. . .they weren’t taking any guff (or sound bite management) from the establishment (some of whom, well, maybe Nick Licata at least, may have been those young people fighting the establishment in the 60s).

Councilmember Nick Licata Moderates

Now, Nick is one of our better politicians, but I had to acknowledge that even he represented the status quo or establishment Saturday night. I came even more around to seeing the young people’s point of view when I just checked out who the other establishment members of the panel were, other than Nick Licata and Lynn Dodson of the Washington State Labor Council, both of whom I’ve voted for in the past. While I appreciate the unions being out there on this, and, in fact am more likely to be involved in a protest they and some of the other more established groups are involved in, I was glad to see that Occupy Seattle members were not willing to be co-opted by the unions or Democratic operatives.

But, who else was on the panel, from the establishment side? I checked the Town Hall event page tonight before I blogged to figure that out. . .

Occupy Town Hall

Why were a venture capitalist (Nick Hanauer) and a, umm, yes, Democratic operative (Frank Greer), chosen as part of the panel in an Occupy Seattle discussion?

Frank Greer

Greer, who it turns out was a consultant for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, especially grated as he tried to lecture the Occupy movement into developing neat little, sound bite ready, goals. While I appreciate his involvement in the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, it was considerably more of an inspired movement and struggle than the couple laws eventually passed he claimed it was all about.

Mic check!

Mic Check!

Come to think of it, the Occupy people were right on with their mic check that anti-establishment paper The Stranger so lampoons.

Vote on People's Mic vs Real Mic

While you can count me as one of those people who didn’t see the point of having a people’s mic when we had a real mic (hey, I’m over 50, long past the age you can trust me), and it did take a bit of time out of the discussion to have the vote (which turned out to be in favor of using real microphones), only a few people left over it, and the room remained packed, with the people engaged. Many in the audience were older  than me and didn’t seem at all offended by the young people (and for that matter, there were members of Occupy Seattle, older than me, voting with them).

People's Assembly Signals

We also got instructions on all the hand signals for an Occupy Seattle People’s Assembly, including twinkling (with raised fingers) instead of clapping in agreement. Something missed by The Stranger reporter was that most of the cheering or booing was by us those of us who weren’t really Occupy-ers (though, by hand count early on, most of us in the room consider ourselves Occupy-ers. . .well, maybe at least we’re part of the 99%). Occupy folks used their hand signals, including the hurry it up signal for Greer, which he complained about. The groaning earlier on about his sound bite strategy came from many of the non-active Occupy-ers in the room as well.

While I think the Occupy Seattle folks should take into account, that especially to the un-initiated, heading straight into a people’s mic style might not always be the best way to communicate (and the world does need to hear what they are saying), I also think the rest of the panel represented the status quo, lesser-of-two evils system that brought us to this point.  I think at least a couple of the other panelists said they were waiting for this movement to come along. Yet now that it has, they want to change it, back into their image, of sound bites and Democratic party politics; which hasn’t been working well (maybe because the Democrats are owned by Wall Street almost as much as the Republicans?).

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the Occupy Seattle folks are camping out in the cold for. . .

. . .and I’ll admit, I don’t get the long-term camping out strategy; especially as I’m hoping to avoid ending up in a tent city as the economy tanks and my worker retraining funding seems shaky. I am impressed at how dedicated these Occupy people are, and that they’re not willing to be co-opted.

Josh Farris

I think Josh Farris of Occupy Seattle made an important point when he responded to the other panelists trying to craft the Occupy movement into what they wanted it to be, which is why don’t they go out and do what they think needs to be done themselves? I think there are two points to that. One, why were already established organizations like the unions waiting for something to come along (and, I think, are too willing to let the Democrats they elect sell out)? Second, now that the Occupy movement is shining a light on the inequities and the corruption of Wall Street money and corporate greed on the system; why not take a strong stand, maybe in coalition with Occupy and others?

I’m heartened to hear that even the people I’m calling the establishment panelists are going down to Olympia to fight Governor Gregoire’s new budget, with its draconian cuts once again; but. . .are they just going to take the establishment line, like our Democratic Governor whom most of us voted for, that we can’t raise any taxes because of the Republicans?We can’t ask all those businesses we let go tax-free, including Chase getting an in-state tax break just for buying WAMU at a fire sale (while laying off thousands of Washington state workers), to pay any taxes. We  have to instead make a Sophie’s choice of which group of societies most vulnerable we cut and send off to Nickelsville.

Seriously, according to the Seattle PI, we now have families with children living in the Nickelsville tent city. Families who have had their safety net totally cut away in the last round of budget cuts, with a lifetime cap on assistance some of them have already reached.

We can’t have corporations like Chase pay their taxes, though. . .

Mic check!

President’s Address / Republicans’ Town Hall

I was impressed by the President’s speech Wednesday night – he did stand up for the public option, presented the facts about what the health care legislation is proposing, and called out the Republican obstructionist tactics for what they were. Many of the Republicans seemed to be at a Town Hall (one of the kind they stage manage these days) and it wasn’t just the “You lie!” guy, Joe Wilson (who did wonders in fundraising for his Democratic opposition candidate, Rob Miller, with that infamous outburst).

President Obama laid out the case:

Our collective failure to meet this challenge — year after year, decade after decade — has led us to the breaking point.  Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy.  These are not primarily people on welfare.  These are middle-class Americans.  Some can’t get insurance on the job.  Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer.  Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover. 

Indeed, why is America, of all countries, so backward?:

We are the only democracy — the only advanced democracy on Earth — the only wealthy nation — that allows such hardship for millions of its people.  There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.  In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point.  And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage.  In other words, it can happen to anyone.

He told of some of the horrors:

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about.  They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it.  Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne.  By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size.  That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America. 

Our healthcare is expensive and inefficient:

Then there’s the problem of rising cost.  We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it.  This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages.  It’s why so many employers — especially small businesses — are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely.  It’s why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally — like our automakers — are at a huge disadvantage.  And it’s why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it — about $1,000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care. 

Then he dismisses the single-payer way too easily. Which is what we should have, and which is why it cracks me up when the teabaggers claim Obama and the other Democrats are flaming socialists. We wish they were socialists, like Bernie Sanders.

I like when he said “The time for games has passed.”  Unfortunately, the Republicans would prove him wrong before the night was over.

Then the President starts addressing the fear mongering:

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan.  First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.  (Applause.)  Let me repeat this:  Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

Then he brings up what the legislation will do, like not allowing insurance companies to deny you coverage based on a pre-existing condition, drop your coverage when your sick, or have a lifetime cap. Making sure the insurance covers routine checkups and preventative care.

Then the idea of having health insurance for those who don’t have it now. The insurance exchange, using the high number of customers to keep costs down, as large businesses and the government do, as Congress does for themselves. Here’s a thought – if those Republican congess people are so willing to let their constituents do without affordable insurance as they try to derail health care, would they be willing to do without it?  It is a government program.  Maybe they should show how much they’re against government programs by their families doing without.

Then the President says it will take awhile to get it off the ground and proposes offering low cost coverage now for those who can’t due to pre-existing conditions.  A proposal by Senator John McCain (and it was good to see he was willing to work with President Obama on it).  This is the McCain who existed before the Presidential election, when he veered off into the Republican nastiness because it was required of him. I may disagree with him on a lot of issues, but Senator McCain used to, and maybe now is again, be principled and reasonable.

Requiring everyone to carry insurance (and there is mention previously of help in the form of subsidies for those who need it).  Fair enough, unless we end up compromising everything away until it’s just welfare for the insurance companies.

Then he calls the right wing talk show hosts and Congress people out on their obstructionism:

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.  The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens.  Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible.  It is a lie, plain and simple. 
 
There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants.  This, too, is false.  The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. 
Ahh, here’s where Joe Wilson came in with the “You lie!” Now, while I happen to disagree with the President and think we should, in fact, provide health care for all, alas, that is not true, as has been noted by PolitiFact, the President is telling the truth.
 
Here is is from the legislation:

H.R. 3200: Sec 246 NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

So, where did Congressman Wilson get his “facts” from? Well, PolitiFact notes there was a chain e-mail claiming “that page 50 of the House bill gives free health care to illegal immigrants.”

That page didn’t say that. Rather, it included a generic nondiscrimination clause that said insurers may not discriminate with regard to “personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.”

So it isn’t there, but Rep. Wilson and others are reading it into the bill.  Let’s think about this in a moment.

 

As the President points out, “consumers do better with choice and competition.”  Competition that doesn’t exist now in many areas.  Then he makes the case for public option:

But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Now, let me be clear.  Let me be clear.  It would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance.  No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance.  In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up.

 
Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea.  They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government.  And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option.  But they won’t be.  I’ve insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.  But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities. 
So President Obama does makes the case for a public option, but he leaves wiggle room (which does make me nervous, given that he was previously willing to back down).  He says that “the public option is only a means to that end — and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. “

 

Then he talks about Medicare and the fear mongering going around that when his suggestion is eliminating waste, calling out the Republicans on their hypocrisy:

So don’t pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut, especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past and just this year supported a budget that would essentially have turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program.  That will not happen on my watch.  I will protect Medicare. 

Our President sounds like he’s willing to fight:

But know this:  I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. I won’t stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are.  If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out. And I will not — and I will not accept the status quo as a solution.  Not this time.  Not now.

Wow, he remembered he won the election!  Now will his Democratic friends in Congress, especially the “Blue Dogs” remember they won theirs?  The American people really need them to take a stand for the people, for health care for all.

 

Now back to the Republican Town Hall side show.  It really wasn’t just Joe Wilson, even though many of his Republican colleagues said they were appalled as well. All though the President’s speech, Republicans were waving their copies of the legislation.  What was that all about?  Well, we all know the wing-nuts (and the Congress members and talk show hosts egging them on), say “Read the legislation!”, implying none of the rest of us, especially congressional Democrats, have read it.

 

What they really seem to be asking though, is “read into the legislation.”  Note the innocuous passage above that Joe Wilson and the sender of those e-mail use to claim that illegal aliens are covered with this legislation.  The “death panel” for grannies and Trig claim from including counseling on end of life options such as hospice care, something that former Governor Palin actually signed into action, before she was against “death panels”

 

So, read (into) the legislation.  Read into it whatever the fear mongers want you to believe.  Do away with meaningful health care reform that would guarantee your family affordable coverage and make sure you don’t face life threatening choices for your grannies and children because of the unwillingness of your insurance care to cover it.  One suggestion though – ask your Republican congress people to give up their government provided health insurance that guarantees their families will be secure.  Insist they join you in your war against the federal government (which is, by the way, all of us – liberal, conservative or whatever politics) by refusing their government paid for, and very good, health insurance.  Let’s see how fast they stick to the principal of letting them and their loved ones fall through the health care cracks that they’re trying to sell you.

Health Care – We Won’t Back Down

I felt inspired and empowered as I walked away from Seattle’s Health Care for All rally Thursday night with Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down playing as the crowd streamed out of Westlake Park. On the way home, though, I got to thinking about news reports that the President will drop the public option, and his administration seems to expect the Democrats to just fall in line; and worrying “Will they back down?”

I don’t think our Rep., Jim McDermott, will back down, but what about the others?

IMG_4801

We had about 3000 people in Westlake Park, but as the blog Horse’s Ass reported, the Seattle Times didn’t report it.  I was there, though, trying to connect with my Amnesty International friends and regretting I hadn’t thought to exchange phone numbers with the newer ones so we could find each other.

IMG_4785

Amnesty International believes that health care is a human right, and is working on it as part of our new Demand Dignity campaign.

Here’s some video of the highlights of the rally from the Washington State Labor Council:

In addition to Rep. McDermott, and the Rev. Leslie Braxton, who mc’d the event, we heard from a father struggling to get health care for his sick son because of the “pre-existing” condition clause, and from Jody Hall, the owner of Cupcake Royale on the struggles of a small business owner to keep her employees covered under a system that charges more and gives less in benefits for small businesses. Jody said that 25 cents of every cupcake go to employee health care, which is a larger expense than the combined rent of all four Seattle locations of her business.

We also had the Backbone Campaign’s puppets, including Count Bleed ‘Ya Dry, with his bats from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, taking blood through an IV from a seriously ailing American health system.

IMG_4789

So, speaking of backbone, how are we doing on making sure President Obama and the other Democrats get and keep one on this issue?

I believe President Obama and the Democratic majority we elected can get meaningful health care with a needed public option to keep down costs from the insurance companies, if they are willing to fight for it. 

What is interesting is that the polling data that the Washington Post reports was sent around in a memo to the congressional Democrats by Joel Benenson, the President’s pollster, show a wide support for health care reform:

–82% of Americans say that the U.S. health care system needs either fundamental changes (55%) or needs “to be rebuilt” (27%). (CBS, Aug. 31)

•A substantial majority of Americans believe that the problems in the country’s health care system will eventually affect most Americans if they are not addressed.

–65% of Americans believe that the health care system’s problems will eventually affect most Americans, while only 31% believe most Americans will continue to get good health care. (CNN, Aug. 31)

What is the problem, then?

–Only 31% say they “understand the health care reforms under consideration in Congress, while 67% say they find them confusing. (CBS, Aug. 31) 
–Indeed, even Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies found that 37% have no opinion yet on the President’s plan, while 25% support and 37% oppose. (POS, August 13)

However:

•When voters learn about the composition of the plan, support grows considerably.
–For instance, an NBC poll found that initially, only 36% said that the President’s health care plan is “a good idea” while 42% say it is a bad idea. (NBC, Aug. 17).
–However, 53% said they favored the plan after hearing a short description of it that included:
* Requirements on insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions;
* Requiring all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured
* Tax credits to help families and individuals to help them afford coverage

This is why the President’s televised speech to Congress on Wednesday is so important, and frankly, why both Congressional Democrats and pro-health care organizations should be focusing as much on educating the public as on rallies to counteract the conservatives whipped into a frenzy by talk radio.

Will the President have the courage to include the public option as an important piece of the plan in his speech?  President Obama certainly pushed for the Presidency, and inspired many by doing so.  One of his former campaign staffers, Mike Elk, has started a petition, and asking former campaigners and others to sign it, holding the President to the promise he made election night (and their promise to hold him to his promise):

He said, “I promise you if everybody in this hall is willing to keep doing what you guys did over the last two years, then I am optimistic about America. I may make some mistakes, but you’ll set me right.”

Mr. President, we have not forgotten the promise we made that night. We are here to set you right.
There are rumors that you are considering dropping the public option, despite 77% of the American public and the majority of U.S. Senators supporting it. Sir, there is no way we can have real health care reform without a public option. Any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option to promote competition, bring down costs and serve the people.
If a vigorous public option is not included, it would be a major victory for the health insurance industry.

If the President is willing to take the stand, we are with him, as Mike Elk notes:

We are the most powerful grassroots army ever assembled in American history, and we want you to fight for a public option. We promise to fight with you every step of the way, just as we did during the campaign.
Mr. President, We are fired up and ready to go!
Are you ready to lead?

Bill Moyers has called for President Obama to stand up to the Republicans and insurance companies as well:

He understands President Obama’s wish for bi-partisanship, but recognizes with the current political climate, that just isn’t possible:

Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him.

No one’s ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying “pretty please” to the guys trying to cut your throat. 

Moyers notes that:

As it is, we’re about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

As with the former campaigners, Bill Moyers remembers the promises President Obama made during the campaign, and is calling on him to keep them:

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company’s share price and profits.

This is important:

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it’s life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.

Fortunately, it looks like many of our Congressional leaders will stand their ground.  According to Politico:

Obama spoke by phone Friday with leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“Caucus leaders expressed absolute commitment to the idea of a robust public option, and said they expect it to be part of any health care reform legislation,” the groups said in a statement. “The president listened, asked many questions, and suggested the dialogue should continue.”

It looks like the White House is leaning toward putting the public option back in, but still leaving room to waffle?

One top official gave this formulation: “He has consistently said that he thinks the public option is an important way to make sure there is both cost and competition control.  He has also consistently said that if someone can show him a better way or another way to get there, he’d be happy to look at it.  But he’s never committed to going another way.  He’s always said he’d be happy to look at any other proposal that gets to these goals, but he thinks this is probably the best better way to do it.”

I’d like to hear a more certain and committed statement than that on Wednesday, Mr. President.  You’ve showed you can fight and stand up for your principles during the election.  We are asking you now to stand your ground. 

PresidentAtWork

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

We are behind you, and there are a lot of us, even if newspapers like the Seattle Times don’t want to acknowledge it. Speak to the American public Wednesday and tell them the truth.  Give us hope for a health care system that really works, for all Americans, not the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Health Care – Yes, We Can (& Need to Fight for It)

Last Sunday, the New York Times said the public option in the health care plan may be dropped, quoting Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius statement that “the public option was ‘not the essential element’ of reform” and President Obama himself saying at a town hall meeting:

“The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform,” the president said. “This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”

Similar statements came from others in the Obama administration:

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, said the president remained convinced that a public plan was “the best way to go.” But Mr. Axelrod said the nuances of how to develop a nonprofit competitor to private industry had never been “carved in stone.”

and other (Blue Dog?) Democrats:

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill that features a nonprofit co-op. The author of the idea, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would have no choice but to drop the public option.

Rachel Maddow rightly confronted President Obama and on her show Monday:

“Yes, we can’t!” Certainly if that amount of conviction was all we had from then candidate Obama and other Democrats last year, we’d be facing a McCain/Palin administration.  

Good thing at that point, he knew how to fight.

ObamaFighting

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Fortunately, the Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus still do know how to fight.  According to the New York Times:

After administration officials, including Mr. Obama, wavered on their commitment to the public option last weekend, leaders of the Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, on Monday saying they would not vote for a plan without the public option. They attached a second letter signed by 60 House Democrats demanding the inclusion of a government-run insurance plan in the final legislation. Their 60 votes would be enough to kill a House bill if it had no Republican support.

The Washington Post reported:

In the Senate, where negotiations are now focused, John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) said that a public option, as the plan has become known, is “a must.” Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) said that “without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said that the plan will be included in whatever bill is voted on in the House. “There is strong support in the House for a public option,” she said, though she did not demand that the administration express support for the idea.

Co-ops are being pushed as a possible alternative to the public option by the White House and “Blue Dog” Democrats. In a Washington Post article on co-ops, Group Health Cooperative, a major HMO here in Seattle, is being cited as one possible example. Group Health has been around for years and has a whole system of hospitals and clinics, though.  So are we going to create these systems, including building health care facilities, around the country, and without the aid of the government, as that’s part of the selling point?

Would co-ops be an adequate alternative to the public option?  As noted in the Washington Post article:

However, co-ops would lack perhaps the main advantage of the public option: reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals set by federal law, like those paid by Medicare, the program for older Americans. Federally determined reimbursement rates were central to the cost-saving promise of a government-run health plan and a potentially powerful competitive advantage.

Will the Republicans support a bill if the public option is changed to co-ops? No, according to the Huffington PostIn a conference call with reporters, Senate Majority Whip calls co-ops a “’trojan horse’ for a government-run system.”

While Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has put forth co-ops as a compromise proposal that could get 60 votes in the Senate, Republican support is elusive. Indeed, earlier in the call, Kyl said that the GOP stood no closer to offering up their votes.

“I think it is safe to say that there are a huge number of big issues that people have and these are a couple of the most prominent,” he said. “But start with the cost of it. There is no way Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill. And when the chairman of the Finance Committee in the Senate said, ‘ah, great success, we think we got it under a trillion dollars,’ you did not hear a big round of applause from Republicans.”

According to the New York Times, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who is now working for the lobbying firm Alston & Bird, has been pushing for co-ops.

It is an idea that happens to dovetail with the interests of many Alston & Bird clients, like the insurance giant UnitedHealth and the Tennessee Hospital Association.

Ummm, just a coincidence, I’m sure. . . ; )

Then we have the now infamous “gang of six”, reported in the Washington Post as “three Democratic and three Republican members of the Senate Finance committee” who are currently putting together the Senate bill.

As Robert Reich asks on his blog “who, exactly, anointed these six to decide the fate of the nation’s health care?”

I don’t get it. Of the three Republicans in the gang, the senior senator is Charles Grassley. In recent weeks Grassley has refused to debunk the rumor that the House’s health-care bill will spawn “death panels,” empowered to decide whether the sick and old get to live or die. At an Iowa town meeting last Tuesday Grassley called the President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi “intellectually dishonest” for claiming the opposite. On Thursday Grassley told the Washington Post that Congress should scale back its efforts to overhaul health care in the wake of intense anger at town hall meetings. But — wait — the anger is largely about distortions such as the “death panels” that Grassley refuses to debunk.

This week on Fox News Grassley termed the House bill “the Pelosi Bill,” and called it “a government takeover of heath care, exploding the deficit because it’s not paid for and it’s got high taxes in it.”

and then he asks the obvious question:

I really don’t get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that’s what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.

So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley’s hands?

Do we want to leave it in Grassley’s hands?  It’s time to push back and that has started, both from the public and with the Progressive and Black Congressional caucuses saying emphatically, “No!  We won’t stand for the public option being taken out of the bill.” 

Also, people concerned about real health insurance reform are putting their money where their mouth is.  Daily Kos reports that so far $374,000 has been raised for those who signed the congressional letter in support of a public option on the Act Blue website (including my Representative Jim McDermott, I’m happy to say).

Robert Reich is calling for a march on Washington on Sept. 13 in support of the public option on Politico and Daily Kos is calling for organizing nationwide rallies. Obama’s organizers are calling for rallies and events earlier in September, but it’s going to be important to insist on his administration and all our congressmembers to included the public option at those as well. 

Yes, at one time, not too long ago, the President knew how to fight.  Now he’s acting too much like a typical Democrat, appeasing Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats instead of pushing for what he knows as well as any of us is needed.  One thing is for sure, I don’t think we should leave it to his administration or organizers if we want change.  We need to be pushing him to do the right thing, which, as I recall, was why FDR ended up with such a progressive legacy.  We always forget that the leaders don’t get there on their own.

One last thought, to all those progressive organizations and politicians out there, is why not get beyond “preaching to the choir” and beyond the commercial sound bite war?  There are a lot of people out there who are interested in health care, who would like to hear more about what this all means (single payer, public option, co-ops, etc.).  I know we’re not going to change the mind of the screamers who think we’re going to pull the plug on grandma.  That’s just the problem for the rest of the public though.  All they’re hearing is the inanity and some shouting back from our side, or sound bites.  Just like the Obama campaign did during the election, there should be more outreach so people know what the debate is, and why it’s so important for them and their families.

Something like this video where Christopher Hayes from The Nation explains the public option at the Netroots Nation, a gathering of liberal bloggers, but taking it to the general public, instead of just “preaching to the choir”:

Freedom for the Guantanamo Uighurs?

So, we finally seem to be in the midst of freeing 17 Uighurs held at Guantanamo since 2002, even though most of them have been cleared for release since 2003. Even though, as Amnesty International noted in a February 19 report:

The Bush administration had conceded that the Uighurs were not “enemy combatants” (even under its own definition of the concept), and had accepted that they could not be returned to their native China because they would face a serious risk of torture or execution there.

No other country would take them, the Bush administration wouldn’t let them be released into the U.S. 

Wait, surely change has come?  Afraid not, the Democrats wimp out again on an important principle, first Congress, then the President. As the Boston Globe reports:

Years later, after the Uighurs’ plight emerged in court, the Bush administration formally admitted they were not enemies. A judge ordered their release.

Then, a new president, who had campaigned on a vow to close Guantanamo, was on the point of admitting them to this country. But suddenly Congress was stampeded by the right, and President Obama ducked for cover. Congressional Democrats and many Republicans had applauded the call to close Guantanamo, but when it came to action, they ran for the exits. There were a few exceptions, like Senators Dick Durbin and Pat Leahy, and Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts. But they seemed like schoolteachers after the bell had rung, trying to bring order to a ruck of noisy children, looking in vain for help to the principal’s office.

As the Washington Post notes:

The men were cleared for release by the Bush administration years ago; the federal courts that reviewed their cases concluded that there was no evidence to justify their imprisonment in the first place. Yet they languished behind bars because the United States could not return them to their native China for fear they would be tortured, or worse. Some 100 countries declined U.S. requests to take the Uighurs, in part because of Chinese threats of retaliation. U.S. lawmakers railed against the possibility of allowing the detainees into the United States, claiming that they were dangerous terrorists despite the assessments of a Republican and a Democratic president, military officers and an independent judiciary.

So far, four Uighurs have been freed from Guantanamo and released to Bermuda, with reports of Palau and maybe Italy to take others.  Unfortunately, not before “war on terror” frenzy was whipped up by some on the little island.  As the Boston Globe describes it:

Bermudian Premier Ewart Brown saw the humanitarian crisis that lay beneath the politics. He offered to accept four of them into the island’s guest worker program. At 3 a.m. on June 11, I watched on the Guantanamo airstrip as four innocent men were unshackled for the last time. They climbed aboard a charter aircraft. And when the sun rose, they stepped down to free soil in Bermuda, smiling broadly.

One said, “This is a small island, but it has a big heart.”

Others will have to judge the American heart. Within hours, the lunatic fringe was feeding lies to Bermudian media. CNN joined in the mugging with a false report from a Bush-era mouthpiece that the men had “trained in Al Qaeda camps.” (Before meeting interrogators, the men had never heard of Al Qaeda, and in court the Bush administration itself conceded that there was no Al Qaeda link. But in the feeding frenzy, truth did not matter.)

A political crisis exploded in Bermuda’s parliament. The minority called for a vote of no-confidence in the government. The British loudly protested not being asked permission.

The Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority group in China and live in an “autonomous region” similar to Tibet. Their culture and religion is under attack by the Chinese government, as is the Tibetans.  I first became aware of the Uighurs when AI was working to free Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur business woman and mother of 11, who was in prison 5 years, and Amnesty International considered a Prisoner of Conscience.

There was a time when fighting the Communist Chinese government  was viewed as a good thing by ours, who would have welcomed them with open arms.  Post cold-war and post Sept. 11, however, and we’re letting the Chinese define them as terrorists for us.

As the New York Times notes:

Washington has walked a thin line in the handling of the Uighurs. It sought China’s support in antiterrorism efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks, branded an obscure Uighur independence group as terrorist and in 2002 allowed Chinese officials into Guantánamo to interrogate Uighur captives. The four men released here said that interrogation was a low point of their Guantánamo incarceration, with Chinese officials questioning them for long hours without food and threatening them and their families.

My head kind of spins, as a former cold-war kid who grew up on our government being “anti-communist.”  We’re letting the Chinese interrogate prisoners in our prisons.  Oh, wait, our prisons that aren’t our prisons and are on some mythological island where our laws don’t apply.

At any rate, it is good that our government finally has freed four more of these men, and may soon release the others (most of whom even the Bush Administration acknowledged haven’t done anything against us).

Got Some – New Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam has a new song they debuted on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, another second song they previously debuted at a secret filming session at The Showbox, and rumor has it that the album is coming out and they’ll be a two nights at Key Arena toward the end of September.

Wow!  You’d think their fans would be happy!  Well, I am!  Actually, probably most of their fans are.  Although, you wouldn’t believe how much one performance of one song can be dissected by their loyal fans, not the music critics!  Then there’s the other, mysterious song and all the circumstances around it. . .

First, the Tonight Show videos.  I’ll give you the links to their website, as, due to technical restrictions, I can’t post any video to my free Word Press blog other than YouTube videos (and, oh yes, NBC pulled the illegally posted ones on YouTube, something else fans griped about).

*6/14 Update: I found I can add NBC videos via Vodpod and added the video below as well!

Got Some is their new song, from the upcoming Backspacer album (which shares the name of the band’s turtle who won the Great Turtle Race):

Vodpod videos no longer available.
“Pearl Jam: Got Some Performance on The Tonight Show”, posted with vodpod

http://www.tonightshowwithconanobrien.com/video/clips/musical-performance-pearl-jam-060109/1116201

Oops!  Looks like they pulled the bonus song video of Rocking in the Free World from the Tonight Show site (played after the actual show finished recording).  Something new for fans to complain about.

I’ll say it again, having just watched Got Some a couple more times (and just discovering NBC’s full screen version more or less works on my antiquated computer) – Wow!  I love the song, the band sounds great, and is playing great together (a lot of dueling guitar riffs, too).  Lyrics?  I’m starting to make them out.  A valid complaint, but this is rock and roll.  This leads to interesting mis-heard lyrics like “four or five virgins and a pelican” . . .

Here are the lyrics for Got Some from the message board, with a few changes in parenthesis to as near as I could make out (which for all I know, may be as accurate as “four or five virgins and a pelican):

Edit (lyrics without repetitions):
Every night with the lights out
where you gone
What’s wrong?

Every time you can try
but can’t [say no]
[What’s wrong?]

I got some if you need it

Get it now, get it on, before its gone
Let’s everybody carry on
Carrying on
Turn it up, [turn] it off, before its gone
Let’s everybody carry on
Carrying on

This situation, which side are you on?
Are you on the rise, are you falling down?
Let me know…..c’mon let’s go yeah

I got some if you need it

This situation, what side are you on?
Are you dropping bombs, are you getting out?
Have you heard of diplomatic resolve? Yeah

Precipitation, which side are you on?
Are you drying up, are you a big drop?
Are you a part of [a pool] detrimental?

Got some
Carry on

Oooh, It’s political, which I think is great, but it’s another thing for the fans to argue about.  Yes, I think he is calling President Obama (and, I think, the Congressional Democrats) out on backing down and I think specifically, for still fighting in Iraq (and, in my opinion, Afghanistan, though I don’t want to project that on what Ed’s saying if I’m not sure).

Now, the amazing thing on the criticism on these lyrics on the message board, mostly from the right, but sometimes from the left, are the people who have this “you’re either for me or against me” Bush era nonsense mentality, and think because Eddie is criticizing Obama for backing down on certain issues that means he’s totally turned against him.  Apparently, they believe if you vote for someone for President, you’re then supposed to blindly follow them; instead of being an educated and engaged citizen in a participatory democracy.

I happen to think President Obama has done a lot of good already, and is turning around a lot of the bad, Bush era, policies.  I also think he’s the best we could get, even of the Democrats, at least, the best we could get who’s electable.  That being said, there are a number of areas where I have concerns, where Obama is carrying on with the same bad policies of the Bush and, in some cases, Clinton administrations (using some of their same economic advisors who helped bring us the current mess – see the Nation’s Reagan Didn’t Do It – and mind you, The Nation is a liberal magazine, who like me, would love to blame things on Reagan). 

In addition to the war in Iraq still going on and the expanding of the war in Afghanistan, Obama is backing down from accountability for the torture done under the Bush administration, hesitating on closing Guantanamo, keeping the military commissions, and worse, Alternet reports torture is still going on under the Obama administration under the guise of “forced extraction teams.” 

So, yes, Obama and the Democrats need to get some.  It’s kind of obvious what the some is, once you make out the lyrics; but to sanitize it I’ll say – guts, courage. . .

OK, enough politics.  There were plenty of other things for the message board and blogs to complain about and dissect, not that I really want to go into them all here.  I think one of my favorites, and the one that makes me go “Huh?”  is that Eddie looks old.  Actually he doesn’t look old at all.  He looks like a guy in his mid-forties who’s in pretty good shape. OK, he’s old if you still expect him to look like he did when the band started out 18 years ago. None of us look like we did 18 years ago.  Well, then again. . .more on Stone later.  My grey is creeping in though, so much for me. . .

Here’s Black from the Pinkpop festival in ‘92?

Stone’s hair was another thing that got a lot of comments.  He’s growing it out and got a little headbanger action from it.  One guy said he looked like a 20 year old playing with a bunch of 40 year old guys.  We’ll see if he grows it out to where it was in ‘92!

Here’s Stone with some serious hair action going at the Green River reunion (sorry I missed that one) from Pearl Jam’s official Flickr site (photo by Anna Knowlden):

Stone

 Awesome! 

Now, on that second song they debuted at their secret Showbox gig.  Surprisingly, the most controversial issue about their recording of the song The Fixer was not that it was recorded for Target, who has big-box store rights to the initial release of the Backspacer album (see the Rolling Stone article).  The issue that drew the most angst, and sadly, too many hard feelings on all sides of the issue, was that the band (or the band’s management) insisted websites including music blogs take down illegally made copies of The Fixer, which is their first single from the new album, and is due out in July.

There’s a real generation gap here. . .  First, full disclosure, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this whole melodrama if I wasn’t actually looking for sneak listen to the track myself. Hoping to catch it before it disappeared.  OK, so I’m no saint.  Here’s the generation gap though – I figured that, of course, the band’s going to take these down quickly.  Some of their younger fans were quite irate that they asked them to do it.

I think the situation has finally run it’s course, but it’s sad, because passion for music fueled the hard feelings on all sides (and you’d hope it’d bring them together).  I had already discovered I Am Fuel, You Are Friends, a music blog named after a Pearl Jam lyric long before all this happened.  It’s well written and a great place for new music.

It all started when Heather Browne, the author of the blog, posted a “stealth audio clip” of The Fixer.  Then Pearl Jam’s lawyers contacted her to have her take it down (and this is the third time this has happened with a Pearl Jam song, something that made her mad; and those of us of a previous generation go, huh?  She was told posting unauthorized recordings was wrong on two previous occasions and still kept doing it?).  So she announced she was breaking up with the band.  Several of her fans said they were breaking up with her, but more agreed with with her against Pearl Jam on this “censorship.”  Then Pearl Jam’s fan club, Ten Club, calls her, apologizing for the way they handled it, asking how to make amends, but not before (oops), referring to her writing as a “shitty blog”, then stating how important fans and sites like hers are to the band.

Some one needs a refresher course in customer service. Sadly, his response, no doubt was partly fueled by his love of Pearl Jam’s music (and probably only reading the one, uncharacteristic, ranting entry against the band). Heather did acknowledge at that point Pearl Jam did have the right to release their music as they see fit, and it isn’t censorship.  So it was over, except for 110 more comments to that post. . . 

You know, I stopped watching soap operas years ago, because they drive me crazy!

Meanwhile, back to something I whine about re the band (hey, I told you I was no saint. . .).  Rumor has it that Pearl Jam may actually be playing Seattle!!! Yes, there are rumors they’re going to be playing Key Arena toward the end of September, right as the album is coming out.

Of course, you’d think living in Seattle, they’d play here all the time (and some of their side bands do, though not Ed solo).  No, the Gorge (Amplitheatre, halfway across the state), is not Seattle, at least for those of us without a car. 

Not that I don’t wish I had a car so I could go see them when they play the Gorge (oops, there goes my carbon neutral sainthood, aided by poverty).  It is a beautiful setting, and it’d be awesome to see Pearl Jam there.

Their opener from their first of two nights at the Gorge in 2006:

Maybe it’s time for some bio-fueled concert buses to the Gorge from Seattle and Spokane?

Closing of the same show (which is available in it’s entirety on their “Life at the Gorge” box set).  Got to love Mike’s closing on Yellow Ledbetter and the Hendrix set!  

These shows at the Gorge are epic.  I’d like to see one some day.  Still, hoping for Key Arena.  Yeah, it’s kind of sterile; but I can get there and back by bus. . .

I’m hoping the rumors are right.  Wow!  Pearl Jam might actually play Seattle!

Mike’s other band!

Told you it’s been awhile. . .