Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sign Senator Edwards' Petition

Dear Friend,

Over the past few weeks, the investigation into the leak of CIA secrets on Iraq has produced disturbing new information. Court filings in the Scooter Libby case have connected both President Bush and Vice President Cheney with an effort to selectively disclose classified and highly flawed intelligence to the media in order to discredit people who were asking legitimate questions about the Iraq invasion. The White House even admitted that President Bush himself authorized the disclosure.

Now that he is firmly linked to this deepening scandal, it's time for President Bush to level with the American people about his role in this egregious manipulation of sensitive intelligence. But you and I know he's not going to do it. And we know that the Republican-controlled Congress will not hold him accountable either.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may very well be the only person who can shed light on what really happened and ensure accountability. What he needs now is our support to expand the scope of his investigation to specifically include whether the President broke the law. Let's put our online community to work and together demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales allow Mr. Fitzgerald to get to the bottom of this. No one should be above the law. It's time we demand real accountability. Please sign the letter now.

Clearly, there is precedent for a special prosecutor's mandate to be expanded when he comes across further wrongdoing in the course of an investigation. I can think of no better time for doing this than right now. This case has all the elements of becoming one of the most serious breaches of the public trust in our nation's history - with consequences that we are all too familiar with.

The facts of President Bush's involvement, and the extent to which he manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq, are not going to come out unless his actions are subject to an independent investigation. Remember, this is a President who at first said that he didn't know of anyone in his Administration who had leaked anything. Then he had his spokesman say that anyone found to have leaked classified information would be fired. Now it turns out it was President Bush himself who authorized the leaks.

But it is clear this Administration will go to any length to prevent the facts from being known. We can't let them get away with it. And they won't if we speak up and make the Attorney General understand that the American people will accept nothing less than the truth. Please sign the letter and tell Attorney General Gonzales that we want no stone left unturned in this important investigation.

Thank you for taking action and for all that you do.

Your Friend,


Friday, April 21, 2006

Horton Hears A Hu

China and Its President Greeted by a Host of Indignities

By Dana Milbank
Friday, April 21, 2006; Page A02
It's clear our President and his staff have spent a little too much time clearing brush at the *koffkoff* ranch, and not enough time brushing up on protocol and etiquette, the currency of leadership.

*rubbing hands gleefully* OK, let's step thru these one at a time, shall we?
If only the White House hadn't given press credentials to a Falun Gong activist who five years ago heckled Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, in Malta. Sure enough, 90 seconds into Hu's speech on the South Lawn, the woman started shrieking, "President Hu, your days are numbered!" and "President Bush, stop him from killing!"

Bush and Hu looked up, stunned. It took so long to silence her -- a full three minutes -- that Bush aides began to wonder if the Secret Service's strategy was to let her scream herself hoarse.
Rule Number One-- and this one, I'm amazed Bush's people let slip by, unless it was an intentional oversight, which I'm sure it was since the State Department diplomatic office would have vetted each and every stinking press credential handed out three times, assisted by the Secret Service-- make sure your audience doesn't contain a troublemaker. The 2004 campaign for re-election saw Bush with massive...ok...sizable audiences of carefully screened and vetted audience members. I find it somewhat incredible (to be diplomatic) that this screening process failed so badly here.

Moving on:
The rattled Chinese president haltingly attempted to continue his speech and television coverage went to split screen.

"You're okay," Bush gently reassured Hu.
Rule Number Two-- NEVER upstage a visiting leader, especially one of the largest country on the planet. To have done more than exchange reassuring looks speaks of weakness in the President. Assuming my point about number one, that they knew this was coming, is valid, Bush's reaction should likewise have been carefully choreographed. If he's going to feign surprise, then he really has to act like a leader, not like a schoolmarm.

The protocol-obsessed Chinese leader suffered a day full of indignities -- some intentional, others just careless. The visit began with a slight when the official announcer said the band would play the "national anthem of the Republic of China" -- the official name of Taiwan.
One begins to suspect this was all intentionally done to embarass a leader that we need to help us with Iran and North Korea.

Number four:
It continued when Vice President Cheney donned sunglasses for the ceremony
Did you ever stop and wonder why you never see a candidate on the campaign trail wear sunglasses unless he's skiing or on a boat? It's because the last thing you want a camera to pick up is shaded eyes. Same principle applies in diplomacy. It really is a major offense in a formal setting for a leader to put on sunglasses. At the very most, Cheney should have been escorted to a position out of the sun. Shame on the staffers.

Hu, attempting to leave the stage via the wrong staircase, was yanked back by his jacket. Hu looked down at his sleeve to see the president of the United States tugging at it as if redirecting an errant child.
See point number two. Bush was more concerned with Hu's swift exit from the stage, preceding Bush (thus showing a superior position to the child-like President). In a proper protocol process, Bush would have caught up with Hu on the wrong staircase and forced the staffers to improvise the exit. As it is, that was without a doubt the most embarassing display of breached protocol in recent memory.

Six: OK, well, actually One, because all this preceded this visit:
Then there were the intentional slights. China wanted a formal state visit such as Jiang got, but the administration refused, calling it instead an "official" visit. Bush acquiesced to the 21-gun salute but insisted on a luncheon instead of a formal dinner, in the East Room instead of the State Dining Room. Even the visiting country's flags were missing from the lampposts near the White House.
See, if you visit a foreign dignitary and arrange the "slights" ahead of time, you can smooth them over and things will be agreeable (or the visit doesn't come off). To compound these original negotiated slights, as I like to call them, by making such major and obviously intentional gaffes will only serve to anger Hu.

To-wit, the first glaring insult:
The Chinese had warned the White House to be careful about who was admitted to the ceremony. To no avail: They granted a one-day pass to Wang Wenyi of the Falun Gong publication Epoch Times. A quick Nexis search shows that in 2001, she slipped through a security cordon in Malta protecting Jiang (she had been denied media credentials) and got into an argument with him. The 47-year-old pathologist is expected to be charged today with attempting to harass a foreign official.
Now, you mean to tell me that no one on the China desk at State recognized this name?

But, as they say on infomercials, wait! There's more!
In front of the cameras, Bush thanked Hu for his "frankness" -- diplomatic code for disagreement -- and Hu stood expressionless. The two unexpectedly agreed to take questions from reporters, but Bush grew impatient as Hu gave a long answer about trade, made all the longer by the translation. Bush at one point tapped his foot on the ground. "It was a very comprehensive answer," he observed when Hu finished.

So the outcome of all this?
Hu was in no mood to make concessions. In negotiations, he gave the U.S. side nothing tangible on delicate matters such as the nuclear problems in North Korea and Iran, the Chinese currency's value and the trade deficit with China.
Mark my words on this: As soon as Hu sees an opportunity to screw with our trade deficit and our budget deficit, he will, and you can truly blame Bush for the loss of jobs, the loss of our economy and the loss of our few shreds of dignity as the next President will likely have to mend fences and establish trust that's been shattered, and THEN ask a favor, hat in hand.

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Now This Ought To Be Fun....

18 members of Granny Brigade in court for start of trial

Associated Press Writer

April 20, 2006, 5:51 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- Eighteen anti-war protesters who call themselves the Granny Peace Brigade went on trial Thursday for staging a rally in Times Square last year, with the prosecution saying the case was about disorderly conduct _ not war.

The defendants, some supporting themselves on canes and walkers, entered the small courtroom packed with about 75 supporters. They are each charged with two counts of disorderly conduct stemming from an Oct. 17, 2005, protest against the war in Iraq outside the military recruiting station in Times Square.

They are being tried as a group in a nonjury trial before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross.

The women _ several in their 80s and 90s and most of them grandmothers, with three boasting to be great grandmothers _ wore buttons that read: "Granny Peace Brigade" and "Love the Troops, Hate the War."

Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words: "We will not be silent."

"This case is simple and straightforward," Assistant District Attorney Amy Miller said in her opening statement. "It's not about the war; it's about disorderly conduct."

She said the defendants sat in front of the recruiting station, obstructed pedestrian traffic and refused to disperse as ordered. Miller said this prevented others from going in or out of the center.

Defense attorney Norman Siegel countered that "this trial is about the actions of 18 defendants, many of whom are grandmothers. Their intent was to alert an apathetic public about the war in Iraq."
So Bush is persecuting grandmothers now...interesting. You know, my mom is in her 80s now, and I've always told her that she should behave precisely as she likes, because what's a cop going to do, arrest her?

Apparently. Still, you have to love the moxie of these women:
Prior to their court appearance, the women, some decked out in colorful straw hats chock full of slogan buttons and many bearing photos of their grandchildren, held an early morning rally where they sang to the melody of "Camptown Races."

"Bush's policies are wrong.

They're doo doo

Going to rage and roar

Going to stop the war

We're raging grannies

Singing our song

It's all a Doo-da Day."
God bless their fuzzy slippers!

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tsk, Tsk....Even Pox....

04/20/06 FOX Poll: Gloomy Economic Views; Bush Approval at New Low

- President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March

- Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush’s presidency.

- Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April.

WHAT fucking Democrats still approve of this jackass? Find 'em and exterminate 'em....

I'm Thinking God Has Better Things To Do....

Former Military Air Traffic Controller Claims Comet Collision with Earth on May 25, 2006

[....]Comet Schwassman-Wachmann follows a five-year orbit that crosses the solar system's ecliptic plane. It has followed its five year orbit intact for centuries; but, in 1995, mysteriously fragmented. According to Julien, this is the same year that a crop circle appeared showing the inner solar system with the Earth missing from its orbit. He argues the "Missing Earth" crop circle was a message from higher intelligences warning humanity of the consequences of its destructive nuclear policies. He links this crop circle to May 25, 2006, and identifies the comet Schwassmann-Wachman as the subject of higher intelligence communications.

Using NASA simulations of the comet's path, Julien concludes that impact is likely around May 25 precisely when the comet crosses the Earth's ecliptic plane. While the first fragment will cross at approximately 10 million miles, lagging fragments threaten to collide. While astronomers have stated that the comet poses no direct threat, Julien argues that some fragments are too small to observe. Astronomers have predicted possible meteor showers indicating some cometary debris will enter the atmosphere.

Julien argues that the kinetic energy of even a 'car sized' fragment will impact the Earth with devastating effect. He concludes the May 25 event is tied in to the Bush administration's policy of preemptive use of nuclear weapons against Iran, and the effect of nuclear weapons on the realms of higher intelligences. Regarding its importance, Julien declares: "we have to save lives when we have such information to share with the public". He further claims it important "to preserve all data, historical artifacts and precious material in the event of such a collision." Julien predicts that the comet collision will occur in the Atlantic Ocean between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, and generates 200 meter waves. Julien concludes that "each person with this information has to take responsibility to warn potential victims."
Words cannot express how this news-release-masquerading-as-an-article makes me let me sum it up in a picture....

Scotty Wadda Doo Doo....

So let me see...McLellan resigns, on the heels of Andrew Card. Karl Rove has his policy role severly limited.

I think it was Chuck Schumer who trotted out the old "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" saw, but somehow that doesn't quite fit the scenario. It's far too quaint, and besides I was saving that for switching the CenCom general in Iraq. Again.

The funniest way I've see to describe this cosmetic change is courtesy of mparker, posting on Blondesense blog-thread:
It's like changing amplifiers because you really suck at guitar.
So I'm thinking there must be a whole passel of funnier ways of describing the full-force fuckup that is the rearranging of this administration, and I'm throwing the door open to you all.

Go for it.

The Cult Of Personality

If you've been reading between the lines of this blog for a while, you'll know that I'm a subscriber to Time Magazine, an altogether worthwhile weekly summary of world and national events and cultural trends. The writing rarely gets dense, and the editors have a knack for making stories make sense.

Every once in a while, items in Time make me go "hmmmmmmmm." This week, two items made me go ARGH!.

First up, Wonket-- I mean, Ana Marie Cox, has a column about an MTV show, "My Super Sweet Sixteen," (I refuse to link to it...I have scruples) where parents get to totally spoil their, like, debutante-aged girls with six- and seven-figure soirées, dontchalikeknow? Pink, like poodles, stretch Hummers (which in my day meant you tried not to cum too fast), like, gowns and tiaras...ohmigod!

To say I was a little pissed about this is a bit of an understatement. Yes, I get the point of the show, or at least the stated intent: to mock and poke fun at teenaged girls allowed to party to excess. "Girls Gone Wild," only their tits stay in their dresses, mostly to stay out of trouble with the FCC and Christian Coalition. I get that. But there's a larger subtext, an invasive subplot, which I'll get back to in a moment.

Now, as this was the last page in the magazine, I was wondering what had my blood up about this piece, when I happened to glance backward in the issue: the article on viral videos.

Are you seeing where I'm going with this? Celebrity has become an ends to a means, and here's the kicker: it's no longer about being famous. It's merely about being a celebrity.

Or as Cox notes:
The irony, of course, is that the easier it is to become famous--whether in a really famous fashion or simply as a queen for a day--the more irrelevant the meaning of celebrity becomes. As a diminutive diva on My Super Sweet 16 guilelessly observes, "We're like celebrities but not famous." Exactly. Autographs, please.
Fame used to be the byproduct of something else: fortune, achievement, or in the case of Madonna, crass self-salesmanship and the willingness to do ANYTHING to become rich and famous.

Remember that phrase, "rich and famous." That's where I'm going with this.

Someone once asked me, in my burgeoning attempts to become an actor, which would I prefer: riches or fame. My answer surprised him: riches.

See, with riches, I can buy privacy. Fame buys me nothing but contempt.

And envy. Which is the subversion I was talking about earlier. What is this fascination our country has (and has passed onto the culture of the world) with "fame"? With celebrity?

Let's take American Idol, a thoroughly ridiculous exercise in mass marketing where the product being pushed isn't the winner, it's the show itself. At least with Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, the forerunner to Idol, you had some real talent come off that show: Robert Klein, Alan King, Gladys Knight, José Feliciano are all artists who got their break on that show. Hell...even Star Search has a history of producing bona fide commercial artists.

Name one Idol winner. Now name another after that Clarkson chick. If you can, you're too hooked on that show, and I urge you to go to an AA meeting. In point of fact, no musician of any note has come off that show, despite millions, perhaps even billions of viewers.

So much for the premise that talent attracts, huh? Billions of people have seen you, and you can barely muster an opening gig on some quasi-military demonstration on the Capitol lawn on the Fourth of July (listening there, Clay?).

And yet, like french fries, we reach for yet another celebrity, a fresh face, before we've even swallowed the last one after chewing him or her up. What does that say about this country?

It tells me that we're more interested in paying to see who will be our next victim instead of paying to fix our highways, our schools, our housing problems. People will on the one hand rail about how much in taxes they pay, and on the other be texting in their latest "AI" (what does that abbreviation also stand for? Artificial Intelligence) vote, over and over, at only $1 a pop!

It was bad enough when we were eating adults, albeit it young adults, but now we're reaching further and further into our youth: 16 year old girls who can't possibly know better are being cable-raped by a show that purports to document their party, but in truth is turning them into porn stars of a very ugly nature. Not for sex, for money. They get to display their parents' checkbooks like 40DD boobs flopping as they ride the erect penis of celebrity.

And for what? Our contempt? Our envy? Why the fuck would anyone want me to be jealous of them?

You know who I'm jealous of. I'm jealous of people who have a good self-image, who are at peace with themselves and can content themselves with simple things. I yearn for that kind of life (and you can keep Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton the fuck off MY farm, thank you very much). Who can view the world and laugh, even at the most miserable fuck ups of this administration because ultimately it makes not one whit of difference in history.

Yes, this administration: the ultimate expression of empty celebrity. You can trace a direct line of Republican presidents, from Ronald Reagan to George Bush, père et fils, where it didn't matter to voters whether the man had a brain and a plan, but that he was some American Idol (Idle?).

And THAT'S, ultimately, what this rant was about. Riches and fame, with nothing else, becomes Idolic, becomes President, becomes a country in deep trouble.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Perfect Press Secretary

Hmmmmmm...I wonder if he'll have to dress up in a skirt and let Dubya chase him around the Oval....?
From his statement that evolutionary theory is a "hypothesis" to his defense of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Media Matters for America has documented numerous false and misleading claims advanced by Snow as a Fox News commentator:

Snow falsely asserted that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV said his wife, Valerie Plame, "wasn't covert for six years" before she was exposed as a CIA operative by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Snow put forward numerous falsehoods to argue that "[e]volutionary theory, like ID [intelligent design], isn't verifiable or testable. It's pure hypothesis."

Snow claimed that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the "most liberal justice in American history," despite evidence to the contrary.

Snow peddled the baseless Republican National Committee talking point that 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) had blamed U.S. troops for the explosives looted from the Al Qaqaa military installation following the invasion of Iraq. Snow said, "[T]he Kerry campaign is not criticizing the president here. They're criticizing our troops."

Following President Bush's lead, Snow distorted Kerry's stated desire to reduce terrorism to a "horrible nuisance." Snow claimed Kerry had "called terrorists a nuisance."

Snow backed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's attacks on Kerry, falsely claiming, "[T]here has been no documentary contradiction of the Swift Boat stuff."

Snow falsely defended Bush from probing questions regarding his National Guard service.
More here.

Go Read This.....

And then donate.

We're always so quick to criticize the elitists among us, so here's a chance to do good and reinforce a point.

A Lesson We Should All Learn From

How Talk Radio Spurred Immigrant Demonstrations
Word traveled fast over the airwaves, helping to pump up turnout at protests across the country

For Los Angeles radio producer Luis Garibay, the crusade began with a question, put to Angelica Salas, executive director of the city’s Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. Was the recently passed House bill making felons of undocumented immigrants and those who help them a serious enough threat, he asked her, that Latino deejays should do something to promote opposition to it? “The anti-immigration forces have their echo chambers through FOX News, CNN and talk radio,” she told him. “You guys have to be ours.”

And so it was. For the next two weeks, Garibay's nationally syndicated colleague Eddie “El Piolin” Sotelo and the other major Spanish-speaking deejays in Los Angeles, whose combined local audience exceeds one million, abandoned their usual inane, bawdy banter for an all-protest, all-the-time format, urging listeners to join the march in downtown Los Angeles protesting the bill. Organizers of the L.A. rally and others elsewhere knew the deejays could spread the word not only to the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants but to the legions who count them as friends, relatives and neighbors. But none imagined they'd help generate the huge attendance the demos drew: 500,000 to 1 million in Los Angeles, 300,000 in Chicago, 50,000 in Detroit, among other places.
Taking notes, Lefties? We need to generate this kind of anger about other issues, and we need to find the audiences to do this type of groundswell of support, not just to oppose Republican laws.

But I digress...let's take a look at the underpinnings of this movement:
The groundwork for the protests was laid by activists before the talk jocks joined the effort. The Catholic Church's Justice for Immigrants campaign emboldened priests to encourage attendance by declaring that helping even illegal immigrants was a religious mandate superseding any law. Meanwhile, several prominent national coalition groups composed of service agencies, Latino community activists, religious-based organizations and unions shifted from straight lobbying to aggressive activism. These alliances hoped a national chain of rallies would send the message to legislators that the pro-immigrant faction is formidable.
You'll notice, then, that although this was a quick response to a crisis, it was clearly not a knee-jerk reaction. The arguments were focused and encapsulated views from all points on the spectrum: religious, civic, economic, and social organizations. Note in particular the effectiveness of a church mandate that God's law supersedes the irrational paranoia of the right wingers. We want to win elections? That's where we need to go.

Need more proof of that? Of the last six Democrats to serve as President, five of them ran on faith-based platforms: helping the poor, struggling for peace, helping all Americans to live in the Grace here on earth, so they could concentrate on earning grace for the hereafter. Think about it: Clinton, Carter, LBJ, Kennedy...all men of passion and deep religious convictions, who didn't (except maybe for Carter and even he seems tame by comparison to today's evangelicals) wear their religion on their sleeve. In fact, Kennedy ran away from his faith, and yet it was clear from his words and deeds, he deeply believed in doing God's work here on earth.

Again, I digress.
But first, the Latino community had to get the message about the protests. Enter the deejays. When his nanny told him that she and other babysitters in the neighborhood were inspired to attend the march after hearing so much about it on the radio, UCLA Professor Abel Valenzuela realized how influential the talk shows were. In other cases, chatter on the airwaves about protests elsewhere inspired left-out listeners to become accidental activists. All day long on March 22, Martha Ramirez, a tax preparer and mother of four in Kansas City, Mo., heard a deejay tell a string of curious callers that while other cities would be holding protests during the upcoming weekend, no demonstrations were planned for her hometown. Ramirez, 31, decided to lead a rally herself, and got 2,500 people to join her.
Listening, Air America Radio? Ed Schultz? Stephanie Miller? Jim Hightower?

It's no longer about REaction, it's about ACTION.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When Is An Insurgent NOT An Insurgent?

Clashes Force Closure of Baghdad District

Associated Press Writer

April 18, 2006, 9:20 AM EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Sporadic clashes broke out Tuesday between gunmen and Iraqi security forces in a Sunni Arab district of northern Baghdad as soldiers sealed off streets and manned checkpoints a day after a major gunbattle there.
U.S. officials referred to the gunmen as insurgents. But some residents said they were simply neighborhood men who feared that the Iraqi troops were working with Shiite death squads who had come to kidnap and kill Sunnis.

Residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said gunmen went from house to house, urging families to provide male members to help them defend the neighborhood.

That illustrates the depth of the sectarian crisis facing Iraq and the deep suspicions with which many Sunni Arabs view the government's Shiite and Kurdish-dominated security forces.
(emphasis added) Remember, this is Baghdad, which is supposedly a cosmopolitan city where these factions have over the years learned to live with each other.

Until we came in and started shooting up the place. Now imagine how this is playing out in the hinterlands. You know how city-folk in America are a lot more tolerant and a lot less overtly racist than the crackers and rednecks in the country here?

That's what's going on over there. It's the same damned dynamic, only it's reinforced by the bullying of external forces and factors. And as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, it can't get better, only worse, the long we dither in this country.

You know, it's hard to believe but it was almost three years ago that the Jackass-In-Chief made his little staged entrance to the television cameras and declared "Mission Accomplished!"

What mission was that, Mr. Bush? Combat operations continue, BOTH countries are even more divided than when we invaded Iraq, oil is no longer flowing from the oil fields of Iraq, people are barely starting to get running water in the main cities and provinces, electricity is rationed, and it's going to be a long hot dry summer in Iraq.

Maybe the only mission that remains to be accomplished is for you to gracefully exit, stage right, and hand over the reins to someone who might actually have a clue about how to run a country. Or two. Or three.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

An Independent Assessment of the Bush Health Care "Plan"

Executive Summary: No surprises here. If you're rich, it works, if you're not, you're screwed.

Since this is a members-only site, I'm going to quote significantly from the text of the report. From Consumer Reports:
False promises: ‘Consumer driven’
health plans

A promotional pamphlet for a health savings account (HSA) boasts, “If you plan correctly, you may find that you spend far less for health care than ever before.” True, if you could plan to avoid cancer, being hit by a car, or growing older. But you can’t.

Three million Americans have signed up for high-deductible health plans, which are often paired with tax-advantaged HSAs designed to give them the funds they need to pay those deductibles. Proponents call this “consumer driven health care.” They claim that patients who have to take on more of the costs themselves--annual deductibles range from $1,050 to a total deductible and costs of $10,500--will avoid unnecessary care and look for medical providers who deliver high-quality care at the lowest price, thus driving down costs. The plans are touted by some, including President Bush, as a solution for the U.S. health-care crisis, with its 46 million uninsured.

The reality is that these schemes shift increased financial risk to consumers and will surely weaken our already fragile health-insurance system. HSAs provide little assurance of affordable, quality health care to those with chronic illnesses, families with children, those of moderate incomes, or older Americans with more health-care needs. HSAs do nothing to address the factors that really drive up health costs: care for those with chronic diseases; overuse of technology; hospital care; prescription drugs; and end-of-life care.
HSAs may benefit young, healthy workers without dependents, who don’t spend much on medical care. They’re especially advantageous for the wealthy of all ages, since the higher the tax bracket, the more valuable the tax break. (ed. note: emphasis added) Contributions to HSAs are tax-deductible, the account grows tax-free, and money pulled out for medical expenses is not taxed. After age 65, money saved in the account can be used for any purpose, without a tax penalty. But the income level of the vast majority of uninsured Americans prevents them from reaping those tax benefits.

A recent national survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit organization, found those currently in HSA-type plans were significantly more likely to spend a large share of their income on out-of-pocket health-care expenses than those in comprehensive plans. They were also more likely to skip or delay health care because of costs. And though HSAs work on the premise that consumers have access to reliable cost estimates and comparative information about providers, that information all too often does not exist. No surprise that the survey found those enrolled in HSAs far less satisfied than those with traditional, comprehensive coverage.
Get the picture yet? Competition is supposed to drive down costs, but competition is a failure without perfect disclosure of prices (that's the key to capitalism and also the one most easily abused factor: information). Without that information, consumers cannot make the optimal choice in order to keep costs down.

And the AMA is not about to start forcing members to advertise prices. After all, THEY'RE REPUBLICANS!!!!!!
So, who, besides the wealthy, benefits from HSAs? Employers do, since they are shifting health-care costs to their employees and are more able to predict health-care expenses. And financial institutions offering HSAs are poised to reap billions in profits from the fees they can charge in setting up those accounts.

A health-insurance system can function only if costs and risks are spread among healthy and sick participants. But healthy employees who don’t expect to need much medical care are the ones most likely to abandon traditional plans in favor of low-premium, high-deductible ones. Those left in traditional plans will be sicker and more risky to insure. That means a greater likelihood of steep premium increases, pricing coverage out of the reach of more workers and adding to the ranks of the uninsured.

“Consumer driven” health plans, including HSAs, abandon the premise that the community has a responsibility to care for all members. The health-care system needs fixing, but HSAs are a sham substitute for comprehensive reform.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Holiest of Holies

Today is the holiest day of the Christian calendar.

I sat this morning watching Timmeh's program, Meet the Press, and got really angry at the Catholic priest he had on. I hope this man rots in Hell.

On the other hand, I had the chance to really listen to Joel Osteen for the first time ever. While I disagree with much of what he said, I find myself drawn to much of his message: Religion should be about reinforcing the good in people, and not shaming them.

See, the one thing that drove me from my religion (but not my faith) was the shame I felt walking out of church. I was, am, a good Christian. I believe that God wants us to be nice to people. Whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, that simple fact of life, that we're all in this together, and it's silly for us to shun people because of orientation or gender or race, or even national origin, is the most important thing that Christ teaches us. We all got to this point in life by surviving and that ought to be celebrated, not denigrated.

May God bless you all, my readers. May we together solve the problems and challenges that face us.