Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good Riddance to the Uh-Ohs

We're finally getting ready to close the books on a decade that many of us are more than happy to put behind us!

It seems like much less than ten years ago that I was pondering what we'd call the next decade! The "aughts" or the "naughts" sounded arcane, and the "ohs" just didn't seem right. But now, on retrospect, the "uh-ohs" seems to nail it.

It was a decade made up of many mistakes, beginning with the election of George W. Bush. But it really wasn't so much a mistake as a gross error in judgement by the Supreme Court who decided to overstep their jurisdiction and appoint a president rather than reinforce the law that states that all the votes should be counted.

We should have known then that the decade was destined to be troublesome.

And that it was. It started with an almost overblown mass hysteria. Remember Y2K? We were all afraid of what would happen to our computers when the clock chimed midnight. Fizzle to nothing....

The early oh-ohs brought about the dot com bust and things seemed to go downhill from there. Nobel Prize winning economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that the decade should be called The Big Zero, as that's what it brought about-- zero economic gains for the average family, zero job growth, zero gains for homeowners-- a big fat O.

The end of the decade did bring about something good. We finally got George W. Bush and his cronies out of the White House. We elected the first African American President in Barack Obama, and gave the Democrats control of both Houses of Congress. Unfortunately, all is still not well. We just have to get big money out of the political equation and perhaps we can get the change we worked so hard for.

So let's look upon the start of a new year and a new decade with a renewed sense of purpose. Let's take back control of our country. Let's fight for real campaign finance reform so that we can truly change things for the better. Let's work to elect progressives to represent us, and get rid of the Blue Dogs and ConservaDems along with the Republicans (because if there's one lesson we should have learned from the health care reform battle, it's that they're all the same).

The liberals and progressives need to band together in the coming years to make sure we get the change we champion so loudly. We should begin with compassion, as that's the quality our opponents across the aisle so glaringly lack.

If we work from a place of caring for our fellow human beings, we could bring about health care as a basic human right for all people, and an end to war. I'd say those are pretty good goals for the teen years.

A quick programming note before I sign off... I'll be on the air tonight, and will host my final Air America late night program of the year tomorrow night from 11pm-1am ET by finishing up our look back at 2009. I'll spend tomorrow afternoon once again guest-hosting the Randi Rhodes Show from 3-6pm ET too.

Although 2009 was a tough year for most Americans, it was a very professionally rewarding one for me. I had a professional dream come true when Air America radio asked me to fill in on their late night program this summer. Here we are, six months later, still on the air, and I thank you for listening!

Although I can't predict what 2010 has in store, I promise you that I'll continue to speak truth to power and calling things as I see them. And I hope you'll join me as we fight to bring this country back to the principles that made it great.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Regrets Of A Sun Worshipper

My family moved to South Florida in 1971. I was 11 years old, and entering junior high. Moving to Florida from New York City was a big change. But it was OK, as I quickly became a beach bum.

We lived about 10 minutes from Hollywood Beach, which soon became my hangout of choice, and remained such for many years.

Those were the days before SPF was a household acronym or "put sunscreen on" was ever uttered by a concerned mother.

Those were the days when sun reflectors were routinely held by prone bodies under chins to magnify the intensity of the sun onto the face which was often helped along by a mixture of baby oil and iodine.

Yes, I was guilty of all of the above, and am paying for it tonight.

I am now a two-time skin cancer survivor. I spent a few hours today in the office of a skin cancer specialist, who painstakingly removed a squamous cell carcinoma growth from my nose.

The technique used is known as Mohs surgery, named after the doctor who came up with the idea of removing very small slices of tissue, freezing and examining them under the microscope, so that the least amount of tissue is removed, while extracting all of the cancerous cells.

After my cancerous growth was excised from my nose, there was a quite noticeable cavity, so a skin graft was then done. Of course the skin to put over the hole in my nose had to come from somewhere, and the place of choice was the inside of my left ear.

Needless to say, I'm somewhat uncomfortable tonight and, thanks to the bandages I'm now wearing, look like a combination of Cyrano de Bergerac and Van Gogh.

Sadly, this was not my first run-in with the evil skin cancer. That happened a couple of years ago, when a routine body check turned up a malignant melanoma on my left leg. I now have a nasty looking scar where they cut a large slice out of it.

Yes, the years of sun worshipping has taken its toll.

It's now sunscreen, hats and regular dermatologist body checks for me. And if you haven't yet made a decent charitable contribution for 2009, check out the Danny Fund, named for Danny Federici, keyboardist for the E Street Band until he succumbed to malignant melanoma.

And please, get checked too...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Left vs. The Left and Me vs. I

There's a battle royale being waged among Democrats today. On the left, progressive bloggers like Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, Markos Moulistsas of DailyKos, Howard Dean and even Keith Olbermann all, to one degree or another, saying that the health care bill passed by the Senate isn't reform and should either be killed or vastly improved, or it should not be passed.

And on the left is Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver, and the man who pretty much invented the public option, Jacob Hacker, all coming out in support of the bill.

And then there's me and, I'm guessing, lots of other people who can argue both sides of the battle.

I'm for passing anything that gives more people access to health care. It's an abomination that the United States of America doesn't treat its people with more compassion. This is the only industrialized country on the planet in which health care is not considered a basic human right; the only country in which someone can lose everything simply because he, she or a family member got sick... even those who have health insurance!

I'm for passing whatever bill comes out of conference, even without any improvements that hopefully will be inserted during conference, because we can't afford to do nothing! As it now stands, insurance companies can deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and can employ a practice known as "rescission" and cancel your policy at any time, just because they decide to (and it's always because you're note enough of a profit center for them).

As flawed as it is, the current Senate bill would do away with those practices.

The latest version of the bill also includes some other really good provisions:

  • They've banned pre-existing conditions for children immediately, starting in 2010.
  • Insurance companies will be banned from the exchange if they raise their rates above a certain amount. And if an insurer denies a claim, there will be an independent board to which customers can appeal.
  • There are $1.25 billion in new resources for community health centers in the bill, totaling $10 billion overall. (We can thank Bernie Sanders for this one!) And there's more. But basically, it's a foundation from which real reform can build upon.

But then there's also me, on the left, who says "Wait a minute. This bill truly sucks. It's a massive bailout for the for profit health insurance extortionists." (Really, I do say that!)

There are so many good reasons to scrap this monstrosity of a bill and start over. The most blatant one is the fact that we will be required to purchase policies from companies who put profits over patients. We will be forced to pay anywhere from 8 to over 20% of our hard-earned money to these leeches, and those who cannot afford it will receive subsidies to help pay. The subsidies come from our tax dollars, and that money will go to boost the profits of this already obscenely profitable industry who makes money off of the sick, while we struggle to get care.

A few more reasons to kill the bill:

  • The taxes and the expense of this bill start immediately, though most of the benefits don't kick in until 2013 or 2014!
  • Although we can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, there are no limits on what the insurance extortionists can charge you for the policy, so can effectively deny coverage by making it too expensive for you to buy.
  • Although it purports to end sex discrimination by doing away with the 48% in additional premiums women currently pay over what men are charged, abortion rights are extremely curtailed, setting women's rights back 30 years.
So, the argument between the left and the left (and between me and I) continues to rage. But we're not at the finish line yet.

The bill will emerge from the Senate and head to conference where it will merge with the House bill. We must push, hard, to get as many improvements as possible.

Last night, I spoke with Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who co-chairs the House Progressive Caucus, and asked him what they will do to insure that we get some real reform in the final health care bill. (Listen to that interview by clicking here)

I'm still clinging to that word we heard so much during the campaign... HOPE. I'm hoping that those who still think that President Obama is playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers are right. I hope that once this bill with insurance reform is passed, the President will get Congress to use reconciliation to give us the public option or medicare buy in (for anyone who wishes to participate), and truly give us real health care reform.

Now that would be a wonderful way to start the next decade!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coming up tonight...

Round 2 for this Monday. I had a great time guest hosting The Randi Rhodes Show today, and will be back again tomorrow and Wednesday. Tomorrow on Randi's show, I'll speak with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and call on his expertise about the health care reform process. I'll also be joined by Tony Hendra, who worked with George Carlin on his "sortabiography," Last Words.

Tonight, on my regular Air America show (11pm-1am ET), I'll speak with journalist Sasha Abramsky about his new book, Inside Obama's Brain, and we'll re-cap the latest developments from the Senate regarding health care reform.

You can listen online here, or click the link to your left (or here) and watch the broadcast. Yes, I'm moving into the 21st century! And, if you're so moved, call in at 866-303-2270!

I'm Filling in today for Randi Rhodes

You can watch and listen here, and call in at 866-87-RANDI, as we take a good look at where we are at on health care reform.

I'll be joined by Huffington Post's Ryan Grim with an update on what transpired over the weekend, by Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association, who is also co-chair of Progressive Democrats of America's "Health Care Not Warfare" campaign, Jon Walker of Firedoglake.com, who's been battling it out with fivethiryeight.com's Nate Silver over whether or not we should kill the bill. And finally, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus will give us an advance look at what we can expect from them when the bill goes to conference.

You can listen live by clicking here, or watch and listen here:

Free Webcam Chat at Ustream

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Time To Get Rid of the Filibuster

You let one petulant brat get his way, and then all the other brats start acting out too.

Joe Lieberman showed the conservadems in Congress that it was pretty easy to get the White House to cave on the most important elements that would have made health care reform actually reform the system, so now Ben Nelson is getting in on the act.

The AP reported, just moments ago, that Nebraska DINO Ben Nelson issued a statement saying, "As it is, without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient," and told a radio station that abortion wasn't his only concern.

Let's see, Nelson got the provision that would eliminate the anti-trust exemption now enjoyed by insurance companies deleted from the health care legislation, but his Stupak-like abortion amendment went down to defeat. But his pal Joey showed him that the White House will bend over and give in to any extortion demands in order to get any legislation that they can label "health care reform" passed.

If Ben Nelson has his way (and judging from recent White House actions, I'm not sure he won't get it), Roe v. Wade will be overturned so President Obama can sign a health care bill before the State of the Union!

It's amazing to me that we're being held hostage by members of the progressive caucus! I think it's time to revisit the Senate rules and get back to the principles of majority rule in this country.

But what can we really do? Political organizer, strategist and author Robert Creamer wrote a piece yesterday for Huffington Post, "Lieberman Betrayal Illustrates Why Senate Filibuster Rules Must Change." He'll join me tonight on Air America to discuss what should and can be done to fix the problem.

I'll also speak with Donna Smith of Cal Nurses and co-chair of Progressive Democrats of America's Healthcare not Warfare campaign about Sen. Bernie Sanders attempt yesterday to have a debate on his single payer amendment on the Senate floor, and the heartbreaking reality of the how the party of NO derailed it.

Click here to watch the amazing video of Senator Sanders as he very reluctantly withdrew the amendment.
It should be required viewing for all Americans...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bill Mumy to Wish Lieberman to the Cornfield Tonight!

***Updated to include the audio of Bill Mumy wishing Lieberman to the cornfield, and my custom production piece too.. Click here to listen! ***

Yesterday I guest hosted the Randi Rhodes Show and, of course, we were talking about Joe Lieberman and his despicable actions regarding health care reform. A caller exclaimed about Lieberman, "He's a bad man...a really bad man!"

A few minutes later, I got an email from listener Joanie, who simply wrote "Quick son! wish Joe Lieberman out into the cornfield!"

In case you never saw the Twilight Zone episode It's A Good Life, sit back and enjoy... it's good... it's very good television...

Tonight, Anthony Freemont himself will join me on Air America radio to do just that... Yes, Bill Mumy will be my guest. Bill is still acting, and making great music. We'll listen to some of his songs, including what has become my favorite Christmas song of all time, sung by another friend, Sarah Taylor, who'll also join us tonight.

We'll take care of the serious stuff first, like a conversation with insurance industry whistle blower Wendell Potter (who will make some real news tonight), Christy Harvey from the Center for American Progress, and lots more... 11pm-1am ET on Air America radio!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is It Reform, Or Highway Robbery?

I'm truly sickened that a miserable, vindictive little man like Joe Lieberman could hold this country hostage. And the more I think about his vendetta against the left, the angrier I get.

US Senators are elected to represent their constituents. I guess for Joe Lie-berman, that means the insurance industry, because he sure doesn't seem to give a damn about the people.

The White House is so desperate to pass something called health care reform that they gave this shill for big insurance the right to decide what will and won't be included in the legislation. It doesn't really matter if the so called health care reform bill actually contains any reform, as long as they can pass it.

OK, maybe I'm being overly critical. According to Senators Tom Harkin and Ron Wyden, this bill does include some very real reform: it outlaws the practices of cherry picking, rescission and denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. It will get the exchange up and running, and lay a foundation for future reform to be built upon.

I get it. And I get that some lives will be saved. And that's the main point of health care reform.

But this "reform" is also a giant wet kiss for the for-profit insurance industry. It will require us -- all of us-- to purchase insurance from a for-profit health insurance company. If we can't afford it, the government will give us subsidies to help pay for it.

Yes, our taxpayer dollars will go to line the coffers of these leeches. For years now I've maintained that the for-profit health insurers are government sanctioned extortionists. Now they'll be able to get their payoff money right from the treasury.

If there's a mandate for citizens to buy insurance, and our tax dollars are going to be used to subsidize the purchases, shouldn't there be a way to do it without paying the extra dollars that go toward the insurance company profits? It seems to me a no-brainer.

It's enough of an issue that Gov. Howard Dean today stepped out and said that this legislation should be killed, and advised Democratic senators to vote against it.

There's still a long way to go before we get to the finish line. But any legislation that calls itself health care reform but puts corporate profits ahead of the American people is a really sick joke.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maybe We Should Just Talk About Sex?

After all, the health care debate is just too damned depressing. The Democrats, led by the "Hope and Change" man himself, President Obama, are all rolling over to appease Joe Lieberman. Seriously? Who elected him President?

Actually, we should drum Connecticut out of the union just for re-electing him to the Senate after he lost the Democratic primary. Lieberman is a Narcissist (yes, with a capital N), and a certifiable piece of shit.

A video surfaced today, thanks to Greg Sargent, who writes the Plum Line blog for the Washington Post, who requested it from the Connecticut Post, after reading about the interview. Talking Points Memo today reported that Lieberman, in that interview, had endorsed a Medicare buy in for people aged 50 or 55 and older. Sargent requested the tape, and now we can all see it for ourselves:

Today, when pressed by Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, "Lieberman explained that the reason he's opposed to a Medicare buy-in, after favoring it only three months ago, is that the Baucus bill already addressed the problems of the uninsured in the 55-65 age bracket: a buy-in would be redundant." Uh, let's all say it together... bullshit Senator!

We'll get back to the health care talk when we have more information, like what' going to be in the bill. We're still waiting for the CBO to come back with their score for the "gang of 10" compromise which had the Medicare buy-in. But it's probably moot, as Joe Lieberman doesn't want it... and, according to the White House, if Joe doesn't want it, it's not going to be in the bill.

You see, the White House wants something they can call health care reform. They want to pass a bill so they can put a little check mark next to the box that says he got health care done. But we know what it is...

So, tonight, we'll talk about what the majority of the country wants to talk about. Sex. Seriously!

The America people are more preoccupied with how many women Tiger Woods has bedded... so we'll check in with Jenny Block, who wrote a Newsweek web exclusive: The Case Against Monogamy.

And we'll also check in with Larisa Alexandrovna for some really good news in the case of Paul Minor....

It's all happening tonight on Air America radio from 11pm-1am ET/8-10pm PT.

Friday, December 11, 2009

War Time Holiday Gift Guide

If you're wondering what to get the person on your holiday gift list who seemingly has everything, I have the solution.

It came by way of a Facebook post from my old friend and former co-worker Mimi Chen. She posted an email she received from her nephew, a US Marine:

-----Original Message-----
From: Scully Capt Devin T
Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 19:02

Dear family,

If you were wondering "what does Devin want for Christmas??," please follow
the below link and choose from a number of great products:


Do not worry, I have done thorough research on the organization and it is
legitimate. Also, a close friend from high school used to work with them and
can vouch. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) was founded in 1933 at
the request of the head of the International Relief Association (IRA),
Albert Einstein, in order to assist Germans suffering under Hitler
(sean-hope I have your attention). Since then the IRC has provided aid to
Refugees fleeing from conflicts in Vietnam, Zaire, East Pakistan, Uganda,
Chile, Soviet Union, Lebanon, El Salvador, Poland, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Iraq,
and most recently Afghanistan. For over 75 years, the International Rescue
Committee has been a leader in humanitarian relief. They mobilize quickly,
bringing sustained support to regions devastated by violence and
deprivation. The most important aspect of their mission, in my mind, is that
they provide hope to extremely vulnerable populations. I will explain what
that means in a minute.

First, I'm sure you're asking at this point.. "uh.. is he serious? Isn't he a
Marine? Has he gone soft? Is this spam??.." Nope, just hang with me.
Providing support to a population who have become refugees as a result of
armed conflict benefits more than just those individuals. It benefits you,
your family, and your MARINES fighting abroad. How you ask?

I shall explain:

As I'm sure you can imagine, refugee camps are a terrible place. They are
filled with displaced individuals who are jobless, moneyless,
education-less, hungry, and angry because they were forced from their
home/family (directly or indirectly) and moved to a trash heap in a country
that doesn't want them.

The depression that results from this environment breeds something called
"hopelessness," especially in youths. Back in my F&M days while studying the
Hopelessness Theory of Depression I learned that experiences in such negative
environments can lead to the formation of dysfunctional beliefs, which in turn
lead to negative self views, which in turn leads to depression, followed by
desperation. THIS is why you have a "vulnerable population" within these refugee
camps. Desperate people are easily exploited. Many terrorist organizations
or extremist groups recognize this and are taking advantage of the social and
psychological dysfunction within these camps to breed dysfunctional beliefs
(Radical Islamic Extremism) and recruit suicide bombers.

You often wonder, "how can someone walk into a crowded square and blow
themselves up?" Research refugee camps on the border of conflict ridden regions
and I'm sure you will understand how easy it would be for an al-Qaida operative
to recruit individuals using promises of hope, meaning to life, and a guaranteed
spot in heaven. A large majority of the suicide bombers who are killing our troops in Afghanistan are not Taliban. They are extremists who grew up in refugee camps
bordering Pakistan. Look deeply into conflicts in Somalia and the Congo, you will find
similar backgrounds in the majority of the extremists, guerrillas, or
terrorists involved.

SO, by getting me my Christmas present you can save a life and disrupt the
proliferation of terrorism by providing these underprivileged individuals
with an alternative form of hope. Give them education to fight extremist
views, food and medicine to maintain their desire to live, and HOPE that
they can create a better life for themselves and their families. Help fight
the long war.

If you can find a present like this in a store at the mall.. Let me
know..I'll buy stock

Thanks for taking the time to consider my Christmas list. There are many
organizations to give to during the holidays and this is certainly not the
only one you should look into. I look forward to seeing/hearing from you all
this Christmas. Take care, Miss you!!

If that doesn't move you, I don't know what would. It inspired me to reach out to the IRC - the International Rescue Committee. Their website is www.theirc.org. And if you follow the link Devin gave, www.fromharmtohome.org, you'll see the "products" he mentioned are not gifts for him at all, but for the selfless.

They include blankets, coats, farming tools and more for refugees; mosquito nets, first aid training, safe birthing kits, maternity care and more medical services; school supplies, classrooms, teaching supplies and more educational tools; water tanks, family survival kits and more emergency supplies. And yes, the IRC will send you a gift card to share with your friends and loved ones for each gift you purchase.

Tonight, I'll speak with Janet Harris, VP of Development for the IRC, who'll tell us a bit more about the organization and their From Harm to Home gift giving program. This is what holiday gift giving should be.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Deal...or No Deal

**Updated to include audio links!
Click to listen to my interview with John Nichols of The Nation, and Brent Budowsky of The Hill***

I've been doing my best to follow the progress, or lack thereof, of the fight toward meaningful health care reform. Last night, a new wrench was thrown into the political machine. Apparently, the "gang of 10" senators -- 5 progressive and 5 "moderate" members of the Democratic caucus were charged with coming up with a solution to the public option impasse.

And compromise, they did. Although we still don't have the details, and won't until the Congressional Budget Office scores the new idea, bits and pieces have been trickling out.

While some of the components sound intriguing (a Medicare buy in for people ages 55-64), the devil is definitely in the details. And the more details I can find, the more evil they appear.

It seems that the buy-in wouldn't be open to all people in the specified age group, but only those who are unable to otherwise buy insurance from the for-profit leeches. Just as the watered-down public option that was last on the table was set up to fail, so too is this Medicare buy-in.

While Medicare For All is the gold standard for what it would take to fix our seriously broken health care system, a limited Medicare buy-in for only the sickest of an already limited population would be prohibitively expensive and a solution for no one.

As Brent Budowsky writes in a column for The Hill, the Democrats are indeed doing what they seem to do best... blowing a golden opportunity for real change. Budowsky will join me tonight on Air America, but will provide a bit of hope in this seemingly hopeless world... He wrote another column just days ago that pointed to JFK, one of our country's greatest leaders, and the fact that his presidency survived a major screw-up with the Bay of Pigs. But he was able to come back from that and even save us from nuclear annihilation with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Today, Quinnipiac University released their latest polling data, which shows President Obama's approval ratings at an all-time low. In fact, his numbers are the lowest for any president at 11 months into their first term!

Perhaps President Obama will take a hard look at how he got where he is tomorrow, while he's in Oslo collecting his Nobel Peace Prize, and realize what it'll take to win back the support of those of us who put him there.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Peace. Now. Please!

I was in New York City last week. I arrived on Wednesday, just in time to head over to Times Square to take part in a peace vigil which took place less than 24 hours after President Obama announced his plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

Here's what I saw....

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Obama's War

It is now. Does he really think that he can do, with 30,000 additional troops, in 18 months, what no other "superpower" ever could, in the history of the world?

So, what happens in July of 2011, when our economy is in even worse shape after spending many more billions on this war?

Too many in our government are more than willing to kill our nation's economy with war spending, but don't want to spend a dime on health care for all, on creating jobs, or on helping citizens keep their homes.

No, but after spending many more billions of dollars on trying to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten American and our allies in the future," what then?

Do you really think that, magically, come July 2011, all will be well, and our soldiers will start coming home, and the problems in Afghanistan will be over

I didn't think so....

And if Al Qaeda is such a terrible international threat, why is it America leading the charge, and bearing almost all of the burden-- both with our soldiers and our dollars?

I just don't get it.

We'll be discussing this tonight on Air America radio tonight at 12 midnight ET/9 pm PT.

In our first hour, I'll be joined by investigative journalist Greg Palast, who just filed a special report on the WTO, on the occasion of their meeting in Geneva, and the 10th anniversary of the Battle in Seattle.

I hope you'll weigh in tonight with your thoughts on "our new strategy" in Afghanistan. Listen live by clicking here, and call in at 866-303-2270.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday on Steroids!

***Updated to include audio links!

Click here to listen to my interview with Senator Bernie Sanders.

Click here to hear my interview with Congressman Dennis Kucinich***

Mondays are always tough. But the Monday after a four day weekend, complete gluttony galore (both in terms of food and purchases), is even harder. So it's best to jump in with both feet! And that's just what I'm doing today.

I'll be guest hosting The Randi Rhodes Show today from 3-6pm ET, and will be back in my usual 11pm-1am ET slot on Air America Radio tonight too.

I'm not the only one jumping right back in either!

The Senate, this afternoon, begins debate on Health Care Reform. Tomorrow night, President Obama will address the nation from West Point, explaining to us his rationale for sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Oh, there are other things going on as well. For some reason, President Obama wants to keep Ben Bernanke on for another term as Chair of the Federal Reserve. The White House is going to address the Jobs disaster, and will also be enacting some programs to help those of us in danger of losing our homes to foreclosure.

And there are distractions too.... A couple of narcissistic attention-seekers crashed the State Dinner at the White House Wednesday night, begging the question "Who's in charge?".

We'll deal with many of these issues today, between the two shows.

I'll be joined by both Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Dennis Kucinich today during Randi's show (and will also share them with you tonight on my show). If I had my way, they'd be our next president and vice president. Unfortunately, that won't happen. But fortunately, they're both looking out for our best interests in Congress. I just wish we could clone them and get a lot more like them!

As you probably know, they're both against the plans that President Obama will put forth tomorrow night. Michael Moore is too, and he wrote about it in an open letter to the president today.

The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart takes a different approach today in a piece entitled "Stop Talking About Leaving." He'll join me this afternoon to discuss his rationale too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Night Menagerie

Just a reminder that tomorrow night is the big adoption show on Air America radio.... Tonight, we have a bit of everything!

We'll get started with a Quickie News Update with Victoria Jones of the Talk Radio News Service.

We'll follow that with a conversation with Will Bunch, senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, whose "Attytood" blog is one I enjoy immensely. He wrote a piece on Thursday "The 26% Solution" that caught my eye, so I invited him on to tell us about it... He is also author of the book, Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future.

We'll round out the first hour with a visit from Howie Klein of downwithtyranny.com, who live-tweeted Saturday's Senate debate before the vote to open debate on the health care bill.

Hour two will be filled with a no-holds-barred conversation with Dylan Ratigan, host of MSNBC's Morning Meeting.

Join in the fun! Click here to listen live (11pm-1am ET), and call in at 866-303-2270.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Best Thanksgiving Ever

Ten years ago this month, I was hoping to bring my daughter home. Six months earlier, I had started the process to adopt my daughter. I wasn't sure where she was, or what she looked like, but I had already spent countless hours assembling my adoption dossier, and dreaming of a baby girl in an orphanage somewhere in Russia.

It took another year of waiting, of re-doing paperwork, and lots of frustration. But at the end of October, 2000 I accepted the referral of an 18-month old little girl in an orphanage in the village of Karakastek, Kazakhstan.

Nine years ago tonight, I was in the city of Almaty, about 90 minutes by car from her village, but I had already visited three times. Nine years ago tonight I was spending my final night as a childless woman.

It was Thanksgiving Day! On November 23, 2000, I appeared in a freezing cold courtroom in a tiny village on the other side of the world, trying to convince a judge that he should allow me to take this precious little girl with me home to the US, to be her mother.

I've made many mistakes in my life, but I often say that adopting my daughter is the one thing I know I did right.

The process was long and involved, but it certainly didn't get any easier after bringing Alison home. Parenting is the toughest job I've ever had, but it's also the most rewarding.

People often comment to me that Alison was very lucky, and I have always respond that we both were. She is definitely my daughter; that was apparent almost immediately!

This Tuesday, November 24, Alison and I will celebrate our 9th "Forever Day." Many in the adoption community refer to the day the new parents take their child from the orphanage as their "gotcha" day. We prefer the more sentimental description, as it is the day we became mother and daughter, forever.

November also happens to be National Adoption Month, so I tend to do at least one adoption related show every year at this time.

I hope you'll tune in to Air America radio this Tuesday night, November 24, 11pm-1am ET, for a very special show. (Click here to listen live)

When I first made the decision to adopt internationally, I joined a few list-serves. (FRUA, EEAC are home to the two biggest.) Through those lists, I found a group of families who were using the same agency as me, and we formed our own little list.

It's now more than 10 years since we began the process, and I count this group among my closest friends, even though some of us have never even met in person! We went through the heartbreak of long waits and broken promises, the fear of making bad decisions, the joy of accepting referrals and traveling to meet and bring home our children.

We've supported each other through issues with our kids, deaths, divorces, surprise births and so much more...

Tuesday night, a few of these very dear friends will join me on Air America to tell their stories. Perhaps you'll be moved to find out if your child is out there somewhere waiting for you.

Click here to read my journal
, and please join us Tuesday night!

Friday, November 20, 2009

What a Long, Strange Week It's Been

***Updated with audio links... click to hear the interviews with
Robert Reich, Dave Dayen and Kevin Zeese****

This has been a strange, strange week.

It was the week of Palin. Sarah Palin who, by all rights, should have disappeared from the national discourse after she quit her job as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in her first term, is a phenomenon.

Palin is revered by the non-thinkers, the anti-intellectuals, the Bible-thumpers who know not the meaning of Christianity, the hate-mongers and the teabaggers, and reviled by those of us with a conscience, with compassion for our fellow human beings, with a modicum of education and the minds to think for ourselves.

I was planning to have a little fun with Palin tonight. I was going to conduct my own "interview." There's certainly more than enough footage of recent Sarah interviews from the past few days to piece together the answers to the questions I'd pose. But I realized after about 10 minutes of sifting though her inane answers to questions from everyone from Oprah and Barbara to Hannity and Beck that I had much better things to do with my precious time.

Then I came across this gem from funnyordie, which says it all... Finally, Sarah Palin tells the truth!

Now on to things much more important...

Tomorrow night, the Senate will hold the first procedural vote on the way to passing their health care bill (which you can read here). Tonight, I'll check in with a great panel of folks who'll weigh in with their expertise and opinions on what's good and bad about this bill, and what will happen with it.

Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and now professor at UC Berkeley, Robert Reich will join me to talk about two of his most recent blog entries: "Harry Reid and What Happened to the Public Option" and "The Great Disconnect Between Stocks and Jobs."

Dave Dayen writes the FDL News blog for FireDogLake, and he'll give us the details on where the 3 rogue ConservaDem Senators stand the night before the first vote tomorrow.

Kevin Zeese is president of Prosperity Agenda, one of the organizations, one of the three "initiating groups" behind Mobilize for Healthcare, a nonviolent campaign to end private health insurance abuse and win health care for all! He'll talk with us about their next step in the fight for the real “public option”: Medicare for All, a national single payer plan that cuts out the profit, covers everyone, and puts patients first.

And my favorite activist, David Swanson will check in too. He's in California, on his book tour for Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He was in Miami last month for a book reading/signing, and I was honored to introduce him to the crowd. C-Span was there too, and will show that event this Sunday morning at 7:45 ET on C-Span 2.

Listen live from 11pm-1am ET by clicking here, and call in at 866-303-2270!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Step Closer

Tonight, the United States moved one step closer. One step closer to the rest of the free world.

It should come as a huge shock to realize that the United States of America stands alone as the only industrialized nation on the planet that doesn't consider health care to be a basic human right. The good ole US is the only first world country in the world in which a person can go bankrupt and lose everything he or she owns simply because he, she or a family member got sick.

The United States of America, where compassion seems to be a very rare commodity.

At least, that's what the rest of the world must think of us.

But I know that I, as a liberal, progressive, ACLU card-carrying democratic-socialist wannabe, I am compassionate. I don't think anyone should have to choose between putting food on the table or visiting the doctor when something is wrong. Health care, to me, falls under the heading of those inalienable rights granted us in the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere does it say "if you can afford the premiums, co-pays and deductible!"

Today, Harry Reid introduced the new Senate Health Care bill, H.R. 3590 "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." This is the product of the two Senate committee bills merged into one that will be debated, amended and, hopefully, voted on.

Once that passes, this bill will have to be merged with the House bill. And then both the Senate and the House will have to pass it in order to take us yet another step closer to giving Americans the peace of mind that so many of our fellow world citizens already enjoy. The dignity of life.

It's more than a little ironic that the Republican members of Congress who, unanimously, claim to be "pro-life" are so against the one thing that can help our people live. Health care for all.

Tonight on my Air America radio show, I'll bring you the latest updates on the Senate bill, from Ryan Grim at Huffington Post and Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo.

And I'm thrilled to speak tonight with Rich Stockwell, a senior producer at MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He's the man who came up with the wonderful idea to show the Democratic Senators who just might stand in the way of health care reform just what's at stake by mounting a series of free clinics, in conjunction with the National Association of Free Clinics. The first one was held last weekend in New Orleans.

Rich wrote about the experience in "Health reform's human stories," a piece that Keith felt compelled to read on the air in its entirety.

Listen live from 11pm-am ET by clicking here, join us in the chat there too, and call in at 866-303-2270 with your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two Smart Women....

I'll have two brilliant, accomplished women on the show tonight. OK, I felt I needed to make up for last night's night of Pa(l)in. But more importantly, the two women on my show tonight are both fascinating and each has much to say.

I first heard of Connie Schultz in 2007, when I saw a review of her book "...and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man," which told of her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband, now-Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio. At the time, I was producing a talk show, and the male host was not interested in interviewing her. Hmmm....

I've since become a fan of this Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Schultz has just returned from Hong Kong where, as a visiting lecturer, she was teaching Chinese women who were allowed to leave mainland China for one year to study the principles of a free press!). In her latest column dealing with the gruesome discovery of 11 bodies at the home of a convicted sexual predator in Cleveland, Connie writes of the incredulity with which the Chinese women digested this story, who all wondered how the 11 victims could be missing for so long, yet not missed.

Yes, there is much to talk about with Connie Schultz, including this amazing column called "No magic can keep us young; the trick is aging gracefully" which, considering my recent 50th birthday, touched a chord for me.

In hour two, I'll speak with the inimitable Kathy Griffin, who also has a book. "Official Book Club Selection" is the actual title, and it actually should be one! I read the whole thing in less than a weekend, and was sad when it ended. I am a big fan of Kathy's because she says what she thinks, and pulls no punches. We need more people like her.

Listen live from 11pm-1am ET by clicking here, and call in at 866-303-2270!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Pa(l)in in the Ass

***Updated to include audio links..
Click to hear Lisa Derrick, Richard Kim, Shannyn Moore, and my "tribute" to Sarah Palin***

I'm sorry. I know that everywhere you turn today and tonight, you'll be subject to the inane ramblings of a woman who doesn't deserve the time of day, much less the fifteen minutes of fame she's used up a thousand-fold!

But here we are, with a Sarah Palin on Oprah the most talk-about media event of the season. Seriously, it will likely be one of Oprah's highest rated shows of the season. The question is, though, how many are watching hoping for the train wreck?

I know I am... or did. Unfortunately, other than one truly stupid choice of words (she's "reloading"?!?!), it was a rather boring show.

Hopefully, my show tonight will not be! We'll have some fun at Palin's expense, a fairly easy thing to do. I've put together one of my production pieces -- not from today's Oprah appearance, but some of our favorite blasts from the past.

I'll also have a great slate of guests... Richard Kim, Senior Editor of The Nation magazine, and co-editor of Going Rouge: An American Nightmare will join us to talk about the book, a collection of essays about Palin and her 14 months in the spotlight and her inauspicious political career. (Note: Going Rouge is only available through OrBooks.com until Dec. 1, when it will be available at all other booksellers.)

Lisa Derrick was live blogging today's Oprah broadcast on her La Figa blog at Firedoglake.com,
and she'll join us tonight with the high... or low points.

And finally, a woman who can thank Sarah Palin for unwittingly helping her career! Shannyn Moore has had a pretty good year as an Anchorage, Alaska- based blogger and broadcaster. She's been telling us the truth about Palin through her radio show, TV appearances, her blog, and more, and we've been loving it. Shannyn penned a piece today on Huffington Post "Sarah's Oily Lies Drip from the Pages of Going Rogue" and we'll talk about that and others of Palin's lies too.

And although Sarah's five part interview with Barbara Walters starts tomorrow (I kid you not), we're done after tonight. Unless she says something we, like the proverbial train wreck, just can't ignore.

Listen live from 11pm-1am ET here
, and call in at 866-303-2270.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Night: Keeping the Light Alive

It's been a long week. Friday's are always welcome in my world, but even more so this week.

On tonight's Air America radio show, we'll deal with the news of the week...

I'll visit with Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and atlargely.com, who wrote today about Greg Craig's resignation from his post as White House counsel. Why is this important, you ask? Well, there are just some weird things about the story... like the fact that Craig is a Karl Rove buddy, and that Craig will be replaced by veteran Democratic lawyer Bob Bauer, who just happens to be married to outgoing White House communications director Anita Dunn. Hmmm....
Mark Karlin, editor and publisher of BuzzFlash.com will check in with the BuzzFlash stories of the week, including health care reform/Stupak and the Senate and the revolt of the Democratic women, the rise of Jon Stewart as a media force exposing the wrongs of Faux News, the Afghanistan conundrum, and the jobless recovery.

And we'll wrap up the week with an old, dear friend of mine. Dan Navarro is best known as half of the singer/songwriter duo of Lowen & Navarro. Dan and Eric Lowen wrote, recorded and made music together for twenty years, releasing nine albums.

Five years ago, Eric Lowen was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), and just a few months ago retired from performing.

A group of artists and friends of Lowen & Navarro -- including Jackson Browne, Keb' Mo', John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting), The Bangles, and others - have released Keep The Light Alive: Celebrating the Music of Lowen & Navarro, the proceeds of which will benefit The Eric Lowen Trust, ALSA LA and Augie's Quest. Find out more at www.keepthelightalive.org.

Listen live tonight from 11pm-1am ET by clicking here
, and call in at 866-303-2270!

The Other Side of Nicole Sandler

My Multimedia Page is now up, featuring a huge video/music project I've been working on for the better part of the last year.

My dear friend, Michele Clark, has been producing an amazing event for the past 12 years, called Sunset Sessions. She brings adventurous radio programmers, music supervisors (the people who place music in film and televison shows), music industry professionals and artists to beautiful locations to enjoy three days of music, conversation, information and networking.

Michele Clark's Sunset Sessions 2009 was held Feb 12-14 at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA, and featured a wonderful mix of established stars (Chris Isaak, Third Eye Blind) along with some up and coming bands (Eric Hutchinson, Zac Brown Band) and others whom you may not have heard of yet, but should soon...

I posted the entire project on my new multimedia page, www.radioornot.wordpress.com. I hope you'll visit and enjoy some of the great music there. Here are a couple of my favorites from the project:

Chris Isaak:

Eric Hutchinson:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Veterans Day- Get Out Of Afghanistan

Congressman Eric Massa joins me tonight on my Air America radio show. Since today is Veteran's Day, we'll talk a bit about his career in the Navy, and get his thoughts on Afghanistan. He might surprise you.

Eric Massa also surprised a lot of his colleagues Saturday night, when he joined with Dennis Kucinich as the only two signatories of this letter from the Congressional Progressive Caucus who vowed to vote against any bill without a "robust" public option to actually follow through on that promise!

We need more representatives like Massa and Kucinich. Perhaps if the rest of the 57 held true to their word, as apparently the Blue Dogs and the anti-choice members did, we'd have a better health care bill today.

Last night, Congressman Kucinich joined me and, in discussing the Kucinich amendment, we spoke a bit about ERISA. Tonight, I'll once again be joined by Jeff Metzger, an attorney from Orange County, California who represents clients against insurance companies for unfair denials. Most of those claims are subject to ERISA, which we'll explain again tonight.

As we continue to feature the fight for real health care reform as the primary topic on the show these days, I'll be joined tonight be Joan McCarter. She blogs at DailyKos as McJoan, and has done amazing work. She'll bring us up to date on the latest developments, as Harry Reid has said we'll see the final Senate bill by the end of the week, and debate will begin on Monday.

And we'll also check in with Courtney Scott, a listener from Portland who sent a note asking if I'd consider doing a segment on animal rights. After following the link in her email signature, I saw that she's a film producer, currently finishing up a film called "The War on Animals," so I invited her to tell us a bit about it.

In honor of Veteran's Day, tonight's music will have a message too...

Listen live from 11pm-1am ET by clicking here, and join in the conversation at 866-303-2270.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

**Updated to include links to the interviews... Click to listen to Dennis Kucinch, Raul Grijalva, and Eleanor Smeal.****

That's a quote from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who joins me tonight on Air America radio to talk about the reasons why he voted against HR 3962 on Saturday night, but continues to fight to bring real health care reform to the nation.

As I wrote yesterday, I'm truly conflicted. We need reform so badly, but I'm afraid that this bill --while bringing some much needed regulation -- still serves as a massive boondoggle for the for-profit leaches, government sanctioned extortionists known as the for profit health insurance industry.

What would have made Dennis Kucinich vote for it? As he'll explain tonight, if there was any protection for consumers, his vote would have been different.
The Kucinich Amendment (you can read the text here) would make it possible for states to enact their own single payer health care systems, and not be subject to the little known ERISA regulations that would render such systems impotent.

ERISA (The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) is a very complicated topic. I've done two shows on the subject. Jeff Metzger is a listener who happens to be an attorney who represents clients against insurance companies, and contacted me to educate me on the topic. I invited him on the show to explain what it's about. You can listen to that broadcast from August 18 here.

To underscore the importance of the issue, an opposing attorney contacted me, asking to present his side of the issue. So, on August 26, we revisited the subject, with an insurance company attorney, and Richard Johnston, the author of the blog called problemisERISA.blogspot.com. You can listen to that broadcast here.

Anyway, Congressman Kucinich will continue fighting for real reform. Stay up to date with what's going on at www.kucinich.us. And, as he'll tell us tonight, calls and emails to the White House, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, imploring them to put the Kucinich Amendment back in the final health care bill can only help.

You might be wondering, as I was, what happened to the rest of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, 63 of whom wrote a letter to Nancy Pelosi vowing to vote against any bill that didn't contain a "robust" public option. Tonight, I'll also speak with Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. He'll answer that question for us.

And then there's the question of the Stupak Amendment. The more I think about that piece of shit- er- legislation, the angrier I get. As I was perusing the interwebs today, I came across this piece on HuffPo, "Abortion in Health Care Reform: The Fight Is Far From Over," written by Eleanor Smeal, one of the true heroes of the feminist movement.

Today, in addition to serving as publisher of Ms. magazine, Ms. Smeal is president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and she'll join us tonight too, to discuss the giant step backwards for human rights foisted upon us by the Stupak amendment.

I hope you'll join us too. Listen live (11pm-1am ET) by clicking here, and call in at 866-303-2270.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reform... Or Not

***Updated to include links to the interviews. Click the links to hear Howie Klein and John Nichols***

I'm truly conflicted.

I watched much of the "debate" in the House of Representatives on Saturday. I watched some during the early morning hours, presided over by John Dingell - who's spent his entire 28 terms in Congress, and carried on the legacy his father, John Dingell, Sr. started when he first introduced health care legislation in 1943 -- when the Republicans attempted to derail the debate by objecting every time a Democrat spoke.

But it eventually got back on track, and the bill - HR 3962 - Affordable Health Care for America Act, squeaked through by a vote of 220-215.

There's a lot of good in the bill, but way too much bad. Most notably, the horrendous Stupak Amendment, which was introduced and passed in the eleventh hour, which sets women's reproductive rights back to the stone age.

Tonight, John Nichols from The Nation will join me to talk about his piece "Six Smart Progressive Complaints About House Health Bill", and I agree with all of those arguments.

Congressmen Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Eric Massa (D-NY) both voted against the bill for reasons that we should all heed.


"We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.

"Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.

"But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies-- a bailout under a blue cross.

"By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress' blog, Think Progress, states, 'since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.' Similarly, health care stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that 'money will start flowing in again' to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.

"During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The 'robust public option' which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.

"Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks' hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy-- in which most Americans live - the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.

"This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America's manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.

"Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America's businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals."
From Eric Massa's office:
Today Congressman Eric Massa outlined his reasons for voting against H.R. 3962 on Saturday night. To summarize the specific votes: Rep. Massa voted for the rule of debate, against the Stupak Amendment and against final passage of the bill.

When H.R. 3962 was first introduced on Thursday, October 29th, Rep. Massa canceled his weekend schedule to read and review the legislation. Following seven days of studying the bill, consulting with experts and speaking with constituents, Rep. Massa announced his intention to vote against the bill.

Rep. Massa had several concerns because the legislation did not meet several of his key objectives, including guaranteed universal access for all Americans and an assurance of individual affordability. While this bill does contain a public option, it is far from a "robust" one and Rep. Massa pledged, in a letter months ago, to vote against anything less than that. The public option in this bill is available for only about 2% of the American population and its premium rates will match private health insurance, guaranteeing no effective competition in the marketplace.

Additionally, he thinks that this bill, if signed into law, will not do enough to regulate the private for-profit health insurance industry and will actually empower them further. This is a major problem with the legislation as far as he is concerned. During the months of public debate on this topic, Rep. Massa called for the health insurance industry to be able to write plans across state lines and, while this bill partially addresses this, it does not lift this exemption outright. As such, he views this as a half measure rather than true interstate competition and believes that the goals of interstate competition will not be realized.

Rep. Massa also expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the individual mandate. While the Constitution empowers the Congress to raise and levy taxes, there is no clear indication that it allows for Congress to require the public to purchase insurance plans if they can afford them.

Detailed careful reading and understanding of the bill shows that should this become law, property taxes in New York State must increase by a minimum of 3%. By increasing Medicaid availability to citizens with an income of 150% of the federal poverty level, the federal government passes to New York State and its counties a cost sharing increase of at least 3% at the county level. Rep. Massa views this as being exceptionally counterproductive to our economy at this time.

During the closing hours of the debate, Rep. Massa voted against the Stupak Amendment which he viewed as a significant universal increase of current federal law. For the first time, if passed, the federal government would have prohibited a private citizen from using private funding to buy an insurance policy that covered elements of reproductive rights. The bill as written is clear, no federal funding for abortion procedures is allowed. Rep. Massa agrees with that but does not support an increase in federal law on this matter. This amendment passed and became part of the final legislation.

While there are several provisions that he did like in the bill, such as the elimination of patient rejections on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and the closing of the Medicare Part D Donut hole, members of Congress cannot vote for one part of a bill and against another.

"There are several reasons why I voted 'no' on H.R. 3962," said Congressman Eric Massa. "I have always said that I will vote 'no' on a bad bill to try and get a better one and that's what I did. Reforming our health care system is critical to our economy and our nation, but I had some serious concerns regarding the bill that we voted on Saturday night. If the Senate is able to move forward, I hope we can get a better bill back for a conference version."
I love that these two men are standing firm on their principles. Some progressives have very short memories. We cheered the Congressional Progressive Caucus when 62 of them sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi in which they vowed to vote against any bill that did not contain a "robust" public option. Kucinich and Massa are the last men standing.

And the despicable Stupid, er, Stupak Amendment just made this bill reprehensible. So, how could anyone who cares about women's rights vote for this bill with that amendment in it? To move it forward. This is NOT the final bill.

From the NY Times:
Some Democrats said they voted for the legislation so they could seek improvements in it. “This bill will get better in the Senate,” said Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat who has been outspoken in his criticism of some provisions of the bill but decided to support it. “If we kill it here, it won’t have a chance to get better.”
We can only hope!

Is there enough good in this bill, as it stands today, to outweigh the bad? I honestly don't know. But I can support these measures that ARE included:
  • Ending the insurance companies' anti-trust exemption
  • Extending coverage for kids to remain on their parents plans up to their 27th birthday
  • Creating a new voluntary, public long term insurance program
  • Begins closing the Medicare Part D Donut Hole immediately
  • Immediate help for the uninsured
I know that if we held out for what I'd consider acceptable, we'd never get anything done.

Down With Tyranny's Howie Klein will join me for the first hour tonight to break down the vote, and look at who voted for what, and consider the ramifications.

Listen live (11pm-1am ET) by clicking here, and add your thoughts by calling in at 866-303-2270.

Friday, November 06, 2009

It's Friday Night,, Do You Know Where Your Health Care Bill Is?

We'd heard that the House of Representatives would be voting on HR 3962 - Affordable Health Care For America Act - tomorrow, sometime around 6pm. Or not...

It's now looking like the vote may not happen tomorrow at all. Perhaps Sunday, or Monday, or Tuesday... The Obstructionist Party is trying to delay things, as usual. But the Blue Dogs are throwing their own wrenches in the works too.

Tonight, we'll check in with Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus to find out how she and the other progressives will vote on the bill, and get an update about what's actually in the final House bill.

We're all still reeling from yesterday's massacre at Ft. Hood, while those on the other side of the aisle seem to be dealing with it by ratcheting up the hatred toward Muslims. Larisa Alexandrovna (Raw Story), has written very eloquently, as usual, about this topic on her blog, atlargely.com, and will join me in the first hour tonight to talk about the insanity of it all.

And since it's the Friday night, we'll end the week with a fun interview with Jo Maeder. Radio listeners from South Florida and NYC might remember her from Y100, K-Rock and Z-100. The former "Rock & Roll Madam" left radio to care for her ailing mother, and wrote about it in the book When I Married My Mother: A Daughter's Search for What Really Matters --and How She Found It Caring for Mama Jo.

The Miami Book Fair International is coming up next weekend, and I've been fortunate to be able to speak with a number of the author's who'll be appearing, including Jo. She'll be reading Saturday afternoon, 11/14.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

If It Were Up To Me....

A wonderful singer songwriter named Cheryl Wheeler has a song called "If It Were Up To Me." I play it on the radio too often. And I will, unfortunately, be playing it tonight.

I first played it on the air in 1999, after two kids opened fire on their fellow classmates, killing 12 of them and a teacher, and injuring many more, at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.

I played it eight years later, almost to the day, when a mentally unstable student at Virgina Tech terrorized a building on campus, and killing 32 people and wounding many others before killing himself.

Although music is one of my greatest joys, I've never taken pleasure in playing "If It Were Up To Me," as it's always in response to a crazed person with a gun.

Today, at the "soldier readiness facility" inside the world's largest military base, Ft. Hood in Texas, US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly began shooting. At last count, 12 of his victims have died; 31 more are wounded.

I don't know if it's irony or somehow related to his alleged actions today, the fact that Hasan is a graduate of Virginia Tech. So many thoughts spinning through my mind, and I'm sure yours too. We'll talk about it tonight.

Initial reports said that one shooter was killed, and two or three other suspects were either in custody or at large. We've now learned that Hasan likely acted alone and that he is still very much alive. Perhaps we'll be able to get some idea of what goes on inside the crazed mind of a person who'd do such a thing.

Hasan might be able to give us more answers into his own state of mind. He's an Army psychiatrist, who spent many hours counseling soldiers upon their return from Iraq and Afghanistan, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at Walter Reed Medical Center.

If It Were Up to Me
Words and Lyrics by:
Cheryl Wheeler

Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books
Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks
Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents
Maybe it's the colors everybody's wearin
Maybe it's the President, maybe it's the last one
Maybe it's the one before that, what he done
Maybe it's the high schools, maybe it's the teachers
Maybe it's the tattooed children in the bleachers
Maybe it's the Bible, maybe it's the lack
Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the crack
Maybe it's the hairdos, maybe it's the TV
Maybe it's the cigarettes, maybe it's the family
Maybe it's the fast food, maybe it's the news
Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's abuse
Maybe it's the lawyers, maybe it's the prisons
Maybe it's the Senators, maybe it's the system
Maybe it's the fathers, maybe it's the sons
Maybe it's the sisters, maybe it's the moms
Maybe it's the radio, maybe it's road rage
Maybe El Nino, or UV rays
Maybe it's the army, maybe it's the liquor
Maybe it's the papers, maybe the militia
Maybe it's the athletes, maybe it's the ads
Maybe it's the sports fans, maybe it's a fad
Maybe it's the magazines, maybe it's the internet
Maybe it's the lottery, maybe it's the immigrants
Maybe it's taxes, big business
Maybe it's the KKK and the skinheads
Maybe it's the communists, maybe it's the Catholics
Maybe it's the hippies, maybe it's the addicts
Maybe it's the art, maybe it's the sex
Maybe it's the homeless, maybe it's the banks
Maybe it's the clearcut, maybe it's the ozone
Maybe it's the chemicals, maybe it's the car phones
Maybe it's the fertilizer, maybe it's the nose rings
Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing.
If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns.

(P) October 1, 1997

Penrod And Higgins Music / Amachrist Music ACF Music Group International Copyright Reserved

Unfortunately, I have the song ready to play, once again, tonight.

Also on tonight's program, I'll be joined by Christy Harvey of the Center for American Progress with a look at some of the other stories of the day.

And I'll talk with Diane Havens, one of the co-founders of HearTheBill.org, a place you can go to hear volunteer voiceover artists read the text of HR 3962 "The Affordable Health Care for America Act".

As always, I hope you'll listen tonight (11pm-1am ET) by clicking here. And participate in the conversation by calling 866-303-2270.