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.