Sunday :: Jan 22, 2006

Whither Hillary?

by pessimist

Hillary's comment about the House being run like a plantation has stirred up a firestorm of protest from the Republicans. Frankly, that such a firestorm would be directed at anyone who dared to expose the Emperor George was parading in the buff was not unexpected, considering the defensiveness of Bu$hCo on so many fronts lately.

But if one has sufficient support, one can withstand a great deal. Hillary's got support, but Carolyn Kay at questions whether the support is sufficient:

Senator Clinton, you need some new advisors.

From The New York Times, 1/22/06 a Clinton advisor says that "pockets" on the left are against the war in Iraq, and that makes them "enemies" of Senator Clinton:
The [White House] attacks [on Senator Clinton] may help energize her network of financial supporters at a time when she faces no serious opposition in her re-election bid this year in New York. But perhaps more important, the Republican attacks are already leading Democrats to rally around her, at a time when the senator is facing criticism from pockets on the left on several issues, chiefly her support for the war in Iraq. "If a person is defined by their friends and their enemies, she has all the right enemies," said one Democrat who is close to Mrs. Clinton.

From Zogby International, 1/15/06 Zogby shows that the "pockets" consist of almost the entire Democratic Party, and a great majority of independents:

While 61% of Republicans said he was doing a good job managing the war (down from 70% in October), just 11% of Democrats and 28% of independents gave him good marks in that area. Among Democrats, 71% said Bush was doing a "poor" job with the war, while 17% said he was doing only a "fair" job.
Why listen to an "advisor" who doesnt even know what the vast majority of Democrats believe and want?

Does anyone have a clue as to what the vast majority of Democrats believe and want?

Maybe Molly Ivins does!

Not. Backing. Hillary.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy - rough, tough Bobby Kennedy - didn't do it.

Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

Oh come on, people get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections.") Can't you even read the damn polls?

* The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out.
* The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it.
* The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage.
* The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich.
* The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.
* The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment.
* The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax.

That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.
Do it all. Go long. Go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this, that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.

As he and his clique are attempting to do:

Clinton Fires. Bush Replies. Guess Why.

In the past week, the Bush and Clinton camps have traded nasty words and asides in a series of exchanges that had the faint echoes of their open warfare during the 1992 presidential campaign. [S]trategists in both parties say the hostilities were more likely the opening shots of the 2008 presidential campaign season.

Chris Lehane, a Democratic operative who has worked on several presidential campaigns, said, "There is no question that this was about 2008 and not about any particular event in January 2006."

"There is a basic principle in politics that you ignore anyone who is criticizing you unless they are actually a threat and scoring points against you," Mr. Lehane continued. "Republicans are making the very safe assumption that she will be the Democratic nominee in 2008 and it scares them. So they are beginning to engage her."

Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant, said he thought national Republicans felt the need to engage Mrs. Clinton now that she faces no major challenge for her Senate seat and is free to lay the groundwork for a national candidacy. "She is the leading candidate for 2008, and you can't give her a clear run," he said. "There is no one holding her accountable, and so the national party figured it had to."

Accountable? For what?

Scandal Without End

So Sen. Hillary Clinton rages that the Bush administration acted too late on Iran's nuclear threat. The senator, of course, has her eyes fixed on the Oval Office, scene of her husband's multiple transgressions. No doubt, she calculates that being the first first lady to be elected chief executive will excuse a multitude of sins.

Suspiciously, her tough talk comes just as a report on a major Clinton-era scandal is released. The report released this week by Independent Counsel David Barrett theoretically closes the longest-running probe since the office was created during Watergate. Its subject: Henry Cisneros, the former San Antonio mayor plucked by Bill Clinton to run HUD.

Cisneros' meteoric political career was cut short amid revelations he lied about paying a mistress when he was under consideration for the Cabinet-level position. Cisneros resigned.

Still there were questions. Clinton critics on the right agitated for the release of Barrett's full findings. Three judges have let 120 of the 400 pages remain redacted, which has frustrated the 68-year-old Barrett.

Are there no appeals courts? No SCOTUS to overrule and overturn? Or would that remove a campaign talking point from the hit list?

Those options are as real as the fact that Hillary attracts negative electoral attention as a lightning rod attracts trillions of negatively-charged electrons. that reality is expressed by the article's author:

The former first lady may not be personally implicated in this latest scandal, so typical of an administration she seeks to restore. And maybe this scandal won't stick.
But with such a train of trouble and misbehavior behind her, surely a tipping point lies ahead.

As they say themselves, the former first lady may not be involved - but that doesn't mean we can't whack her with this story anyway!

Once upon a time, long before Hillary became a Senator from New york, she had a chance to prove to the country that she deserved a chance to be in the Oval Office herself. That opportunity was the national health care issue.

Had she successfully brought about such a plan, we would not be hearing sad tales such as these:

U.S. drug plan frustrates patients, pharmacists

Hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled Americans have encountered difficulties obtaining prescription drugs since the new Medicare Part D program went into effect Jan. 1, and many were being turned away empty-handed.

"I took my insurance card to the pharmacy on Jan. 1, along with my prescriptions. The computer rejected my card as if I did not exist," Ruth Grunberg of Cortland, New York, told a gathering of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday. Grunberg, who enrolled in a Part D drug plan run by United Healthcare, embarked on a nine-day odyssey of phone calls to her insurer, pharmacies, lawmakers and even the local newspaper to try to straighten things out.

It isn't just patients who are feeling frustrated with Bu$hCo's early destruction of the medical profession:

Patients, pharmacists, physicians and state officials expressed extreme frustration over foul-ups with the new Medicare drug benefit on Friday, urging lawmakers to simplify a plan they called confusing and fraught with potentially life-threatening problems. Several witnesses told Democrats in the hearing-like meeting, led by California Rep. Henry Waxman, that they expect drug costs for Medicaid recipients to rise, because states can no longer benefit from pharmaceutical company rebates. "We expect to pay an additional $12 million for a less comprehensive benefit," said Jude Walsh, special assistant to Maine's Office of Health Policy and Finance.

Waxman, who opposed the 2003 legislation that created the drug benefit (which aimed to broaden coverage and hold down drug prices through market competition), said the Part D problems illustrate the need for reform legislation. The program, estimated to cost $724 billion over the next 10 years, relies on private insurers, pharmacies and other health care companies to provide drugs coverage for Medicare's 42 million beneficiaries.

Some are providing drugs - even if they aren't sure they will be paid for them:

Arnaudville, Louisiana pharmacist Marlene Brantley said she has dispensed thousands of dollars worth of drugs to needy patients, but has no idea whether her store will be reimbursed.

Bu$h co has been dumping the costs for many things they want onto the states. Only some recognize their responsibility to their citizens:

So far, at least 26 states and the District of Columbia have stepped in to pay for drugs for patients also enrolled in Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers the poor. Those beneficiaries were supposed to be automatically switched over to the new benefit but some did not show up on Medicare rolls in computer systems, leaving many without drugs.

Like this man?

Medicare Woes Take High Toll on Mentally Ill

On the seventh day of the new Medicare drug benefit, Stephen Starnes began hearing voices again, ominous voices, and he started to beg for the medications he had been taking for 10 years. "Without them," he said, "I get aggravated at myself, I have terrible pain in my gut, I feel as if I am freezing one moment and burning up the next moment. I go haywire, and I want to hurt myself."
But his pharmacy could not get approval from his Medicare drug plan, so Mr. Starnes was admitted to a hospital here for treatment of paranoid schizophrenia.

This is a step backwards, as on expert testifies:

Michael D. Ranne, president of the Jacksonville chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the use of powerful psychiatric medications "virtually emptied out state mental hospitals" in the 1970's and early 80's.

To push these people back into the hospital just to save a few dollars per patient on drugs is hardly a solution to the problem. But don't believe me!

Look around you, especially at the top of the freeway exit ramps. We see many of these poor souls out on the streets begging for a living. Some are veterans, unable to live a normal life due to the trauma of war. Some are the above-mentioned mentally ill former patients. But during the Reagan years, they were all cast aside so that taxes could be cut. It happened again during both Bu$h terms, further reducing their options for a better life. After all - who cares about the people who need care! Do they vote? Can't they learn to take care of themselves?

One expert explains why that isn't going to happen:

Luis E. Collazo, administrator of Palm Breeze, an assisted living center for the mentally ill in Hialeah, Fla., said many of his residents were forgoing their medications on account of the new co-payments. "Because of their mental illness," Mr. Collazo said, "they don't have the insight to realize the consequences of not taking their medications. Without their medicines, they will definitely go into the hospital."

"If I didn't have any of those medications, I would probably be institutionalized for the rest of my life," said Deborah Ann Katz, a 36-year-old Medicare beneficiary at Dayspring. "I'd be hallucinating, hearing voices." Ms. Katz said she had been "in and out of hospitals" since she was 13.

Not dispensing drugs certainly saves money, but the consequence of that decision is so much more expensive - not that Bu$hCo's Medicare officials care. It isn't their problem:

Medicare's free-standing prescription drug plans are not responsible for the costs of hospital care or doctors' services. "They have no business incentive to worry about those costs," said Dr. Joseph J. Parks, medical director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, who reported that many of his Medicare patients had been unable to get medicines or had experienced delays.

The shortcomings of the Bu$hCo Mediacare 'reform' are quickly becoming evident, even to King George, who recently demanded that the insurance companies fix the problems with his hasty and ill-considered travesty.

But are they the best choice to do so? Their lobbyists practically wrote the legislation, and they neglected to cover everyone:

Sponsors of the 2003 Medicare law wanted to drive down costs by creating a competitive market for drug insurance. They focused on older Americans, not the disabled. They assumed that beneficiaries would sort through various drug plans to find the one that best met their needs.

What is that saying about 'assume'?

But that assumption appears unrealistic for people at Dayspring Village.

Residents of Dayspring Village see worms in their food. Some neglect personal hygiene because they hear voices in the shower. When nurses draw blood, some patients want the laboratory to return it so the blood can be put back in their veins. Heidi L. Fretheim, a case manager for Dayspring residents, said: "If I take them shopping at Wal-Mart, the experience is overwhelming for them. They get nervous. They think the clerks are plotting against them, or out to hurt them."

Imagine what they think when confronted with the Medicare Part D realities:

Under the 2003 Medicare law, low-income people entitled to both Medicare and Medicaid are exempted from all co-payments if they live in a nursing home. But the exemption does not apply to people in assisted living centers like Dayspring Village.

Douglas D. Adkins, executive director of Dayspring Village, said: "Some of the pharmacists have been saying, 'No pills unless we get a co-payment.' Well, how are these people going to get the money for a co-payment? They don't have it."

Short-sighted federal 'cost-saving' will end up costing the states in the long run:

Eunice Medina, a policy analyst at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, said the state was trying to "find a solution" for people in assisted living centers. "We are all aware that the next couple of months will be difficult for these clients, and that the possibility of a transition to a nursing home is their only option if prescriptions are not covered in assisted living facilities," Ms. Medina said in a memorandum to local social service agencies.

This assumes that drugs that were fast-pass approved by the Bu$hco FDA don't kill them:

Death Reported From Novel Antibiotic

Researchers reported Friday three cases of severe liver problems, including one death, in patients at a North Carolina hospital after they began taking a novel antibiotic. One patient at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., died after taking telithromycin, which is marketed as Ketek, researchers at the hospital said. Another required and received a liver transplant, while the third recovered from drug-induced hepatitis after treatment with Ketek was stopped.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, marketed as Ketek, in 2004 for treatment of acute bacterial infections from chronic bronchitis, acute bacterial sinusitis and community-acquired pneumonia. The drug is made by Sanofi-Aventis. The reports do not prove the drug caused the problems, researchers said. Nor is there enough information to support major changes in how the drug is prescribed, Hanson said. Two of the three patients reported some use of alcohol, although there was no prior evidence of liver damage. A company spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment left midday Friday.

Columnist and American Patriot Paul Krugman exposes the racket that brought about these outrages;

The K Street Prescription
by Paul Krugman
The New York Times
January 20, 2006

The new prescription drug benefit is off to a catastrophic start. Tens of thousands of older Americans have arrived at pharmacies to discover that their old drug benefits have been canceled, but that they aren't on the list for the new program.

At first, federal officials were oblivious. "This is going very well," a Medicare spokesman declared a few days into the disaster. Then officials started making excuses. Some conservatives even insist that the debacle vindicates their ideology: see, government can't do anything right.

But government works when it's run by people who take public policy seriously.
As Jonathan Cohn points out in The New Republic, when Medicare began 40 years ago, things went remarkably smoothly from the start. But this time the people putting together a new federal program had one foot out the revolving door: this was a drug bill written by and for lobbyists.

It's all bad, from the public's point of view. But it's good for insurance companies, which get extra business even though they serve no useful function, and it's even better for drug companies, which are able to charge premium prices.

Which brings us to the larger question of cronyism and corruption.

Thanks to Jack Abramoff, the K Street project orchestrated by Tom DeLay is finally getting some serious attention in the news media. Mr. DeLay and his allies have sought, with great success, to ensure that lobbying firms hire only Republicans.

But most reports on the project still miss the main point by emphasizing the effect on campaign contributions.
The more important effect of the K Street project is that it allows the party machine to offer lavish personal rewards to the faithful. For a congressman, toeing the line on legislation brought free meals in Jack Abramoff's restaurant, invitations to his sky box, golf trips to Scotland, cushy jobs for family members and a lavish salary after leaving office.
The same kinds of rewards are there for loyal members of the administration, especially given the Bush administration's practice of appointing lobbyists to key positions.
So I have a question for my colleagues in the news media: Why isn't the decision by the White House to stonewall on the largest corruption scandal since Warren Harding considered major news?

There is your issue, Hillary!

You have about two years to demonstrate to America that you know what you are doing by doing something about a topic you once worked on. You can reclaim your creds by coming up with a fix for this mess.

But you better hurry - others are already on the scent:

Accountable Corporations

Congress must increase its oversight. Corporate accountability is less a question of partisan politics than of fiscal responsibility and national cohesiveness.

My constituents in Houston are increasingly demanding stronger corporate accountability and oversight. Like Americans across the political spectrum, they see downsizing and outsourcing, excessive executive pay, the unjust dumping of pensions, accounting fraud, price gouging and other corporate abuses as fundamental threats to our democracy. They know the problem goes much deeper than some of the well-known "bad apples."

They know the government condones the behavior of irresponsible corporations by giving them taxpayer subsidies and lucrative contracts.

Let's allow the public to see where their money is going. This kind of corporate responsibility program should draw support from across the political spectrum:

* Congress must reject unqualified appointees in public-safety and contract-oversight positions.

* We must stop the awarding of no-bid contracts to companies with close ties to federal officials.

* Companies that reincorporate offshore to avoid their fair share of taxes should have their tax and other benefits curtailed.

* We should use the federal purse to support a progressive vision of economic progress--one that benefits all Americans equally and creates as many good-paying jobs as possible.

* Congress should make any companies that do not provide full healthcare benefits to all full-time employees ineligible for federal contracts, loans, foreign aid and other subsidies--period.

* It's time for Congress to demand that contracts and subsidies--federal loans, grants and tax breaks--are tied to responsible business practices. An additional level of scrutiny should be applied to corporations with repeated violations of labor, consumer, environmental, human rights or antitrust laws, and those with multiple violations of contract-related laws (e.g., fraud or bribery).

Well, Hillary, you are facing the biggest challenge of your career. You have been wanting to demonstrate that women can do the job at least as well as men, if not better. Are you 'man' enough to stand up under the onslaught of the 'vast right-wing conspiracy' that is out to get you even though you are a long way from winning the nomination in 2008?

The ball is in your court. Play it - before the Supreme Court Jesters make elections a moot point.

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