Saturday, August 15, 2009

Boston Cop Sues City, Says His Racism Was Misinterpreted As Racism

Suspended Boston cop, Justin Barrett, is suing the city of Boston, the Mayor and the police commissioner claiming his civil rights were violated. A statement from his lawyer states:
"'The choice of words were poor; but they weren't meant to characterize Professor Gates as a banana-eating jungle monkey,' attorney Peter Marano said. 'They were meant in a response to behavior and characterizing the behavior. Not the person as a whole." Marano conceded that a police officer, because of the nature of his job, is held to a higher standard of conduct than the ordinary citizen, but added: 'Being held to a higher standard shouldn't eradicate his right under the First Amendment for free speech. That is part and parcel of the lawsuit."
How do you write an email calling someone a jungle bunny and not mean it as racist? Can I call Barrett an idiot but intend to not characterize his intelligence.

I also can't believe a lawyer would make a first amendment argument in this case. How exactly does the first amendment protect an employee from professional discipline. Being fired for making the statements is not the same as the government restricting his right to say horrible things.

Previous post on Racist Cop Sphere: Related Content

Even The Fake Sarah Palin Lies

Facebook has disabled a fake Sarah Palin account. The Wall Street Journal story says:
"Using a photo of Palin sitting in a car with her seatbelt on and writing a message that read, 'Happy 4th of July and God Bless!?!', Grossman posted his page. Almost instantly, he found himself with about 100 requests from people wanting to be his – uh, Governor Palin’s – friend. He accepted them all. Updating the page almost every day, Grossman said he most often posted earnest messages about Palin’s love of God and country. But on occasion, he wrote posts he intended to be overtly satirical, so as to 'tip my hat to those that I thought knew better,' he explained.

He posted messages like, 'I need a salmon recipe for tonight. Todd just brought home a fresh one. Something spicy!' (Dozens of “friends” sent recipes in response.) Another update read, 'GOD LOVES US ALL, no matter how black or African, or even gay or Jewish we are.' He thought for sure people would catch on when he, as Palin, became a fan of Strunk & White."

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Art Break - Enjoy

Robert Rauschenberg
Estate, 1963 Sphere: Related Content

On The Eighth Day He Said “Let There Be Co-Pays And Forms but No Contraception”

In all the talk of health care reform many of the other concerns regarding health plans seem to get pushed to the back burner. Should religious employers be allowed to disallow specific health procedures and products from being purchased under the insurance plans they provide to their employees? I see the merits of the arguments of religious entities that do not want their plans to cross their boundaries of morality. Although I do understand the arguments it does not make their claim correct.

Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society argued in the Wall Street Journal on Friday that federal authorities are encroaching on the “religious liberty of Catholic’s” by not allowing religious employers to remove access to contraception in employee health care compensation. Reilly writes:
“In 2007, eight faculty members filed a complaint against Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., claiming that the school's decision to exclude prescription contraceptives from its health-care plan was discriminatory against women. ‘As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church,’ said the college's president, William Thierfelder, at the time.”
I will not take issue with the idea that the college is unable to provide certain medical procedures. Except to say they can but refuse. The real issue is the idea that Abbey College is subsidizing medical services at all. The benefit of health insurance provided by an employer to an employee is characterized as non-wage compensation. It is well accepted theory in labor economics that without a health insurance benefit, direct pecuniary wages would rise an amount relative to the value of the health insurance benefit. For the college’s and Reilly’s argument to hold up against the least bit of scrutiny it would need to be acceptable that a religious employer can have the right to dictate to an employee what can be purchased with compensation, either direct wage or benefit compensation.

Much of the rhetoric in the health care reform debate includes images of government or insurance company bureaucrats looking over the shoulders of doctors and patients. Both sides argue that no one should get between you and your doctor and by extension the treatment that you both feel is necessary. Reilly’s argument puts religious authority in the exam room as well. It seems awfully unfair that Catholic morality would try to influence a patient’s access health care. Do employees need to discard their own conception of morals to work at religious institutions? That exam room is getting awfully crowded. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 14, 2009

Battle To The Death Panel, Boehner Versus Boehner

Boehner thinks the comparison between his outrage of "death panels" and previous votes for "death panels" is inappropriate. Boenher's statement:
"Anyone who understands this issue would find this comparison idiotic. Hospice care is, by definition, for people who are already close to death. The Democrats’ new government takeover of health care legislation would offer this counseling to every senior on Medicare."
Oh, it is OK to push people toward death the closer they are to death. That is a "good" distinction.

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Betsy McCaughey is a professional liar.

Gawker calls McCaughey out on her history of lies. Sphere: Related Content

The Hannity Illogic

Sean Hannity lives in a world where his lies and mistakes are justified and vindicated by actions taken by others. Today Hannity said on his radio show:
"The Democratic Controlled Senate Finance Committee has just confirmed that the existence of the so called death panel provision an we were one of the first to point this out to you by actually taking the time to read the bill. On page 425 to 430. That provision was in the House version their taking steps to remove it from the final version. First of all how can you remove something from a bill that they said never existed in the first place. Well obviously this is an admission that yes we were right and they were wrong."
So this world Hannity occupies is organized by the logic of ""Have you stopped beating you wife" questions?

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they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

Wonkette has a tea party email.

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Brits Tricked Into Anti-NHS And Anti-Health Care Reform Advertisements

Brits have been tricked into Conservatives for Patients’ Rights commercials critical of health care reform. The Times:
"Katie Brickell and Kate Spall said that they strongly supported state-funded healthcare, but their descriptions of poor treatment at the hands of the NHS form the centrepiece of an advertising campaign against the proposed reforms in America. Both appear in adverts for Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR), a lobby group that opposes Mr Obama’s plans for universal medical insurance, which have caused a transatlantic rift over the merits of the NHS."
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Is The New Goal "Tri-Partisanship"

Possibly a new political term. Seyward Darby at TNR asks the question:
"Turns out that Gingrich 's think tank, American Solutions, also calls itself a 'tri-partisan citizens action network'" So I called American Solutions to ask for the back-story on the odd descriptor. Spokesman Dan Kotman explained that the term, which he proudly claimed the organization coined, means 'find[ing] ways where Republicans and Democrats and Independents can work together.' But Independents, by definition, are not members of a party. (Admittedly, some scattered groups have tried to seize the 'independent' mantle: America's Independent Party, the Independent American Party, Independence Party of America.) When I pointed this out, Kotman paused. 'We just thought that would work. ... It's not necessarily parties; it's just the three most common types of groups out there.' He was quick to note that Mike Bloomberg, another proponent of education reform who met with Obama, Gingrich, and Sharpton back in May, is an Independent."
It turns out that "tri-partisan" is a synonym for odd couple, Gingrich and Sharpton. Sphere: Related Content

Is Cash For Clunkers Sound Environmental Policy Update

The efficiency of the Cash for Clunkers program as environmental policy has been questioned in many corners. He is the NY Times Green Blog:
"'The program is really not cost effective as a climate policy,' said Mr. Wara, who is an assistant professor at Stanford Law School and a faculty fellow at the university’s program on energy and sustainable development. 'It might be a great economic stimulus — we’re selling a lot of cars — but this is not the way to deal with mobile sources of climate change.'

Mr. Wara found that the program cost between $200 to $400 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided, and Mr. Knittel’s estimates went up to $500 per ton. By contrast, the climate bill recently passed in the House of Representatives would result in a $28 per ton carbon price in 2020, according to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office."

Here a link to previous Cash For Clunkers posts. Sphere: Related Content

1,000 Pages Is Too Long, Tell Me What Is Says...I Trust You

People won't read the 1,000 plus pages of any health care reform legislation. Anyone who says they have is likely lying. Steve Benen correctly states, "Most of the public's understanding of health care reform will come, not from individual citizens reading 1,000-page bills, but from news outlets. The more responsible the media is, the better informed the public will be."

He then shows us this chart:

There is no explanation of who gathered the data but this disparity in opinion broadcast is shocking and can't be called responsible. I wonder what charts for MSNBC and CNN would look like. Sphere: Related Content

Pie Charts With Graham Cracker Crusts

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The Roots Of "Death Panel" Lies

Jim Rutenberg of The NY Times has an excellent article about the emergence of the "death panel" lies. He writes:
"The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, by an outlet decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times.

In an editorial, the newspaper reminded its readers of the Aktion T4 program of Nazi Germany in which 'children and adults with disabilities, and anyone anywhere in the Third Reich was subject to execution who was blind, deaf, senile, retarded, or had any significant neurological condition.'

Noting the 'administrative predilections' of the new team at the White House, it urged 'anyone who sees the current climate as a budding T4 program to win the hearts and minds of deniers.'

The editorial captured broader concerns about Mr. Obama’s abortion rights philosophy held among socially conservative Americans who did not vote for him. But it did not directly tie forced euthanasia to health care plans of Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress."

These lies are extremely craven. People, pols in particular, who exchange in these lies should pay the price. Unfortunately, I don't see any political price coming for people such as Palin or Chuck Grassley.

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Below The Beltway On: The Moral Context Of Being Called A Nazi Update

Below the Beltway writes:
"The problem is that it’s become as common to the American political lexicon as calling someone a “jerk,” so it seems unlikely that it will end any time soon."
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Art Break - Enjoy

Cecily Brown
Lagoon, 2004
oil on linen Sphere: Related Content

The Moral Context Of Being Called A Nazi Update

The Buckley - Vidal video.

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The Moral Context Of Being Called A Nazi

Michael Gerson puts the Nazi name calling in the appropriate moral context. He writes:
"This rhetorical strategy is intended to convey intensity of conviction, as in, 'I am very, very, very serious, you Nazi jerk" Actually, it is a lazy shortcut to secure an emotional response. Worse than that, it is an argument that puts an end to all argument. What discourse is possible with the spawn of Hitler? And when someone is unjustly accused of Nazi tactics or sympathies, what response can we expect other than Buckley's outrage? Let the head knocking begin."
This type of name calling does not serve well the need to have dialogue and debate on important issues but is does cause the diminishing of our sensitivity to the horrors of the Nazi experience in Germany, somehow legitimatizing it, and it falsely portrays our present politics as being the choice between good and evil instead of valid, but opposing viewpoints of what is best.

Gerson writes about the Buckley-Vidal interaction:
"During live television coverage of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, novelist Gore Vidal famously called William F. Buckley a 'crypto-Nazi.' To which Buckley famously replied (in addition to other choice words), 'Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.'

Buckley later apologized. He also explained: 'Can such men understand the causes of anger in others? Understand the special reverence we need to feel for that which is hateful? I do not believe that anyone thought me a Nazi because Vidal called me one, but I do believe that everyone who heard him call me one without a sense of shock, without experiencing anger, thinks more tolerantly about Nazism than once he did, than even now he should.'"

This name calling is nothing new but as Buckley stated the further in time we get from 1930s and 1940s Germany, the more civilized sounding Nazi name calling becomes. That is a horror that we should stop. Sphere: Related Content

Health Care Plan Will Force the Hiring Of Homosexual Administrators, Are You Serious?

If the crazy christian people weren't so dangerous their craziness would be funny. A christian right group called Pray In The Name Of Jesus Project had a petition opposing the health care reform proposal. They have many petitions, mostly funny, but very dangerous. The health care petition says:
"Your tax-dollars will pay for preferential hiring of homosexual hospital administrators, who distribute $50,000 grants to gender-confused activists for unneeded elective surgery to mutilate their own genitals, (and force Christian doctors to perform it.)
On August 4 Politifact released its research and the truth regarding this stupid christian claim. Politifact writes:
"On Aug. 4, a news release to that effect went out under the name of Matt Barber, who is director of cultural affairs with Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group, and the associate dean of Liberty University School of Law, which was founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. It was quickly spread by blogs on the left and the right.

Titled, 'ObamaCare Likely to Mandate Free ‘Sex Change’ Surgeries,' the release asserted that 'the weight of the evidence indicates that cosmetic ‘gender reassignment’ surgeries for both U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants who suffer from [the American Psychiatric Association-] recognized ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ (GID) may also be provided – free of charge – courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. The current price tag for such a procedure can exceed $50,000.'

To confirm Barber’s authorship and learn more about his reasoning, we tried to reach him through the phone number and e-mail address listed on the release, as well as through a call to a different number at Liberty Counsel. But he did not respond. Because we couldn't confirm his authorship, we're attributing this item to our generic category 'bloggers,' since they have spread it so widely.

Before we delve into our findings in detail, here's an overview of why we found the claim was False: The news release tries to stitch together a patchwork of unrelated items to back up the sex-change claim, but the health care bills as they appear today simply don't do what the release alleges. There is no mandate for sex-change coverage.

The news release offers three pieces of evidence:

* An exchange between Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., about the legislation covering treatments that would be 'medically necessary.'

* Language in the House version of the health care bill that provides for 'standards, as appropriate, for the collection of accurate data on health and health care' based on 'sex, sexual orientation [and] gender identity.'

* And language in a draft Senate bill that requires the Department of Health and Human Services to ‘develop standards for the measurement of gender’ (i.e., officially recognize subjectively self-determined "transgender" or "transsexual" gender identities). It further mandates ‘participation in the institutions’ programs of individuals and groups from ... different genders and sexual orientations.'

Let’s take these assertions one by one.

Go to politifact for the rest of the story.
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Is Health Care Moving Too Fast?

Conor Friedersdorf ponders if the current health care reform proposals are going fast and too broad. Essentially, can we reform health care one piece at a time. Friedersdorf writes:
"Especially curious is President Obama’s decision to pursue comprehensive health care reform when it failed so spectacularly under the Clinton Administration. In contrast, 'small bore' reform efforts initiated years later extended insurance to millions of children and afforded senior citizens a hugely expensive prescription drug benefit. Why are those who seek further reform so invested in a sweeping approach certain to provoke intense blowback? They’ve enjoyed their best successes using more incremental methods!"
Matt Steinglass responds:
"Substantively: the reason one often can’t pass individual planks of the reform in isolation is that taken individually, each plank generates perverse consequences that will lead to strong opposition from a particular constituency. Universal community rating, for instance, will make health insurance for the young and healthy more expensive. That creates adverse selection, as the young and healthy will drop out. And adverse selection threatens private insurers’ revenues: they lose their best customers. So to kill such a bill, private insurers will trade on young people’s fear that they’ll lose their health insurance. And they’ll be correct!

To pass universal community rating, you also have to have subsidies to keep low-income healthy people in the system, and you probably ultimately need a mandate that everyone has to buy insurance. That’s a deal that satisfies the insurance companies. But a deal like that also includes a couple of things that can be used to scare people: government subsidies, out of my taxes? A mandate that I have to buy insurance? And so your bill gets more complicated and easier for the political opposition to demagogue. And that’s how we wind up where we are."

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The Failure of New Media

James Fallows put the blame on the blogs for not effectively combating "death panel" lies.
Fallows writes:
"But the flow of argument makes it appear that 'death panel' has won the battle of political ideas, as 'no exit' did 15 years ago (and as the birthers' have not done). For example, Charles Grassley seems to have bought it. I don't know which interpretation is more depressing: that Grassley actually believes in death panels (ie, he's irrational), or that he knows better but figures it's smart to say he believes (ie, he's craven). The political fundamentals, as I understand them, still favor the passage of some health-care bill. To that extent, Ms. McCaughey may indeed have been blunted. But I said two weeks ago that I thought today's communications systems had caught up with people who invented facts. I was wrong."
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The Cartoons That Shook The University In Its Pants

Yale University Press is publishing a book titled "The Cartoons That Shook the World." The book is about the reaction and international relations nightmare that twelve cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. The university press has decided not to reprint the cartoons in the book. From a story in the NY Times:
"John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, said by telephone that the decision was difficult, but the recommendation to withdraw the images, including the historical ones of Muhammad, was “overwhelming and unanimous.” The cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, Mr. Donatich said, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous."
Mr. Donatich reasoning makes no sense. A discussion of the cartoon requires the context inherent in viewing the images. Will future art history books not feature pictures of the Mona Lisa simply because images of the painting are on the internet. I understand the fear of the potential reaction from reprinting the cartoons after the reaction in 2005, but if the university is to promote a search for meaning through research, how can you ignore the catalysts of this controversy. It is thought to be forbidden in Islam to depict the prophet Mohammed.

Reza Alsan, a religious scholar and writer, wrote about the cartoons in 2006 in an essay titled, "Why I'm offended by the Mohammed cartoons":
"The fact is that Muslim anger over the caricatures derives not merely from their depiction of Mohammed. That may have upset more conservative Muslims, but it alone would not have engendered such a violent and widespread response. Rather, most Muslims have objected so strongly because these cartoons promote stereotypes of Muslims that are prevalent throughout Europe: Mohammed dressed as a terrorist, his turban a bomb with a lit fuse; Mohammed standing menacingly in front of two cowering, veiled women, unsheathing a long, curved sword; Mohammed on a cloud in heaven complaining that Paradise has run out of virgins. It is difficult to see how these drawings could have any purpose other than to offend. One cartoon goes so far as to brazenly call the prophet 'daft and dumb.'

So, while in Europe and the United States the row over the cartoons has been painted as a conflict between secular democratic freedoms and arcane religious dogma, the controversy is really about neither. Instead, it's another manifestation of the ongoing ethnic and religious tensions that have been simmering beneath the surface of European society for decades, like last year's Paris riots and the murder two years ago of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Aslan Continues:

"No one doubts that the press should be free to satirize. But freedom of the press cannot excuse the promotion of noxious stereotypes. Jewish groups were furious when the Chicago Tribune published a cartoon in 2003 that portrayed a hunched and hooknosed Ariel Sharon salivating before a pile of money doled out to him by George W. Bush, ostensibly as an incentive to maintain the peace process. ('On second thought,' the avaricious Sharon is depicted as saying, 'the path to peace is looking brighter.') And rightly so."

The perceived offensiveness of the cartoons is not a reason for the academy to shirk the responsibility they has taken upon itself to build the marketplace of ideas, where all points of view are welcome. Even ideas known to be offensive need to looked at, analyzed and understood in order to educate.

I do not imagine that including the images would have hurt sales. This is a university press; sales are not an issue. But it does not help when one of America's most known religious scholar and particularly an Islamic Scholar calls your plan stupid. Aslan has pulled his cover blurb from the book saying:
"The book is a definitive account of the entire controversy, but to not include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic.”
I think he is right. What do you think? Sphere: Related Content

All The Government Cookies You Can Eat Update

An update to the All The Government Cookies You Can Eat. Just after I posted the previous post the OMB released a statement regarding the cookie policy. Boy they must be afraid of me.

The statement from Michael Fitzpatrick, Associate Administrator, OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs says:

"Over the past two weeks, during the public comment period on OMB’s cookie policy, we have received significant feedback and suggested revisions to the current policy. These comments reflect individual opinions on all sides of the issue.

Our main goal in revisiting the ban on using persistent cookies on Federal websites is to bring the federal government into the 21 century. Consistent with this Administration’s commitment to making government more open and participatory, we want federal agencies to be able to provide the same user- friendly, dynamic, and citizen-centric websites that people have grown accustomed to using when they shop or get news online or communicate through social media networks, while also protecting people’s privacy.

It is clear that protecting the privacy of citizens who visit government websites must be one of the top considerations in any new policy. This is why we’ve taken such a cautious approach going forward and why we felt it so important to get feedback and hear from people on this. While we wanted to get people’s ideas for improving our policy, we also needed to hear any concerns so that we could understand better where potential pitfalls might lie.

This privacy issue has recently received some attention in the media. We want to make it clear that the current policy on Federal agencies’ use of cookies has not changed. Moreover, the policy won’t change until we’ve read the public comments that have been submitted to ensure that we’re considering all sides of the issue and are addressing privacy concerns appropriately.

We would also like to take this opportunity to address a potential misperception. Some articles have hinted that the government is creating special exemptions for third-parties from existing privacy rules, with the result that there wouldn’t be adequate protection of people’s personal information. This is not true. The current policy in place on persistent cookies continues to apply to all Federal agencies and to those agencies’ use of third-party applications, whenever personal information is collected on the agency’s behalf.

Once again, we appreciate everyone’s contribution to this topic and are grateful for the time and energy devoted by those who provided such useful insight on this issue."

I bolded that part. Do we want the government websites to be dynamic in the same way as Amazon or Facebook. I can recall privacy issues being raised in connection with both of these companies. Sphere: Related Content

How Dumb Do You Have To Be To Do This...

This idiot was picked up by the Secret Service.
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All The Government Cookies You Can Eat

The White House asking people to forward emails with bogus health care arguments is nothing. The real privacy issue is the proposed change to policy regarding cookies.

Proposed changes by the Office of Management and Budget
would allow the federal government to install cookies in your web browser. That gives the federal government the ability to see what information you looked at and to find where you are. Current policy does not allow cookies to be installed on end user machines.

I am not sure if this is a big deal. Actually it is quite surprising that they don't do this already.

The ACLU is against this proposed change
. Are You? Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Medical Tourism Does Not Always Go To The U.S.

We have heard over the past weeks how great American health care is. If I needed a very complicated procedure and money was not a concern I want it done in the United States. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Crooks and Liars reminds us of the thousands of people, insured and uninsured, that travel outside the U.S. for medical care.

C & L writes:
"We've heard the right wing talking points about how people from all over the world come here for medical treatment, but what rarely, if ever gets pointed out in response is that each year, tens of thousands of Americans travel outside the U.S. in to get medical treatment, sometimes life-saving procedures. Many of these people have health insurance, but they make the trips because their insurance companies won't cover the whole procedure, if they cover it at all."
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Can You Explain This?: Be sure to drink your Glenn Beck

Can You Explain This?: Be sure to drink your Glenn Beck Sphere: Related Content

Is Data Visualization An Art?

I think it may be.

Business Week Sphere: Related Content

Updated Interactive Job Map At Slate

I have not completely absorbed this interactive map feature at the Slate but so far it is interesting. When did jobs in your county disappear? Sphere: Related Content

"Death Panels" In Alaska: Sarah Don't Say It Ain't So

Lee Fang at Think Progress reports that Sarah Palin was in favor the same kind of end of life counseling in HR 3200.

Fang writes:
"However, on April 16th 2008, then Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed some of the same end of life counseling she now decries as a form of euthanasia. In a proclamation announcing 'Healthcare Decisions Day,' Palin urged public facilities to provide better information about advance directives, and made it clear that it is critical for seniors to be informed of such options:

WHEREAS, Healthcare Decisions Day is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions, related to end of life careencourage the specific use of advance directives to communicate these important healthcare decisions. [...] and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to

WHEREAS, one of the principal goals of Healthcare Decisions Day is to encourage hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and hospices to participate in a statewide effort to provide clear and consistent information to the public about advance directives, as well as to encourage medical professionals and lawyers to volunteer their time and efforts to improve public knowledge and increase the number of Alaska’s citizens with advance directives.

WHEREAS, the Foundation for End of Life Care in Juneau, Alaska, and other organizations throughout the United States have endorsed this event and are committed to educating the public about the importance of discussing healthcare choices and executing advance directives.

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Will Health Care Damage The President's Future

In The Loop writer Marvin King asks the question.

He writes:
"One thing the protestors have accomplished is forcing Obama to go on the defensive. That might be a successful short-term strategy, but in the long run, expect Obama to keep hammering away until he gets what he wants. If we learned one thing about Obama during the campaign it’s that he’s persistent and methodical. He won’t stop till he gets a plan to his liking. Unlike the Clintons, I wouldn’t expect Obama to give up on health care reform when the going gets tough."
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Are Specter's Days In The Senate Numbered

Down With Tyranny Blog makes the point that the Democratic primary may not be so easy for Pennsylvania's senior Senator.

Down With Tyranny writes:
"For as long as I've known Joe Sestak, 'the right thing to do' has always been what I've seen guiding him-- not the right thing to do for his campaign donors (Arlen Specter's modus operandi, but the right thing to do for America and for America's ordinary working families. That's why I feel alright asking you to think about donating whatever you can afford and feel comfortable giving to Joe's campaign. Specter will have all the money corporate America can dish up. He gets more from the more venal interests in the country-- Big Insurance, the banksters, the Medical-Industrial complex than anyone in the Senate who hasn't run for president. And no big donor ever felt they didn't get their money's worth when contributing to Arlen Specter's shameful career."
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Americans Are Conservative Until It Has A Cost

Matt Yglesias has an interesting response to Ross Douthat's column.

Douthat writes:
"More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us."
Yglesias writes:
"I think this explains a lot about the appeal of anti-gay crusades to social conservative leaders. Most of what 'traditional values' asks of people is pretty hard. All the infidelity and divorce and premarital sex and bad parenting and whatnot take place because people actually want to do the things traditional values is telling them not to do. And the same goes for most of the rest of the Christian recipe. Acting in a charitable and forgiving manner all the time is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard. Homosexuality is totally different. For a small minority of the population, of course, the injunction 'don’t have sex with other men!' (or, as the case may be, other women) is painfully difficult to live up to. But for the vast majority of people this is really, really easy to do. Campaigns against gay rights, gay people, and gay sex thus have a lot of the structural elements of other forms of crusading against sexual excess or immorality, but they’re not really asking most people to do anything other than become self-righteous about their pre-existing preferences."
The opportunity cost of being a conservative christian is sex with men. On the other hand, the the opportunity cost of not having sex with men is happiness. If you are a gay economist this is an easy dilemma. Sphere: Related Content

Talk Of Politics And Economics - Two Things That Don't Mix Well

It is a very accepted idea that President gets credit and blame for the economy. The reality is that the impact of the Presidency on the economy is very small in the short term and in the long term it is pure speculation to say that an action by a president had a defined effect on the economy. The market or markets of the United States, for that matter the world, are too large and incomprehensible for such an assertion to be accurate. But it is fun none the less.

So it is way to early and ludicrous to say, "this is Obama's economy" or the policies of Barack Obama are going to destroy the economy of the United States.

Bruce Bartlett, it is fair to say he is a conservative economist (he is the trickle down guy), says that people protesting the actions of Barack Obama "are less angry about Obama’s policies than they are about having lost the White House in 2008. They are primarily Republican Party hacks trying to overturn the election results, not representatives of a true grassroots revolt against liberal policies."

A well used quote about the economy is that it is really big ocean liner. It does not stop on a dime or make sharp turns. Even the best policies don't stop us from economic coasting and making really wide u-turns.

Bartlett writes:
"I think conservative anger is misplaced. To a large extent, Obama is only cleaning up messes created by Bush. This is not to say Obama hasn’t made mistakes himself, but even they can be blamed on Bush insofar as Bush’s incompetence led to the election of a Democrat. If he had done half as good a job as most Republicans have talked themselves into believing he did, McCain would have won easily."
He continues:
"Finally, conservatives have an absurdly unjustified view that Republicans have a better record on federal finances. It is well-known that Clinton left office with a budget surplus and Bush left with the largest deficit in history. Less well-known is Clinton’s cutting of spending on his watch, reducing federal outlays from 22.1 percent of GDP to 18.4 percent of GDP. Bush, by contrast, increased spending to 20.9 percent of GDP. Clinton abolished a federal entitlement program, Welfare, for the first time in American history, while Bush established a new one for prescription drugs."
Bartlett again:
"In my opinion, conservative activists, who seem to believe that the louder they shout the more correct their beliefs must be, are less angry about Obama’s policies than they are about having lost the White House in 2008. They are primarily Republican Party hacks trying to overturn the election results, not representatives of a true grassroots revolt against liberal policies. If that were the case they would have been out demonstrating against the Medicare drug benefit, the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, and all the pork-barrel spending that Bush refused to veto."
He concludes:
"Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect. They can start building some by admitting to themselves that Bush caused many of the problems they are protesting."
Sphere: Related Content

Barack Obama To Hold Town Hall In A River

President Obama does give the impression of being a fisherman, but he will try anyway. Sphere: Related Content

The President Is Not That Strong

There are many liberals that want health care reform. One mantra has been that the President has the Democrats in the congress to get it done, so why not "ram it through" and forget the Republicans. But this idea ignores the facts of governing. We won't get what Barack Obama campaigned on because the presidency is simply not that powerful and electoral politics is that powerful. Ezra Klein explains:
"The executive simply has limited power here. If the store gets given away, it's probably not because Obama didn't want any of the stuff in it. If a strong bill survives the process, it's probably not because Obama was just so irresistibly persuasive.

But either way, even the best of the bills on the table would simply be a partial fix for our coverage problem, not a root-and-branch reform of our wildly inefficient, fiscally destructive health-care system. Obama made those compromises because, on the one hand, the public is afraid of change, and on the other hand, the Congress is stocked with folks who will scare them further and do their best to block needed reforms, and on the third hand -- government is many-handed beast -- industry has a lot of money and a lot of clout."
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The Impenetrable Illogic Of Fox News Talent.

Schreiber at TNR call this:
From the category of "things that make you want to gouge your eyes out with your pinky, shove scalding hot pokers in your ears, and repeatedly slam the door of a 1950s-vintage, American-made sedan on your head"

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Is The Health Care Debate In A State Of "Arrested Development"

How powerful is Barack Obama? Can he get this done?

From the NY Times. Sphere: Related Content

Limbaugh And Rove On The Family Guy

The Family Guys' big tent. Sphere: Related Content

New York Now Has A Great Hot Dog!

If you haven't been to Bark Hot Dogs in Park Slope get on the 2 train to Bergen Street today. If you are not in New York you may need a plane.

I love hot dogs. I've been to a few cities just for hot dogs. Bark may have the overall best hot dog experience. The dogs have a great taste and a nice crisp casing that has that amazing snap as you bite. Lard Butter! They are basted in lard butter! The buns are warm and crisp on the outside a little soft on the inside. The toppings are fresh and varied.

These are not Nathan's or street dogs. Artisanal creations from people that supply dogs to Danny Meyer and Citi Field (makes me want to go to a Mets game).

The fries were OK, not close to great, but I was not there for fries. I do recommend the Six Point Bark Red Ale which is made specifically for Bark.

Cheddar Bacon Dog, Pickled Hot Pepper Relish & Mustard Dog

New York now has a great hot dog.

Bark Hot Dogs
474 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY
718 789 1939

What did we have on our visit:
Slaw dog $5.25
Bacon Cheddar Dog $5.75
Classic Dog $4.25
NYC Classic w/kraut $5.50
Bark Red Ale $3.00
Foxon Ginger Ale $2.50
Salt & Pepper Fries $3.00
Bark Dog(Pickled Relish) $5.25

Total $34.50

Worth the money!

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The Right's Voice Of Reason, Never Was Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh used to call himself the voice of reason. He really never was reasonable and certainly is not now. Does he still call himself the voice of reason? But David Frum is becoming the voice of reason from the right. Frum has been questioning the inconsistencies of conservatives on health care and has laid down truth about our system of government, Barack Obama may be wrong but that does not make him evil. Frum points to the increasing ferocity of language that is appears to be leading down a path to terrible violence.

Frum writes:

"The Nazi comparisons from Rush Limbaugh; broadcaster Mark Levin asserting that President Obama is former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin claiming that the president was planning "death panels" to extirpate the aged and disabled; the charges that the president is a fascist, a socialist, a Marxist, an illegitimate Kenyan fraud, that he "harbors a deep resentment of America," that he feels a "deep-seated hatred of white people," that his government is preparing concentration camps, that it is operating snitch lines, that it is planning to wipe away American liberties": All this hysterical and provocative talk invites, incites, and prepares a prefabricated justification for violence.”

He continues:

“Just yesterday, the radio host Sean Hannity openly contemplated violence—and primly tut-tutted that if it occurs, the president will have only himself to blame.”

He ends:

“It's not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric. If Barack Obama really were a fascist, really were a Nazi, really did plan death panels to kill the old and infirm, really did contemplate overthrowing the American constitutional republic—if he were those things, somebody should shoot him.

But he is not. He is an ambitious, liberal president who is spending too much money and emitting too much debt. His health-care ideas are too ambitious and his climate plans are too interventionist. The president can be met and bested on the field of reason—but only by people who are themselves reasonable.”

"The guns are coming out. The risks are real," Frum writes and we know it is silly to carry a gun that is not loaded. Is it silly to carry a loaded gun if you are not going to use it? Is there violence coming?

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When Do We Let Cities Die?

The WSJ article about representatives from rust belt cities meeting to find strategies to turn around their ailing cities is worth a gander. I hope they can bring a renaissance to this old industrial cities but it does beg the question, what is the metric used in deciding to let a city die?

That is an urban economics question and perhaps an urban policy question. How about a sociological question, when did people grow attached to their cities, when does nostalgia begin for the city we live in?

FYI: That is a picture of Bodie, California. A old mining town abandoned in the early twentieth century. It is maintain in a state of preserved decay. It is a fun spot to go in North Cal. Sphere: Related Content

Is Message Getting Lost On Health Care?

Have Palin "death panels", Norris home invasions and other items caused a digression from the message. Is it the cause of the President mistake saying true but negative things about the Post Office.

The Political Animal writes:
"Gibbs responded by noting that there's 'a tremendous amount of disinformation that's out there.' He added, '[L]et's be honest, you all, the media, tend to cover 'X said this, Y said this,' but some of you, but not everyone, does an investigation about whether what X said is actually true.'

And while I think Gibbs' answer was true, and a raised an entirely legitimate argument that responsible news outlets should take seriously, the question raised a more specific point: whether the White House has 'lost control of the message,' because the president feels compelled to respond to ridiculous right-wing lies that a painful number of Americans have come to believe."

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Is Health Care Killing Specter?

A new Rasmussen poll shows approval for Senator Arlen Specter erodes further. In June Rasmussen reported that 53% of Penn voters favored Specter and roughly 43% did not. The new numbers are reversed, Specter’s favorable is 43% and unfavorable is 53%.

The biggest issue this summer is health care, is it killing his chance for reelection?

Specter has decreasing republican and democratic support. The survey shows that 80% of republicans would vote for his would be Republican challenger, Pat Toomey, and Specter would only draw 61% of the democrat vote. Where is the rest of the democrat vote going?

In the D primary Specter still holds a statistical lead over challenger Congressman Sestak but that lead has decreases six points since June.

Specter has run out of parties. He needs health care reform to work in the next year, not just pass it has to display some real improvements in the delivery of care and access to care. Is one year enough time to show significant improvements, Specter better hope so.

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The Bush Cheney Split

The Wash Post's Barton Gellman has a story about the seperation of President Bush and VP Cheney.
"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,' said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. 'He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times -- never apol,ogize, never explain -- and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.'
Sphere: Related Content

Art Break - Enjoy

Rwandan children are back home from school in their village...

Farid Sani
Rwanda, Africa
Olympus E510 Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Megan McArdle On Privatization

McArdle writes today, "Perhaps surprisingly, I'm pretty skeptical of a lot of the efforts to outsource social services."

McArdle also is troubled by the Indiana experience with social service privatization.

After reading McArdle and thinking about the really dry post from earlier I made a connection that I should have made earlier this evening. Is there a social service more basic than health care.

This quote from McArdle could easily be made a bout health care:
"But the people experiencing any decline in the quality of social services are usually poor people who mostly don't vote. So the competition is merely to find a bidder who can cut services to the barest bone. For some conservatives, obviously, this is a feature rather than a bug. But when children or the developmentally disabled are involved, I don't think price should be our primary consideration in deciding how to provide services."
But perhaps we should expand it from children and the disabled. Sphere: Related Content

Where Does Stephen Hawking Live?

In England, of course silly. Finally Investor's Business Daily correct their editorial. Ryan Chittum wraps up the IBD's Hawking housing health care horrible fear mongering of health care reform at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Chittum writes:
"And if you correct a serious mistake, you have to be clear about what you’re really correcting, no matter how embarrassing or how much it kills your argument."
That may be a reason not to admit mistakes. Sphere: Related Content

Health Care Coffee On Fascination Avenue

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver holds Coffee with Cleaver. This looked like a nice event. The video shows no screaming and no real bad name calling. It just shows a bunch of people talking to each other, but they don't know what they are talking about. But it looked nice and maybe did some good.

This event is a brilliant idea, good job Congressman Cleaver.

By the way can you find the congressman in the video?

Fascination Ave is the street in the background. Sphere: Related Content

Yglesias On The Electoral Politics Of Health Care

Matt Yglesias wonders if certain Republican senators were under electoral pressure would they be more willing to deal in the health care debate. Sphere: Related Content

Daily Dish Quotes Of The Day

Quotes: of the day from the Daily Dish
“I don’t believe terrorists are super human. They are no more dangerous than the Crips and the Bloods," - Michigan state Rep. Jeff Mayes (D).

"If anybody did escape, they'd have a surprise. We're a community of hunters. Just about everybody has guns," - Standish City Manager Mike Moran.

Sphere: Related Content

Revisiting Privatization Of Government Services And Products (warning: very dry subject)

I need to rethink my position on privatization of governmental services or at least some types of services.

The Wall Street Journal reports on Indiana's efforts with privatizing social services. In 2007 the state contracted to pay a group of businesses roughly $1.34 billion to run social services programs for ten years. Unfortunately, there were many problems running essential programs. An example in the Journal article, "Naomi Mundy, a 59-year-old homemaker, said it took 15 months after she developed melanoma to get Indiana to pay her health-care benefits under Medicaid because of outsourcing snafus." Also, children were not enrolled in early child health care for up to six months. These are real problems.

There is generally two types of privatization of government services. The first is the one described above where municipalities pay firms to handle the delivery of services or the processing of recording keeping tasks among other functions. A primary benefit of this type of outsourcing is that the governments can't afford to upgrade the technology used to make tasks more efficient therefore missing out on the economies of scale resulting from automation and other technological processing. The cost of upgrading and training of staff to use the new technology is often much greater than the lowest bid price from privatization. The outcomes described in the Indiana experience is too great a problem to be offset by these fiscal savings. Critics of privatization, as the Journal reports, may be correct, these "problems show why government functions, particularly human services, shouldn't be turned over to private contractors."

The second form of privatization provides government with funds from firms that run government services but the firms retain the profit from the operating the service. For example, there has been much debate over the proposed plan to privatize state lotteries. In 2007 California lottery operation privatization could have brought the state nearly $37 billion dollars in exchange for leasing the operations to a private firm for forty years. After the firm pays the state $37 billion any revenue after other operating expense is the firm's to keep (they will be taxed of course). There are proposals to privatize tolls road, airports and other revenue generating government operations. This is an attractive option for state and local governments due to the massive deficits they face in the current economy. There are social problems that could arise from some of these proposals. There are associated social problems that can arise from lottery privatization. For instance, the incidence of lottery participation is highly concentrated in low income communities. The operating firm in its drive to increase revenue can target with advertising and increased number of vendors such communities and thereby create a disproportionate negative impact on that community. But there is also the long term fiscal problems created from this type of privatization. How much revenue is the state giving up over the 40 years. In the California proposal Lehman Brothers was a firm vying for the lease. If the net present value calculation was so advantageous that Lehman was willing to spend $37 billion how much revenue would California not receive over the forty years. I am pretty sure California is glad they did not deal with Lehman, or maybe not?

Privatization can be good and it can be bad. So can government, but we should probably leave vital social services in the hands of the people who may do it bad, but at least do it better. Sphere: Related Content

Amazing Pictures Of Asteroid Impacts Sites On Earth


The Shoemaker crater in Western Australia, formerly known as the Teague crater, was renamed in honor of the planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker for whom the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 is also named. The age of the crater unclear, but it could be 1.7 billion years old, which makes it the oldest known impact in Australia. The brightly colored splotches are seasonal salt-water lakes. This image was taken by the Landsat 7 satellite. Sphere: Related Content

The Wife Of Famous Snowmobile Racer Is Less Popular

A sarcastic blog post from the LA Times. Andrew Malcolm writes:
"Palin, who plucked Sen. John McCain from political obscurity in Arizona as her GOP presidential ticket running mate last summer, enjoyed her highest popularity right after a rousing speech at the Republican convention in early September. She was at 57% then, but much higher among Republicans and conservatives."
Sphere: Related Content

Being Rude To Constituents Can't Be A Good Thing

Sheila Jackson Lee answered her cell during the town hall meeting while a constituent was asking a question. It is not only rude, it is stupid.

The Sleuth at Wash Post
has the story. Sphere: Related Content

Be sure to drink your Glenn Beck

Do people like Glenn Beck or just the challenge of figuring out what he is talking about. This is a tweet from him a few minutes ago.
"I have made VERY powerful people VERY angry.They have tried to cover their tracks.They have failed.Will expose and ask 4 your help VERY soon"
What does this mean? Is he Little Orphan Annie to our Ralphie.

Be sure to drink your Glenn Beck, anything for a dollar.
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Calls For Moderate Republicans To Correct Palin Lies On "Death Panels"

Greg Sargent at PlumLine blog has asked when republicans that support end of life counseling going to call Sarah Palin and her fellow travelers out on the lies about the HR 3200 life counseling provisions. He wants them to follow in the path of Johnny Isakson.

Ezra Klein sort of agrees and he adds names to the list.

Klein writes:
"I fear it would be difficult for Isakson to argue today, as he did in April of 2008, that 'you ought to be required to execute a durable power of attorney when you become eligible [for Medicare].' But that was the right policy then then and it's the right policy now. Encouraging individuals to set down their end-of-life treatment wishes when they're of sound mind and body is not a liberal idea or a conservative idea. It's simply a responsible idea. And that's why responsible members of both parties have advocated it."
Sphere: Related Content

Art Break - Enjoy

Linda Dumont "Purple Congress Avenue" Sphere: Related Content

Recession Over Says WSJ Forecasting Survey

Survey of economists by the Journal shows most economist think the recession is over. They also want to Ben Bernanke reappointed.

The WSJ report.
Sphere: Related Content

Looking Abroad For Public Policy Insight

In many discussions of public policy governments and policy experts look to other countries or states for ideas and evidence of results of policy choices. Often public policy is copied from other governments and adapted to fit a new structure. For example in recent New York City transportation initiatives Janette Sadik-Khan looked to Copenhagen for policy direction. This is a very efficient way of evaluating and understanding policy options. It reduces the time, energy and pecuniary costs of formulating new policy proposals.

With that said, Alex Massie, writing the The Spectator, asks why "no-one sees fit to copy the American system?" He is of course asking about health care. I am sure some will answer this query with a response as dumb as "they're socialists." As if the rest of the world were socialists. Even if the rest of the world were socialists would that preclude them from acknowledging the positive efficacy of the American health system is there was such an effect. The power of its success would draw people to adapt a more American approach, but that doe not happen.

Massie writes:
"In Britain you worry what will happen when you fall ill; many Americans worry about what will happen if you fall ill. Will your insurance cover you? Often (but not always), yes it will and the best American care probably is better than the best British care, but there's a greater psychological security to the British system."
As Massie asserts Americans worry about what will happen if you fall ill while Brits worry about what will happen when you fall ill. It is a strange distinction but a very important one.

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The Brits Won't Let Stephen Hawking Die

A defense of health care reform from afar. Hugh Muir writing in London's The Guardian newspaper offers this defense of the British NHS:
"So Barack Obama is facing the fight of his life (another one) as he attempts to reform the US healthcare system. The 'special interests' – doctors, healthcare companies – don't like it. The 'birthers' – crazy types who hope to prove he is not American – smell blood. The danger, says the Investor's Business Daily, is that he borrows too much from the UK. 'The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof, are legendary. The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror script … People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.' We say his life is far from worthless, as they do at Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge, where Professor Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, was treated for chest problems in April. As indeed does he. 'I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS,' he told us. 'I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.' Something here is worthless. And it's not him."
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Free Market Health Care Is The Real Death Panel?

Joe Conason discusses how the uninsired delay treatment because they can't pay for a visit to a doctor.

Conason writes:
"The ugly fact is that every year we fail to reform the existing system, that failure condemns tens of thousands of people to die—either because they have no insurance or because their insurance companies deny coverage or benefits when they become ill."
So who are the death panels? Sphere: Related Content

Senator Grassley Says We Should Not Have Government Policy That Pulls The Plug On Grandma

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took that amazing and courageous position on a non issue today during his town hall meeting in the park.. In response to question about health care killing old people Senator Grassley said there are people in Washington that a bothered by old people being in hospitals connected to tubes and machines. He also said that we should not have end of life counseling. He said he would not name the people who want to kill old people.

Grassley had the opportunity to tell hi constituents truth. Perhaps he should watch the video of Arlen Spector from Lebanon, PA.

Sphere: Related Content
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