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Paul Ryan

If you are at all like me, then you probably check Politifact.com on a regular basis. Recently, Politifact announced their “Lie of the Year”: Republicans voted to end Medicare. Sadly, the site’s “Lie of the Year” was not a lie at all. I was quite perturbed by this. I was not alone. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote a brief op-ed on this subject. And it has been all over the Daily Kos. The pundits on msnbc have been all over this story, too. David Weigel, over at Slate, gave Politifact quite the thrashing. To add my voice to the choir, I e-mailed the Politifact staff. You can do the same here: truthometer@politifact.com

Below is my e-mail:

To the Politifact Staff,

Generally speaking, I have held your site in high regard. While I haven’t always agreed with your findings, I could always find that the reasons and research those findings were predicated on were solid. 
Not so this time.
I know you’ve gotten an e-mail full of complaints from people like me, so I’ll try to be brief. My e-mail is just one of thousands crowding your inbox, I’m sure. But here’s the problem with your self-defense: I’m not in the echo-chamber. True, I do check the liberal blogs, and I do watch msnbc. However, I also watch Fox News on a daily basis. And though it makes my brain hurt, I try to listen to Rush and Beck almost daily. I also read a multitude of newspapers. I consume more news from a variety of sources than anyone I know. So, to toss me in with the rest of the liberals caught in an “echo-chamber” really pisses me off, pardon my French. The facts are the facts, I’m afraid, and you’ve simply gotten them wrong. Big time.
I will agree that Democrats may have been a bit too eager to demagogue and jump on the Ryan plan in order to win the special election in New York and to improve their odds in the House for this upcoming election. The video that shows “grandma” being wheeled off a cliff is a perfect example of the hysteria that you correctly identified.
However, you have equated that hysteria to a lie– the lie of the year, in fact. The demagoguery was over the line, to be sure, but it was rooted in the fact that Paul Ryan’s plan did end Medicare as we know it.
Let’s start by asking ourselves, “What is Medicare?” Well, Medicare is single-payer government health insurance, which is guaranteed to any American over the age of 65. For those who have paid into it all of their working life, most services under Part A are free. For Part B, there is a nominal monthly premium. Medicare pays doctors and hospitals directly on a fee-for-service basis. There are gaps, unfortunately, in Medicare, which means that sometimes seniors have to pay out of pocket. Medicare, like Social Security, has been a life-saver for poor seniors, who might otherwise have died prematurely as a consequence of inadequate access to health care services.
So, what then did Paul Ryan’s plan do to Medicare? In short: it ended Medicare as we know it.
Even in your own analysis of the Ryan plan you essentially make the case that Medicare as we know it will cease to exist, instead becoming a privatized venture. Paul Ryan’s plan removes the federal government from playing a role in providing health insurance and replaces it with private health insurers. Seniors would receive a voucher, hardly generous, with which they could go into the insurance market and purchase health care. And because under the Ryan plan the vouchers do not keep up with inflation, seniors end up paying more for their health care than under the current plan. By 2022, a fact you know well and have reported, Seniors would have paid $12,500 more per year for health care services. Whether you want to admit it or not, this might make it so that some seniors are left uninsured. What is neglected by you and by Ryan is the fact that the administrative costs of private insurers would actually contribute to higher health care costs, which means seniors will end up paying more money out of pocket. Obviously, Ryan is willing to sacrifice the poor in order to shrink government and slash the budget. Ryan’s plan effectively robs Peter in order to pay Paul. In other words, in order to save the federal government some money, Ryan’s plan would take money out of Medicare and shift health care costs onto seniors.  Seniors would shoulder the burden of finding a private insurer, paying more money out of pocket because the vouchers would not be sufficient to meet their health care costs, and they would be beholden to the whims of the private health insurance market. This is not Medicare, not matter how you try to rationalize it, folks.
What Paul Ryan does is destroy Medicare in order to protect it. It does not make sense– it is indefensible. Sure, you can call the Ryan plan “Medicare”, which is basically the heart of your claim that Democrats have made the lie of the year, but the plan really is not Medicare. You can call it a ham sandwich if you like, but it is not Medicare as we know it. So, you can take some measure of comfort in adhering to some bizarre parsing of semantics, but for senior citizens in this country and for people who look to the federal government to protect those who are the most vulnerable the Ryan plan is not Medicare. It creates a Medicare zombie: sure, that might be the corpse of your loved one walking about, looking for brains, but it is no longer that same warm, caring, protective person that you knew. I know it is a crude metaphor, but it holds true.
I know you won’t change your minds, especially now, but you should be aware that you are wrong and that there are people fact checking you and holding your feet to the fire.
Thank you,
Jose Rodriguez
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Today, I watched Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Meet the Press. Speaking to David Gregory, he claimed that the Palestinians are the obstacle to peace, and Gregory never once stopped him and said, “Hey, you’re factually wrong.” The Palestinians have in fact recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state for about three decades. The Israelis have not recognized Palestinians’ right to exist even once. In the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian security forces have never had a tighter grip on security, thus making Israeli’s safe from potential attacks from terrorists who do not want peace. Furthermore, both President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have gone above and beyond in structuring a functional government in the West Bank. So, the Palestinians have done their part, but Israel has failed to move an inch toward peace. Instead, Netanyahu lazily claims (lies) that Palestinians have not accepted peace or recognized Israel, both factually incorrect, but also not refuted by people like David Gregory. Netanyahu has also continued to build settlements, even during the period of time there was a so-called “moratorium” on settlement construction. This is why Abbas circumvented the Israelis and went straight to the international community. Netanyahu has simply not been a good-faith partner, so it would be a waste of time to return to the negotiating table until he stops the construction of all settlements. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, unfortunately.

 

 

 

By Jose Rodriguez

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and scum-bag who asked his ex-wife for a divorce while she was in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment, is hoping to run for president in 2012.

 Asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch about a possible run in 2012, Gingrich replied, “Callista and I will look seriously and we’ll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011.” While he mulls over a presidential bid with his… what? Third wife?… Newt might want to check out the polls. According to a November Quinnipiac poll, he is polling at 15%, which places him behind Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee.

Meanwhile, Newt might need to see a doctor, because he is suffering from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.

During the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, Newt compared the construction of a mosque several minutes and blocks from Ground Zero to the construction of a Nazi sign outside of the Holocaust museum: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington… there is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

Before that regrettable (to decent people) comment, Gingrich described Sonia Sotomayor (President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court) as a racist. He even recommended that President Obama withdraw her name from nomination. The accusation came from a mischaracterization of a speech she gave, during which she used the words “wise Latina woman.” Though he later apologized for using that term, he nevertheless continued to believe the sentiment: “My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. … Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice. … The word ‘racist’ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable.”

More recently, Newt bought into a ludicrous article by Dinesh D’Souza, which suggested that President Obama is heavily influenced by his father’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview (since when was being anti-colonial a bad thing?). He went on to say, “This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.” According to David Frum, a former Bush aide and speechwriter, Newt’s comments were an example of race-baiting, as well as an attempt to trump his extremist credentials for the radical right-wingers in the TEA Party: “When last was there such a brazen outburst of race-baiting in the service of partisan politics at the national level? George Wallace took more care to sound race-neutral.”

It is not surprising then to hear that Newt blames our economic woes on the lazy unemployed. At a South Carolina event, attended by 250 Republican activists, Newt said, “I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.” What is even sadder is the fact that the audience cheered loudly. In his view, the nation wasted $134 billion dollars on people who “do nothing for 99 weeks” and “got nothing for it.”

Yup. That’s Newt.

So, let’s evaluate his assertion that we “got nothing” for extending unemployment benefits for people out of work.

Let’s first dispel the notion that the unemployed are lazy people who could easily find a job in no time. According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is roughly one job for every five unemployed people. There are simply not enough jobs and there are simply too many people looking for work. It is shameful and immoral for anyone to suggest that the unemployed are simply lazy.

Secondly, let’s look at the claim that we “got nothing” for our $134 billion extension of unemployment benefits. According to the non-partisan  Congressional Budget Office, every dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. From a list of 11 options for stimulating the economy, extending unemployment benefits was at number one. Last? Extending the Bush tax cuts, which, according to CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, “would worsen the fiscal outlook” of our economy.

 

All I can say is this: Good luck, Newt. If comments like the ones you have made over the last year will characterize your presidential campaign, then I will enjoy watching you battle Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination.

It’ll be fun to watch. And, for President Barack Obama, it will be a cake walk to re-election.

The Republicans in Congress have proven that they hate the poor and middle class, but really love the rich. Recently, they allowed unemployment benefits for 2 million people to expire. They have also blocked several attempts by Democrats to continue the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of Americans. Talk about class warfare.

Yet President Obama has not done very much to exploit this. He has, instead, proclaimed that he will work with these people, even though they have bashed him repeatedly. Some Republicans, like Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., the third-ranking House Republican, have said that President Obama and the Democrats do not want anyone to get a tax cut, which is a total lie. Pence stated: “Should Democrats get their way, every income tax bracket will increase on Jan. 1, 2011. Every single one.” While it is true all tax brackets will see a tax increase on January 1, 2011, it will not be because of the Democrats. President Obama has made it clear that he wants to see these tax cuts extended for those families making less than $250,000. He has even indicated that he is willing to make a deal with GOP leaders. The Democrats in Congress have attempted several times to extend the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of Americans, but Republicans like Pence have blocked those pieces of legislation.

Why? Because they exclude the rich. The top 2% of income earners do not need unemployment, so why pass an extension? The top 2% need a tax cut, so why exclude them? This debate only underscores their affinity for the wealthy. They try to cover this by claiming that they are fighting for small business owners. They argue, with no one in the White House really disputing them, that they are trying to stand up for those who are in need of a job, so they cannot fathom a tax hike on the job creators. All of this is a load of crap.

First of all, only 3% of small business owners would be affected by the so-called “tax hike.” Most small business owners do not make $250,000 in profit.

Secondly, the Republicans just blocked the passage of tax cuts for 98% of Americans, just so the top 2% can have $100,000 tax cuts. They are doing this at the same time they are saying that we cannot afford an extension of unemployment benefits and demanding that we start lowering the deficit. It’s hypocrisy and blatant favoritism of the rich. A recent CBO study found that for every dollar spent through unemployment benefits there is as much as $1.90 put into the economy. A dollar spent by the rich from the tax cuts generates somewhere between 10 and forty cents . In fact, the CBO found that extending unemployment benefits would be the best stimulus for our economy, while extending the Bush tax cuts was dead last.

Thirdly, as for it being a “tax hike,” these were tax cuts that were set by President Bush and the Republicans to expire at the end of 2010. These were not implemented as permanent rates, but a temporary tax gimmick to gin up support. Dan Bartlet, a former Bush White House Communications Director, admitted that they deliberately used the tax cut deadline as a trap for future political leaders: “The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth.”

And lastly, it is a falsehood to suggest that not extending the tax cuts for the rich would have an impact on jobs. When President Bush first introduced the tax cuts, he argued that it would create jobs. Over his eight year term, the economy only added 2.4 million jobs. In Clinton’s first budget, he increased taxes for the rich. By the end of his eight year term, the economy added over 23 million jobs . This is a fact: job creators are motivated by demand. That’s economics 101. As it stands now, the business sector is sitting on 2 trillion dollars, which they are not spending. Why? Because they have excess supply. People do not have the money to purchase things as they have in the past, which is causing this recovery to move sluggishly. So, money is not the problem: demand is. It’s a vicious cycle: many people are out of work or are tightening their fiscal belts, so they do not consume as much, which causes businesses to have excess supply, which then prevents them from investing in their company, precluding any additional employment. And the cycle begins again.

This is why extending unemployment benefits is so important. Not doing so is a job killer. People who are unemployed spend the money they receive, which goes to businesses. Now that 2 million people are not going to be receiving unemployment benefits they will be tightening their fiscal belts even more, which will lead to even more excess supply and less demand. This will create a situation that will make it even harder for the business sector employ people.

But some people would rather pretend that giving the top 2% of income earners a tax cut will create jobs. It won’t.

In the final analysis, it becomes evident that any time the poor or middle class need some help the Republicans can be counted on to ignore their pleas. You get some millionaires and billionaires complaining that they cannot afford to maintain their fifth house or buy the small island they wanted the Republicans are there to lend a helping hand. They like to play the “We feel your pain” game, but they are only doing so in order to score political points. If they really cared, they would have voted for the extension of tax cuts for 98% of Americans and for extending unemployment benefits.

It’s not just the moral thing to do: it’s smart economics.


By Jose Rodriguez

As a Catholic I am embarrassed and ashamed.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has come out in opposition to President Obama’s health care reform efforts, despite its long-standing support for health care reform. In fact, the USCCB has long supported health care reform that includes a single-payer system to cover the uninsured, the poor, and illegal immigrants. Yet, in the last couple of months, the USCCB has come out against the current health care reform bill.

The USCCB has aligned itself with Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Hannity by asserting that the current health care reform efforts would encourage euthanasia of the elderly, deny health care to the disabled, and would force tax payers to pay for elective abortions and bar doctors from invoking the conscience clause. The accusations read as though they were copy and pasted from Sarah Palin’s facebook page. They are advancing paranoid arguments against what is inarguably the most important health care legislation in the last fifty years. But why?

One can only speculate, but it might be partisan, it could be ignorance (they have not read the bills), or it could be any number of things.

This is tragic, as far as I’m concerned. I have been proud of my church’s stance on science (particularly evolution), Global Climate Change, the poor, and advocating for a more just and fair global economy. Universal health care was another issue my Church supported, which made me proud to call myself a Catholic. However, the USCCB’s current mental status has me quite concerned.

But the USCCB, which does not have any authority whatsoever, has come under fire from Bishops from around the globe. An editorial on a Catholic British website has chastised Bishops in the U.S. for their failure to stand up for a basic pro-life issue: universal health care. The Tablet editorial argues that the Bishops in the United States are wasting an opportunity where they “could play a central role in salvaging Mr Obama’s health-care programme.” Instead, the U.S. Bishops are trying to advance an anti-abortion agenda when everyone has agreed that the bill should be neutral on this issue, “rather than the more general principle of the common good.” As the editorial notes, nearly 50 million Americans are without health care, and this tragedy is only likely to worsen, as the health care industry is “[sensing] a threat to their profits” and are spending 1.5 million dollars a day to kill health care reform. Rather than attend to the poor, the USCCB has decided that they would rather turn this reform effort into a battle over abortion. The Tablet editorial makes a great point, however: the “National Health Service, one of the great forward strides for social justice, had no Catholic blessing,” yet is one of the most enduring and popular government programs in England.

This is clearly a dereliction of duty.

It has been clearly documented that the current health care reform effort does not force tax payers to fund (directly or indirectly) elective abortions. Nor are there any death panels for the elderly or disabled.

I can’t believe that the USCCB actually believes this! All they have to do is read the bill! Again are the Bishops lazy? Are they politically motivated? Are they this ignorant? What is the deal?

Republicans have come to the conclusion that Americans want health care reform, and they have come to the conclusion that a majority of Americans and American doctors support the public option. Despite months of promoting lies, and encouraging people to attend and disrupt town hall meetings in order to create the impression that a majority of Americans oppose any health care reform, 73% of doctors support either a single-payer system (10%) or a mostly private system that includes a public option (63%), and 77% of Americans support a public option. And I know what you’re thinking: “How can that be? What was the poll question?” Well, here was what SurveyUSA asked: “In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance–extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?”

So, faced with overwhelming support for health care reform (including the public option) from Americans and doctors, Republicans have started arguing that the health care bill will pay for elective abortions. There is not a single grain of truth to this argument, which apparently does not matter to the USCCB.

Let’s deconstruct this nonsense…

In an op-ed for National Review (an ultra-Conservative publication), on July 23, 2009, Minority Leader John Boehner wrote that President Obama was trying to expand abortion by sneaking it through his health care reform effort and would force American tax-payers to fund abortions. Boehner also accused the President of trying to undermine organizations (like the Catholic Church) that do not support or perform abortions by making it illegal for them to deny abortion services. The biggest lie (which he labels a “fact”) is this: “This public plan, like all plans, will be required to classify abortion as an “essential benefit,” forcing American citizens to directly subsidize abortion-on-demand with their tax dollars.”

These baseless accusations have energized anti-abortion advocates, like the Catholic Church, into opposing what is an essential and basic pro-life issue.

It is important to remember that the Hyde Amendment (passed in 1976) bans the use of federal funds for elective abortions. This law does not apply in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in mortal danger. So, before any substantive discussion can begin, we must remember that it is against the law to do what John Boehner is suggesting President Obama wants to do. President Obama, who has admitted that he is pro-choice and has a 100% rating with NARAL, has said that he thinks “we… have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.” This statement, though it goes against his own personal beliefs, is consistent with the law and consistent with
public opinion. In a recent Rasmussen poll, 48% of Americans do not want tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, while only 13% think that any health care bill should use tax-payer funds to cover abortion. 32% of Americans believe that there should not be a requirement either way.

What Minority leader John Boehner (and the USCCB) does not understand is that most private health insurance policies already cover abortion, whether or not people realize it. This would not change under any health care reform bill, thus making it abortion-neutral. But there’s more.

While there are five different health care bills in Congress right now, H.R. 3200 is the most talked about. H.R. 3200, for instance, has an amendment authored by Lois Capps (D-Ca), which specifically prohibits tax-payer funds from being used to pay for abortions. The bill is only seven pages long, and it is triple spaced, so it should not take long to read, however, no one cares to read it. And those who have, have consciously twisted her language to fit their narrow view.

The Capps Amendment would not require abortion coverage to be part of the minimum benefits package, as many claim it would. It would be up to the insurer whether or not the plan covers abortion… as it stands now. I will simply quote the bill:

“The Health Benefits Advisory Committee may not recommend under section 123 (b) and the Secretary may not adopt in standards under section 124(b), the services described in paragraph (4)(A) or (4) (B) as part of the essential benefits package and the Commissioner may not require such services for qualified health benefits plans to participate in the Health Insurance Exchange.”

This seems pretty straightforward, but, again, there are people who want to twist and fabricate. The bill clearly states that abortion coverage is not required for the minimum benefits package in order to “participate in the Health Insurance Exchange.” In section two, Capps goes further: “VOLUNTARY CHOICE OF COVERAGE BY PLAN.-In the case of a qualified health benefits plan, the plan is not required (or prohibited) under this Act from providing coverage of services described in paragraph (4) (A) or (4)(B) and the QHBP offering entity shall determine whether such coverage is provided.”

The amendment authored by Lois Capps is straightforward (again) in preventing tax-payer funds from being used to cover elective abortions. The Capps amendment requires insurers to segregate the cost of abortion coverage from the premiums, which would be paid for by the insured, not tax-payers. The public option may or may not include abortion coverage, but, again, the cost of that would be paid out of the pocket of the insured, not the tax-payers. Again, here are the words from the amendment:

“(T)he plan shall provide assurances satisfactory to the Commissioner that- (A) any affordability credits provided under subtitle C of title II are not used for purposes of paying for such services; and (B) only premium amounts attributable to the actuarial value described in section 113(b) are used for such purpose.”

The Capps amendment also defers to the Hyde amendment, which prohibits tax-payer funds from being used to pay for abortion services. It clearly states, in no uncertain terms, that the bill would have “No EFFECT ON FEDERAL LAWS REGARDING ABORTION.” Um… that includes the Hyde amendment, in case you are a Republican or an American Catholic Bishop.

Despite the concerns of the USCCB (raised by John Boehner in his op-ed), the health care proposals would not make it illegal to deny abortion services. The Capps amendment makes this point clearly, if they would only take five minutes to read the damn bill:

“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to have any effect on Federal laws regardin- (A) conscience protection; (B) willingness or refusal to provide abortion; and (C) discrimination on the basis of the willingness or refusal to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortion or to provide or participate in training to provide abortion.”

How can this be any clearer? Notice that it says, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed,” yet that is exactly what Boehner, the GOP, and the USCCB are doing: CONSTRUING!

Another point of concern for the GOP and the USCCB is that Obama is creating “death panels.” This has been refuted time and time again, yet there is this persistent element in our society who refuses to accept… oh, I don’t know, facts? The elderly and the disabled will not be subjected to any “death panel.” It’s as pure and simple as that.

The section that has been mis-represent by Sarah Palin, the GOP, and the USCCB, is on the establishment of a Comparative Effectiveness Research Center, which will “conduct, support, and synthesize research” that looks at “outcomes, effectiveness, and appropriateness of health care services and procedures in order to identify the manner in which diseases, disorders, and other health conditions can most effectively and appropriately be prevented, diagnosed, treated, and managed clinically.” This is no death panel. This is not a scheme to promote euthanasia for the elderly or disabled. Instead, the CERC will study which treatments are the most effective, thus providing patients and doctors better information and tools for sustaining and extending life, not ending it ASAP. Beyond that, the CERC would only make recommendations about the best methods, not make requirements. The bill makes that absolutely clear: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.” Again, there is that word “construed.” Does the USCCB or GOP not have access to a dictionary?

The bill also allows seniors to have end-of-life counseling with their doctor, which would be tax-payer funded. Despite the ridiculous claims made by Sarah Palin, these would be voluntary sessions, not mandatory. “It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, etc.,” Obama said. “So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything.”

The “Advanced Care Planning Consultation” in Section 1233 is not a scheme to encourage patients to pull their own “plug”. It is actually supported by AARP, which is a group that advocates for senior citizens. On the AARP site, they devote a page to debunk the absurd notion that end of life counseling is a back-door for euthanasia. They write that “Several studies in recent years have found that when doctors have end-of-life discussions with patients and families, patients have less anxiety.” The study found that “Less aggressive care and earlier hospice referrals were associated with better patient quality of life near death,” whereas those who failed to engage in those discussions “experienced worse quality of life, more regret, and were at higher risk of developing a major depressive disorder.” In other words, as people age it becomes increasingly important to know the available options. One doctor even expressed that it is in the best interest of the doctor to keep the patient alive in order to avoid lawsuits. So, for those who cannot comprehend morality, there are also financial reasons to extend the life of patients.

But beyond the needs of the patient, the counseling is also important for the family, who often argue or agonize over what their loved one would want, in the event that they are incapacitated. Having a clearly defined living will prevents the hand-wringing and guilt: the will of the patient is clear and decisive, even if it means a kidney transplant for an unconscious 89 year old man.

At this point, it is hardly worth debating with the lunatic/ paranoid fringe, with which the USCCB has aligned itself. All the facts are known, they are out there, but they choose to expose themselves to conspiracy theories, which only serve to support their fears. In an excellent editorial in today’s LA Times, Gregory Rodriguez argues that it might not be useful to try to educate people who cling to conspiracy theories. He cites a study in which conservatives, when presented with information proving that there were no WMDs in Iraq, believed even more strongly that there were WMDs in Iraq. Instead of putting down these buyers of misinformation and rumors, Rodriguez writes: “Rumors and conspiracy theories often supply simplified, easily digestible explanations (and enemies) to sum up complex situations. However crass, they’re both fueled by a desire to make sense of the world.”

He may very well be right.

I am heartened, however, to see that not all Catholics have given themselves over to madness.

Chris Korzen of Catholics United has come out strong against the USCCB, Stop the Abortion Mandate, Family Research Council, and the Catholic League, who have been promoting lies and misinformation, not to mention misrepresenting Catholic teachings. Korzen, on the Catholics United site, writes “The Family Research Council’s continued effort to distort the facts leads one to wonder whether the group’s true intent is to derail health care reform,” said Korzen. “Instead of issuing misleading attacks and inciting fear, the Family Research Council would do better to support efforts aimed at implementing abortion-neutral policies in health care reform legislation.” Catholic Charities, a non-profit Catholic organization that provides food and clothing to the poor, has been fully committed to health care reform saying “Health care reform: We can’t wait!” Though it maintains that it will not support any bill that extends abortion rights, it seems to enthusiastically support the current reform efforts, implying that it does not support the wild accusations of the USCCB.

There is also some indication that there is a schism between U.S. Bishops. Bishop Michael Sheehan told the National Catholic Reporter that the anger against Obama among U.S. Bishops comes mostly from a small minority, but the majority of centrist Bishops do not want a public fight over health care, so they have not spoken up. The Catholic News Service also reported that U.S. Bishops were glad to hear from President Obama, in his speech before a joint session of Congress, that his proposal would not allow for tax-payer funded abortions. “We were gratified to hear that federal funds would not be used for abortions and that conscience protections would be maintained,” Sister Carol Keehan said. “We were pleased to hear him say we were going to move on now. There are too many people … who need this kind of (health care) assistance. We believe it is long overdue. It is a moral and economic imperative and we were pleased to hear him put it in those terms.”

This was not an easy blog to write. I love my Church. I am pained to see what is happening from conservative Catholics in the hierarchy, who are using their position to advance their own personal, partisan beliefs. But it makes me angry, too. I am pro-life. I oppose abortion, I oppose the death penalty, I support the environment, and I support social justice. But you know what? I also support the truth. I do not support lies or fabrications, no matter who is telling them.

I pray that they come out of their intellectual darkness, and into the light of truth.


By Jose Rodriguez

Okay, how about we start with some TEA Party basics.

The people who organized the nationwide TEA Party protests originally were upset about the increased spending of the Obama administration and the creation of TARP (which was established by the Bush administration, not the Obama administration). Their rallying cry was “Taxed Enough Already!” At the tax day protests, in over 800 cities, there were people dressed in 18 century colonial attire; other people tossed tea into rivers and harbors, in a silly attempt to emulate the acts of the Sons of Liberty over 230 years ago in Boston Harbor. Get it? Tea Party? Boston Tea Party?

Here’s the problem.

The Sons of Liberty were protesting the imposition of taxes by the British government. These taxes were then sent back to England. It was colonialism. Not only were the American colonists upset by the taxation, but they were angered by the imposition of taxes without representation. So, in other words, they were not bothered by taxes: they were bothered by the fact that they had no say in the taxation and that their tax dollars went to benefit a small country across a large body of water.

This is not happening now. We enjoy full representation, representation that has found it necessary to tax certain items since the creation of the Constitution and who also found it necessary to collect income tax since 1861. And our tax dollars are not going to benefit some colonial overlord in a far away land, but they are benefiting us here in the United States. So… there is no way to compare them to the Patriots who wrested our Independence from the British empire.

These TEA Parties have been described as “astroturf“; in other words, they are not a true “grassroots” movement, but are manufactured by partisan conservative groups. What is the reason for this characterization?

Well, how about the fact that the TEA Parties were organized by Freedomworks, a conservative political advocacy group established by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The TEA Parties have also been heavily covered by Fox News, who has regularly portrayed the protesters as “real Americans,” implying that those who support the President are not “real Americans.” Fox has given ample time to the protesters and the screamers and the deathers, as well as providing a forum for lies and myths. These protests are not a spontaneously created movement, but have been created by the rich, the wealthy, interest groups, and conservative partisans seeking to bring the President of the United States to his “Waterloo“.

Does that mean that all the people at these rallies and protests are political agents? Does it mean they are willing pawns for larger interests?

No.

I would say all these people are really upset about the appearance that government is growing too big, that it is overreaching, and that they are going to be overtaxed. However, these people get their information solely from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News. They are also readers of conservative blogs, or blogs that deal with lies and scare tactics. They probably are recipients of mass e-mails that are sent out by people trying to manufacture conspiracies. These people are not willing to seek out alternative information, nor are they willing to challenge what their ideological icons say, or to check the facts behind their bold statements and accusations. They are moved to action based on lies, myths, distortions, and their own ignorance.

Now, there has been a lot of talk that these protesters are “overwhelmingly” racist. Of course, all the conservative talking heads (who have encouraged these protesters) cry foul. Glenn Beck likened the accusation of “racist” to crying fire! in a crowded theater. Sean Hannity responded to the racist accusation by saying: “”[T]hese are despicable tactics. It’s all designed to silence critics. It’s all designed to intimidate. It’s all designed to shut down opposition.” Rush Limbaugh put his two cents in, of course: “Any criticism of an African-American’s policies or statements or misstatements is racist, and that’s it. Therefore, the question: Can this nation really have an African-American president?” Charles Krauthammer even described Democrats as being “desperate,” which he thinks is why many have accused the right of indulging in racism to shoot down the President’s health care reform efforts.

I do not agree that the “overwhelming portion” of protesters are racist. There is inarguably a small portion of the protesters that are racist, and that is quite obvious. All one has to do is look at some of the signs carried at the 9/12 TEA Party in Washington D.C.:

Beyond that, the signs were also outrageous and ridiculous. This proves that the “overwhelming portion” were not racist, but extremist and crazy:

The political climate is becoming hostile. Words often times lead to actions, which can have violent and deadly consequences. These protests are a forum for hate speech. It appeals to the worst in all of us, particularly our anger against those who are not like us. They serve to divide American’s against one another, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are all biased and prejudiced, and there are political talking heads who want to exploit those prejudices for their own political ends, or for their own aggrandizement. We should reject these hate mongers and expose them for what they are: opportunists.

Do not forget that political extremism exists on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum.

Lee Harvey Oswald was a self-avowed communist who hated President Kennedy for his policies against Cuba and communism in general. On the day of his death the Dallas Morning News ran an ad from the American Bible Society that blasted Kennedy’s “softness” towards global “Godless” communism. This sentiment was common in the south, particularly in Texas. That political hatred and demonization, from left and right, ended with President Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

About one hundred years before, John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater after the end of the Civil War. Wilkes was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and hated President Lincoln because he had the audacity to wage a war to free African Americans from their bondage and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Booth was a racist, who hated abolitionists. He even attended the hanging of John Brown, who is yet another example of political extremism leading to violence and murder.

James Earl Ray shot and killed Martin Luther King jr, because he was angered by King’s efforts to bring civil rights to African Americans and to force the south to integrate. He was a racist who used politcal grievances to justify this violent act.

Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, was enraged by Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s support for Israel, so he killed the Senator at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was also drunk (according to Sirhan), but he was obsessed with Kennedy for quite sometime and had long determined to “eliminate” Senator Kennedy before “June 5th.” He was successful.

In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish radical named Yigal Amir. Amir justified the killing of Rabin because Rabin was engaged in the Oslo Peace process with the Palestinians. Amir, like many on the right in Israel and the U.S., do not believe in working towards peace with the Palestinians, and instead believe in perpetuating violence. In his case, there were also religious motivations for killing Rabin, who he accused of surrendering the Holy Land to the Palestinians.

I can go on and on and on and on and on about this. There is no end to the examples of political opponents using violence to advance their own causes. There is a very real possibility that this can happen in our time. There is a very real possibility that our country will descend into race wars if this President is killed by a racist TEA bagger, believing that he is acting justly and morally by killing the President of the United States.

I guess the bottom-line is this:

Whether these people are racists or not, there nonetheless is a significant level of hatred and anger from a fringe element in our society. We should all be concerned and afraid that this situation, with a single violent act, could throw our country into a tail-spin, the likes of which have not been seen since the civil war.

Now… can we get back to the Health Care debate, please?


By Jose Rodriguez

Man, I wish I were Rob Miller, a Democrat who is challenging South Carolina’s Republican Representative Joe Wilson in 2010. Since President Obama’s speech last night, Miller has raised $200,000 from 5,000 donors. Wilson has even provided Congress a rare moment of unity– both sides of the aisle have denounced Wilson’s rude outburst. Senator John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 Presidential contender, was on Larry King last night and called Wilson’s comment “totally disrespectful” and said he should apologize. House Minority Leader John Boehner said in an interview that “his behavior was inappropriate.” There is also speculation that Boehner and the Minority Whip Eric Cantor want Wilson to apologize on the House floor. I’m not even going to bother quoting Democrats, who were naturally demanding an apology.

Wilson has since apologized, though his apology was insincere and forced. President Obama has also accepted the apology and has urged the people to move on beyond the bickering.

But what did Wilson say that has earned him the scorn of sensible people?

President Obama refuted the false assertion that the Health Care reform bill would cover illegal immigrants. Well, that was simply too much truthiness for Rep. Wilson, who could not contain his disdain for facts: “You lie!”

Thank you, South Carolina for providing us with more political absurdity!

The media has been covering this outburst, and his subsequent apology, but they have not really analyzed the substance of his ridiculous remark. The bottom line is that Joe Wilson is the one who lied, not the President.

Quite simply, section 246 on page 143 specifically excludes “undocumented aliens” from receiving “affordability credits” to pay for health insurance. A racist and anti-immigrant group known as Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has come out with a fact deprived statement claiming that so-called illegal immigrants would receive “taxpayer-funded health care benefits,” which is, as President Obama responded to Wilson during his speech, “not true.” The bill (HR 3200), in fact, does not change the status quo. As it stands now, illegal immigrants can purchase their own health insurance through private insurers. On August 25, 2009, the Congressional Research Service reported that the House bill “does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens participating in the Exchange—whether the noncitizens are legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently.” So, FAIR is correct in asserting that illegal immigrants would be able to participate in the insurance exchange, but it is simply not true that they would be getting, essentially, free health care. They would have to purchase their own health insurance and they would not be able to receive “affordability credits” to off-set that purchase. In other words, they would assume the full cost of health insurance, with no assistance from tax-payers.

Also, just to underscore the absurdity of the claim, section 246 is titled “NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.” Can it be any clearer?

There is a silly notion out there that the public option would essentially be free health care for the poor and lazy, at the expense of hard-working, rich, white people. The fact is, the public option, if it passes, would not be a free ride for the poor. In fact, they would be mandated to purchase health insurance. More than likely they would choose the more inexpensive not-for-profit government provided health insurance option. They would, however, if they are really poor, be able to receive government subsidies to purchase their health insurance.

So, no free ride for legal citizens or for illegal immigrants.

Now, whether or not not paying for undocumented immigrants is moral or financially sound, that is a different argument. Remember, if they continue to visit emergency rooms without health insurance, we will still be stuck with their hospital bills. It makes better sense to pay to cover them so that they receive better preventitive care. Paying for hospital visits and check-ups is far cheaper than paying for very expensive treatments that are completely preventable if caught early enough.

Another idiot making an ass of himself is Rush Limbaugh, the drugster.

He is trying to make a big fuss over the President’s new number: 30 million. The President used the figure “30 million” when referring to the number of people who are uninsured. Though the Census Bureau estimates that the figure is closer to 46.3 million, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stated that the figure does not take into account undocumented immigrants. So, the White House argues, the actual figure of uninsured Americans is somewhere in the 30 millions. As the Census reported on today, the number of insured Americans rose to 46.3 million, up from 45.7 million. As the President lamented in his speech, that includes the 17,000 people who lose their insurance everyday. Whether or not the figure is 46.3 million or roughly 30 million, the fact is that we have a moral obligation to provide every American access to health insurance.

And, finally, another embarrassing moment has come from GOP Chairman Michael Steele. Steele has taken issue with the President’s use of a letter from the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The letter was delivered, after his death, to the President. Though health care reform was Kennedy’s life issue, Steele characterized the letter as a “political tool.” The moment in the speech was an emotional one as the President seemed to struggle through those words, the Vice President wiped a tear from his eye, and Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, sat crying in the audience. “This cause stretched across decades,” he wrote. “It has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. … In the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.”

Here is the entirety of the letter:

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me — and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles — there always have been — and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat — that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will — yes, we will — fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign — and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend — and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,
(Ted)

As the President said, after decades of stalling, it is time to move forward. It is now time to bring about health care reform.

Feel My Twitter

  • Thank you, #PeytonManning for throwing that interception to give the #Cowboys that win. What happened, bro? 4 years ago
  • Troubled to watch the march to war. I hope the President is cognizant of mission creep. We need to reevaluate our middle-eastern policies. 4 years ago
  • I argued for years with conservatives about the PATRIOT Act, warning about the loss of rights and invasion of privacy. Now they care? #WSJ 4 years ago
  • Reading #Noonan in the #WSJ complain about #NSA & Obama. Um... Where were conservatives after 9/11? They loved the PATRIOT Act until Obama. 4 years ago
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