Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lucky me

I have a house. Ginger took some very nice digital pictures for me, which I'll post as soon as I figure out how to condense them for faster viewing online.

Meanwhile, I've got lots of work to do. I'm guessing that house renovation will be a fruitful source of metaphors for social reconstruction. I'll try to post as often as I can, but as I've said before, don't be too surprised if you don't see many posts over the next month or two.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What the hell to do about healthcare insurance?

I've always thought of myself as being pretty opinionated, but in my middle age, I think I'm getting wishy-washy. I find myself not knowing what to think about the best health care proposal to support as the Obama Administration takes office and solicits ideas from the public.

On the one hand, it seems clear to me that what we really ought to have is single-payer health insurance. You can find a good explanation of single-payer insurance (sometimes called Medicare for all) at Physicians for a National Health Program. In brief:
Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, long-term care, mental health, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

Physicians would be paid fee-for-service according to a negotiated formulary or receive salary from a hospital or nonprofit HMO / group practice. Hospitals would receive a global budget for operating expenses. Health facilities and expensive equipment purchases would be managed by regional health planning boards.

Clearly, our present system is broken. An PNHP points out on their main page:
The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 47 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

On the other hand, creating single-payer health care might be next to impossible. Private health insurance companies are large, profitable corporations with quite a bit of political clout. You don't expect them to go out of business voluntarily, do you?

Conventional wisdom says that single-payer health care is either undesirable or just not possible. We're told that it's equivalent to "socialism," and once that label has been put on it, we're supposed to accept without question that it's bad.

Even if it's a good thing, we're told that it's not politically feasible. The only Democratic presidential candidate to support single-payer health care, Dennis Kucinich, was alternately ignored and portrayed as a lunatic by the the mainstream press. Third-party candidates who supported single payer, such as Cynthia McKinney of the Greens, were ignored. HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act was introduced in a previous session of Congress, and never made it out of committee.

Like most of the other Democratic presidential hopefuls in the recent election, Barack Obama takes a middle of the road approach. There is one feature of his plan that offers some small amount of hope for real change, and that is the proposal to allow people who are currently uninsured to choose between private insurance and a public health care plan.

In recent posts (the first here, the second here), I've supported this kind of health care choice -- preferably for everyone, whether or not currently insured. But the good folks over at PNHP say it won't work. According to the guide PNHP has created for the Obama medical insurance house parties:
Adding the option to purchase a public plan like Medicare will merely replay the disastrous Medicare HMO experience. For the past 20 years Medicare patients have been allowed to opt for the traditional Medicare program or enrollment in a private plan paid for by Medicare. This option was supposed to stimulate competition and lead to improved efficiency. Instead, the private plans have used every trick in the book to undermine real competition and drive up costs – e.g. selectively recruiting healthy, profitable patients while leaving the sick and expensive ones to Medicare; and successfully lobbying Congress to add extra payments to prop up the private plans. The GAO estimates that private plans cost Medicare an extra $8.5 billion in 2008, raising premiums for all Medicare recipients (not just those enrolled in private plans) and depleting the Medicare Trust Fund.

PNHP offers much more information about the shortcomings of the Obama/Biden/Daschle health care proposals and the need for a single-payer plan. In brief, PNHP argues that Obama's proposals are similar to plans enacted in several states over the past 30 years that have failed to contain costs and also failed to establish universal coverage. PNHP argues -- quite persuasively, I think, that only by eliminating wasteful private insurance companies can we make the savings necessary to control health care costs.

On the other hand, Sarah van Gelder notes that insurance companies are doing everything in their power to squelch the option for people to choose between public and private plans. Van Gelder calls Jacob Hacker's plan to allow a choice a perfect compromise between the current system of private insurance and a single-payer plan that would eliminate private insurance:
The nonpartisan Lewin Group estimates that Hacker's plan would save the U.S. economy $1 trillion over 10 years, while covering 99.6 percent of Americans.

The Massachusetts system, enacted in 2006, is a stark example of what happens when there is no public option. Everyone in the state is supposed to be covered, but their choices are limited to private plans. Premiums have been rising 8 to 12 percent per year, which means the system will soon be out of reach of individual families, employers, and the state government.

A public option assures that there is a benchmark against which private companies must compete. Without such a benchmark, private companies have no incentive to contain costs or improve services.

It's hard to argue with giving people a choice.

But the health care industry is arguing. The New York Times says medical associations are encouraging their members to attend the health care discussion groups being organized by the Obama transition team around the U.S. Past efforts to reform the health care system stalled in the face of powerful health industry lobbyists with huge campaign war chests. Will the industry be as adept at dominating the health care policy discussion when it's happening in living rooms and coffee shops around the country?

Is the Hacker plan a workable compromise, as Sarah van Gelder argues, or a dead end, as PNHP says? Would the insurance industry be fighting so hard against it if it didn't have some potential for eventually leading to a single payer system? On the other hand, Obama's healthcare discussions seem to have been set up to avoid any discussion of the single-payer option. Is it better to try to stretch the bounds of the discussion to include single-payer, or is it better to fight for the right to choose between public and private plans?

I just don't know. Does anyone else have a point of view to share?

Friday, December 26, 2008

The future of Thailand is certainly uncertain

Over at Foreign Policy in Focus, Johanna Son writes about The Certainty of Uncertainty in Thailand.
Thailand, a deeply hierarchical society, is currently experiencing a “complex form of class warfare, in which the middle class, motivated by anti-corruption sentiments, has mobilized as a barrier against a populist government with heavy support from the rural masses and urban lower classes,” explained political analyst and professor Walden Bello of the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South. “What complicates it is that the traditional elites that benefited from the traditional political, economic, and cultural arrangements have encouraged the actions of these mobilized middle classes. These elites' power has been threatened by the Thaksin brand of populist democracy in a way that it was never threatened by the revolving-door type of parliamentary democracy prior to Thaksin.

Now led by its third president in less than a year, the only thing that seems to be sure about the future of Thailand is that instability will probably continue.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Anti-choice federal rules threaten women's health in other countries -- and also in the US

Thanks to Our Bodies Our Blog and Oklahoma Voice of Reason for bringing my attention to this video by Engender Health about the harm done by the Global Gag Rule.

This federal policy, was first enacted by Ronald Reagan, rescinded by Bill Clinton, then re-issued by George W. Bush. It forbids the use of US health care aid to advocate abortion as a means of birth control. In practice, the rule eliminates any discussion of abortion, and undermines efforts to provide contraception, maternal healthcare, and healthcare for children.

Engender Health has a petition calling on President-elect Obama to once again rescind the gag rule.

Meanwhile, over at RH Reality Check, Jessica Aron reports that the Bush Administration has finalized a rule allowing US health care providers to refuse to provide information about abortion to their patients.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More on Obama's Health Care Discussions

Over at CommonDreams.org they've posted a commentary by Sarah van Gelder about the Obama transition team's nationwide healthcare discussions.

Van Gelder supports a plan by Jacob Hacker that would allow people to choose between private health insurance plans and a public plan.

For more information about the health care forum taking place in Oklahoma City on December 29, you can read this post from earlier in the week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is this what's behind right-wing Christian opposition to gay marriage?

Over on Talk to Action, Frederick Clarkson discusses a situation that seems terribly troubling to many Christian theocrats -- the right of women to vote. I kid you not. Don't take my word for it, read it for yourself.

And you thought Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth and all those other campaigners for the vote were timid moderates who weren't asking for very much...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oklahoma health care forum at Mayflower Church December 29

As the inauguration invitation to right-wing preacher Rick Warren has made obvious, if we want the Obama Administration to bring about real change, we are going to have to give him some incentive to do so.

An opportunity to do this is coming up shortly. The Obama transition team has requested his supporters across the nation to have community health care forums to help shape policy in this area. One of these discussions will be taking place in Oklahoma City on December 29. Get more information and sign up to attend here.

Chicago Tribune health care blogger Judith Graham poses an interesting set of questions that might be asked at a health care forum. Thanks to Christine C. at Our Bodies Our Blog for pointing out this series.

Meanwhile, over at Campaign for America's Future, Jacob Hacker has written a report arguing for the importance of allowing individuals to choose between private insurers and a public health care insurance plan. Hacker argues that "public insurance has a better track record than private insurance when it comes to reining in costs while preserving access." It seems that President-elect Obama supports a public plan only for those folks who don't have access to health insurance through their employers. Hacker seems to argue that everyone ought to have the option of choosing the public plan.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So what did you expect?

Okay. To start out with, I want to say that I'm a bit distracted lately from paying attention to the complicated events of the amazing, frightening, and hopeful times that we are all living through. I am a very lucky woman. I am going to buy a cheap little house. The picture is on the left. Posting may be a bit erratic for the indefinite future while the complicated details of buying and starting to fix take place.

That being said, one of the news items that has floated to my attention is the fact that right-wing pastor and media darling Rick Warren has been invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20. Warren is unusual in his focus on issues such as poverty, global warming, and AIDS. But he's entirely traditional in his support for male domination and his opposition to gay rights and abortion rights. Feminists and gay rights activists are understandably upset that Obama has chosen Warren to open the inauguration by praying to Warren's right-wing version of God.

On the one hand, I find myself feeling almost indifferent to this controversy. Obama, the consumate centrist political wheeler-dealer, is pretty much behaving as I would expect him to behave. Obama is brilliant, competent, and entirely focused on holding the existing order of things together, although in a more humane fashion than the Republicans did. He wants to win over the religious right, and figures he can take the rest of us for granted. Did anyone really expect anything better? With the economy at home and abroad still going down the toilet, maybe there are other places to direct our energy?

On the other hand, janinsanfran at happening here? and Echnide at Echidne of the Snakes each has a brilliant analysis of this issue.

Echidne points out that Obama should not minimize the importance of "social issues" such as gay rights and abortion in his efforts to create national unity:
Here's where I see the task of the future for us dirty fucking hippies and feminazis and such: To teach politicians that 'social issues' is not about what we eat for Thanksgiving or how we arrange flowers. Those issues are about freedom, justice, economics, dignity and respect.

janinsanfran points out that Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, understood the situation very well:
He claimed to have said to Obama:

'If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.'

Sounds about right to me. Obama will be as a good a president as aroused people make him be -- not one whit better.

If you'd like to express an opinion to the Obama transition team about his invitation to Rick Warren -- or about other matters -- you can do that here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The real election took place yesterday

In state capitols all across the United States, members of the Electoral College voted on December 15 to make Barack Obama the next president.

That day, National Public Radio ran an interesting piece about a group working to undermine the Electoral College without formally doing away with it.

For more information on the Electoral College, here is the three-part series I wrote about it before the November election.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The real Bettie Page can no longer stand up

I never heard of Bettie Page until after she died. Here are two very different views of Page and her modeling career.

Truthdig describes Page as a provocative "pop culture icon," a sort of precursor to Madonna.

Suzie at Echidne of the Snakes offers a more complex view:
Bettie Page, whose pinup and BDSM photos turned her into a cult icon, died Thursday. She’s a stellar example of someone who became a commodity, whose image profited others.
Her “sex fiend” father molested her and her sisters, Page once said. After an abusive first husband and a gang rape, she left Nashville for New York, where she began posing for sexy photos to make money, and in hopes of becoming an actress.


The rest of Suzie's post is short and well worth reading. It sounds as if Page's career was less of an example of bold sexual self-expression and more of a case of a woman with few economic resources finding a way to make a living.

The best post I've seen on the auto industry bailout...

Detroit's Problem: It's Health Care, not the Union | CommonDreams.org

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Canada update: Tories would win election today

According to Reuters, Canada's Conservative Party holds a large lead in a recent voter poll. This despite the replacement of ineffective Liberal party leader Stephane Dion by Michael Ignatieff.

Nevertheless, this Seattle Times editorial points out that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's suspension of Parliament has turned the nation upside down. Canadians might still be willing to vote for the Conservative Party, but they disapprove of the Conservative prime minister's willingness to undermine their constitution.

Meanwhile, Will Di Novi has a useful analysis of the situation at thenation.com.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chicago sit-in ends in victory of sorts

A six-day sit-in by laid off workers at Republic Windows and Doors has won severance pay and benefits, according to chicagotribune.com, but not a deal to re-open the plant.
The 240 workers who had occupied the factory since its abrupt closing Dec. 5 voted unanimously Wednesday night to accept a deal to pay them severance, vacation time, and temporary health care benefits. The $1.75 million agreement was negotiated over three days with the workers' union, Republic owners and lender Bank of America.

Union negotiators were unable to obtain a commitment from the parties to reopen the Goose Island plant, said United Electrical Workers organizer Mark Meinster. So the union has decided to forge ahead to find someone new to run the plant, he said, using some of the money donated from around the world during the sit-in.

An interesting analysis of the strike and its results can be found at socialistworker.org.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Updates on the Chicago sit-in

According to thenation.com:
President-elect Barack Obama gave encouragement Sunday to the members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110 members who have occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago to demand fair treatment from a company that shut down operations after the Bank of America denied the firm operating credit.

AlterNet has cross-posted Ian Welsh's Firedoglake analysis on the genesis of the shutdown at Republic Door and Window in Chicago: How Fumbling the Bailout Led to the Chicago Sit In

Angry Black Bitch also has an interesting analysis of the situation.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Who Are the Taliban?

This report from TomDispatch.com and the Nation, via Truthdig, is a bit long, but well worth reading.

When the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, "Afghans celebrated the downfall of a reviled and discredited regime," post author Anand Gopal reports. "...But years of mismanagement, rampant criminality, and mounting civilian casualties have led to a spectacular resurgence of the Taliban and other related groups." Apparently now many Afghans support the Taliban, and similar Islamic militant groups, because they see the militants as their protectors against rampant criminal activity.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Standing up by sitting down

A hat tip to Common Dreams for posting this article from thenation.com about the sitdown strike in Chicago by workers at Republic Windows and Doors Republic shut down on Friday after Bank of America -- which has received $25 billion in bailout assistance from U.S. taxpayers -- refused to extend operating credit to them.

Nation commentator John Nichols points out that Barack Obama can only create a new New Deal if there is grassroots activism to push him in that direction. The Chicago action reminds him of similar actions taken by workers in the 1930s that helped FDR create the original New Deal.

Here's the link I found at thenation.com for updates about the strike from the United Electrical Workers. Here's the link I found at the UE site to send a message to hold Bank of America accountable for their misbehavior.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Canadian constitutional crisis erupts

A constitutional crisis has erupted in Canada after Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper convinced Governor General Michaëlle Jean to suspend (or prorogue) Parliament until January 26. Harper took this action to put off a no-confidence vote that his minority government was almost certain to lose.

The Seattle Times has the one of the best discussions of the situation I've seen so far, including a sidebar with information about Canada's parliamentary form of government. A fuller discussion is provided by Wikipedia. And there is also an excellent analysis by historian Bob Beal at globeandmail.com..


Here's how the crisis developed. Early this week came the news that a coalition of Canadian political parties had moved to topple the recently elected minority government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. To the best of my understanding, the way that you get a "minority government" is when one party wins more parliamentary seats than any of the others, but not an absolute majority. This party can form the government if other parties don't form a coalition government that has more total seats than they do.
Several issues are at stake in the current crisis. First, the budget that Harper's finance minister submitted to Parliament failed to include any stimulus program to bolster Canada's weakening economy. According to Wikipedia, the proposal also would have suspended the right of federal employees to strike and right of women to take pay equity issues to court. Furthermore, the proposal would have eliminated public funding for political parties. Because Harper's wealthy Conservative Party has much greater access to private funds, this was seen as a direct attack on the opposition parties.

This inspired the Liberals and the New Democrats, with support from the separatist Bloc Québécois, to call for a no-confidence vote. This step could have allowed the Liberals and New Democrats to force Harper and the Conservatives from power and form a new coalition government without holding a new election.

Now, Canada is a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth as the official head of state. The queen's official representative in Canada is the governor-general, a post currently filled by a fascinating woman named Michaëlle Jean. In theory, the governor general has some serious reserve powers -- to summon or dissolve parliament, to withhold assent from laws (something like a veto in the US), to dismiss the prime minister. In practice, the governor general's powers are mostly ceremonial.He or she does summon or dissolve parliament, but at the request of the prime minister.

Michaëlle Jean has played a key role in the current crisis, and I think it's useful and interesting to get to know a little bit more about her. According to Wikipedia, as a child, Michaëlle Jean fled Haiti with her family to get away from the dictator François Duvalier. The family settled in Canada. Ms. Jean has a bachelor's degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and master's degree in comparative literature from the University of Montreal.  She has studied at several Italian universities. While a student, Ms. Jean worked at a women's shelter for many years, and later helped establish a Canadian network of shelters for women and children. She's been involved with organizations that help immigrants come to Canada. Before her selection as governor general, she worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and filmmaker. Among other things, Wikipedia describes her as the first black, the third woman, and the second person in an interracial marriage to serve as governor general.

In short, Michaëlle Jean seems like an unlikely person to help Conservative Stephen Harper retain control of government in the face of organized opposition from Liberals and New Democrats. What's up with that?

As Bob Beal describes it:
A governor-general has never refused a prime minister's request for prorogation [suspension of parliament], or put conditions on it. But prorogations are usually very routine affairs. No prime minister has ever asked for one when he faced an imminent confidence vote. That could be seen as asking the governor-general to interfere to the extent of cancelling or delaying the exercise of the most basic right members of the House have, to express confidence or non-confidence in a government.

Well, I'm no expert on Canadian politics, but I can think of two reasons Her Excellency the governor general may have decided to prorogue parliament in this circumstance.

One is that the situation is controversial and seems to have split the country along political and geographic lines. Might have Michaëlle Jean seen this action as a sort of middle course between dissolving parliament and calling new elections (which would seem to favor the Conservative position) and allowing the Liberal/NDP coalition to form a new government? The governor general is supposed to play a neutral, non-partisan role, and Ms. Jean has emphasized bringing all Canadians together.

My hunch would be that a more likely explanation comes from the history of Michaëlle Jean's appointment to the position of governor general. She comes from a French-speaking country, and is married to a French speaker. When former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin recommended Mme. Jean for the post, she was accused of favoring independence for French-speaking Quebec, and even of having friends among separatist terrorists. In response, she issued a statement affirming her full support for a united Canada.

In the current crisis, the separatist Bloc Québécois holds the balance of power. While not actually joining the government, the Bloc Québécois has promised to vote to allow the Liberal/NDP coalition to to take power. Without this support, the coalition would not have enough votes to form a government. According to the Wikipedia article on the crisis:
The Conservative Party's reaction to the formation of the coalition was to frame the parliamentary impasse as a national unity crisis.[41] In the House of Commons, Conservative MPs referred to Dion as a "traitor" for forming a "separatist coalition".[42] Although the Bloc Québécois had agreed to support the coalition only in matters of confidence, the Conservatives suggested that the Bloc would have considerable influence in creating policy. Harper stated in his address to the nation that "Canada's government cannot enter into a power-sharing coalition with separatists."[43]
Could Mme. Jean still feel she needs to bend over backwards to avoid even the appearance of favoritism to an arrangement that might favor the Quebec sovereignists?

The short answer is, I don't know. But as Angry Black Bitch points out,  we in the United States are not the only show around, "Canada also has some of the best political theater in North America!" (And thanks to ABB for the post that clued me in that the Canada situation had morphed from a controversy into a crisis.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers

The Center for Economic and Policy Research has published a report showing that
unionization raises the wages of the typical woman worker by 11.2 percent compared to their non-union peers. The study goes on to show that unionization also increases the likelihood that a woman worker will have health insurance and a pension. The report also notes that union membership results in health care and pension gains on par with the gains of a college education.

A link to the full report (in PDF format) is here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Breathing New Life Into Health Care

Truthdig has reposted an excellent column by Marie Cocco of the Washington Post.
Here's a snippet:

These are the immutable truths of the health care conundrum. They haven’t changed much in two decades. Costs are driven inexorably higher by continual advances in care as well as an aging population that needs more of it. Employers can’t cope unless they scale back coverage, shift costs to workers or eliminate benefits altogether. States have become insurers of last resort—but right now they face crippling budget shortfalls that threaten this safety net.

Using this compromised system as the basis for health insurance revision is folly—more so now than it was in the Clinton era, when more employers still were covering their workers. Tightening regulation of the insurance industry and creating a new, government-based plan to make coverage available to those who cannot afford to buy it from private insurers—the essence of Obama’s campaign proposal—would only add another layer of complexity and, eventually, cost. Only a single, government-financed system can eliminate the administrative waste, unfairness and economic burden of our current health insurance scheme.

Timidity is no longer an option.

Are you listening, HCAN?

Rape used to control resources in Congo

Inter Press Service reports that international indifference has allowed an epidemic of rapes to continue in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 5 million Congolese have died in an ongoing civil war since the overthrow of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.

According to IPS, playwright and activist Eve Ensler says that "Rape is being used as a deliberate tool to control people and territory."

Hundreds of women and children were raped yesterday, hundreds more today. This is an economic war that uses terror as its main weapon to ensure warlords and their bands control regions where international companies mine for valuable metals like tin, silver and coltan, or extract lumber and diamonds, Ensler said.

Coltan is a rare and extremely valuable metal used in cell phones, DVD players, computers, digital cameras, video games, vehicle air bags, and more. It has long been implicated as both the source of funding and primary cause of the ongoing conflict and extraordinary violence against women.

"A friend mapped the locations of the mass rapes in the DRC and they correspond to coltan mining regions," she said.

Thailand, not Canada, faces constitutional crisis

Here's a an interesting comparison of the current situation in the two countries from JOTMAN.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Odetta dies at 77

And here is the New York Times obituary of the folksinger they describe as "the voice of the civil rights movement."

Will this cure our healthcare woes?

Over on AlterNet, I found a post headlined Health Care: It's Time for a Major Overhaul.

This is supposed to be an inspiring story about how a grassroots coalition, headed by an impressive number of progressive organizations, is taking on the insurance industry to fight for a plan that guarantees health care to all U.S. citizens.

I would like to be inspired by Health Care for America Now. Post author Alexander Zaitchik describes HCAN as
an umbrella organization launched in July to win a "guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all" by the end of 2009. ACORN is one of 16 groups on the HCAN steering committee, which is a veritable Who's Who of progressive grassroots, netroots, and labor groups, including USAction, MoveOn, SEIU and the AFL-CIO. Four months after launching with a press conference in the National Press Building, HCAN now consists of more than 500 organizations and boasts the backing of the president-elect, his incoming chief of staff and 151 Democratic members of Congress, among them leading progressives and "pro-business" Blue Dogs alike.

Unfortunately, Zaitchik's article provides no specific information about what this plan would actually do.

So I visited healthcareforamericanow.org to find out what they're up to. The main page is devoted to getting us to sign up for HCAN and to electronically contact Congress to support their program. It's the kind of website that makes me irritable. Looks like they want us all to march along with them like good little soldiers without understanding exactly what we're supporting. But clicking the "about us" link brought up this explanation:
We're offering a bold new solution that gives you real choice and a guarantee of quality coverage you can afford: keep your current private insurance plan, pick a new private insurance plan, or join a public health insurance plan.

We're also calling for regulation on health insurance companies. We need to set and enforce rules that quash health insurance companies' greed once and for all. There is a huge divide between our plan and the insurance companies' plan for healthcare reform. We want to make sure you have the quality coverage you need at the price you can afford. They want to leave you alone to fend for yourself in the unregulated, bureaucratic health insurance market.

Our plan is affordable for people and business. Their plan is profitable for them. With no regulation, health insurance companies can and will charge whatever they want, set high deductibles, and continue to drop coverage when you get sick. Now is the time to pick a side. Which side are you on?

If you follow that last link, you will get the impression that there are two and only two positions available, either to support HCAN or the leave the system as it is. Of course, there is at least one more option, that of a single-payer health care system. Common Dreams posted this Los Angeles Times article that points out that in the growing consensus over healthcare reform, single-payer is exactly what's being left out of the discussion.

The good folks at HCAN could argue that their program would be a significant improvement over the existing mess. They might argue that enacting single-payer health care is politically impossible at this point. They might argue that the option of allowing citizens to sign up for a government-sponsored insurance program could eventually lead to single-payer insurance. It's even possible that they would be right about all of those things. But they're not saying any of those things. Instead, HCAN's goal seems to be to ignore or even squelch the discussion. In doing that, they've failed to win my support.

As a healthy alternative, I encourage folks to check out Physicians for a National Health Program.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No kidding, it's really a recession, folks

Thanks to Truthdig for this news item that confirms that No Kidding: U.S. Economy in Recession.

Wow. Really. A recession. Who would have guessed?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Canadian coalition topples Tories

This just in from Open Left:
Canada's three Opposition parties have united to replace the governing Conservative Party with a Liberal/NDP formal coalition just six weeks after voters returned the CPC to power with a near parliamentary majority. This is a stunning turn of events.

AMA: Mammograms Detecting Breast Cancers That Would Regress Without Treatment

Hey. Look at this fascinating post that I found over on the Feminist Peace Network.