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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A Bad Decision in the Lead
by The "Four Justices of the Apocalypse", Plus One


"We hold that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline,"
-Justice Anthony M. Kennedy


Today the Supreme Court ruled that public employees should not speak up when a wrong is committed. Voting along with Justice Kennedy were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and the "new guy", Samuel A. Alito Jr. Basically, in their five-to-four decision, the "Four Justices of the Apocalypse", plus one, said that government employees could be punished for "whistle-blowing" because, as public employees, they were no covered by the First Amendment.

In other words, once someone decides to work for the government they no longer are covered by the US Constitution.

 

The case stems from a California assistant district attorney who felt he was passed by for a promotion because he pointed out that a warrant was improper

This ruling will make it less likely that any public employee will speak their mind for the American people for fear of reprisal. These justices have done an injustice to the spirit of the US Constitution. Ask yourself this question: How would the authors of the Constitution voted on this issue?

maybe, from now on, any whistle blowing that a public employee does will have to be as a private citizen. Does that mean that every time a DA or policeman of firefighter witnesses something wrong in the line of duty they're going to have to quit to report it? Or are they simply going to have to "leak" /the news to reporters and such?

Worse than that, however, is the implications it has on Washington politics. The next step to this ruling could allow the justice department a license to look into the private lives of public employees to make sure that they are, or aren't, the whistle-blowers. I can hear the excuse now: "After all, we are doing it to rule them out, for their own good. If they did nothing wrong, then they have nothing to fear."

One wonders how much longer it will take for this ruling to make it into the corporate world. Just ask Enron whistle blower, Sherron Watkins, her opinion on the matter.

The "Four Justices of the Apocalypse" plus one, have made a poor ruling that could only lead to the misuse of power, and power, as we have seen all through the administration of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush, is easily misused.

 

When you give someone a hammer, they will always find a nail.

 

Keep this in mind that from now until one of the "Four Justice's of the Apocalypse's  deaths or retirement: These four will consistently vote for the interests of big business over the US Constitution; These four will consistently vote for government over the people they are supposed to serve; These four will consistently protect power over people.


-Noah Greenberg



A "Not-So-Uncommon" Problem with the US Health Care System

Most of us are just happy to have a job which provides us with some form of health care coverage. Over the last few years, however, most of us have seen our employers pay for less of our coverage (on a percentage basis) while we pay more for the "employee contribution" portion of the bill. Companies, not wanting to discriminate against married people with children, have come up with formulas to split the cost. Here is one company's formula:

At present, this employer offers two different plans for all of his employees: An HMO (Health Management Organization) that would pay for nearly all of a family's doctor visits and hospital stays; and a POS (Point of Service) plan that pays for a percentage (60 percent to 80 percent of "usual and customary"). A single employee pays nothing while a married employee with children pays nothing for himself and half of the cost of the difference in the family plan. Most every employee takes the HMO.

What happens when your doctor isn't on your plan? You simply have to change your doctor. So, after years of getting familiar with your physician, you have to start all over again. And what happens if you need a particular doctor? You may well be out of luck.

Take, for example, a family with which I am well acquainted. One of their children has a terrible disease, NF2 (Neurofibromatosis Type 2), which requires frequent sugeries to remove benign tumors. With this disease, it is more common for the afflicted person to lose their hearing over time and coclear implants are usually not implanted. There is a device known as an ABI (Acoustic Brainstem Implant) which offers the patient varying degrees of hearing (most use it as an aid in lip reading). There are a scant few doctors who perform successful, complete removals of the tumors and even fewer who are capable of implanting the ABI. In this example, it is impossible for the employee to take the cheaper HMO because his child's doctors aren't on that plan. His employer's old plan included these doctors and he was covered for 100 percent of his child's very expensive hospital stays.

So now, this employee takes the more expensive POS plan. The "employee participation" cost increases from $270per month to $814 per month. The plan covers 80 percent of all office visits to "out of network" doctors and 60 percent of all "inpatient" services (hospital stays). The maximum "out-of-pocket" expense to the employee, per family member, per year, is $5,210. However...

When you go to the doctor's office or to the hospital, they hand you this piece of paper known as the "guarantor Signee Page" (that might not be what everybody calls it). It simply says that "If the 'usual and customary payment is less than the invoiced amount, you may be responsible for the difference." Unless you made a deal with the doctor prior to the visit, there will always be a "difference". So, that $5,210 "maximum out-of-pocket", which was hard enough to afford for a typical American, could turn into thousands and thousands of dollars.

Imagine an American family whose only wage-earner brings home an earned income of $65,000 per year. They pay their 7.65 percent Social Security and Medicare (combined) along with their state and municipal taxes. If they own their own home, they pay their real estate taxes as well. You can add on gasoline for the car to get to work, or a monthly train ticket, home heating fuel, groceries, books for their children and a host of other expenses. Assuming that this family comes home with about $46,000 of his pay (after taxes - and I am being very generous here - and paying the "employee participation" share), there isn't much left to pay off these doctor and hospital bills.

Here is another example from that same family: That same child requires something called "trigger-point injections", an outpatient surgical exam which can e performed by a pain Management Doctor in one of those up and coming outpatient "surgi-centers". Assuming that no deal was made prior to the procedure, and the charged amount is double what the insurance company considers "usual and customary", you have to make up the difference. In this family's case, they made a deal that still costs them hundreds of dollars for each and every procedure.

Take another example (the same child): During one surgery, the facial and auditory nerves had to be constantly tested (sending a low volt charge through the nerve) during a large part of the ten hour procedure. Whereas the hospital accepted the insurance payment, and the neurosurgeon offered to take what the insurance companies gave him, the inclusion of the anesthesiologist and the nerve specialist weren't a part of that deal (the neurosurgeon didn't bother to mention the deals to the other doctors). The anesthesiologist's bill was $7,000 for the day's work and he received "only" $3,000 for the "usual and customary" payment. That's a $4,000 invoice sent to this family each and every month. The other doctor, whose service is an unusual specialty, charged $7,000 for his participation. The insurance company paid less than $4,000 for that "usual and customary" payment.

At any given moment, there are between 43 and 48 million uninsured Americans. However, when you combine that number with underinsured Americans, that number rises to over 62 percent. It is a number that climbs like Dick "Go <F---> Yourself" Cheney's stock portfolio has climbed during the Bush years.

SIXTY-TWO PERCENT OF ALL AMERICANS ARE EITHER UNINSURED OR UNDER-INSURED.

That number is staggering and insulting and the trend needs to stop now. Health care for all Americans will continue to be a dead issue offering only lip service and rhetoric while lobbyists are able to spread their own, special brand of "advice", attached to dollars, throughout the halls of congress. health care reform begins with the abolition of health care industry lobbyists. For that matter, any and all reform begins with and end to lobbying as a form of payola.

What do you call 10,000 lobbyists at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start


-Noah Greenberg



In his book Hostile Takeover, David Sirota writes:

Let's be honest--very few political operatives, politicians or pundits actually want to explore the real-life, day-to-day economic challenges facing the American people, because to explore them would ultimately force us to admit that our entire venerated political system is totally corrupt.

Take this idiotically simple question that is almost never asked in the normal course of this country's political debate: Why do we hear so much about how well-off America is, yet our country has the highest number of uninsured (health care insurance) citizens in the industrialized world?

Why isn't that question asked? Because you can't answer it honestly without exploring how Corporate America has bought off enough politicians to make sure our government helps corporations perpetuate this travesty.

I'm not na´ve. I know that corporations exist for one reason and one reason only: the relentless, single-minded pursuit of profit, no matter who gets shafted. That is their stated purpose in a capitalist society, and that's fine. But in our country, corporations aren't supposed to pursue this purpose in a vacuum, unchecked, unregulated, unopposed. There is supposed to be a counterweight, a government separate from Big Business whose job is to prevent the corporate profit motive from destroying society.

***

Darn right! A single-payer system is being held back by the insurance companies. How is this government by the people and for the people when special interest can hold the people hostage?

-Robert Scardapane



More from David Sirota's book Hostile Takeover:

My writing isn't like a negative campaign ad -- a negative campaign ad is designed to suppress turnout by saying, "Look, the other guy's a dirtbag." What I'm trying to say is: Look at how corrupt this system is to its bone. And look at how we're being lied to, and all the solutions that I lay out are relatively straightforward. And the way we get there is for us to start thinking about systemic change and not just the day-to-day political bickering you see on Hardball or Meet the Press. In many ways, all of that is part of the corrupt system.

So what I'm really trying to do is to open up the possibility to folks that all of this stuff -- the entire system -- is not just a creation of nature. It didn't just happen. On all of these issues, we are experiencing a very deliberately constructed system. It's constructed by humans; it's not something that God just created. And once we realize that, then we realize that we can actually change it.

A great example -- which I talk about a lot -- is these free-trade deals, which are like a religion. They're not free -- they're extremely protectionist. This free-trade crap is viewed like a religion, like it's just the natural way of things. But they're written by corporations very deliberately and in great detail in order to do certain things and not others - namely, protect corporate profits, while leaving workers and the environment totally unprotected. Once we step back and say, "Wait a minute, that's not the natural order of things," then you can change it.

So my optimistic hope is that when people realize that this corrupt system is not divine and is changeable, then people will react.
***

I sure hope you are right Mr. Sirota. That's why I keep fighting ... in my gut, I believe that the corporatists can be defeated though I know it won't be easy and may not an economic disaster to motivate it.


-Robert Scardapane



Bush, Blair and a Lack of Integrity

For Memorial Day, I would like to comment on something President Bush said in his recent joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. After admitting mistakes and saying the WMD, that in the President's own words, "we all knew were there."

"the American people need to know the War in Iraq is being fought based on conditions on the ground and not on politics,"
-Bush, using a tone of voice flowing with power

This is prime example of Bush not making statements that are even internally consistent.
-If we invaded Iraq to destroy non-existent WMD, one can only say that we launched the whole invasion based on politics, and not on the situation on the ground.
-If "we all knew," the non-existent WMD were there, how can any intelligence statement Bush makes ever be taken at face value?

The President and the Prime Minister have once again stood up in front of their respective peoples, looked straight into the camera and told blatant lies.

We must keep these performances in mind whenever either one of them speaks.


-Robert Chapman



The final remark to the DCCC answers regarding immigration belong to Carol F. Yost:

Noah, thanks for responding to what I said. You don't, however, address what I wrote about making America accessible so as to prevent more agony. Most people can't come here with plans like the ones you lay out. They're desperate. And if they were allowed to make themselves legal without a lot of hassle, then they would be able to demand better wages--knocking out the objection you have to people coming in and lowering the working wage because of what they are willing (actually forced) to accept. They'd then be able to find decent places to live, etc. Most American citizens don't want to make it too easy to come here legally because of bias--they don't want many Mexicans, Asians, etc. The people who holler the loudest about legalizing immigrants are the comfortable whites who are trying hard as the dickens to look righteous and caring. I come from a background like that and I know.


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-Noah Greenberg