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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Health Care and the Republicans Iowa Debate

TANCREDO: It is unhealthy to have a government health care plan in America... The expansion of health savings accounts... But let's do something about the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in this country that are taking a large part of out health care dollars.
MADMAN: Has anyone met Congressman Rainman? All this guy talks about are illegal aliens. Hey, Rainman - there is no "extra money" in the pockets of the average American to "save" for their health care. Giving a family of four a tax break to save for health care when they pay little or no taxes to begin with is not only stupid, but dishonest.
By the way, what time is Wapner starting?

MIKE HUCKABEE: Either give every American the same type of health care Congress has or give Congress the same type of health care Americans have... It focuses on the system at the catastrophic level of disease rather than prevention.
MADMAN: You see, if Huckabee would have stopped right after giving every American the same health care as Congress, this would have been the statement of the debate; it would have separated Huckabee from the rest of a pack of GOP Presidential candidates that don't want any real form of national health care that covers all Americans. However, much like Tancredo and immigration, Huckabee, the former Arkansas Governor who lost about 100 pounds, has become the poster boy of "If I can do it, so can you." What he fails to realize is that there are sick people in this nation who can't see a doctor when they are sick. It's true that early detection can be the remedy and the eventual prevention solution for many Americans, however, without the ability to see a doctor for regular checkups, there will be Americans who won't be treated until it's too late.
Less fat people is a great idea as is making our children healthier at a younger age. But with the combination of both parents working and the government constantly cutting funds to public schools for after school programs, children have no where else to go but home. And home is where the cupcakes, video games soda and potato chips are waiting for them until Mom or Dad get home. With suburban children living much more isolated lives than their urban ancestors, there can be no doubt that "playing in the street and having the neighbors watch them" is no longer the option it once was, and we, as parents, won't allow our children outside without supervision or at least greater numbers.
So as nice as Huckabee makes his soundbite seem, and no matter how many GOP faithful applauded as he said it, it isn't all that easy.
HUCKABEE: And its almost like having a boat that's taking on water. And instead of plugging the hole, we want to get a bigger Bucket.
MADMAN: Not so, Governor "Take-in-the-Pants. It's like having a boat with a hole (the health care system) and allowing the bucket manufacturer and water companies (the health care insurance companies and their lobbyists) to supply us with dribble glasses to remove the water.

TOMMY THOMPSON: I want you to know that health care is one of my major dominant fields. I was Secretary of Health.
MADMAN: At this point, I stopped the video because I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. As secretary of Health, just what had Thompson accomplished? (Allow me to wait an appropriate silence period.) NOTHING!
THOMPSON: The problem is neither one of them are right (referring to Huckabee and who preceded Huckabee). The problem is that Governor Huckabee is absolutely correct.
MADMAN: If neither one is right, how can one of the two be absolutely correct? Some has got to get this guy off the stage before hew starts chewing on his foot again.
THOMPSON: Let's start managing diseases in America. Let's make sure that individuals that are chronically ill and physically disabled are able to get the quality of health and therefore the quality of life - they take up to 66 percent of the cost. Let's get that down to 50 percent... And for the uninsured, you can get one form for taxes and one form for employment and save $137 billion. That would pay for all of the uninsured in America, without raising taxes, ladies and gentlemen.
MADMAN: Where does Thompson get his figures anyway? Hey Tommy, if we end the Iraq war now, we'd save about that same amount of money as well. Let's end it and start providing health care for all today. BY the way, Secretary/ Governor Thompson, if 40 percent of all health care costs are spent on "overhead", as the health care insurance companies giants want us to believe, how can an additional 66 percent be spent on the chronically ill and physically disabled? That adds up to 106 percent, doesn't it? Someone get the Secretary/ Governor a calculator, please.

MITT ROMNEY: We have to have our people insured but we aren't going to do it with tax exemptions because the poor - the people who aren't insured aren't paying taxes. What we have to do is what we did in Massachusetts... with a free market based system.
MADMAN: Just when I was about to say "Mitt's on to something here", he puts his foot in his mouth. The Mass health care system enacted during his administration's reign was passed, veto-free by the Mass legislature. Romney, who was against requiring all of his constituents to have health care had his veto overridden by the state's Democratic majorities. Had it been left up to Romney, at least ten percent of those covered would have no health care at all and still would have been the same burden on the Bay State as they were before.

RUDY GIULIANI (dripping with sarcasm): If we want the kind of results that England, France, Canada and Cuba, as Michael Moore wants us to do, then we should go in that direction... We should give them a major tax deduction, a $15,000 tax deduction.
MADMAN: Even after Romney just explained in the plainest of terms that those without health care coverage don't pay anywhere close to $15,000 per year in taxes (if they pay anything at all), Rudy stays on message. Much like the regime he wishes to replace, it's "Stay the Course" regardless of the truth or the consequences.

Listening to the Health Care Insurer provided noise as it comes through the GOP presidential candidates, one has to wonder how some Americans actually believe that a "Health Care for Some and None or Not Enough for the Rest" system can be tolerated by an American public whose majority is screaming for some sort of national health care plan. The Republicans claim that a federally mandated health care plan would somehow bankrupt our nation and increase our taxes to a point that even our rich would become poor. At the same time they point to continuing a system that excludes one out of every six of their fellow Americans, they belittle systems that are actually working in other western nations.

We have models of how well health care for everyone plans work today when we look at the millions of Americans who are in unions which control their health care and retirement. Americans who world under the protection of labor unions might earn less money than those of us in the private sector performing the same job, but they get education, health care and retirement benefits partially paid for by employers and their union dues. Does anyone out there doubt that after working for a generation as a union member leaves one better off than those working at the same position in the private sector without union protections and programs. it's something that the GOP as a whole refuse to acknowledge and it boggles the mind.

I wonder what a non-partisan crowd (a REAL non-partisan crowd) would take away from a debate solely on health care in the US between all candidates, Democrat or Republican.

I wonder what that same debate would look like if it were held before the working uninsured of our nation.

Now THAT would be interesting. I wonder if any of the Republicans would make it out alive.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, Inc.


While the nation swelters in the sweaty grip of another global warming summer, we are left to wonder how safe we are as a nation.

No, we’re not talking about terrorist threats or the war on Iraq. We’re talking about our own infrastructure. For once TV news was onto a real story this week, instead of Michael Chertoff’s gut.

The news is not good.

The tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis on August 1st raised questions about just how safe the thousands of bridges in America might be. Remember that bridge that Tony Soprano kept driving over? Well, it just got a rating of two out of 100 for “structural deficiency.” The Minneapolis bridge got a rating of 50. Bet James Gandolfini’s glad he doesn’t have to drive over the Pulaski anymore.

Apparently 70,000 bridges all over America are suffering from stress, and structural deficiency, which could cause another serious collapse like the one in Minneapolis.

So what’s a commuter to do? Do we end up with collective bridge phobia? Are Oakland dwellers destined never to enter the City by the Bay again–and vice versa, since that bridge got a rating of 27? Are Brooklynites destined to be stranded and Manhattanites marooned, since that bridge has a rating of 39? Or do we just relax and be happy and not worry about the impending doom?

According to in-depth reports from ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN, we should be concerned, but not go into an gephyrophobic (fear of bridge) spin. But here’s a point no one raised. The feds say there’s no money to repair all the aging bridges in America because it would cost billions.

What about that $500 billion we’ve spent on Iraq? Oh right–that was to *destroy* Iraq’s infrastructure, not *fix* our own.

We’d also just like to note for the record that as tragic as the bridge collapse was, it was *not* Katrina. Yet both President Bush and his wife were on hand two days after the disaster for photo ops and pledges of help. Meanwhile, a few tons of ice being kept in trucks since Katrina (kept because it was never delivered when people were dying of dehydration in New Orleans two summers ago) was finally dumped out to melt this week.

It cost $13 million to keep it in the trucks. And did anyone drive the trucks to drought-stricken areas to dump the ice and maybe do *some* good with it? No.
How many days till November 2008?

Speaking of political mis-steps, it’s difficult to imagine how a majority of the candidates for 2008 are going to pull themselves out of the poll slump they are in. If the election were held today, or tomorrow, or next week, it would be Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in the same kind of landslide with which she won both her Senate terms. The new polls were out August 3rd and they didn’t look good for anyone but Clinton.

It’s hard to imagine that the new crop of “Bush, who’s Bush?” Republicans could have lower approval ratings than the President himself, and yet–they do. Giuliani is still the front-runner, but he’s a gazillion points behind Hillary (okay, only 12, but in this race, that’s huge). McCain and Romney are at 17 and 11 percent, respectively. Fred Thompson, who remains undeclared, the better to keep his platform as secret as possible a la Dick Cheney, his hero, is at 18 percent.

Things are equally grim on the Democratic side if you aren’t Hillary. Clinton’s lead is now massive. According to all the polls–CNN, NBC, ABC–on August 3rd, she’s at 44 percent. Her closest rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), has plummeted to 21 percent, an 11-point drop in just two months. John Edwards is at 11 percent and no one else among the Democrats has even raised themselves beyond a three percent share.

But that massive lead and the reluctant acknowledgment by every pundit that the reason for the big leap is that she’s won every debate hands down with her pink-jacketed arms tied behind her back, hasn’t kept the pundits from trying to dismiss her lead.

Tim “Bush is my hero” Russert was beside himself on *NBC Nightly News* trying to find a way to mince or parse her lead. But NBC’s own poll numbers were clear: In a race with Giuliani, she’d win by eight points. In a race with McCain, she’d win by 20 points. In a race where it was her, Giuliani and Bloomberg, she wouldn’t lose points, Giuliani would. She’d still win.

Cokie Roberts and David Gergen were on ABC’s *This Week* trying to paint her the way they painted her husband 15 years ago: As a commie, pinko, radical leftist, socialized-medicine pushing...front runner.

Gergen, a seasoned analyst who goes from right to left like a wind sock, couldn’t dispute her command of the issues and the debates. But he still tried to portray her as too left-leaning. Meanwhile Roberts was insisting that taking a stance to bring the troops home was an extremist view, instead of the mainstream opinion of all of *centrist* America.

Meanwhile, Hillary’s playmates are beside themselves trying to find a way to bring her down. Edwards (and he wonders why he keeps getting slammed with the “faggot” remarks) attacked the pink jacket. Obama went in a different direction–literally–and decided to leap wildly to the right of her.

In an effort to prove that he isn’t as un-savvy on foreign policy as he appears to be in every debate, on August 2nd Obama said he’d invade Pakistan.

Way to show you aren’t Bush-lite, Senator.

Then there’s that Bill factor. ABC’s weekend anchor Kate Snow spent last week in Africa with a sexy, smooth, utterly confident and totally beloved Bill Clinton doing what he’s been doing for the past seven years–working on AIDS in Africa. (You can view her entire trip and see her interviews with him at ABCnews.com)

There are only two camps on Clinton, those who hate him and those who love him. Only the politically comatose have no opinion. But far more people love than hate him and that can only benefit Hillary.

What we’ve seen in the debates is what we’ve seen for years: She’s tough enough to run with the bulls at Pamplona. When she declared on the January 27, 1998 *Today Show* in a now-infamous interview with host Matt Lauer that there was a “vast right wing conspiracy” going after her husband, people dismissed her.

Well, it turned out she was correct. Except the conspiracy was broader than even she envisioned. In the intervening years it’s taken us to Iraq and to the brink of a constitutional crisis in our government.

But Hillary identified it, believed in it and refused to be beaten by it. That, more than anything, is why she’s winning the debates. Where Al Gore and John Kerry didn’t think they had to take the Republicans on at their own level, Hillary gets it and refuses to let them set her agenda.

The next debate is in a week. Watch her trounce the competition. It’s a smackdown, alright.

Speaking of smackdowns, *The View* has two new hosts, both of whom promise the occasional smackdown, if not the ferocity with which Rosie O’Donnell wiped her competition. Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd bring some color–literally–to all-white daytime talk. We all know Whoopi, but Shepherd (who was guest-hosting on what ended up being Rosie’s last day when she duked it out with Elisabeth Hasselbeck) isn’t as well-known. A stand-up comedian, she was a regular on *Everybody Loves Raymond.* The show can only be better with these two spitfires speaking their left-leaning minds.

Speaking of daytime, *Good Morning America* co-host Robin Roberts, who has been on everybody’s dykes-to-watch-out-for list for eons, announced on the August 1st show that she has breast cancer.

A tearful Roberts, who is only 47, told Diane Sawyer and the audience that she had discovered a lump in her breast on the day *GMA* movie critic Joel Siegel died of cancer. A mammogram showed nothing, but a follow-up ultra-sound and biopsy did.

Roberts had surgery on August 3rd and was home recuperating on August 4th (proving that even celebrities don’t get to stay in the hospital for long these days). Roberts has promised to chart the course of her recovery, through surgery, chemo and radiation. You can see her comments or post your own at ABCnews.com.

ABC has two new shows debuting this week that are newsy and of interest in this doldrums summer. On Tuesday nights *Prime Time Crime* airs, followed by the much heralded *iCaught.* The former is one of ABC’s limited series, all of which have been superb. The latter focuses on YouTube-type user-generated videos with play-by-play commentary. It’s being touted as the newsmagazine for the YouTube generation. Screening the first episode churned our stomach, but YouTubers may delight in its raw footage. Check out scenes at ABCnews.com.

Speaking of getting caught, we’ve been kvetching all summer that Luke (Van Hansis) still doesn’t have a boyfriend on *As the World Turns,* which seemed grossly unfair given that he’s been languishing on the show for two years. Well, this week he admitted to Noah (Jake Silbermann) that he’s gay and he has a thing for him. Noah was naturally taken aback and immediately said he’s not gay.

But previews for next week have presented quite a teaser: Luke and Noah shirtless and wet at the Snyder farm, accidentally falling into each other in the kitchen, Noah up against Luke who is up against the sink.

It looked steamy to us. And frankly, even if it doesn’t go anywhere, this one scene is more action than Luke has seen since he came out two years ago. How cutting edge would it be for *ATWT* to have a love triangle involving two boys and a girl where one of the guys is in the middle? Looks promising, but time will tell.

Finally, our rant of the week is once again about the news you aren’t seeing: News coverage of the Minneapolis catastrophe was superb. But while the networks fell over themselves to present the most accurate info, they also neglected all the other news. Southeast Asia is currently having the worst floods in 60 years, a direct result of global warming. Russia staked out ground beneath the polar ice caps for oil drilling. And civilian casualties were up 60 percent in Iraq for the month of July.

Just so you know.

Stay tuned.

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-Noah Greenberg