Posts Tagged ‘public option’



Stocking Stuffer: From eMeg Elf to Parking Rage

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

047-260Frankly, we don’t give a damn that the boys at Craigslist think Meg Whitman is a “monster,” cuz she’s the only candidate for governor classy enough to send us an eCard for the holidays.

eMeg’s holly jolly web message has all the essentials of the classic political jing-jing-a-ling greeting card: pine boughs on the mantle and a carefully positioned poinsettia, not to mention a bright red sweater direct from Mrs. Claus’’s closet.

That said, our Holiday Special Event Planning team has a few upgrade suggestions for her production crew. For starters, where’d they get the lighting guy – the night shift at Candlestick Park? He sure didn’t do the boss lady any favors by letting her forehead shine like the Christmas Star, or leaving the right side of her face in a shadow suitable for Darth Vader.

Starshine Roshell, the popular third wave feminist columnist and Calbuzz Health, Beauty and Girly Stuff Consultant, also notes that poor eMeg’s tired eyes look like she’s been doing hard time at Guatanamo.

“What, her makeup person never heard of frownies?” Starshine said.

All that aside, we greatly appreciate Meg including one of us (the coal-in-the-stocking guy is still pouting) on her holiday list, along with three or four million of her other closest friends.

Best wishes for the New Year – and let’s do dinner soon!

sayaahOpen and say ahhh: As Calbuzz spends countless hours in closed-door caucus hashing out our position on the Senate health care bill – Tastes Great! Less Filling! – the noisy debate between principled  progressives and hard-headed moderates pragmatists about whether the legislation would do more harm or good for the nation’s troubled health care system rages on.

Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, offers a strong critique from the medical front lines for the former view here while the lefty Progressive Change Campaign Committee has put up a TV ad in Wisconsin attacking Obama as a sell-out on health care, in an effort to pressure liberal Senator Russ Feingold, who’s been critical of the bill, to oppose the measure.

All of which caused John Harwood’s head to explode.

Chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC, Harwood leveled a realpolitick blast at liberals that had some ‘60s veteran Calbuzzers breaking out the love beads and lip synching “Purple Haze.”

So much of the commentary that I’ve heard has been really idiotic. Liberals who want universal health care ought to be thanking Harry Reid for getting this done rather than talking about what’s inadequate in the bill. I’m not saying the bill is a good bill.

But if you’re a liberal and you want universal coverage in this country, and think that you can do better, that Harry Reid can do better than he’s done, that the White House can do better, they ought to lay off the hallucinogenic drugs because we’ve had a vivid demonstration of the limits of political possibilities on this issue.

Ohhhh…man…I took 500 mics and now I’m hearin’ weird shit on the electric television…

Ahem. An interesting under card debate to the main event is the question of how big a broken campaign promise is represented by Obama tossing the public option under the bus.

The Man himself claimed in a Washington Post interview that he “didn’t campaign on the public option.” But Sam Stein, Arianna’s resourceful political go-to-guy, did a super job of exhaustively examining the record on the issue, turning up a batch of pro-public option statements by Obama, along with a long string of reports reprising his support, which Big O’s  mouthpieces never pushed back on during the campaign.

One of the best things written on what the president’s performance on health care reveals about him, his beliefs and values, besides our own analysis of course, comes from Drew Westen, who’s big time underwhelmed:

What’s costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.

Press Clips: The Ross Douthat Fan Club was once again agog this week when the Drew Pearson of the New Millenium managed to squeeze Pochahontas, Jedi Knights and Leszek Kolakowski into a 750-word riff on pantheism, the virgin birth and the works of Eckhart Tolle. On the seventh day, Ross rested.

Must-read of the week: The WashPost’s wide-ranging investigative feature on the Salahis, a tale of one obnoxious couple’s struggle to find fame, fortune and free dinners in Our Nation’s Capital. Worth the price of admission: The previously untold anecdote of how they caused a scene, when it came time for everyone to take their assigned seats at the famous state dinner, by faking they’d just learned of a family medical emergency.

Tiger Beat: It’s bad enough that Tiger Woods has lost his good name, his wife’s affections and millions in endorsements (not to mention his mom being really mad at him). Now he’s lost his column in Golf Digest. Having been fired from a few columns ourselves back in the day, we finallytrotsky found something that made us shed a tear for poor Elwick.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Every gentlewoman of our acquaintance knows to check her purse for wallet, keys and ice pick before walking out the door, in the event she gets into a beef over a parking spot. Leon Trotsky call home!

The Only School Nurse in Congress Talks Health Care

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

loiscappsRep. Lois Capps, whose 23rd District includes portions of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, first won office in 1998 after a special election to succeed her late husband, Walter H. Capps. A former school nurse, she has passed legislation to address the national nursing shortage, improve mental health services and provide Medicare coverage to patients suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. A supporter of a public option for health insurance, she gave a Five Questions interview to Calbuzz correspondent Susan Rose shortly before President Obama’s speech on health care reform to Congress this week.

1. What are the chances of getting a health care reform program passed this year?

We will pass health insurance reform this year. It’s no easy task; if it was, we’d have done it years ago. But we will get legislation enacted this year.

2. In the Energy and Commerce committee, you voted for HR 3200, which has a public health option component. Some progressives have argued that doing health care reform without a public option isn’t worth doing – do you support that stance?

I believe the public option is the best way for us to enact meaningful health insurance reform because it is a tool we can use to give Americans greater choice in health care and keep costs down. I voted for the bill that passed the Energy and Commerce Committee (and) also expect to vote for a bill on the House floor that includes a strong public option. I talked to the Speaker about this recently and she told me that she expects the bill to pass the House with a strong public health option. I’m not going to sign a pledge or box myself in at this early stage but I certainly think the best way to increase the number of folks with coverage and lower costs for everyone is a public health insurance option.

3.The health reform debate has included a discussion of health co-ops as an alternative to a public option. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?

Co-ops are problematic. They haven’t been used as widely. I am skeptical about their effectiveness as a stand alone solution to escalating health insurance costs and the many other barriers to care currently presented by private health insurance companies. Co-ops could exist side by side with the public option. But I think a robust public option would be the most effective way to make premiums affordable and ensure everyone has coverage.

4. You have held three town hall meetings and held other events on health care in your district. Disrupted town hall meetings have been called “astroturf” protests by Speaker Pelosi. Do you think these protesters accurately reflect public opinion about health care reform?

I do think most of my constituents share my view that our health insurance system is broken and we need reform now. It seems like a lot of the loudest protests against health insurance reform that we’ve seen around the country have been organized by individuals or groups committed to protecting the status quo or trying to damage President Obama.

Health care is an important issue to everyone and it’s understandable that there is a lot of emotion on this issue especially given the blatant misinformation campaign about the bill. It’s a real shame that so much of the argument against common sense reform is about scaring people – like the so-called “death panels” or this business about the government supposedly “taking over health care.” Meanwhile, families with coverage can see it vanish with the loss of a job or an unexpected illness or accident. I believe that most Americans, and most of my constituents, do want change and the groups who have been most vocal in disrupting town halls and similar events are in the minority.

5. How has your professional experience as a nurse guided your approach?

I know too well from my experience working as a school nurse what it means for a child and/or their family to go without health coverage. That’s why my number one priority was ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance as part of this legislation. I also know that we have a serious shortage of nurses and physicians who can provide critical primary care services. That’s why I worked to ensure that our health reform legislation included important incentives to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals providing primary and preventive care, particularly in medically underserved communities.

Just Because ‘Survey Says…’ Don’t Make It So

Monday, August 31st, 2009

This article was also published today in the Los Angeles Times.

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Daily Kos, the influential liberal web site, recently released a poll they commissioned that found that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was just nine points behind Attorney General Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary race for governor.

Within minutes, the San Francisco Chronicle posted a blog item saying the poll showed  the race was “narrowing,” comparing it to a June survey, conducted by a different company, which gave Brown a 20-point lead over Newsom. The item was quickly picked up and posted by Rough & Tumble, California’s premier political news aggregator. Then it was reported and re-blasted by The Fix at the Washington Post, one of the top political sites in the country. Within 12 hours, this characterization of California’s race for governor became received wisdom.

There was only one problem with this wisdom: it was wrong.

The incident illustrates how political misinformation and misinterpretation can be more viral than the truth in the Internet News Age, as reporting on polls pulses through the electronic highway, launched by news organizations with little time to evaluate and sift the quality of research. In recent weeks, a series of California political surveys have produced a cacophony of often conflicting analysis, opinion and reporting that served to confuse readers and distort political perceptions.

For example, comparing and measuring the Daily Kos poll, conducted by Research 2000, against the previous poll – done with a completely different methodology by Moore Methods Research of Sacramento – created a false equivalency. In fact, a recent follow-up poll by poll director James Moore, who has long experience in California, found that, far from tightening, Brown’s lead over Newsom has grown to 29 percentage points.

A poll’s methodology – including the sample size, method of selection and phrasing of questions– is crucial. The Kos survey, for example, used random digit dialing to reach California adults. To identify them as “likely voters,” pollsters asked respondents several questions, including whether they considered themselves Democrats or Republicans. But  identifying 600 likely voters didn’t provide the number of Democrats and Republicans statistically necessary to measure the primaries, so pollsters called more people until they had 400 self-identified Republicans and 400-self-identified Democrats. Then, as they put it, “Quotas were assigned to reflect the voter registration of distribution by county.”

After this statistical slicing and dicing, the survey produced a final sample of alleged likely voters that included 18% under age 30 and 19% age 60 and older. But according to a real-world screen of likely voters — based on actual voting histories — the June 2010  primary electorate is expected to include about 6% people under 30 and 38% people over 60.

These issues alone would be enough to distort the state of the Brown-Newsom race. But will any of them surface when the next reporter Googles the California governor’s race, looking for standings? Not a chance. Why does it matter? Because misreporting of  polls  allows campaign spinners not only to boost or suppress candidate fundraising, but also to manipulate news coverage frame campaign narratives and shape public perceptions.

The Kos poll is far from an isolated incident, as misreading and misinterpretation of survey research have become endemic on the Web. Consider the following:

A recent poll by the widely-respected Public Policy Institute of California, for example, reported that 53% of registered voters now favor more drilling off the California coast, a finding trumpeted by supporters of the policy. But respondents were asked their view on drilling as one of several approaches “to address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources,” a question — as Calbuzz explained — likely to elicit a much different response than one about the environmental impacts of drilling.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that only 43% of those surveyed supported a “public option” for health care reform – an apparently dramatic swing from its previous poll, which found 76% support for the policy. Upon closer examination, though, it turned out pollsters in the first survey asked people if they wanted the “choice” of a public option. In the later poll, they omitted the key word “choice,” asking simply whether respondents favored a public option. When Survey USA a short time later used the original language, 77% of respondents said they favored the public option, confirming the finding in the first NBC/WSJ survey.

Some political analysts, citing an increase in the number and proportion of “independent” voters who decline to affiliate with a major party, have argued that California is becoming a post-partisan “purple state.” But the recent release of 30 years of surveys by the Field Poll showed how wrong this analysis is. On a host of ideologically divisive issues, like abortion rights and same-sex marriage, independents have much the same attitudes as Democrats, keeping California a very blue state.

As established news organizations increasingly cut costs, first-rate, independent, non-partisan polling is becoming scarcer. So polling stories should be viewed by readers– and voters– with great skepticism, and news outlets should use greater care in analyzing and disseminating survey data. Reducing political views to a number does not necessarily make them scientific. Caveat emptor.


Single Payer Health Plan Surfaces in 10th CD Race

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

By Evan Wagstaff
Special to Calbuzz

mark Desaulnier2

As progressives in Congress press President Obama to commit to a “public option” as part of health care reform, leading Democrats in the 10th Congressional District race are embracing an even more liberal single payer system.

With the spirited special election campaign heading into its final days before the Sept. 1 vote, three top contenders are telling voters they favor a single payer solution to overhaul the nation’s medical system, in which the federal government would replace private health insurance with a mandatory coverage program.

“Single payer is the simplest, most direct way to solve the health care problems in this country, both from a fiscal and medical standpoint,” said state Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, one of the front-runners in the race. He said soaring medical costs under the current system are “unsustainable – it’s the next mortgage meltdown. As Republicans often say, if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t keep funding it.”

GaramendiLieutenant Governor John Garamendi, whom several polls have shown leading the pack, said that his support for a single payer plan is well-received by voters in the district: “I’ll tell you, some of my best applause lines come when I talk about health care reform,” Garamendi said. “There is a real hunger in the 10th Congressional District for universal health care … Medicare for all is very popular and people understand the advantages that it brings.”

State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan also pledged her support for any kind of universal coverage, and included a single payer plan first in a list of possible buchananalternatives. “We have to make health care the right of every American,” she said. “I will support single payer universal coverage, a public option, or a compromise plan that meets these requirements. Doing nothing is not an option.”

A single payer system, which is strongly supported by many liberal groups, has never been on the table in the Washington debate over health care, despite its popularity on the left.

A single payer plan would establish a taxpayer-financed, non-profit system to fund doctors, hospitals and other health care needs under a universal coverage program; the public option plan backed by liberal Democrats in Congress would basically maintain the current system of private insurance, but set up a government-backed insurance program as a competitive alternative to employer plans.

While many health care town hall meetings across the country have been disrupted by protests against reforms being considered in Washington, events in the 10th district have been more restrained.

DeSaulnier said that he had prepared himself for jeers and outbursts in discussions of health care, but has been pleased at the civility of discussions of the issue at campaign events.

“We had a few people who obviously disagreed with my positions, but they were very thoughtful and I think their tone was respectful of the process,” he said. “I was prepared for more anger and acrimony.”

The 10th District includes a large area of the East Bay between Solano and Alameda counties. The seat opened up when former Rep. Ellen Tauscher accepted Obama’s appointment to the State Department as the undersecretary of Arms Control and International Security.

With 14 candidates on the ballot, including representatives from the Peace and Freedom and American Independent parties, it is unlikely that anyone will capture the 50% plus one vote required to win the seat in the first round; if no one does, a run-off among the top finishers in each party will be held November 3.

While leading Democrats move to the left on health care, Republicans are trying to outdo each other in support of market-based solutions that reject government involvement in a reform package.

gary-clift-for-cd-10GOP contender Gary Clift, a retired police officer, for example, argued that healthcare in the U.S. is superior and so merits the cost of private insurance.

“Our current health care is the best, so it costs more,” Clift said. “People need to be willing to pay for health care.”

Other Republican candidates including business owner Mark Loos, businessman David Harmer, veteran Chris Bunch, and physician John Toth anthony-woods-01all agreed that the solution to the health care issue is to remove present government influence and allow the free market to govern the system.

Democratic candidate and investigator Adriel Hampton also came out in favor of a single payer healthcare system. Economic policy analyst Anthony Woods supports the competitive public option.

Calbuzz intern Evan Wagstaff is Opinion Editor of The Daily Nexus at UCSB.

Fishwrap: Mysterious Behind the Scenes Secrets

Friday, August 21st, 2009

conradDeliberative body delivered: The next time Senator Kent Conrad starts holding forth on the tube about why Americans are not allowed to choose a public option for their health care insurance, remember this name: Kelly Candaele.

Conrad is the four-eyed, hose-nosed twit from North Dakota whose self-important pronouncements that there will be no public option in health care reform are eagerly sought and duly recorded by the badge-sniffing stenographers of the Beltway MSM. Conrad was last elected to the Senate with 150,416 votes.

Candaele is a four-term member of the Los Angeles Community College Disrict Board of Trustees.* One of seven members, he was last elected with 151,218 votes – 802 more than Senator Dufus.

The fact that Conrad, an alleged Democrat who has bogged down health care reform legislation along with his buddy, Landslide Max Baucus (who won his seat with one-third fewer votes than President Obama scored in Alameda County – 345,937 to 489,106 – fercrineoutloud) suggests that The Framers weren’t exactly planning ahead when they came up with this whole bicameral, one-house-represents-land-instead-of- people notion.

That cheap suit characters like Conrad and Baucus have the power to hold hostage a health insurance policy that 77 percent of Americans favor is an authentic outrage that makes Calbuzz wonder exactly what a Willie Brown – not to mention Lyndon Johnson – would do to these wigglers, after grabbing them up by the scruff of the neck and tossing them and their office furniture out the window to somewhere south of the Watergate parking garage.

We’re just sayin’.

Candaele*As for Kelly Candaele, who mysteriously – oooh – shares initials with Kent Conrad, Calbuzz was unsuccessful in repeated efforts to reach him to seek his views on health care reform, which seem to us at least as important as those of Mr. Dork from North Dakota. We strongly suspect that  Candaele, a journalist, filmmaker and former labor organizer, (whose mother batted .290 in the women’s professional baseball league memorialized in “A League of Their Own” – you could look it up)  is more of a single payer, public option kind of guy.

nixonParsky Channelling Nixon? Calbuzz is picking up grumblings from some members of  the Commission on the 21st Century Economy who are not happy with the Nixonian tendencies of the group’s chairman – Gerry Parsky the investment firm chairman who once served in (you guessed it) the Nixon administration.

Seems the commission’s agenda doesn’t give anyone a clue about what’s coming up for discussion, members have no time to read position papers or analytical documents before they’re released at or just before meetings and Parsky doesn’t even respond to some pretty credible people trying to stay on top of what’s going on with the commission.

For example, see the agenda for the Commission Workshop on the commission website. See if you can figure out what’s being discussed at that meeting.

Or check out the correspondence from Steve Levy from the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy. Steve, one of the smartest guys in California, suggests to Parsky et. al. ways to evaluate various tax proposals and asks how the commission intends to do this. But has Parsky or anyone responded to Levy?  Nope.

Meanwhile, they’re talking about scrapping most of California’s tax structure and replacing it with a net business receipts tax – a monumentally complex idea which no other state has attempted. Does anyone on that commission actually understand the implications? We don’t think so.

meginchair

Will She or Won’t She: Kudos to Chapman University for pulling together an October 28 debate with the Republican candidates for governor. Oh wait, make that most of the Republican candidates for governor.

Tom Campbell and Steve Poizner, who share the quaint idea that candidates for office who want the voters to hire them ought to subject themselves to standing face-to-face with their rivals for the job, both accepted the invite with alacrity. Not so fast for Meg Whitman, who acts like it’s five days before the election and she’s sitting on some precious two-point lead.

As Poizner reliably banged on eMeg for running and hiding on her earlier promise to participate in three debates this fall, a spokeswoman for  Whitman offered this, uh, explanation:

“As you know, Meg has made it very clear she is looking forward to debating the issues in the upcoming election, having sent a letter stating those intentions over 2 months ago,” campaign press secretary Sarah Pompei told Calbuzz via email. “She is committed to ensuring Californians know her plans to create jobs, cut spending, and fix education.  Right now, we are looking at the various debate options to see what will work best in our schedule.”

All righty, then.

Gossip: A well-informed, reliable and top-rank California Republican pol whispers that Her Megness, with the aid and comfort of long-time coat holder Henry Gomez, has decided that this whole politics thing isn’t all that different from running a business and so is pretty much directing her own campaign, despite the 87 gazillion dollars a month she’s forking out for consultants. Watch for what you wish for, eMeg.

Health Care Must-Reads: Media critic Jason Linkins, who can be quite tiresome when live blogging the Sunday shows for Huffpost, absolutely nails it in this piece holding the WashPost to account for a dog-ass story packed with anonymous sources attacking “the left” for its hang-tough position on including a public option in health care reform.

And in another morsel of what seems a concerted White House effort to distance themselves from the policy that Obama, um, campaigned on – “We’re shocked! Shocked that these liberals would be wedded to such a thing! – that old mischievous nameless source show up in this nice piece about former DNC chief Howard Dean doing the Lord’s work on health care.

Paging Rodney King: Calbuzz readers gave major props and style points to Garry South, Gavin Newsom’s chief consultant, for his well-honed one liner in our post about Jerry Brown’s expansive views on abortion  the other day.

“This guy’s had more incarnations than Zelig and he’s taken more positions than there are in the Kama Sutra,” South said, to the wild applause of the Croatian judge – “9.9, 9.8, 9.9” – and many others.

While some Democrat critics scold and wag their fingers at South and Newsom for refusing to sign a no-negative-attacks pledge for the primary, others believe in a more positive approach.

Thus, a longtime party loyalist spent several hours Google searching for a  quote in which South actually had something nice to say about Brown:

“I never got to know Jerry very well,” South said in 2007. “But he did a very effective job of becoming a pragmatic mayor in Oakland.”

Ommm….