Archive for August, 2009


by problembear

but did anyone see this in yesterday’s paper.……hmmmmm. thoughts, opinions, insight…anyone want to share their favorite ped/bike story here? i am all ears. looks like mr smith takes a pretty good drubbing here. is it deserved? do you agree with the editor?……..just sayin’……………

by jhwygirl

Anti-health insurance reformers have repeated, in comments to posts on this blog a number of versions of “Get a job!” as if everyone supporting reform isn’t holding down a full-time job.

I have trouble fathoming the utter ignorance to the very world/community that these live within. Do they think that all – and I mean all – employers pay employees enough to buy insurance on the market? Or do they believe that by and large employers provide health insurance? I mean, I’m really having trouble understanding comments like this.

Beyond that – are they completely unaware of the exponentially rising cost of health care? Do they consider how long that their own employers will be able to maintain real health care coverage? Not huge deductibles that render a policy to catastrophic coverage?

From the Government Accounting Office, 2001:
Small businesses, with fewer than 50 employess, make up 3/4 of America’s private establishments and 1/3 of the private sector workforce

In 1998, 96% of employers with more than 50 employees provided health coverage while only 71% of employers with 10 – 49 employees provide coverage. Employers with less than 10 employees only provide insurance 36% of the time.

Now – think about that. That’s 1998. But think about this: How many businesses do you deal with in any given week that employee less than, say, 20 employees. The coffee shop – the Thai restaurant – the towing company. A small non-chain convenience store/gas station. Maybe a small non-profit? The chances of them offering health care to those employees? Those employees you chat up…those working-40-hours-a-week people?

The likelihood – and this is a 1998 statistic, mind you – of those businesses offering health insurance hangs down there around 40%.

And what about that 71% figure for those employing 10 to 49 employees? What are they doing? Much the same as that 4% leftover from the large (50+ employees) business: Making sure that their employees are working no more than 32 hours per week so that they can avoid offering them benefits.

There’s the “contracting” bit that beauty salons, barber shops, and wholesale distributors use…

Yeah – it’s a funny world out there.

More from the 2001 GAO report:
Employees and employers, of both large and small businesses pay basically the same for health insurance….with small employers paying slightly more (keeping in mind, again – 1998 figures – but

Small employers get less insurance for their investment, and employees of these small employers must contribute more via higher out-of-pocket expenses.

So, small employers – when they do provide health insurance (remember, only about 40% do – will pay more for what they provide with less benefits and coverage, and their employees will pay higher deductibles.

The assumptive insult by naysayers that someone needs to get ‘a real job’ to get health care is completely ignorant to the realities and needs of people employed across rural towns coast to coast.

People that you deal with every day. People that – if you ask – don’t have health care. You might be shocked if you asked.

by JC

They’re “Stonewalling” says Trib Reporter

Update 2:30pm: John Adams, reporter for the Great Falls Tribune, tweeted this a bit ago:

“the stonewalling on this is highly unusual–will be part of my story tomorrow. No one is returning calls.”

Update 9:30pm: MTLowdown has posted Rehberg’s blood alcohol report for us. It shows him at .054 at 12:58am–2 1/2 hours after the accident. Do the retrograde extrapolation below, and it shows that Denny most likely was legally drunk when the crash occurred.

Nobody here is trying to say anything other than the facts about this. Others can argue the law, or debate whether or not it is politically important. The prattle from Iverson about him being only .05 was only an attempt to sugar coat his condition and misdirect criticism.

by JC

The AP’s Matt Gouras, reporting after today’s press conference, stated that Rehberg’s blood alcohol content was measured in the ER sometime after 1am, three hours after the accident, and more than that from the time he left the party at the Docks.

BAC decreases at approximately .015% per hour after your last drink (update: YellowShark points out in the comments that this is called “retrograde extrapolation“). So if you take Rehberg’s .05, and add in the .045% that his BAC decreased after the accident, you’ll get him potentially having a BAC of .095%, which is over the legal limit at the time of crash.

So when you hear the .05% figure trotted out as a defense of his moderation, remember that was hours after the accident. Whether or not there are measurements taken on the scene or not remains to be revealed by the ongoing investigations.

In related news, Gouras reports that the FWP has turned over its investigation file to the Flathead County Attorney, Ed Corrigan, whom I may add, is a Republican who endorsed Barkus for his State Senate bid in ’06.

How long does it take for the Sheriff, FWP or the County Attorney to let us know what Barkus’ BAC was? They can and should release that information as soon as possible. You see that kind of information released immediately for most DUI’s and accidents. Why not in this case? Letting the defense build a case first?

by Jay Stevens

From Salish Kootenai chair James Steele’s excellent op-ed on health care reform:

My other interest relates to a recent visit by a Fox News reporter to an Indian reservation in South Dakota. He made the argument that if the IHS couldn’t provide decent health care there, how could the federal government do so nationally? This is the first I had heard of Fox News being concerned about the health of the American Indian people. The crocodile tears they shed were not only disingenuous but a continuation of their misleading attacks on anything Obama. They were comparing apples to oranges. On the reservations they visited, the federal government, through the IHS, is providing direct care with federally employed doctors and nurses.

If the debate in Washington was over the question of whether we should have nationalized health care then comparisons to the IHS might be interesting and educational. That is not what is on the table and Fox knows better. What is pending is legislation that would, among its other positive components, prohibit insurance companies from cancelling policies when their customers get sick. Isn’t that something we would all want to see?

Although Steele didn’t say it, I will: if we had nationalized health care for everyone, including Anglos, we wouldn’t be talking about a lack of funding…

Anyway, read the whole thing. Steel makes an excellent argument on why we need health care reform, and why we need it this session of Congress…

by Jamee Greer

Here’s a little reminder as we go into the next week from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s blog:

Washington, D.C. is an echo chamber in which anyone who sounds authoritative repeats the conventional authoritative wisdom about the “consensus” of inside opinion, which they’ve heard from someone else who sounds equally authoritative, who of course has heard it from another authoritative source. Follow the trail to its start and you often find an obscure congressional or White House staffer who has seen some half-assed poll number or briefing memo, but seeking to feel important hypes it a media personality or lobbyist who, desperate to sound authoritative, pronounces it as truth. In any other place on the planet it would be called rumor, gossip, or drivel. In our nation’s capital it’s called “inside information.” The process would be harmless except that it creates self-fulfilling prophesies.


So forget the authoritative sources. Mobilize and organize. We can get comprehensive, meaningful health care reform if we push hard enough. And we must.

by JC

Update 8/31, 10:30am:

Seems that Barkus found a need to hire an attorney. He is directing all questions to Todd Glazier.

And John Adams is tweeting that a press conference is currently underway. He reports: “Not much new to report from today’s [8/31] press conference. Rehberg, Smith to be released today. Frost “stable.” No update on the Barkuses.”


Ok, It’s been 3 days since Barkus slammed his boat into the rocks at Wayfarers State Park injuring everybody aboard, and we still don’t know anything about the accident, except that he was at the helm.

Well, actually, we know a lot more than that. In the Missoulian today, we’re treated to this little tidbit:

The Flathead County sheriff’s office is investigating the incident. A dispatcher at the sheriff’s office says there have been no developments in the case Sunday.

Ok, that sounds innocuous enough. But what do we know about the Sheriff, Mike Meehan? Well, it turns out that he and Barkus are buddies. Good enough buddies that Meehan endorsed Barkus for his Senate run in ’06. Here, check out the endorsement in the Daily InterLake:

Maybe now we know why there were no developments in the investigation.

James Conner at the Flathead Memo gives us some perspective on this:

[Barkus] asserts that he’s tough on crime, while carefully avoiding explaining what he means or what he wants to do as a legislator to be the tough guy he says he is. Look at the endorsements… Two stand out in a way that reflects poorly on Barkus:

First, the endorsement from Mike Meehan, the Republican candidate for Flathead County Sheriff identifies Meehan as “sheriff elect.” Meehan is running unopposed, but he hasn’t been elected yet.

Barkus also touts endorsements from three other elected officials: Jim Dupont (Sheriff), Ted Lympus (District Judge), and Ed Corrigan (County Attorney). You can decide for yourself whether you think that’s appropriate. Elected officials have the right to endorse legislative candidates, but when judges and county attorneys do it, it raises the troubling specter of partisan behavior in what should be non-partisan offices.

Second, there’s an endorsement from one Scott Warnell, identified as a “police detective.” Presumably Warnell works for the police department in Kalispell, but given the ad’s insouciant approach to getting the facts straight, Warnell might be a sheriff’s deputy. What’s wrong with this? Nothing, as long as Warnell speaks as a citizen. But when he identifies himself as a law enforcement officer, and his name in the ad is placed next to four of the county’s major elected officials in the justice system, it appears as though Barkus has the blessing of the police department in Kalispell.

Equal justice for all requires that law enforcement personnel steer clear of partisan political activity. To do otherwise is unprofessional and dangerous. Warnell, and I think the others, crossed that line. And Greg Barkus appears blind to the problem.

So, not only is Barkus in bed with the sheriff, he’s also pocketed the Police Dept., the County attorney, and the Judge. Not to mention the FWP investigators: he chairs the State Senate’s FWP committee, and he is a former FWP commissioner.

Anybody think we’re going to get a straight story out of Flathead County or FWP? Didn’t think so. Cover up is underway, it seems. There is conflict of interest and cronyism galore at work here. Then again, maybe Barkus’ “Tough on Crime” campaign, and those who supported it might just up and do the right thing. Get Tough!

by jhwygirl

We all know drinking is practically a hobby here in Montana, although that culture is slowly slinking away as education outreach works its way through generations. One would, in these days and ages, expect that our elected officials have absorbed that educational outreach…or at least set an honorable example.

Erik Iverson, who still does crisis management for Montana’s congressional representative Denny Rehberg – Washington Post’s words, not mine – scrambled to clear quick rampant judgments (based on Denny’s well-honed reputation) that Rehberg was drunk at this weekend’s Flathead Lake boating accident where Kalispell’s state Senator Greg Barkus launched a 22-foot fiberglass speedboat up on the rocks.

Check out the comment thread in this article in Denny’s hometown paper, the Billings Gazette .

Iverson – who was also Rehberg’s former chief of staff and former head of Montana’s GOP – stressed a few things: Rehberg wasn’t driving the boat…and that Rehberg’s blood alcohol level (BAC) was only .05, “well below the legal limit.”

So Denny had only had a drink or two and his judgment was fine?

Not exactly the case, it seems. How impaired is .05 BAC? Read a full description for yourself, but to sum up:

At the .05 BAC level, people begin to exhibit exaggerated behavior, experience loss of small-muscle control — such as being able to focus their eyes quickly — have impaired judgment, lowered alertness and a release of inhibition.

.05 BAC has been pushed by MADD as a more reasonable BAC to determine the legal level of impairment…enough so that it is a concern for the Montana gaming industry.

Rehberg wasn’t driving – Senator Barkus was, and we’ve yet to get his BAC – but clearly Rehberg’s judgment was impaired enough to get in a motorized vehicle with someone who (anyone want to take bets?) will to be found to have alcohol in his system.

This is bad judgment, and when it comes to getting into a motorized vehicle with 4 others – and using the thing to transport yourself across a lake that also has other innocent people transporting themselves in their own motorized and non-motorized boats – wouldn’t you want to think that your lone congressional representative in Congress had enough judgment to know that not only should he not be getting in that boat with someone who’s been drinking – but that the drunk driver shouldn’t be getting behind the wheel of any vehicle and filling that vehicle with passengers?

That poor judgment resulted in some pretty serious injuries to 4 of the 5 people involved. It’s a shame that our Representative Rehberg didn’t have the good old common sense to say “Hey – wait a minute here,” and stop what has turned out to be a pretty tragic thing for one family.

Pretty basic stuff, no? Beyond that, where in the hell is Rehberg’s own self-preservation?

Now – I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Iverson’s other backhanded defense he threw in with an on-camera interview I caught on Missoula’s NBC KECI station last night (sorry, can’t find any video), which was a description of the travel: The boat trip was for the purpose of delivering Denny to some bay/docks for some gathering he was trying to get to in Bigfork, and that they were “very close.”

Read: They had a safe trip almost all the way there….they almost made it.

So, again – Close but not touching doesn’t lessen the lack of judgment.

…name recognition has become a problem.

by JC

From the HelenaIR:

“McDonald and Missoula attorney Tyler Greenest are both vying to unseat Denny Rehberg.”

Methinks Tyler Gernant has some work to do. Is there an editor in the house?

by Jay Stevens

You won’t believe the latest from Bozeman’s PERC. Un-frickin’-believable. In it, Terry Anderson roasts the Indian Health Service:

Unfortunately, Indians are not getting healthier under the federal system. In 2007, rates of infant mortality among Native Americans across the country were 1.4 times higher than non-Hispanic whites and rates of heart disease were 1.2 times higher. HIV/AIDS rates were 30% higher, and rates of liver cancer and inflammatory bowel disease were two times higher. Diabetes-related death rates were four times higher. On average, life expectancy is four years shorter for Native Americans than the population as a whole….

Anderson rags on IHS for another four paragraphs – higher disease rates on reservations, personal stories of medical malpractice in IHS clinics, wasted equipment, etc & co.

You know, a lot of this criticism is valid.

Here’s the kicker, though. Anderson points to “tribal contracting” as a possible panacea to IHS’ woes, and ends his op-ed with this line:

At a time when Americans are debating whether to give the government in Washington more control over their health care, some of the nation’s first inhabitants are moving in the opposite direction.

A. The IHS is socialized health care. There’s no socialized health care in the proposed Congressional reform. Comparing IHS to the proposed reform is like comparing apples to math. It’s dumb. Or it’s deliberately misleading. Choose your poison.

B. PERC – another Bozeman “free market” “think tank” – just touted replacing one socialized health care system with another…that still uses federal dollars. Is Anderson’s point here that we should have socialized medicine for all, funded by federal dollars, but run by local government? Really? I suspect Anderson’s just using this op-ed to trash any federal involvement in health care, and going a roundabout way of promoting privatized health care systems. But…

C. The problems that plague IHS are much more complicated than simply that the federal government is involved. Why, read this June AP report from Clare Jalonick – which, apparently, Anderson liberally cribbed from for his WSJ op-ed – on the state of IHS, which points to a whole bunch of reasons for IHS’ failures that stem largely around funding. IHS simply is not funded well enough to do its job. (According to this AP report, IHS is only half-funded.)

And there are reasons. Native Americans, historically with little political clout, see their programs get cut first. Many Western reservations are in rural areas and suffer the same problems that all rural areas do: few doctors and staff to work at clinics. Rural medicine is also less efficient because of the distance patients have to travel to be treated – or sent by ambulance to be treated by hospitals that IHS contracts out to.

The point here is that it’s not federal bureaucracy that’s the only, or even leading, problem. Imagine, if you will, how healthcare treatment would work if the IHS were privatized, and Native Americans responsible for their own insurance and health care – when the poverty rate is triple that of the rest of the United States, and treatment would have to be more expensive in order to fully staff clinics. Oh, and private insurers’ administrative costs triple that of government insurance programs, and with pay-for-service medicine at private hospitals driving up health care costs. Sure, the IHS is working poorly – but does anyone believe a private system would be better funded and produce better results for Native Americans?

Or, as Gwen Florio writes of Anderson’s piece, “These arguments make us a little queasy because they’ll inevitably be used as support to continued underfunding of IHS.”


by jhwygirl

….go out to Dustin Frost and his family.

By all accounts, he is an all around very nice guy.

We forget in this political world sometimes that these are regular people that do this political stuff. Whether you are left or right, Republican or Democratic or Independent or Green or or conservative or liberal – we all care for our country and our neighbors and we all want to do the right thing.

It’s at least one thing we have in common. I tend to believe there is more…in fact, I know there is.

Frost and his family could use all the positive energy that can be mustered. Please join in and send positive energy Dustin’s way.


by problembear

is the worst over in the bush-crash yet?

banks are still going under with lots more to come as the dominoes continue to fall several tiers beneath the too-big-to-fail giants propped up by gov’t bail-outs.

but, i have no doubt that even though the FDIC is at its lowest level of solvency since the great depression, it is on top of things???

(place cynical eye roll here)


meanwhile, am noticing a lot of commercial space vacancies sprouting up while making my daily rounds here in missoula.  most businesses and the jobs they provide disappear without a whimper until you see the for rent and for lease signs.  it looks like it is getting worse around here to me.

what do you think? is the worst over?

by problembear

this is reality for many of montana’s self-employed who cannot afford health insurance. are you listening senator baucus?

by JC

rehberg crash

Yes, this is the Rehberg crash scene. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Update: Doug points us to an update at the Flathead Beacon. It appears that some of the injuries are more serious than initially reported. I took an early “stable” report to mean that everybody was doing ok and out of danger, poking fun at the inanity of the picture.

But it appears that Dustin Frost, Rehberg’s state director suffered a head injury. Had I known that, I would not have made fun of the accident at his expense, and for that I apologize to him and his family, and to the others that may have been seriously injured. And I’ve toned down the entry, accordingly.

I am all too aware of brain injuries, being a survivor myself, and volunteering to work with people and children with TBI and acquired learning disabilities.

Ted busts a bronc

by Pete Talbot


Came across this photo at Daily Kos. It’s the recently deceased Sen. Edward Kennedy in Miles City riding a bronc. Here’s some background.

by Pete Talbot

Montana’s lone U.S. Representative was hospitalized in Kalispell after a boating accident on Flathead Lake near Big Fork, the AP reports.

Details are sketchy but apparently state Senator Greg Barkus was also involved in the accident.

And while I vehemently oppose both Barkus’ and Rehberg’s political philosophy, I hope their injuries aren’t serious and they have a speedy recovery.

(Hat tip to Doug.)

Jay Stevens

Jhwygirl brought up tort reform yesterday as a possible salve for rising health care costs, and quoted Governor Dean as saying it wasn’t in the bill because reformists didn’t want to fight too many enemies, including trial lawyers.

Probably what’s more likely is that Dean knows tort reform is bogus, but acted friendly towards it because the rising cost of malpractice insurance p*sses off doctors. But here’s the deal: high payouts aren’t the culprits for rising malpractice insurance costs, it’s (surprise!) private insurers who are to blame.

Some facts.

First of all, tort reform has had no effect on so-called “defensive medicine,” the over-treating of a patient (with loads o’ unnecessary procedures) to avoid malpractice suits:

A team at the University of Alabama looked into this last year. Their survey of studies related to malpractice insurance, defensive medicine and consumer health insurance premiums looked at 27 states with limits on non-economic damages, including Texas.

Their conclusion – “Tort reforms have not led to health care cost savings for consumers” – was published in the December issue of Health Sciences Review.
“It’s had a really small effect, or else it doesn’t seem to change defensive medicine,” said Michael Morrisey, a professor of health economics and health insurance and the director of the university’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy.

(Update: A reader emailed and noted that periodical carrying the U of Alabama report was in “Health Services Research.” Here’s the citation:

Morrisey, M.A., Kilgore, M.L., and Nelson, L.J., “Medical Malpractice Reform and Employer Sponsored Health Insurance Premiums,” Health Services Research 43[6]:2124-2142 [December 2008])

(One possible answer as to why “defensive medicine” still proceeds can be found in Atul Gawande’s oft-cited piece, “The Cost Conundrum.” It’s the private hospitals seeking profit spurring on their doctors to pursue expensive treatments.)

Secondly, tort reform has no effect on the cost of malpractice insurance. Even insurance-friendly studies show variable outcomes in capping non-economic damages in malpractice cases. But nowhere is there evidence these lowered malpractice rates translate into lower healthcare costs, just higher profits for insurers and healthcare providers.

And getting away from economics, what kind of effect does tort reform have on patient care? According to Matt Jerzyk, quoting The Journal of the American Medical Association, “medical errors are the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States.” This problem is so serious and pervasive – yet rarely discussed – that Hearst newspaper reporters banded together to create “Dead by Mistake,” a website dedicated to medical errors and promoting better medical reporting procedures to help identify and avoid common mistakes.

Nowhere in this site do reporters advocate giving health care providers a disincentive to offer good patient care. If anything, the incentive for doctors to treat patients with procedures instead of patient care likely contributes to medical malpractice. That is, it’s likely the “free market” principles of private hospitals contributes to poor patient care.

As the evidence piles up, it’s readily apparent tort reform achieves only limited benefits, and none for you or me:

It’s apparent that tort reform has limited benefits, and only for certain parties: Tort reform serves Republican political interests by taking money out of trial lawyers’ pockets – traditional supporters of the Democratic party. Tort reform servers private insurers by increasing their profits without any corresponding increase in service, and protecting insurers and healthcare providers from the people they have wronged, often fatally.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Civil suits are the last recourse individual citizens have to punish large corporations for wrongdoing. Laws protect the big fish. Regulatory legislation is riddled with loopholes for corporate lawyers to steer their massive ships-of-commerce through. Big industry can afford almost exclusive access to our lawmakers (as evidenced by our current state of health care reform). Crack down on lawsuits and you take the last legal protections for the little guy against corporate America.

Tort reform = bad.


Jay Stevens

Well, Left in the West is down…Soapblox problem, apparently…they’re working on it (I hope). In the meantime, here I am! (Update: Turns out it’s not a Soapblox problem, but just that LiTW needs to update its DNS record…anyway, meet you over there in 5 days…)

Tester grows opaque over health-care reform and the public option: “I don’t need it either way,” Tester told The Associated Press between meetings with constituents. “I could either support it or not support it. It’s all in the design.”

Tester said it is more important to find a combination of ideas that can gather enough votes to get out of the Senate – although he is not yet certain it can be done. He also said the bill can’t add to the deficit, even if that means adopting a tax on wealthier people to help pay for it.

“I too am worried about the national debt,” Tester said. “I certainly don’t support taxing the middle class, they pay their fair share already. But I think you are going to have to give something to get something.”

Mike Enzi admits that his only goal in participating in the “gang of six” is to block health care reform. Hey! Ho! Long live bipartisanship! So…Max? Why keep hammering away at this stuff? Don’t you think you’re going about this the wrong way?

The Wizard of Kos has some strong words for our senior senator after receiving spam from his office, saying Max was working to “advance the issues and causes that were so dear” to Ted Kennedy: “Who the fuck is ‘we’? What a fucking asshole. Baucus has spent the past several months working with Republicans to water down or even destroy the kind of health care reform that Kennedy spent his entire life trying to enact. Everything Max says about Kennedy is true, but he is nothing like Kennedy ever was. While Kennedy had his constituents and the American people’s best interests in mind, Baucus is far more interested in keeping his lobbyist pals happy.

“If Baucus actually gave a shit about the causues that were so dear and important to Kennedy, he would quit his sham and opaque bad-faith “negotiations” with Republicans on his committee, and sign on to a robust public plan.”

Montana is number 2 for potential wind energy production! Should make Montana a hot spot for energy development under any new green legislation…

The ATF prepares to square up against the “Montana Firearms Freedom Act.” Expect the feds to win and hilarity to ensue.

The latest anti-reform lie: healthcare reform will force you to circumcise your boys! (Er…shades of Antisemitism here?)

And the RNC is mailing its members and suggesting that Democrats will use voter registration information to deny them health care.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS): “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.”

It’s bad enough that these Tea Baggers are vowing to get violent with the administration, but why do lawmakers stand by, or even encourage this kind of talk?

Kennedy’s memorial will be politicized, like Wellstone’s? Well…besides the fact that Wellstone’s memorial wasn’t politicized…don’t they mean Reagan’s?

Mitt Romney not interested in Kennedy’s seat. Oliver Willis: “Mass. not interested in Mitt, more like it.”

by jhwygirl

Tort reform seems to be a topic of discussion. It should be, and that’s what Howard Dean said to a person who asked “There’s $200 million over 10 years in savings if we had tort reform and nobody loses but the lawyers. Why have we not even considered that tonight in the discussion sir?”

“This is the answer from a doctor and a politician,” said Dean. “Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, that’s the truth.”

We should be discussing everything but the kitchen sink. Not all of it’s gonna stick, but if I’m going to be taxed or penalties are going to be assessed people or employers or laws are going to be passed regarding pre-existing conditions or exemptions are going to be granted, or anything and everything else they’ve been talking about, then maybe we should talk about tort reform at least a teeny tiny little bit?

I also don’t know the validity of the $200 bmillion figure either. But somewhere in there’s a truth.

Look. Doctors aren’t God. We all make mistakes – only their mistakes have bigger impacts sometimes. Still doesn’t mean that they have to be treated like every mistake is intentional and premeditated or some sort of monstrous evidence of utter ineptitude.

Politico has the larger reporting of the event, and that’s worth the read to get a fuller picture of the environment.

Rating Comments

by jhwygirl

I’ve added a rating widget for comments. Don’t know how it’s going to work, or whether anyone’ll use it…but there it is.

by JC

“If the votes aren’t there, you’ll have to say you did the best you could and then you move on,” said Tester.

Just move on, huh. What a leader. If you have half the Senate looking at each other, saying the votes aren’t there, expecting the next guy to stand up and take a stand, well then you’re just being a defeatist. Not hardly what we elected you for, Jon.

“If the votes aren’t there” is just a euphemism for “my vote’s not there.” Politicians love to talk in passive terms because it allows them to not commit to a position publicly until they actually have to vote.

I call it the eternal finger pointing of the Senate: “if there is an uncommitted block of votes in the Senate, then I don’t have to take a stand either.” So what you get is a bunch of uncommitted Senators looking at each other and blaming the other for their own inability to take a stand–or have principles, for that matter.

What, you afraid to tell the “pull the plug on Granny” deather/birther crowds they’re whack? You know how to bust an ornery bull upside the head with a two-by-four. How about a few choice words for the bull the republicans have let out of the chute?

The AP’s Matt Gouras reported yesterday on Tester’s stand on the public option.

Tester said Wednesday he could envision voting for a health care reform bill with or without the option that would let the uninsured buy into a Medicare-type government program.

“I don’t need it either way,” Tester told the Associated Press between meetings with constituents. “I could either support it or not support it.”

With or without, support it or not. Talk about taking a stand! Must have been taking some Gumby lessons from the senior Senator. Even after dumbing down health care reform to a tepid pot of left-overs, Tester still misses the point.

Tester said he like such insurance reform as preventing companies from banning pre-existing injuries, canceling insurance when disease strikes and others that could rein in the double-digit cost increase of medical bills.

“Is that meaningful change?” Tester said. “If you have a pre-existing condition and you can’t get insured, that’s a meaningful change.”

About half of the country gets it’s health care from private insurers. So i guess he’s only really proposing “meaningful change” masquerading as insurance reform for the haves. Let’s treat the middle class to a little cost savings and call it “reform.”

For the have nots? Most people who have pre-existings cannot get insurance for a variety of reasons, cost being one of them. What’s the cost going to be for somebody trying to get a plan with cancer? Affordable? Subsidies for those who aren’t eligible for Medicaid, yet can’t afford a plan? Mandates and IRS penalties?

How you going to control costs and minimize cost shifting without universality?

“I trust Max” Tester said.

And just what has Max done to earn your trust, Senator? Set you up with some nice campaign financing deals with his buddies?

The Democrat said he has spent little time looking at more liberal legislation out of the House because he doesn’t think it will make it to the Senate floor.

If you haven’t looked at the House legislation, Jon, how can you come to a conclusion that it won’t make it to the Senate floor? Trusting what your buddy Max has to say?

I’d say this is a little closed-minded of you. And it sets you up for a battle to come to logger-heads with House progressives who say they won’t vote on a conference report that doesn’t include a public option. So what you going to do?

“Say you did the best you could and then you move on.”

Right… You might just have a block of progressive voters who will help you do just that, Senator. Just not the sort of “move on” that you had in mind. Hows about moo…ve on back to the farm?

In other health reform news, TPM reports on the list of 13 dem senators who haven’t committed to a public option. You might call them the “Gang of 13”:

One thing that’s striking about this the list is how reluctant senators are to take a firm position. Compare that to the situation in the House, where dozens of liberals have vowed that they’ll oppose any health care bill without a public option, and it casts some doubt on the conventional wisdom that health care reform will pass without a public option after the Congressional Progressive Caucus caves to pressure from Democratic leadership and conservatives in their own party.

“The immovable object meets the unstoppable force…”

Politics and corporations win and the people lose.
“C’est la vie”

Unabashedly Liberal

by JC


lib⋅er⋅al  [lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl]

1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
12. of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
13. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.

14. a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.

1325–75; ME < L līberālis of freedom, befitting the free, equiv. to līber free + –ālis -al

1. progressive. 7. broad-minded, unprejudiced. 9. beneficent, charitable, openhanded, munificent, unstinting, lavish. See generous. 10. See ample.

1. reactionary. 8. intolerant. 9, 10. niggardly.

by jhwygirl

…are becoming increasingly clear for some, including Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Bingham is a member of what has been called The Gang of Six, the six members of the Senate Finance Committee that is headed up by our Sen. Baucus. The senators who are actually writing the piece of health care legislation that everyone is talking about but no one has seen.

Wanna understand the power of The Gang of Six? Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress does that quite well.

Baucus recently spoke publicly about his support for public option. I think that is great. If Grassley can be tweeting that ‘we don’t need any public option’, then Baucus shouldn’t feel a need to hold back on his personal preferences for a public option.

In fact, I hope that our Senator Baucus speaks more about why a public option is important. As the man who has been working on this very issue for years, Baucus’ support of a public option is something everyone who truly supports reform (everyone – left and right) should want to understand.

by Pete Talbot

Sen. Jon Tester was in town Tuesday to listen to doctors and administrators from our two hospitals. What was the main complaint from these health care providers? Tort reform.

Not public option or affordability or access for their patients but the high premiums they have to pay for malpractice insurance.

And while I agree that the high cost of malpractice insurance needs to be part of the mix in reforming health care, should it be these doctors’ overriding concern? Seems a little self serving to me. I don’t recall ever seeing any impoverished physicians here in Missoula.

My sources on this opinion post are Betsy Cohen’s Missoulian story and KECI’s evening news.

The Lion that Roared

by JC

Ted Kennedy

On the Future of the Democratic Party
At the National Press Club, 1-12-05

In the face of their tactics, we cannot move our party or our nation forward under the pale colors and timid voices. We cannot play Republican clones. If we do, we will lose again, and deserve to lose.

As I have said on other occasions, the last things our country needs is two Republican Parties.

Today I propose a progressive vision for America; a vision that Democrats must fight for in the months and years ahead; a vision rooted in our basic values of opportunity, fairness, tolerance and respect for each other.

These founding beliefs are still the essence of the American dream today. That dream is the North Star of the Democratic Party; the compass that guides our policies and sets our course to freedom and opportunity, to fairness and justice, not just for the few, not just for some, but for all.

At our best in all the great causes for which our party has stood we have kept that dream alive for all Americans, even and especially in difficult times. And we will not fail to do so now.

We have a choice. We can continue to be buffeted by the harsh winds of a shrinking world, or we can think anew and guide the currents of globalization with a new progressive vision that strengthens America and equips our citizens to move confidently to the future.

Our progressive vision is not just for Democrats or Republicans, for red states or blue states. It’s a way forward for the nation as a whole to a new prosperity and greater opportunity for all; a vision not just of the country we can become, but the country that we must become: an America that embraces the values and aspiration of our people now and for coming generations.

It is a commitment to true opportunity for all, not as an abstract concept but as a practical necessity.

To find our way to the future, we need the skills, the insight and the productivity of every American, in a nation which each of us shares responsibility for the future and where the blessings of progress are shared fairly by all our citizens in return.

An essential part of our progressive vision is an America where no citizen of any age fears the cost of health care and no employer refuses to create new jobs or cuts back on current jobs because of the high cost of providing health insurance.

The answer is Medicare, whose 40th birthday we will celebrate in July [2005].

I propose that, as a 40th birthday gift to the American people, we expand Medicare over the next decade to cover every citizen from birth to the end of life.

It’s no secret that America is still dearly in love with Medicare. Administrative costs are low, patient satisfaction is high, unlike with many private insurers, they can still choose their doctor and their hospital.

For those who prefer the private insurance, we will offer comparable coverage under the same range of private insurance plans already available to Congress.

I call this approach Medicare for all, because it will free all Americans from the fear of crippling medical expenses and enable them to seek the best possible care when illness strikes.

The battle to achieve Medicare for all will not be easy. Powerful interests will strongly oppose it, because they profit immensely from the status quo.

Right-wing forces will unleash false attack ads, ranting against socialized medicine and government-run health care. But those attacks are a generation out of date, retreads of the failed campaign that delayed Medicare in the 1950s and ’60s.

Today we are immunized against such attacks by the obvious success of Medicare. It is long past time to extend that success to all.

The Democratic Party’s proudest moments and greatest victories have always come when we would stand up against powerful interests and fight for the common good. And this coming battle can be another of our finest achievements.

Our fragile planet is not a Republican or Democrat or American community; it is a world community.

by jhwygirl

Honestly, I am so busy lately that I barely have time for the news. That’s why I’m grateful for Twitter – at the least, I can grab headlines from sources I choose. KPAX reports that Sen. Jon Tester was in town this morning to meet with St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center. There’s a nifty raw video of an interview with Tester, who talks about the real need for reform, the need for setting timelines and how he looks forward to having a bill hit the floor. He exudes confidence.

Thank you, Jon.

Meanwhile, Representative Denny Rehberg – who’s poll numbers are slipping, BTW – will be meeting with officials of Community Medical Center, St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center, and the Watson Children’s Center on Wednesday.

It’d be nice if he’d meet with us regular ole’ Missoulians…..

Rehberg’s been having his meetings around the state (he’s held 14), most recently in Hamilton last Friday.

None in Missoula on health care….

Rehberg’s meeting in Hamilton – like most health care insurance reform meetings anywhere – are ripe with people with strong opinions. That’s fine. People need to be civil.

Apparently, though, Rehberg did little to promote civility, the pinnacle of his lack of promoting control coming when calling out a wheelchair bound woman who was holding a sign saying 83 percent of Americans favor a public option. “Not according to the polls I’ve seen,” he shouted out…prompting some to heckle the woman.

Really? Our Montana Congressman calls out in disagreement – in a public meeting – to a woman holding a sign opposing his viewpoint?

Rehberg then stood and allowed the crowd to heckle.

“Not according to the polls I’ve seen,” he says? Well, soon-not-to-be Congressman Rehberg, what polls do you read? I mean – are you reading Cato Institute polls, or is your answer Palinesque, as in the faux “I’ve read ’em all” sort of read? Because shouting out “Not according to the polls I’ve seen,” in a smart-ass kind of way – and then standing there watching the crowd descend – isn’t really an answer.

Not only that, Rehberg used – for the upteenth time that day – the crowd to answer opposing viewpoints (i.e., pro-reform).

Read that? Rehberg never answered pro-reform questions. He allowed hecklers to do it for him.

Amazing tactic if it works.

Hamilton resident Denelle Pappier details her experience and analysis of Rep. Rehberg’s visit in a guest editorial.

Her editorial mentions the experience of a woman – a Missoula woman, actually – who asked Rep. Rehberg what it was – specifically – that he could support in a health care bill. When that woman posed that question to Rehberg, again a shout came from the audience, calling the woman a ‘nazi sympathizer’, and it wasn’t until loud boos came from the crowd that Rehberg held his hands up quieting the crowd.

Rehberg never answered her question.

Two things strike me about the Ravalli Republic article and Ms. Pappier’s editorial – one being that it’s a bit of a surprise that Rehberg would be met with any opposition in Ravalli County. Ravalli County’s changing – and elected and neighbors alike down there are going to have to start to deal. Hostile public meetings where elected stand by and allow (and promote) uncivil behavior needs to stop.

Secondly, the other thing was the first-hand report of Rehberg’s uncensored departure from the event. It wasn’t the use of a swear word that draws my attention, it was his personal acknowledgment of an event not gone fabulously and his utter contempt for criticism.

Must be a lot of criticism you’re getting there, Representative Rehberg.

Seems Billings health care professionals weren’t too keen on Rehberg’s point of view when he visited with them yesterday.


Call Rehberg and let him know what you think about health care reform. You can also email him too.

Maybe remind him, too, that here in Montana we expect our elected officials to not only promote civility, but to answer questions when asked.


by problembear

1. are you just telling us what we want to hear or are you telling us the truth when you tell us you want a public option too?

2. that’s nice that you want a public option too, but when are you going to start working for it?

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