Friday, July 31, 2009

Dems want to limit insurance increases

By DAVID ESPO AP Correspondent

House Democrats are taking steps to limit annual price increases for insurance policies sold under a sweeping bill to extend health care to nearly all the 50 million uninsured Americans, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

The legislation taking shape in the Energy and Commerce Committee also would permit the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices on drugs under Medicare, the officials said.

These provisions are part of a series of trade-offs negotiated overnight as Democratic leaders struggled to push the health care bill through the committee, the third of three panels to debate the health care issue. The committee was the final obstacle on the way to the House floor and passage would give momentum to President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.

These officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not permitted to discuss private discussions.

On Friday, Democrats on the committee moved methodically through the complex legislation.

"We have agreed we need to pull together," said Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Liberals, moderates, and conservatives negotiated late into the night Thursday to reach a deal that would restore some subsidies to help low-to-middle income people pay their health insurance premiums, would preserve a strong public insurance option, and would cut drug costs more deeply, lawmakers said.

No details of the deal were immediately available, but Waxman said he intends to formally present it to the committee later in the day, and the panel should pass the bill Friday afternoon. Two other House committees, dominated by liberals, have already passed their versions of the bill. Energy and Commerce better represents the makeup of the House as a whole.

The full committee resumed its deliberations after the last-minute agreement mollified liberals outraged by another deal Waxman struck earlier in the week with conservatives known as the Blue Dog Democrats. "We felt it was paid for on the backs of some of the people who can't afford health insurance now," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

Lawmakers from both camps said Friday they were now in accord. "We need to get this done," said Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., one of the Blue Dogs.

As recently as two weeks ago passage of the bill by Energy and Commerce might not have looked like much of a victory. But after a series of delays and some rancorous disputes, final House committee action on a health overhaul is sure to be hailed as a big step forward.

It would come on the House's final day in session before lawmakers leave Washington for their annual monthlong summer recess.

"The American people will have a chance to see what's in it for them, and our members will have a chance to discuss this with their constituents," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "And when they come back in September, we'll take up the legislation."

The progress in the House was not matched in the Senate, where bipartisan negotiators announced they needed additional time to produce any agreement for their committee to review.

The House bill, whose total costs are estimated at about $1.5 trillion over 10 years, would eventually cover nearly all the uninsured.

Low-income people would be helped through an expansion of Medicaid, while middle-class workers and their families would receive federal subsidies to pick a plan through a new insurance purchasing pool called an exchange. A government-sponsored plan would be available through the exchange, alongside private coverage. The main expansion of coverage would not come until 2013 — after the next presidential election.

To pay for the bill, Democrats are proposing a combination of cuts in government health care programs and a tax increase on the wealthy of more than $500 billion over 10 years. The higher taxes would take effect right away.

The bill would also add more than $200 billion to the federal deficit. That's because it doesn't offset the cost of a provision that raises projected Medicare payments to doctors.

There was late-night drama in Waxman's committee Thursday as an anti-abortion amendment passed when conservative Democrats joined Republicans to support it — then failed less than two hours later when Waxman used a procedural maneuver to bring it up for a second vote.

In the intervening time one conservative Democrat — Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee — changed his vote from "yes" to "no." And a second conservative Democrat who hadn't voted the first time — Rep. Zack Space of Ohio — voted "no." It was enough to take the amendment down on a vote of 29 to 30.

The measure would have specified that health care legislation moving through Congress may not impose requirements for coverage of abortion, except in limited cases.

The committee approved a Democratic-written measure specifying that abortions would not be required as part of government-approved insurance benefit packages. The measure, which passed 30-28, says health plans in a new purchasing exchange aren't required to cover abortion but that each region of the country should have at least one plan that does so.

The amendment also limits the use of federal funding for abortions. Democrats cast the measure as a compromise but Republicans mostly opposed it.

Daily Up Date on Stuff

And they're headed for the exits.

House Democrats will flee town tonight for a month-long break from Washington having seen their conservative Blue Dog wing empowered like never before, their liberal wing enflamed and their leadership adrift and uncertain in how they will mend their party's ideological differences on health care.

House Republicans are all about 2010 – but they should worry whether they're peaking too early as they tee up a barrage of attacks on a wounded majority party.

And the Senate has another week in session, but it'll be mostly about Sonia Sotomayor's nomination since the Finance Committee has bailed on getting its bill done thanks to a last minute GOP revolt.

TGIF and welcome to The Huddle, where chaos reigns on health care, Mike Ross remains an insurance industry darling and optimists are latching on to the GDP numbers that show the recession has eased.

*** A message from NGV America: Why natural gas fuel for transportation? Economical. Low carbon. Efficient. Abundant domestic supply. Learn more at ***

PUBLIC OPTION RETAINED: For now, that public option remains in the House bill, as Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn write in The New York Times: 'The House Energy and Commerce Committee resumed work Thursday on major health care legislation, voting to establish a government-run health insurance plan, as top Republicans stepped up their criticism of the ambitious legislation. By a vote of 35 to 24, Democrats defeated a Republican effort to eliminate a section of the bill that would create the public health insurance option.'

FINANCE STALLED: It's a no go in Senate Finance before the recess, as Carrie Budoff Brown and Chris Frates write: 'That didn't last long. A day after some unexpectedly positive signs for health care reform in Congress, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday that his committee would be unable to complete work on a bill before the August recess.

'Baucus's announcement came after a day in which Republican negotiators on the committee made clear they were not comfortable with the Democratic timetable - pushed by President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders. The House bill was expected to clear the third, and final, committee standing in its way before lawmakers escape Washington on Friday, but only after another flare-up by House liberals who said Blue Dog conservative Democrats had hijacked the process.'

LATE NIGHT IN HOUSE: POLITICO's Patrick O'Connor sent The Huddle this dispatch at 1 a.m. from the mind-numbing marathon markup in the House Energy and Commerce Committee: 'House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) isn't quite out of the woods yet.

'Liberal members of his committee are trying work out a deal with four conservative Blue Dog Democrats on the panel to find billions in additional savings that would allow the progressives to restore $50 to $65 billion in subsidies that were earmarked to help middle-income households buy insurance through a new exchange program. This all sets up for more drama Friday, when the committee convenes for what is supposed to be its final day of considering the historic bill.

'Asked whether liberal and conservative Democrats will find enough common ground to push the bill through committee, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, who chairs the health subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, laughed and said, 'We're all going to vote for the bill.'

BLUE DOG BLUE SHIELD: Mike Ross has become a darling of the insurance industry, as Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post: 'On June 19, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas made clear that he and a group of other conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House.

'The committees' draft falls short,' the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose. Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special 'health-care industry reception,' one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.'

RECESSION EASING: Here's some good news for Democrats to take home, from the AP: 'The recession likely eased in the spring, with the economy no longer in free-fall.

'Many analysts predict that when the Commerce Department releases its first estimate of second-quarter activity Friday, it will say the economy shrank at a 1.5 percent pace from April though June. If they are correct, it would mark a vast improvement from the 5.9 percent annualized drop recorded over the prior six months -- the weakest showing in 50 years. 'The recession kind of came in like a lion and is going out like a lamb,' said economist Ken Mayland of ClearView Economics.'

CASH FOR CLUNKERS: That was fast. The program is out of money after a week, leading to debate about whether it was a remarkable success or a boondoggle. From The Wall Street Journal: 'White House officials and lawmakers were studying late Thursday how to keep alive the government's cash-for-clunkers incentive program because of concerns the program's $1 billion budget may have been exhausted after just one week.

'Obama administration officials warned congressional leaders Thursday it planned to suspend the program at midnight. But the White House released a statement late Thursday saying that completed deals would be honored and the program is still under review.'

VOX POPULI? NOTSOMUCH: Those town halls the lawmakers like so much? Out of control. Alex Isenstadt taps into a disturbing trend: 'Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety - welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.

'On the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control. 'I had felt they would be pointless,' Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) told POLITICO, referring to his recent decision to suspend the events in his Long Island district. 'There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation.'

GOP RECESS STRATEGY: From a memo obtained by The Huddle that went out to all GOP House candidates last night: 'Vulnerable Democrats are limping into the August recess in their most-weakened condition since the inception of their majority. This presents a prime opportunity for Republican candidates to spend the next five weeks on the offensive.

'The combination of a failed trillion-dollar stimulus bill and a job-killing National Energy Tax may have amounted to what some in the press have reported as potentially 'career-ending' votes for many Democrat incumbents. Now Democrats are attempting to jam a government takeover of the health care industry through the House.'

DEM RECESS STRATEGY: And the Democrats sent The Huddle their strategy memo as well, outlining a grassroots and advertising offensive against Republicans during August. From one of the ads targeting Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Charlie Dent: 'Blocked' – 60 second radio ad

Announcer: 'Health care bills. Every year, the cost goes higher.... Making it harder to make ends meet. But year after year, Congressman Charlie Dent opposed reforms to make health care more affordable. Congressman Dent's gotten nearly 75 thousand dollars from the insurance industry while we've gotten stuck with runaway healthcare costs. And what do the insurance companies get? Record profits. ...'

F-22 CUTS IN HOUSE: From the AP: 'The Democratic-controlled House went along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plans to kill the over-budget F-22 fighter jet, but has rejected his efforts to cut off several other big ticket items. Despite objections and veto threats from the White House, a $636 billion Pentagon spending bill passed by a 400-30 vote Thursday contains money for a much-criticized new presidential helicopter fleet, cargo jets that Gates says aren't needed, and an alternative engine for the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the Pentagon says is a waste of money.

'It also contains $128 billion for Pentagon operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would bring the total appropriated by Congress for those wars and other efforts to combat terrorism above $1 trillion.'

SOTOMAYOR VOTE: Roll Call is reporting that the debate will begin on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination on Tuesday. And The Hill's J.T. Rushing finds another reason for Democrats to be upset with Max Baucus: 'Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday he hasn't made up his mind on whether he will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

'Baucus this summer has infuriated liberals on and off Capitol Hill by working to strike a deal with Republicans on healthcare reform. A 'no' vote on Sotomayor would be adding fuel to the left's fire at the Finance Committee chairman. Baucus on Thursday twice told The Hill he is undecided on next week's floor vote on Sotomayor.'

The Huddle's over/under remains at 65 on yes votes for Sotomayor.

WJLA WASHINGTON WEATHER: Clouds will be on the increase today, limiting temperatures to just the middle 80's. Storms are expected to develop today as a low pressure system tracks through the area. Storms taper this evening and skies become partly cloudy with lows near 70.

*** Why natural gas fuel for transportation?

It's American. Our reserves are twice as plentiful as crude oil. It's affordable - on average, 1/3 less to fill a vehicle with natural gas than with gasoline. It has an existing distribution infrastructure with 1.5 million miles of gas pipe and distribution lines crisscrossing the country. It's a proven vehicle fuel with nearly 10 million natural gas vehicles in the world. It's clean. Natural gas vehicles produce 22 to 29 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel- or gasoline-powered vehicles.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Morning Huddle News ' Notes

Did we ever think a 'deal' on health care would please everyone?

Of course not. But the latest breakthrough in the House has made bedfellows of liberals who think it's a sellout with Republicans who think it's still a government takeover of health care. The Senate bill, with its co-op idea substituting for the public option -- and it's lower price tag – is already getting picked at by Democrats not in the negotiating room.

And then there's the polls – they're awful right now for President Obama and Democrats on health care.

Still, there's no mistaking a new sense of momentum on the big picture, and Democrats will head into recess feeling like they just might finish this behemoth task before the World Series ends this autumn.

Good Thursday morning and welcome to The Huddle, where the Blue Dogs have heeled for Nancy Pelosi, the liberals are barking, and the freshmen are worried about the attacks that await them on the home front.

*** A message from NGV America: Why natural gas fuel for transportation? Economical. Low carbon. Efficient. Abundant domestic supply. Learn more at ***

DRIVING THE RECESS: Bad poll numbers will be the theme of this recess for Democrats. From The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee Brenan: 'President Obama's ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray his overhaul plan as a government takeover that could limit Americans' ability to choose their doctors and course of treatment, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

'Americans are concerned that revamping the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills, and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests, the poll found.'

And from the Wall Street Journal: 'Support for President Barack Obama's health-care effort has declined over the past five weeks, particularly among those who already have insurance, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found, amid prolonged debate over costs and quality of care. In mid-June, respondents were evenly divided when asked whether they thought Mr. Obama's health plan was a good or bad idea. In the new poll, conducted July 24-27, 42 percent called it a bad idea while 36 percent said it was a good idea.'

HOUSE DEAL: Uncle Mo may finally be on the side of the Dems, as Patrick O'Connor and Carrie Budoff Brown report: 'After weeks of infighting and negative headlines, Democrats finally found a little momentum on health care as negotiators broke a critical logjam in the House and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office delivered a rare piece of good news in the Senate.

'The big breakthrough came in the House, where a quartet of moderate Blue Dog Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee finally agreed to a deal offered by Chairman Henry Waxman that would cut the cost of the bill and relieve more small businesses from a requirement to provide their employees with health care. Under the terms of their agreement, party leaders will postpone a full House vote on the still-contentious health care measure until the fall, giving their rank and file another month - at least - to consider the sweeping legislation. That will also give opponents plenty of time to browbeat them. House liberals remain unhappy with Waxman's negotiations with the Blue Dogs, but the committee seemed back on track as of Thursday night.'

LIBERAL REVOLT: We saw this coming – liberals hate the compromise that Pelosi and Waxman made with moderate Blue Dogs. Glenn Thrush of POLITICO taps into some serious lefty angst: 'House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent half of Wednesday finalizing a deal with the Blue Dogs - and the other half quelling a brewing rebellion among progressives who think conservatives have hijacked health care reform.

'Liberals, Hispanics and African-American members - Pelosi's most loyal base of support - are feeling betrayed after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) reached an agreement with four of seven Blue Dogs on his committee who had been bottling up the bill over concerns about cost. The compromise, which still must be reconciled with competing House and Senate versions, would significantly weaken the public option favored by liberals by delinking reimbursement rates to Medicare.'

FRESHMEN ANGST: Get ready for the attacks. From Jennifer Bendery in Roll Call: 'Freshman Democrats came to Congress this year ready to take tough votes, but some are worried that the breakneck pace and their party leaders' failure to match GOP messaging could translate into losses in the 2010 elections.

'A month after forcing a vote on contentious climate change legislation, House Democratic leaders announced Wednesday that they will punt on health care reform until September, a move that drew mixed responses from vulnerable Democrats bracing for Republican attacks over the August recess. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), president of the freshman class, said House Democratic leaders 'absolutely' need to counterpunch over the August recess because freshman Democrats will be the first to suffer from GOP blows.'

QUESTIONABLE EARMARK: POLITICO's John Bresnahan investigates NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions and a curious earmark: 'Rep. Pete Sessions - the chief of the Republicans' campaign arm in the House - says on his website that earmarks have become 'a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people.'

'Yet in 2008, Sessions himself steered a $1.6 million earmark for dirigible research to an Illinois company whose president acknowledges having no experience in government contracting, let alone in building blimps. What the company did have: the help of Adrian Plesha, a former Sessions aide with a criminal record who has made more than $446,000 lobbying on its behalf.'

SPEAKER'S LAND DEAL? Roxana Tiron of The Hill looks deeper at Pelosi's unusual involvement in a land deal between the Navy and the city of San Francisco: 'House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is eyeing treasure in a massive Pentagon bill that could benefit her district greatly.

'Pelosi is among dozens of House lawmakers pressing for a little-known provision in the defense policy bill that would speed up the transfer of military bases to private developers. One of those shuttered bases has been the subject of years of failed negotiations between San Francisco, the city Pelosi represents, and the Navy.

'The two parties have been at a stalemate over Treasure Island, a Navy base that closed in 1993 and sits atop a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay that has city planners seeing dollar signs. They have squabbled over the price. The Navy estimates it is worth $240 million; the city offered a tenth of that value.'

THIS SHOULD BE BIGGER NEWS: Flash back to summer 2006 and imagine how fr we've come in Iraq. From the AP: 'U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he sees 'some chance of a modest acceleration' in the pace of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Mr. Gates, returning from a trip to Iraq, told reporters aboard his plane that perhaps one combat brigade would leave Iraq ahead of schedule. He didn't give a precise timetable. U.S. officials had been worried that last month's formal handover of control of Iraqi cities to the country's security forces might erode gains that had been made. But Mr. Gates said Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. general in Iraq, told him the security situation is better than expected.'

SPECTER ABSTAINS: CQ's David Clarke notices what's not in the massive Labor HHS appropriations bill: 'As a Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter routinely secured funding for sexual abstinence education in Pennsylvania, making it a standard feature in spending bills for education, labor and health programs.

'Not this year. Specter did not request money for his state's programs in the fiscal 2010 Labor-HHS-Education bill the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider Thursday.'

BLACKBERRY ADDICTS LISTEN UP: This one should get your attention. From The New York Times Matt Richtel: 'States that do not ban texting by drivers could forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funds under legislation introduced Wednesday in the Senate. Under the measure, states would have two years to outlaw the sending of text and e-mail messages by drivers or lose 25 percent of their highway money each year until the money was depleted.'

SOTOMAYOR UPDATE: The Huddle has moved the over/under on yes votes for Sotomayor back down to 65, as fewer Republicans followed Lindsey Graham than expected. Assuming Kennedy and Byrd don't vote, that's seven Republicans saying yes.

ON TAP TONIGHT: The choices at the 'beer summit' at the White House: Red Stripe (Prof. Gates) Blue Moon (Sgt. Crowley) Bud Light (President Obama).

*** Why natural gas fuel for transportation?

It's American. Our reserves are twice as plentiful as crude oil. It's affordable - on average, 1/3 less to fill a vehicle with natural gas than with gasoline. It has an existing distribution infrastructure with 1.5 million miles of gas pipe and distribution lines crisscrossing the country. It's a proven vehicle fuel with nearly 10 million natural gas vehicles in the world. It's clean. Natural gas vehicles produce 22 to 29 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel- or gasoline-powered vehicles.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tanning beds definitely cause skin cancer

Study: Tanning beds definitely cause skin cancer

A new scientific analysis has upgraded tanning beds' cancer risk from a likely cause to a definite cause of the disease.

The report, by experts at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization, changes the category for tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation. It concludes skin cancer risk increases 75 percent for those who used tanning beds before the age of 30.

The experts also found mutations in mice when exposed to either UVA or UVB light. Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was thought to be lethal.

Their report, published in the August edition of Lancet Oncology, analyzed 20 separate studies.

"Claims are that tanning beds are UVA light, and that doesn't cause a problem, but the report puts that theory to rest," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, who read the findings. "It says it doesn't matter if it's UVA or UVB [light]."

Tanning beds have long been controversial, especially for use by young people. Many teens use tanning beds to get a base tan or before a big event. This study should give them pause, Lichtenfeld said.

Advocates for tanning salons said in a statement Tuesday the information is not new.

"The fact that the IARC has put tanning bed use in the same category as sunlight is hardly newsworthy," said Dan Humiston, president of the Indoor Tanning Association.

"The UV light from a tanning bed is equivalent to UV light from the sun, which has had a Group One classification since 1992. Some other items in this category are red wine, beer and salted fish," he said, adding the ITA had always emphasized the importance of moderation when it comes to UV light from either the sun or a tanning bed.

In Britain, where the Lancet report originates, melanoma is now the leading cause of cancer in women in their 20s.

Shannon McGeever, manager of Perfect Color Tanning Salon in Farmingdale, said overexposure and burning the skin is what causes the damage.

"We teach how to tan properly, and we are familiar with all the different skin cancers and how to recognize and how to prevent them, and we do take the right precautions to make sure we tan people as safely as possible," she said.

Lichtenfeld emphasized that the study says there is no safe use of tanning beds. "This study says UVA causes skin cancer," Lichtenfeld said. "It's a Class One carcinogen. This causes cancer. Period. End of statement," he said.

Dr. Colette Pameijer, a cancer surgeon at Stony Brook University Medical Center, said the report was comprehensive. "They basically summarized all known data on UV radiation and risk for skin cancer in both humans and animals, and their conclusion should be taken very, very seriously," she said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pique And the Professor Eugene Robinson

If race were the only issue, there would be much less hyperventilation about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s unpleasant run-in with the criminal justice system. After all, it would hardly be the first time a black man had unjustly been hauled to jail by a white police officer. The debate -- really more of a shouting match -- is also about power and entitlement.

This is a new twist. Since the triumph of the civil rights movement, minorities have been moving up the ladder in politics, business, academia, just about every field. Only in the past decade, however, has a sizable cohort of African Americans and Latinos broken through to the tiny upper echelons where real power is exercised.

I'm talking about President Obama, obviously, but also Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons, entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and many others -- a growing number of minorities with the kind of serious power that used to be reserved for whites only. In academia, the list begins with "Skip" Gates.

He's a superstar, one of the best-known and most highly acclaimed faculty members at the nation's most prestigious university. A few years ago, when he made noises about leaving, Harvard moved heaven and earth to keep him. The incident that led to his arrest occurred as he was coming home from the airport after a trip to China for his latest PBS documentary. Following the traumatic encounter, he repaired to Martha's Vineyard to recuperate. This is how the man rolls.

Obama's choice of words might not have been politic, but he was merely stating the obvious when he said the police behaved "stupidly." Gates is 58, stands maybe 5-feet-7 and weighs about 150 pounds. He has a disability and walks with a cane. By the time Sgt. James Crowley made the arrest, he had already assured himself that Gates was in his own home. Crowley could see that the professor posed no threat to anybody.

But for the sake of argument, let's assume that Crowley's version of the incident is true -- that Gates, from the outset, was accusatory, aggressive and even obnoxious, addressing the officer with an air of highhanded superiority. Let's assume he really recited the Big Cheese mantra: "You have no idea who you're messing with."

I lived in Cambridge for a year, and I can attest that meeting a famous Harvard professor who happens to be arrogant is like meeting a famous basketball player who happens to be tall. It's not exactly a surprise. Crowley wouldn't have lasted a week on the force, much less made sergeant, if he had tried to arrest every member of the Harvard community who treated him as if he belonged to an inferior species. Yet instead of walking away, Crowley arrested Gates as he stepped onto the front porch of his own house.

Apparently, there was something about the power relationship involved -- uppity, jet-setting black professor vs. regular-guy, working-class white cop -- that Crowley couldn't abide. Judging by the overheated commentary that followed, that same something, whatever it might be, also makes conservatives forget that they believe in individual rights and oppose intrusive state power.

There was a similar case of collective amnesia at the Sotomayor hearings. Republican senators, faced with a judge who follows precedent and eschews making new law from the bench, forgot that this is the judicial philosophy they advocate. The odd and inappropriate line of questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about Sotomayor's temperament was widely seen as sexist, and indeed it was. But I suspect the racial or ethnic power equation was also a factor -- the idea of a sharp-tongued "wise Latina" making nervous attorneys, some of them white male attorneys, fumble and squirm.

Is a man of Gates's station entitled to puff himself up and remind a police officer that he's dealing with someone who has juice? Is a woman of Sotomayor's accomplishment entitled to humiliate a lawyer who came to court unprepared? No more and no less entitled, surely, than all the Big Cheeses who came before them.

Yet Gates's fit of pique somehow became cause for arrest. I can't prove that if the Big Cheese in question had been a famous, brilliant Harvard professor who happened to be white -- say, presidential adviser Larry Summers, who's on leave from the university -- the outcome would have been different. I'd put money on it, though. Anybody wanna bet?

Lou Dobbs Destroys CNN's Credibility Bill Press

When I worked there, as co-host of “Crossfire,” CNN was known as “America's most trusted news network.”

And rightfully so. Alone among the cables, you could count on CNN to deliver the news right down the middle. Yes, there were commentators on the right and the left, but the anchors played it straight and stories with no legitimacy never made it to air.

Sadly, that's no longer the case. Lou Dobbs has changed all that. And Jon Klein, CNN's president, is letting him get away with it.

When he came back to the network, after a failed Internet business venture, Dobbs was something new for CNN: an anchor who freely gave his own opinions. That made a lot of people, including me, uncomfortable — but at least Dobbs was pontificating on legitimate issues, like immigration and the economic crisis.

For the last couple of weeks, however, Dobbs has gone off the deep end. He's become a big “birther,” raising questions about whether President Obama was really born in Hawaii and might therefore be an illegal president.

That whole issue, whipped up by crazies like Alan Keyes, is utter nonsense. The Hawaii Department of Health has produced his genuine birth certificate. Two Honolulu newspapers reported his birth the day after he was delivered. CNN's Kitty Pilgrim, filling in for Dobbs on his own show, categorically debunked the whole birther movement. But as soon as Dobbs returned, he stirred it up again — no doubt encouraged by Jon Klein's telling the Los Angeles Times that questions about the legitimacy of Obama's citizenship were a “legitimate” issue.

Now, that's the kind of mindless partisan crap you expect from Fox News. But not, until now, CNN.

What I want to know is: Dobbs or no Dobbs, CNN will never be trusted by the lunatic fringe that watches Fox News. So why is CNN letting Lou Dobbs destroy the network's reputation for honest reporting?

Friday, July 24, 2009

MEDIA MATTERS weekly update on the NUTS amoung us!

Media Matters: Captain Lou and the Birther Brigade

Leave it to Lou Dobbs: If there's a right-wing conspiracy theory out there floating around on the Internets, he'll latch onto it like a pit bull. He may be past his prime, but he just won't let go. It must be tough for CNN to look on while Dobbs discredits "the most trusted name in news," one wild claim at a time. If there's a hook to the conspiracy even tacitly involving the immigration issue, well, you've just made Dobbs' day.

How can we forget his preoccupation with conspiracy theories about purported government plans for a "North American Union" between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada? Or his promotion of the nutty conspiracy that Mexicans plan to reconquer the American Southwest?

Over the past two weeks, however, Dobbs took things even further, pushing one of the most ludicrous conspiracy theories of the right-wing fringe: the notion that the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate is in doubt.

Kicking things off on the July 15 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Dobbs aligned himself with the far-right birther movement, devoting substantial airtime to the issue of Obama's birth certificate, asserting repeatedly that Obama needs to "produce" it. Dobbs said that the birth certificate posted online by "purporting to validate the president" has "some issues. ... I mean, it's peculiar." He also stated that he wants to see a "long form" birth certificate, which he called "the real deal." That same day on his CNN program, Dobbs brought up the issue again. Referring to the document that posted, he said, "It is, in fact, the so-called short form, not the original document. It is really a document saying that the state of Hawaii has the real document in its possession."

By contrast, Dobbs' CNN colleagues have repeatedly debunked claims that Obama has yet to produce a valid birth certificate, calling them "total bull" and "a whack-job project," and have characterized those who make these claims as "conspiracy theorists" who wear "tin foil hat[s]."

Two days after his initial rant on the subject, Kitty Pilgrim was filling in for the immigration-obsessed-crusader as guest host of his CNN show. During the broadcast, Pilgrim, a regular correspondent for Lou Dobbs Tonight, debunked claims that Obama does not have a valid birth certificate and is therefore ineligible to be president, noting that CNN "found no basis" for such claims and cited "overwhelming evidence that proves that his birth certificate is real, and that he was born in Honolulu."

You'd think that would put an end to the nonsense. Yet, days after Pilgrim answered it on his very own show, Dobbs was back on the air claiming that the birth certificate "questions won't go away." A day later, still on the birther bandwagon, Dobbs said on his CNN program that "no one" knows "the reality" of Obama's birth certificate.

Dobbs' obsession with this fringe conspiracy did not go unnoticed by his colleagues at CNN or competing networks for that matter. With Dobbs digging in his heels, other outlets began picking up -- and debunking -- various strands of the story.

On the July 21 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews hosted Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), one of nine Republican co-sponsors of what has become known as the "birther bill" -- legislation that would require future presidential candidates to provide their birth certificates. During the nearly 10-minute segment, Matthews grilled the conservative congressman on the "crazy proposal," repeatedly asking, "Do you believe that Barack Obama is a legitimate, native-born American or not?"

The following day, Los Angeles Times media writer James Rainey quoted director and former CNN employee Brooks Jackson as stating, "CNN should be ashamed of itself for putting some that stuff on the air." In the same report, Rainey noted the assertion of "one CNN employee" who, in an apparent attempt to distance Dobbs from the network, "reminded [him] several times that Dobbs' most pointed assertions were made on his radio program, which is unconnected to CNN."

Perhaps sensing a tidal wave of opposition to his fringe commentary mounting, Dobbs took to his radio show on July 21 to rant about the "national liberal media" debunking birther theories, telling his audience "they are not applying critical judgment."

At least we now know what Dobbs thinks of his CNN colleagues and other members of the media, who have taken to the airwaves since Dobbs' initial rant to debunk the Obama birth certificate theories, often while ridiculing their adherents as "nut jobs" who advance "ludicrous" claims that are "more conspiratorial than factual."

Dobbs doesn't want you to think he isn't fair. You see, according to him, Obama could "make the whole...controversy disappear ... by simply releasing his original birth certificate." Yep, if the president placates a bunch of right-wing lunatics, they'll be sure to leave him alone.

It's not Dobbs who is on the attack; he is the victim of the "liberal media," which is afraid to "upset the Obama White House." It's those "limp-minded, lily-livered lefties ... attacking" Dobbs because he "actually had the temerity to inquire as to where the birth certificate was." Dobbs' words, not mine. You can't make this stuff up.

In the days that followed, Dobbs faced a torrent of criticism spanning the media gambit: NBC Nightly News debunked the Dobbs-driven birther theory; MSNBC's Chris Matthews wondered if the hubbub is about "not documentation, but pigmentation"; Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, noting that Pilgrim had debunked Dobbs on his own show, asked, "Do you even watch CNN?"; MSNBC's Ed Schultz said, "For Lou Dobbs to wonder if President Obama is quote, 'undocumented' ... that's fringe psycho talk"; playing a clip of Dobbs on MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Willie Geist said birthers are flogging an "imaginary controversy."

The sparks really flew after CNN's Roland Martin took on Dobbs' obsession with the birther conspiracy. Interviewed by Rick Sanchez, Martin made his opinion abundantly clear, describing those who promote the conspiracy as "a small group of nutty people." Referring to the words of a birther yelling at Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) at a recent town hall meeting, "I want my country back," Martin said the birther really meant, "How is this black guy all of the sudden running the country?" Dobbs was none too pleased. On his radio show, he called Martin's rebuttal "a hoot," saying, "I can't believe Roland would say something that stupid -- that it's racist." The next day on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Martin told Dobbs, "[Obama's] not here to satisfy Lou Dobbs."

So, who are the birthers whose claims Dobbs is advancing? The figures include Andy Martin, who has made anti-Semitic and racially charged comments; 9-11 "Truther" Philip Berg; perennial candidate for public office Alan Keyes, who has reportedly accused Obama of taking the "slaveholder's position" on abortion; a pastor who has prayed for Obama's death; and the discredited right-wing website WorldNetDaily. Remember, in Dobbs' world, it is the "liberal media" who have failed to apply "critical judgment" to this issue.

Late this week, word leaked that CNN President Jon Klein had reportedly emailed information on Thursday to the staff of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight that Klein said shows the "story" about President Obama's birth certificate "is dead." Dobbs noted that evidence -- which was a statement by the Hawaii Health Department that in 2001, paper records were replaced by electronic records -- on air as Klein instructed, but then asked CNN contributor Roland Martin: "When this could be dispelled so quickly, and -- and simply by producing [the birth certificate], why not do it?" We already know that Dobbs apparently doesn't follow the reporting of his own network. I suppose, then, that it isn't surprising to see Dobbs having issues following his own logic.

Less than 24 hours after declaring Dobbs' pet "birther" story "dead" -- and saying anyone who "is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef" -- Klein caved in to Dobbs, reversing himself completely. In a statement to Washington Post Co. blogger Greg Sargent, Klein defended Dobbs and stated, "I think no good journalist would ever say that a particular story will never be covered again. Every day brings new facts, new pegs." Additionally, according to Sargent, "Klein ... took a shot at Dobbs' critics, saying they're politically motivated: 'I understand that people with a partisan point of view from one extreme or anther might get annoyed that certain subjects are aired.' "

This raises the troubling question of who is really calling the shots at CNN. It's hard to see how anyone can believe CNN is the "most trusted name in news" when its own president can't stand by his less-than-day-old word. CNN's "Lou Dobbs problem" just got a whole lot worse.

Other major stories this week:

A banner week for Murdoch's media empire

It was a banner week for Rupert Murdoch, whose media outlets reminded the nation again of their redeeming social and journalistic value. Sigh.

On Monday's edition of The O'Reilly Factor, retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a Fox News military analyst, taught America what it means to support the troops. Three weeks ago, 23-year-old Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, was taken hostage by Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The circumstances of his abduction remain unclear, with some reports indicating that he was taken by force, while others indicate that he voluntarily abandoned his post. Either way, the people of Hailey are hoping for his safe return.

But not Peters, who stunningly remarked that if Bergdahl had in fact deserted his unit, then "the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills." No admonishment came from Bill O'Reilly. His words ignited a firestorm of criticism. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reported that Pentagon officials felt Peters' commentary "could endanger" the life of Bergdahl, while on CNN, columnist John Avalon said that the "wingnut" comment had "crossed the line." Before long, a bipartisan group of 23 veterans serving in Congress had demanded an official apology from Roger Ailes, and Rep. Eric Massa, himself a 24-year veteran of the Navy, had called for both O'Reilly and Peters to be fired from Fox. But neither O'Reilly nor Peters apologized. Instead, two days later, they said that they did wish for the soldier's safe return, but also speculated that he might be "crazy." The following day, Peters attacked Bergdahl again, this time on Steve Malzberg's radio show, where he referred to him as a "deserter" and said a reported story about Bergdahl's girlfriend was a "tissue of lies."

At the same time that the Murdoch-led right-wing media machine was savaging the reputation of a U.S. soldier being held captive overseas, it was disseminating surreptitiously taken near-pornographic images of popular ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. The nude pictures had been culled from a video taken of Andrews through a peephole while she was staying at a hotel. O'Reilly chose to air the images in a segment titled "Did You See That?" His goal, he said during a moment of particularly robust logic, was to prove the "criminal intent" of those involved. The Murdoch-owned (or more aptly, Murdoch-destroyed) New York Post also ran with the pictures, a decision that ESPN called "beyond the pale" before it banished Post reporters from its TV and radio networks.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR comment: "I would hope..."

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

HK comment: Why does media not include the first part of her statment?
Because if you do it changes the meaning. "I WOULD HOPE..."

Here's the entire speach:

A Latina judge's voice
Judge Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 address to the 'Raising the Bar' symposium at the UC Berkeley School of Law
Note: Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated by President Obama on May 26, 2009, to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, delivered this talk on Oct. 26, 2001, as the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture. She spoke at a UC Berkeley School of Law symposium titled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." The symposium was co-hosted by the La Raza Law Journal, the Berkeley La Raza Law Students Association, the Boalt Hall Center for Social Justice, and the Center for Latino Policy Research. The text below is from the archives of the La Raza Law Journal.

Judge Sotomayor grew up in a South Bronx housing project and graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School. She was a former prosecutor in the office of the District Attorney in Manhattan and an associate and then partner in the New York law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. She was also a member of the Puerto Rico Legal Defense and Education Fund. Nominated to the Second Circuit in 1997, she became the first Latina nominated to sit on a federal appellate court.Judge Reynoso, thank you for that lovely introduction. I am humbled to be speaking behind a man who has contributed so much to the Hispanic community. I am also grateful to have such kind words said about me.

I am delighted to be here. It is nice to escape my hometown for just a little bit. It is also nice to say hello to old friends who are in the audience, to rekindle contact with old acquaintances and to make new friends among those of you in the audience. It is particularly heart warming to me to be attending a conference to which I was invited by a Latina law school friend, Rachel Moran, who is now an accomplished and widely respected legal scholar. I warn Latinos in this room: Latinas are making a lot of progress in the old-boy network.

I am also deeply honored to have been asked to deliver the annual Judge Mario G. Olmos lecture. I am joining a remarkable group of prior speakers who have given this lecture. I hope what I speak about today continues to promote the legacy of that man whose commitment to public service and abiding dedication to promoting equality and justice for all people inspired this memorial lecture and the conference that will follow. I thank Judge Olmos' widow Mary Louise's family, her son and the judge's many friends for hosting me. And for the privilege you have bestowed on me in honoring the memory of a very special person. If I and the many people of this conference can accomplish a fraction of what Judge Olmos did in his short but extraordinary life we and our respective communities will be infinitely better.

I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my Latina identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench.

Who am I? I am a "Newyorkrican." For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir - rice, beans and pork - that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, -- pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo -- pigs' feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs' tongue and ears. I bet the Mexican-Americans in this room are thinking that Puerto Ricans have unusual food tastes. Some of us, like me, do. Part of my Latina identity is the sound of merengue at all our family parties and the heart wrenching Spanish love songs that we enjoy. It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation. My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother's house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing lotería, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

Now, does any one of these things make me a Latina? Obviously not because each of our Caribbean and Latin American communities has their own unique food and different traditions at the holidays. I only learned about tacos in college from my Mexican-American roommate. Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish. I happen to speak it fairly well. But my brother, only three years younger, like too many of us educated here, barely speaks it. Most of us born and bred here, speak it very poorly.

If I had pursued my career in my undergraduate history major, I would likely provide you with a very academic description of what being a Latino or Latina means. For example, I could define Latinos as those peoples and cultures populated or colonized by Spain who maintained or adopted Spanish or Spanish Creole as their language of communication. You can tell that I have been very well educated. That antiseptic description however, does not really explain the appeal of morcilla - pig's intestine - to an American born child. It does not provide an adequate explanation of why individuals like us, many of whom are born in this completely different American culture, still identify so strongly with those communities in which our parents were born and raised.

America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between "the melting pot and the salad bowl" -- a recently popular metaphor used to described New York's diversity - is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puerto Riqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.

I was born in the year 1954. That year was the fateful year in which Brown v. Board of Education was decided. When I was eight, in 1961, the first Latino, the wonderful Judge Reynaldo Garza, was appointed to the federal bench, an event we are celebrating at this conference. When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court. Now in the last twenty plus years of my professional life, I have seen a quantum leap in the representation of women and Latinos in the legal profession and particularly in the judiciary. In addition to the appointment of the first female United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, we have seen the appointment of two female justices to the Supreme Court and two female justices to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of my home state. One of those judges is the Chief Judge and the other is a Puerto Riqueña, like I am. As of today, women sit on the highest courts of almost all of the states and of the territories, including Puerto Rico. One Supreme Court, that of Minnesota, had a majority of women justices for a period of time.

As of September 1, 2001, the federal judiciary consisting of Supreme, Circuit and District Court Judges was about 22% women. In 1992, nearly ten years ago, when I was first appointed a District Court Judge, the percentage of women in the total federal judiciary was only 13%. Now, the growth of Latino representation is somewhat less favorable. As of today we have, as I noted earlier, no Supreme Court justices, and we have only 10 out of 147 active Circuit Court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population. As recently as 1965, however, the federal bench had only three women serving and only one Latino judge. So changes are happening, although in some areas, very slowly. These figures and appointments are heartwarming. Nevertheless, much still remains to happen.

Let us not forget that between the appointments of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981 and Justice Ginsburg in 1992, eleven years passed. Similarly, between Justice Kaye's initial appointment as an Associate Judge to the New York Court of Appeals in 1983, and Justice Ciparick's appointment in 1993, ten years elapsed. Almost nine years later, we are waiting for a third appointment of a woman to both the Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals and of a second minority, male or female, preferably Hispanic, to the Supreme Court. In 1992 when I joined the bench, there were still two out of 13 circuit courts and about 53 out of 92 district courts in which no women sat. At the beginning of September of 2001, there are women sitting in all 13 circuit courts. The First, Fifth, Eighth and Federal Circuits each have only one female judge, however, out of a combined total number of 48 judges. There are still nearly 37 district courts with no women judges at all. For women of color the statistics are more sobering. As of September 20, 1998, of the then 195 circuit court judges only two were African-American women and two Hispanic women. Of the 641 district court judges only twelve were African-American women and eleven Hispanic women. African-American women comprise only 1.56% of the federal judiciary and Hispanic-American women comprise only 1%. No African-American, male or female, sits today on the Fourth or Federal circuits. And no Hispanics, male or female, sit on the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, District of Columbia or Federal Circuits.

Sort of shocking, isn't it? This is the year 2002. We have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there are some very deep storm warnings we must keep in mind. In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities. I need not remind this audience that Judge Paez of your home Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, has had the dubious distinction of having had his confirmation delayed the longest in Senate history. These figures demonstrate that there is a real and continuing need for Latino and Latina organizations and community groups throughout the country to exist and to continue their efforts of promoting women and men of all colors in their pursuit for equality in the judicial system.

This weekend's conference, illustrated by its name, is bound to examine issues that I hope will identify the efforts and solutions that will assist our communities. The focus of my speech tonight, however, is not about the struggle to get us where we are and where we need to go but instead to discuss with you what it all will mean to have more women and people of color on the bench. The statistics I have been talking about provide a base from which to discuss a question which one of my former colleagues on the Southern District bench, Judge Miriam Cederbaum, raised when speaking about women on the federal bench. Her question was: What do the history and statistics mean? In her speech, Judge Cederbaum expressed her belief that the number of women and by direct inference people of color on the bench, was still statistically insignificant and that therefore we could not draw valid scientific conclusions from the acts of so few people over such a short period of time. Yet, we do have women and people of color in more significant numbers on the bench and no one can or should ignore pondering what that will mean or not mean in the development of the law. Now, I cannot and do not claim this issue as personally my own. In recent years there has been an explosion of research and writing in this area. On one of the panels tomorrow, you will hear the Latino perspective in this debate.

For those of you interested in the gender perspective on this issue, I commend to you a wonderful compilation of articles published on the subject in Vol. 77 of the Judicature, the Journal of the American Judicature Society of November-December 1993. It is on Westlaw/Lexis and I assume the students and academics in this room can find it.

Now Judge Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then "as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically" but instead of "acting intuitively." I am quoting adjectives that were bandied around famously during the suffragettes' movement.

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum's aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor -- I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area -- Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

That same point can be made with respect to people of color. No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, "to judge is an exercise of power" and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives -- no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that -- it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father's visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women's claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants' claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?

Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.

I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

OBAMA on Health Care last night.


--'I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics, to turn every issue into a running tally of who's up and who's down. I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party that, even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to go for the kill, another Republican senator, that defeating health reform is about breaking me.

'So let me be clear: This isn't about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn't pay a dime for her cancer treatment, who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life.'

--'This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they can't afford to wait any longer for reform. They're counting on us to get this done. They're looking to us for leadership. And we can't let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice and provides coverage that every American can count on, and we will do it this year.'

--'I'm rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. And they ask me, Can you help? So I've got a middle-aged couple that will write me and they say, 'Our daughter just found out she's got leukemia and, if I don't do something soon, we just either are going to go bankrupt or we're not going to be able to provide our daughter with the care that she needs.' And in a country like ours, that's not right.'

--'[I]f you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen. The default position is inertia, because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy. There's always going to be some interest out there that decides; you know what, the status quo is working for me a little bit better.'

--[T]he fact that we have made so much progress, where we've got doctors, nurses, hospitals, even the pharmaceutical industry, AARP saying that this makes sense to do, I think, means that the stars are aligned and we need to take advantage of that. Now, I do think it's important to get this right. And if, at the end of the day, I do not yet see that we have it right, then I'm not going to sign a bill that, for example, adds to our deficit. I won't sign a bill that doesn't reduce health care inflation so that families as well as government are saving money. I'm not going to sign a bill that I don't think will work.'

--'[T]o raise a broader issue that I think has colored how we look at health care reform, let me just talk about deficit and debt, because part of what's been happening in this debate is the American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and debt that we're facing right now.'

MAUREEN DOWD Whirling Dervish Drivers

NY Times:

One night several years ago, my mom slipped and broke a bone in her neck. I stayed late at the hospital with her. Driving home on a mostly deserted road, I checked my cellphone messages.

I didn’t notice either the red light coming up or the car stopped at the light. I banged into the back of it, and even though the damage was minor, it was a scary moment.

I admitted that I was upset and distracted, took the blame and swore to myself I’d never use a cellphone in a car again. But, of course, I did. D.C. police will pull you over if they see you using a cellphone that you’re holding up to your ear, but not if you’re hands-free.

Ominously, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — suppressed for years and released on Tuesday after petitions were filed by advocacy groups — shows that there are “negligible differences” in accident risk whether you’re holding the phone or not. Hands-free devices may even enhance the danger by lulling you into complacency.

It is the conversation that pulls focus. My greatest fear is that I’m going to be in a taxi when the driver gets a call from his wife to tell him that she’s run off with his sexy cousin.

In a March New Yorker profile, Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of “Michael Clayton” and “Duplicity,” told the nightmare tale of being in a New York taxi when the cell-chatting driver ran a red light and hit another car.

“So they’re lifting the other guy out of the car, and I’m thinking, I’m lucky,” he said, adding: “Then I see them come at my cab with those things, the Jaws of Life.” He’d fractured his rib and hip.

Studies show that drivers who talk on cellphones are four times more likely to be in a crash and drive just as erratically as people with an 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level.

In one study cited by the highway safety agency, “drivers found it easier to drive drunk than to drive while using a phone, even when it was hands-free.”

The agency buried its head in the sand, keeping the research to itself for years and ignoring the fact that soon nearly all Americans would own cellphones and that the phones are always getting smarter and more demanding, putting a multimedia empire at your fingertips while you’re piloting a potentially lethal piece of artillery.

Americans are so addicted to techno-surfing that they’ve gotten hubristic about how many machines they can juggle simultaneously. One reporter I know recently filed a story from his laptop while driving on the Pacific Coast Highway.

As John Ratey, the Harvard professor of psychiatry who specializes in the science of attention, told The Times’s Matt Richtel for his chilling series, “Driven to Distraction,” using digital devices gives you “a dopamine squirt.”

That explains the Pavlovian impulse of people who are out with friends or dates to ignore them and check their BlackBerrys and cellphones, even if 99 out of 100 messages are uninteresting. They’re truffle-hunting for that scintillating one.

Americans woke up one day to find that they were don’t-miss-a-moment addicts who feel compelled to respond to all messages immediately.

The tech industry is our drug dealer, feeding the intense social and economic pressure to stay constantly in touch with employers, colleagues, friends and family.

It also explains why Christopher Hill, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma who killed a woman last September when he ran a red light while on his cellphone and rammed into her S.U.V., tried to keep dialing and driving with a headset his mother gave him two months after the accident.

He “found his mind wandering into his phone call so much that ‘I nearly missed a light,’ ” he told Richtel. Now he says he rarely uses the phone.

Hollywood offered a cautionary story with the depressing “Seven Pounds,” which begins with Will Smith spoiling his perfect life when he BlackBerrys while driving in his fancy car with his gorgeous new fiancée. He crashes into another car, killing six strangers and his girlfriend. The movie ends with a poisonous jellyfish in an icy bathtub. Don’t ask.

Left, literally, to our own devices, we spiral out of control. States should outlaw drivers from talking on phones — except in an emergency — and using digital devices that cause you to drift and swerve; or at least mandate a $10,000 fine for getting in an accident while phoning or Twittering.

Auto companies are busy creating new crack hits for our self-destructive cravings. Ford is developing a system that would let drivers use phones and music players and surf the Internet with voice commands and audible responses.

Sounds like a computerized death machine. But, as our dealers know, we’ll never disconnect.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

POLITICO's 10 questions for Obama

By: Jonathan Martin and Josh Gerstein

For the first time in his presidency, Barack Obama is using a prime-time news conference Wednesday night to play catch-up.

With the public souring on both his handling of health-care reform and the economy, Obama is stepping to the podium for the fourth time in six months in hopes of convincing the public he’s got a plan, to get the economy back on track and a health overhaul that will expand care to all without busting the budget.

With Democrats fractured on health-care and the GOP sensing a major political opportunity, Obama is engaged in an inside-outside strategy, cajoling members of Congress in private White House sessions while using his bully pulpit to rally public support for his plan.

So it’s health care where we start with our 10 Questions for President Obama.

1) Is it still realistic that both chambers of Congress will pass health care bills before their summer recess in August? And how worried are you that missing the deadline could endanger your hopes of getting a bill this year?

A former senator himself, Obama knows Congress works best under a deadline – and he called on both houses to pass a health bill before heading off on summer vacation. So far anyway, it’s not working. Obama suggested Monday that he was willing to bend his oft-stated deadline, saying it would be OK if the legislation is “going to spill over by a few days or a week.”

But even that may not be realistic. Senators of both parties have publicly warned against rushing through the process, and rank-and-file members in both chambers have raised concerns over everything from the high costs to whether a government-run insurance option is the best way to go, as Obama has sought.

Neither the House nor the Senate has scheduled floor votes and key committees in both have yet to even approve a bill – meaning it might be see you in September time for the president’s health-care goals.

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) seemed to defy Obama, saying: “If we get consensus, we'll move on it. If we don't get consensus, I don't think staying in session is necessarily necessary.”

2) Who are you referring to when you cite, as you did in your radio address last week, those “special interests” in health care who “make the same old arguments, and use the same scare tactics?” And what’s the difference between honest objections to a massive overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, and what you consider obstructionism?

Obama has actually worked assiduously, and successfully, to court many of the stakeholders with a financial interest in healthcare – drug-makers, insurance companies and others who could strike a serious blow at his plan if they came out strongly against it.

He has hosted a variety of them at the White House, trumpeted the financial agreements struck with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals and used some of their endorsements in recent days to underline the support behind getting a bill passed.

Just on Tuesday, Obama touted such groups and others — he actually singled out the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association — to highlight “the consensus” for legislation. So who are the bad guys that are trying to scuttle reform? Perhaps Obama will name names tonight.

3) You have sought to focus attention on Sen. Jim DeMint’s comments alluding to the political benefit for the GOP in blocking healthcare reform, but it’s mostly Democratic members of Congress that your own political apparatus is targeting in TV ads now on the air. Why haven’t you been more successful in convincing members of your own party on this issue so far, and how does DeMint figure into your effort to lobby Democrats?

Obama and his allies have been harping on DeMint’s reference to health care as Obama’s potential “Waterloo,” but the South Carolina senator is one of just 40 GOP senators.

It’s not the conservative DeMint but rather moderate Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House who ultimately will decide health care’s fate. And right now, they’re not happy – particularly the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs who fear a deficit explosion if Obama gets his way.

It’s these members who have been brought down to the White House for meetings with the president.

So why is it DeMint who the White House is singling out? Clearly it’s part of the “Party of No” mantra the White House likes to use against Republicans. But perhaps it’s also to send a reminder to those recalcitrant members of Obma’s own party that failure on health care is what the opposition is pulling for – and that such failure would have grave political consequences for all Democrats.

4) You said during the campaign that you would negotiate the health care bill on C-SPAN. But now you won't even release the names of health care executives who visit the White House for what are closed door discussions. How do you reconcile what you said during the campaign with your approach now?

As part of his stump speech, Obama would often describe his vision for the process behind health care reform.

At a campaign stop in Virginia last summer, he said: "We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.”

Now, though, none of the White House negotiations are open for public consumption. And the Obama administration has rejected a request from a watchdog group to disclose the health care industry executives who have come to the White House to discuss the issue. The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, is poised to sue Obama’s administration to obtain the records.

5) On Monday you said that “folks on Wall Street don’t feel any remorse for taking all these risks; you don’t get a sense that there’s been a change of culture and behavior as a consequence of what has happened." What do you think Wall Street needs to do to show remorse and to change its culture? And isn’t the problem with the economy right now not some Wall Streeters getting bonuses, but the fact that recession is much tougher and deeper than even your administration projected?

While nothing like the AIG bonuses that fueled so much populist resentment this spring, news of Goldman Sachs’ monster second-quarter profits and subsequent billions worth of bonuses has again focused attention on Wall Street excesses.

According to a New York Times estimate, Goldman workers could earn an average of $770,000 this year, about the same as they did during the go-go boom years. Goldman paid back the $10 billion in federal bailout money they received, freeing them of compensation restrictions.
Republicans have scored points recently by pointing out that Congress approved nearly $800 billion in stimulus spending, and yet the unemployment rate is 9.5 percent and rising. Look for Obama to ask for patience from the public that his administration is focused every day on turning around the economy.

6) Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate alleged abuses of detainees during the Bush era. When the White House was asked about this, officials repeated your mantra that the country should look forward, not back. What’s your view about when it’s appropriate for the White House to send signals to the Justice Department about what action it should take in regarding a criminal investigation?

Holder is wrestling with the issue of whether to appoint an independent prosecutor to determine whether crimes were committed as part of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”—or outside of them. While the White House has stressed Holder’s independence, it hasn’t been bashful about putting a little English on the ball. “My best guidance for you and others on this would be to look back at what the President has said over the course of the past many weeks…that our efforts are better focused looking forward than looking back,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said last week when asked about Holder’s dilemma.

7) In announcing the delay of up to six months in the report on detainee policy, White House officials said the issues were “hard” and “complicated” and that you wanted them to “get this right.” Weren’t they hard and complicated when you set the deadline earlier this year? What has changed? And are you still committed to closing Guantanamo Bay prison by January?

On his second full day in office, Obama held an Oval Office ceremony to sign executive orders setting a one-year deadline for closing Guantanamo and six-month deadlines for government task forces revamping detainee and interrogation policies. This week, the administration blew past the task force deadlines, even as it claims to be on track to close Gitmo.

“These are hard, complicated and consequential decisions. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves,” a senior administration official said at a White House briefing Monday. “We wanted to get this right,” another official said. However, the officials had no real explanation for how or why the issues turned out to be more complicated than they thought in January. They also insisted, though somewhat less than forcefully, that they are still working towards Obama’s goal of closing the controversial facility in January, even though an uproar in Congress has complicated his ability to bring prisoners to the U.S.

8) Your Secretary of State recently compared the North Korean regime attention-craving adolescents. Do you agree with that assessment, and either way, how do plan to proceed toward reining in North Korea’s missile program?

In an interview with ABC News earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a colorful description of Pyongyang: "What we've seen is this constant demand for attention, and maybe it's the mother in me or the experience that I've had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention.”

Continuing, she said: "Don't give it to them. They don't deserve it. They are acting out in a way to send a message that is not a message we're interested in receiving."

9) Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was recently arrested by Cambridge police at his own home. Now the African-American scholar said he plans to use the experience to focus attention on racial profiling and the black experience in the criminal justice system. Do you think Gates was justified in accusing the police of being harassed for being “a black man in America?”

Obama has avoided intervening in such racially charged incidents in the past – even drawing criticism for not speaking up more about such controversies as Jena, Louisiana in two years ago – but given Gates’ prominence (and ties to Obama’s alma mater) and his intent to draw attention to the matter, it may be tough for the president to avoid weighing in on what happened in Cambridge and larger issues relating to African-Americans and law enforcement.

10) Do you still plan on joining a Washington-area church and attending services?

Six months into his presidency, Obama has attended Sunday services just once in Washington, D.C. – at St. Johns Episcopal across from Lafayette Square on Easter.

The White House knocked down a report that the president would make the non-denominational chapel at Camp David his church home, saying that the president continues to look for a congregation. Aides say the president is concerned about disrupting the worship experience of others.

Comments on CANADA vs USA HealthCare from CNN

July 6th, 2009 11:54 am ET

Just a quick note. I’m a 32 year old Canadian with hypothyroidism and rheumatoid Arthritis if I lived in the states I would be homeless not being able to afford the doctors visits or medication. Our is not perfect but it’s works for all people not just those with money.

Patti July 6th, 2009 12:13 pm ET

No system will ever be perfect, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Canada is constantly working to improve its health care system, just as the US is…but I think we have much less work to do. Dana Bash’s report seemed to only give lip service to the positive side of Canadian health care.

Yes, we sometimes have long wait periods for treatment in Canada. But everyone in this country has equal access to quality health care, and if we’re seriously ill, we get bumped to the top of the list…as it should be.

We don’t avoid the doctor as long as possible, hoping symptoms will go away because we can’t afford the bills. As a consequence, many more major illnesses are caught early, in their more treatable stages. This has got to translate into lower health care costs per capita. People shouldn’t have to lose their homes or go bankrupt because they got sick, and that’s what’s happening in the US because of your faulty healthcare “system.”

Marissa July 6th, 2009 12:20 pm ET

My 79 year old aunt is going for a Dr. requested colonoscopy but could not afford the $75.00 for the prescription needed to cleans her colon. Because her SSI benefits were reduced drastically on a technicality she’s unable to go for the necessary procedure. If we lived in Canada she would not have to worry about a $75 expense versus affording food for the month.

What option is Mitch McConnell and the Republicans offering, oh yeah non. Their option is only to criticize the Obama administration instead of helping Americans.

Jason July 6th, 2009 12:43 pm ET

Canadians may wait in the waiting room for a half hour to forty five minute. While most in the USA wait six or seven months to save up money it will cost in order to get a check up.

Blaine Norum July 6th, 2009 12:45 pm ET

I was very disturbed by this morning’s biased report on the Canadian health system. It was observed that some Canadians had to wait a long time for elective procedures. But, how does their wait compare to the lifelong wait of the 47 MILLION Americans without health insurance? You also failed to mention that the cost of the Canadian system is about 1/2 to 2/3 or ours per capita. If they spent as much per capita as we did waits would be nonexistent. You cited the fact that Canadian taxes are higher than ours but when you compare the sum of our taxes AND our health insurance premiums to their taxes then you get the real, and much different, picture. And the bottom line is this: the life expectancy in Canada is a full 2 years greater than in the US, even after you factor in variables such as murder rate, auto death rate, smoking rate, and our significantly greater propensity towards obesity.

Having lived in both countries and used the health care systems of both countries I personally prefer the Canadian system. However, I recognize that Canadians and Americans are different peoples, with different histories, priorities, and world views. Hence, I would not argue strongly that we should adopt the Canadian system outright. I just wish we could have a factual discussion of its merits and drawbacks without distortions, without focusing on non-representative isolated cases, and without meaningless ideological labels.

Rob Redfearn July 6th, 2009 2:22 pm ET

I am originally from Canada (moved here in 96)
I grew up in a doctor’s family and I also was married to one for 20 years.
I am also a business owner AND a consumer of medical care. I have a perspective from both inside and outside the the system, on both sides of the border.
I just had 2 disks removed from my neck and had the vertebrae fused. The total bill (”list price”) was $107,000 and I was in the hospital for 26 hours TOTAL.

I got the surgery quickly (under 4 weeks from diagnosis)… and had great care. My insurance covered all but the $1000 deductible. I pay $500/month for the insurance (blue cross).

In Canada I would have waited a LONG time for the surgery (not to mention getting the MRIs Xrays, etc required before hand). It may have cost me “nothing” out of pocket … but the care DOES cost.. its just paid in taxes. It would cost the same $500/month in insurance there as here.. its just coming out of tax dollars (which, make NO mistake, is STILL coming out of your pocket)

The reason Canada’s per capita cost is LESS than the US is because the average person does not get the average level of care available here in the US. … and socialized medicine is ALL ABOUT THE AVERAGE!!! And, on average, I was NOT happy with the standard of care there, nor were my father or ex-wife happy with the standard of care dictated TO them by the government bureaucrats who were making the decisions as to whom got what level of treatment.

As a business owner I am very wary of a plan imposed by government to ensure adequate care. However, I also recognize that my recent $100k surgery is one of the reasons healthcare costs (including the cost of insurance) is SO high!!!

The solution is a hybrid of private and public and TWO levels of care is going to be inevitable. As always, we are gonna get what we pay for!!!

Ed Keppel July 6th, 2009 2:24 pm ET

You talked about health care in Canada, your report made it sound like it was for free. It is not for free, they offer this free service thru higher taxes. The higher tax is not just on the wealthy, everyone in Canada is paying higher taxes because of the free health care.
The cost of living in Canada is much higher than in the U.S.

Larry July 6th, 2009 2:56 pm ET

So what is McConnell’s solution? Oh yeah, he’s Republican. He doesn’t have any solutions. Just criticism of people trying hard to fix what the Republicans have destroyed over the past eight years.

Give it up McConnell. Your connections with special interests in Washington are about to be severed.

RON TACKET July 6th, 2009 6:23 pm ET

You have to wonder at the hypocracy of congress. Each of them is covered by a Government run health care system at no cost to them. Yet Mcconnell and others oppose a similar program for the masses.

Purple Spider July 6th, 2009 6:49 pm ET

I said this once, I will say it again….Obama’s Health Care Plan could be beneficial to those who have no coverage. Obama’s Health Care Plan will not be beneficial to those who are covered and have their private doctor and have it taken away from them.
What is sad about this, is that Washington does not take time to work out details that will help everyone – THEY JUST SHOVE EVERYTHING THROUGH AND DOWN ALL AMERICANS “THROATS”! That is not a democracy and that is not America! THAT IS BEING UNDER A DICTATORSHIP!

Mark Coan July 6th, 2009 7:06 pm ET

Wolf, et al., It is not reasonable to asses and compare the Canadian Health System, or the US system, or any other, based upon anecdotal stories even if one from “each side” is revealed. And, descriptions of wait-times at a hospital are valueless, too, really. These are complex issues, immense businesses that have been studied from many perspectives analytically, and we are faced with a needed compromise, a decision which will be painful one way or t’other (and require constant adjustment / innovation)!! The present system doesn’t work, not for the patient, the physician, or the hospital.

Jacqueline July 6th, 2009 7:28 pm ET

I’m so tired of hearing biased reports on the Canadian healthcare system, that use scare tactics to frighten unknowing Americans against universal healthcare. As a Canadian RN who has lived in Florida for 17 years, I’ve seen cancer patients, who at diagnosis were at Stage IV, because they couldn’t afford to see a Dr. until their symptoms brought them to an ER. Had they had access to healthcare, they would have been diagnosed at a much earlier stage and had a shot at survival. I’ve seen the elderly make decisions about food vs. medicine, I’ve seen families financially ruined because Mom or Dad had cancer, or a devastating car accident. I’ve seen people stay in jobs they loathe, because they couldn’t afford to let their health insurance lapse. When are we going to wake up? We spend 2-3 times as much on healthcare than other industrialized nations, yet our infant mortality and overall survival numbers are lower. We have access to the best Dr’s, medicines and machinery, but outcomes aren’t any better. Wake up people, pay a little more in taxes, have cradle to grave coverage and live a happier, healthier life.
Two years ago, Canadians voted Tommy Douglas, the politician who ushered in universal healthcare, greatest Canadian of all time. What does that tell you? That despite it’s flaws, Canadians are proud of their healthcare system.

sharon July 6th, 2009 7:43 pm ET

I am a Canadian. Americans, you should consider a couple of very important points regarding the interview with Hugh Segal.
1. Our senators are not elected–they are appointed until the age of 75 and are NOT accountable to any Canadian voter.
2. Our health care system is also unaccountable to any Canadian citizen who uses it. Yes, we have universal health care but we have no idea how much a medical procedure costs –it is paid through taxes–very HIGH taxes. Nationwide, 1/2 of our total provincial budgets are health care costs.
3. We DO have long waiting lists and long emergency room line-ups-3-4 hours in Calgary Alberta seems to be the average wait time. Depending upon the time of week and year, it can be a day’s wait. We cannot see a specialist without a referral from a GP and the wait time to see a specialist is months, if not a year for some specialties.
4. Procedures ARE limited–for example, cataract surgery. You can wait for up to a year to have this surgery done. A colonoscopy has a wait list from 2-5 years!! I know this from having been on the list for 2 years. I cannot book any procedure myself, nor can I pay to have it done. I am at the mercy of the centralized system.

Don’t believe everything you read or hear about the Canadian system. Do some independent research and discover the truth.

Tina July 7th, 2009 12:43 am ET

I think that we should have a Canadian type healthcare system. It is quite obvious that our system sucks now. It is solely run by greed. Greed of insurance companies, a lot of hospitals and doctors. I am sorry, they cannot justify the high cost of premiums, medications and treatments. The same prescriptions bought in another country is 50 to 75% less than what we pay. HOW IS THAT SO? It is called GREED. So call me a socialist. If a government run insurance is cheaper and better for us then let it be so! I am so tired of these politicians claiming that it will cost millions. WELL HELLO. What do you think it is costing us now. Wake up and smell the roses. Our country is ready for big change. Do you know that our country is the only country that does not have a government run healthcare and we are also the most expensive. Wake up people. A government run medical plan will not ruin lives, it will not deminish quality of care and it would be a hell of a lot cheaper. I am so tired of hearing about insurance companies dropping people for no reason or for a reason that is ludicrus. They run our lives and for what? So the hospitals, doctors and insurance companies can live in their McMansions and take trips to other countries two or three times a year. Give me a break. I want a government runned healthcare system. Let the private sector stay, but I will guarentee that they will loose money in droves once people realize that they will get the exact same care as private.

Jason July 7th, 2009 5:04 pm ET

I hear all this talk about “oh government run health care do you want a burocrat dictating wether or not you get the procedure you need” I live in Canada and have had many medical problems and never had a politician tell me I can’t have a procedure. That is pure nonsense do not listen to those who speak such rubish.

daniel July 8th, 2009 6:59 am ET

Lets keep it simple. Let every US citizen log in to the same web site that
senators do and buy health care at the same cost they do now or when they leave office. This won’t require a new government agency. If it is good enough for them it is good enough for me.

Marc B July 12th, 2009 11:09 am ET

Being a Canadian living in the USA, I experienced both systems.
The coverage is a major problem that everybody is discussing but we have to talk about the Cost of Health Care in the US. If we increase the coverage to all Americans and the productivity is not improved, we have in front of us a big disaster.
1. We have to reduce the cost, reduce the # of medical staff that we see in a single visit.
2. Reduce the cost to educate new doctors, otherwise, we will have a shortage and foreign doctors will increase
3. Create Government insurance for doctor malpractice
4. Reduction of law suit in health care
5. Creation of a national medication insurance exactly like Quebec did few years ago where you can have the private program and if you don’t have one, you are forced to join the government one.

One element that we don’t discuss is the fact that HealthCare in Canada is a State (province) jurisdiction therefore; the Federal is not managing Healthcare but help funding the expenses. We have to ask the question if the US Federal Government is the appropriate organization to run Healthcare insurance.