Thursday, October 22, 2009

Medicare Part E: Keith Olbermann Pitches In

Did anyone catch Keith Olbermann’s commentary on MSNBC last October 7? Keith dedicated the entire hour of his show Countdown to an impassioned plea for passage of meaningful healthcare reform. Personalizing the experience he and his family faced with his father’s hospitalization for a serious illness, Keith made a compelling case for the urgency of reforming our healthcare system with the inclusion of a robust public option.

I recommend that everyone read or view it. But it wasn’t just Keith’s commentary. It was his specific call to action. As a fairly regular viewer and fan of his advocacy style of journalism, I can say that the commitment Keith made is entirely consistent with the decent human being, before journalist, that he is:

I propose tonight one act with two purposes. I propose we, all of us, embrace the selfless individuals at the National Association of Free Clinics. You know them, they conducted the mass health care free clinic in Houston that served 1,500 people. I want a mass health care free clinic every week in the principle cities of the states of the six senators key to defeating a filibuster against health care reform in the Senate. 

I want Sens. Lincoln and Pryor to see what health care poverty is really like in Little Rock. I want Sen. Baucus to see it in Butte. I want Sen. Ben Nelson to see it in Lincoln. I want Sen. Landrieu to see it in Baton Rouge. I want Sen. Reid to see it in Las Vegas.

I'll donate. How much will you donate? We enable thousands of our neighbors to have just a portion of the bounty of good health, and we make a statement to the politicians, forgive me, William Jennings Bryan, "you shall not press down upon the brow of America this crown of insurance, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of blue."

Lawrence O’Donnell, who guest-hosted Countdown some days later, disclosed that Keith donated a total of $30,000 seed money, $10,000 to kick start financing for each projected free clinic site. As of last night, Keith announced more than $1.2 million has been donated to the free clinics; enough to get them up and running in the following cities and states:
1. Baton Rouge, La. – Home state of DINO Senator Mary Landrieu, who should be on every REAL Democrat’s shitlist as the infamous first inductee to this blog's DINOS Hall of Shame for her craven flip-flop on the public option followed by her contemptuous assertion that people favor it because they “think the public option means free health care.” The free clinics attract 80% working people -- your constituents, Sen. Landrieu -- who do not have and cannot afford health insurance. Free clinic to be held November 14.

2. Little Rock, Ark. – Home state of DINO Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. Senators Lincoln and Pryor inexplicably oppose the public option even though their constituents are for it. Free clinic to be held November 21.

3. Kansas City, Mo. – The change in location is a function of logistics, and will represent the nation’s need for healthcare reform. This will be a 2-day free clinic to be held December 9-10.

Anyone who wishes to may contribute to the free clinics here. Anyone who lives in the cities where the free clinics will be held, please contribute your time, if you can. They need volunteers. The popular TV doctor, Dr. Oz, will be donating his services as a health professional. I’ll update the story as more details become available.

Keith, you done good. This is a decent and generous act that, to my mind, represents the very best of advocacy journalism. Now it’s up to us to follow through contributing what we can to see this reform to a successful legislative conclusion. But that’s not all. As the public option moves to a vote in the House, it’s been rebranded Medicare Part E -– Medicare for everyone. While the idea may have been floated in Congress with Keith’s colleague, Dr. Nancy, lamenting that if only the public option were named something without the negative connotation of “government-run or takeover,” it was Keith’s commentary that ultimately gave it legs:
Just as "global warming" is really "bad climate change," "The Public Option" is in broad essence "Medicare For Everybody." Frame it that way, sell it that way, and suddenly it doesn't sound like a threat, turning the seemingly solid insurance which people have now, into something "optional" and turning anything "private" into everything "public."

Once you said "Medicare For Everybody," there would be just as much to explain. If you were under 65 you'd be paying for it. You wouldn't have to buy it. You wouldn't have to change from whatever you have now.

Suddenly, mainstream media is reporting a “stunner:” Not only does the public option keep the cost of the reform under $900 billion over ten years, but it actually reduces the deficit over the same period. The story here, though, is why these imbeciles would only now treat as a stunning revelation what public option advocates have known for months and why we've fought so hard for it. It's not ideological; it's mainstream good public policy. If local traditional media is becoming less relevant, this kind of obtuse reporting is one reason why.

A final word to Keith’s corporate bosses: Lift the ban on his hilarious skewering of Bill-O the Clown. After the White House’s frontal assault on the journalistic fraud called FOX “News,” it should have become apparent to you that Keith is doing a service every bit as important as that provided by Pulitzer Prize winners, the nonpartisan political fact-checking arm of the St. Petersburg Times.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rock Obama Is Back: How to Negotiate with Senators on Healthcare!

The Old “Neighborhood Play”

Last night in the course of the Yankees-Angels marathon playoff game, eventually won by the Yanks 4-3, there was a play at the bottom of the tenth that is seldom called. In a routine double play grounder to second, hardly a bang-bang play – Melky Cabrera was out by the proverbial “mile” on a groundout by lead-footed Yankee catcher Jorge Posada – the Angels shortstop Erick Eybar straddled the second base bag without touching it with his feet.

Result: Cabrera was called safe, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia shot out of the dugout like the cannonball man to jawbone the ump. He had a point, said veteran game callers Tim McCarver and Joe Buck.

“As we’ve seen so often tonight,” McCarver said, “the ‘neighborhood play’ is in vogue at second base. He may be straddling the bag but he was straddling the bag all night. Now, Mike Scioscia’s argument is: Why call it now when you haven’t called it all night?”

Joe Buck noted, “They will give that play at second base always.”

“Always!” agreed McCarver.

“But,” added Buck, “technically speaking, Eybar never touched the base.” Later, recapping the game, McCarver and Buck were emphatic: Umps “never” call that play. Except, of course, when they do.

This reminds me a lot of the foot fault controversy involving Serena Williams in the U.S. Open women’s final. When certain rules are historically finessed, e.g., the “neighborhood play” in baseball and the foot fault in tennis, the worst thing an ump can do is to apply the rule inconsistently.