House poised to pass historic health-care reform bill

by on November 7, 2009 · 36 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Health, Organizing, War and Peace

Obama at house 11-7-09

President Obama made a personal appeal, visiting with Democrats as the House began to discuss the healthcare bill in a rare Saturday session. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press / November 7, 2009)

BREAKING NEWS: At about 8:15 PST, the House passed the health care reform bill, 220 to 215. One Republican voted for it, and 39 Democrats voted against it.

By David Lightman / McClatchy Newspapers / November 7, 2009

WASHINGTON — With a personal push from President Barack Obama, the House of Representatives Saturday inched closer to passing historic health care legislation that would guarantee virtually all Americans access to care.

Obama met for half an hour with House Democrats as the all-day debate was starting Saturday morning, and compared the health care effort to Democrats’ championing of Social Security and Medicare.

“Now is the time to finish the job,” Obama said later in brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

Democratic leaders were hoping for a final vote on the bill Saturday night, after a last-minute deal with abortion opponents would make it clear federal funds could not be used to pay for elective abortions.

The House bill would make the biggest changes in the nation’s health care system since Medicare was created 44 years ago to provide coverage for seniors and the disabled.

Passage of the bill by the House would be the first crucial step to overhauling health care; the Senate hopes to act by the end of the year, and the two Houses would then craft a compromise that would need approval of each chamber.

The House measure would create a government-run health-care plan to compete with the private sector, bar insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and set up health care “exchanges,” or marketplaces where consumers could easily shop for coverage.

The changes are expected to mean that by 2019, 96 percent of eligible Americans would have health insurance, up from the current 83 percent.

For the remainder of this article, go here.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar annagrace November 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm

This article is a happy talk gloss on what is actually going on right now. (That is not a criticism of your editorial selection, Frank- I can’t find a better one either at the moment.)

I’m struggling to find the right metaphor- have progressives, have women, been “thrown under the bus?” Are we casualties of “friendly fire?”

At this moment the House is debating the Stupak amendment. The House leadership caved in to the anti-choice Democratic congressman Brian Stupak, allowing them to vote on an anti-choice amendment to the bill. If passed and included in a final health reform bill, it would block women from getting insurance to cover legal abortion procedures- it’s in the Consitution!- with premiums paid with their personal funds. Needless to say- no Federal dollars would cover this in the public option. Wealthy and middle class women will find the funds for a safe procedure. Poor women? Coat hangers are free with dry cleaning. Thanks to Jane Hamsher of firedoglake for summing it up. “Democrats in Congress have just proudly signed a deal with the Catholic bishops which allows a bunch of old men who have spent the better part of the last century avoiding their own sexual issues to dictate access to abortion services in the House health care bill.” And a big bronx cheer to Pelosi for caving in to the Catholic guys.

It is also worth pointing out the amendments which were dropped from the bill. Pelosi promised that Anthony Weiner’s Single Payer Amendment would be included. He agreed to drop it on Friday. A recent New York Times article noted “Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders had long ago taken the single-payer issue off the table, saying that it would be too destabilizing to completely change the nation’s health care system. Adopting a single-payer program would require a sweeping overhaul of the tax code, as well as of the compensation and benefits packages of virtually every employer in the United States.” Is it impossible to have a sweeping overhaul of the tax system? How much can you talk about change if you don’t want to do anything differently? Glad to hear that Weiner is “disappointed.” I’m pissed- spent a lot of time on the phone these past weeks pressuring the House leadership to follow through on the commitment.

And the Kucinich amendment was dropped too. Proposed by Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) it would allow states to experiment with single-payer plans, as a number of states would like to do. Although that amendment had already been passed by a bipartisan vote of 27-19 in the House Education and Labor Committee, it has also been stripped from the bill.

So what else is in this historic bill? The Republican Amendment- their piece of crap alternative health care reform. Cheap(er) and guaranteed to leave more uninsured. Such a deal!

The Democratic leadership is dismal. No, this is not change I can believe in.

I’m going to pour myself a stiff one…and watch some Rocky and Bullwinkle.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 7, 2009 at 8:36 pm

It’s health care reform, with a public option. For someone like myself, with NO health insurance at all, it is a step. Although I’ll probably never see it. The status quo was not acceptable.

Last summer, the GOP and the right, and the cynics all said it couldn’t be done. A public option was unacceptable – except for all the polls that described how 2/3’s of Americans wanted it.

I was fairly certain it would not pass with good choice language. The trend against a single-payer was plain to see. Maybe after all the “compromises” the bill isn’t worth our concern, and it’s not over – the Senate has to deal with their version. And then there will be more compromises.

If you watched any of the debates live you could see what nastiness and spite the right spit out, with the leader of the House GOP calling the bill “the most dangerous threat to freedom” that he had ever seen. On Thursday 5,000 to 10,000 Tea Party activists chanted “Kill the bill!”

They lost this round. I’m very happy about that.

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avatar annagrace November 7, 2009 at 8:51 pm

If the health care option does not kick in immediately, as opposed to when- 2013? and if it doesn’t make insurance available to everyone, and if there is an opt- out, and if women have to purchase a rider- if available- to get an abortion, and if people are required to purchase it and still can’t afford it- it’s a croaker.

No-it’s not over yet. The House however is more liberal that the Senate, so I’m not holding my breath on the final vote mashup.

Too soon to talk about who the losers are….

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avatar doug porter November 8, 2009 at 9:23 am

when the original social security act passed in 1933 the average lifespan was 59 years; retirement benefits started (for a limited slice of the working class) at age 65. the final version of health care reform isn’t likely to be the great progressive break though that many of us wish for. but, as with social security, medicare, and unemployment insurance, the significance of the initial passage isn’t the actual content of the bill, but the fact that rightist opposition has been defeated.
in the meantime, let’s encourage all the doomsayers to line up for their serving of crow. in the no so distant future, being identified with opposing health care reform will be a toxic legacy that can be utilized by progressive forces to overcome the inertia of incumbency in many districts outside of the deep south.

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avatar mr fresh November 8, 2009 at 9:27 am

“outside the deep south”…. so what can we do with those crackers? i suggest massive federal aid consisting of deep fried food, ding-dongs, and artificially flavored breakfast cereals.

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avatar Monty Kroopkin November 8, 2009 at 10:41 am

If some version of a public healthcare “option” is actually signed into law by the president in the next few months, Doug’s perspective that the long term importance is the defeat of the most right wing reactionaries, will probably be true. It will be an established reality that we do have some form of healthcare available to everyone. It will become much less of a massive culture change campaign to “reform” the reform, one aspect at a time.

Hopefully, the worst “compromise” items that have been thrown into the bill to “buy” enough of the votes of the right wing of the Democrats for passage, can be repealed within the next year, one by one. Attacking the provisions that violate women’s reproductive freedom, for examle, should be much easier as a stand alone issue, when the reactionaries no longer have all healthcare reform held hostage. Repealing harmful parts of the law will not happen, however, without ANOTHER major mobilization of progressives.

Unions for Single Payer and all the groups determined to win a real universal PUBLIC healthcare system, will continue the fight for it.

2010 is another election year, and it is already time to be thinking and working on it. Progressives who supported the Democratic Party in 2008 need to take a long hard look at the entrenched pro-corporate power structure of that party, and consider working to elect some Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party, and other Left alternative candidates. We need more voices in Congress that are not subject to the obnoxious party discipline of the 2 major corporate parties. And we all need to continue to educate ourselves and our neighbors to understand that all real historic progressive social change has come about NOT because of who got elected, but because of the strength of grassroots, democratic organizations in the community. Building progressive organs of communication, like the OB Rag, is at the heart of our ability to have strong democratic movements in our communities.

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avatar annagrace November 8, 2009 at 10:59 am

Yes- it is true that Social Security coverage has been expanded over the years. As Anthony Weiner said when he withdrew his single coverage amendment, you can’t hold up the good in pursuit of the perfect. The sticking point for me and a whole bunch of really really pissed off women is that the Social Security Act (and Medicare Act) didn’t initially give something away, they didn’t take a step backward.

And this is precisely what the House vote did with the Stupak Amendment. The ramifications are summed up in the DailyKos today by minstryoftruth. “The bigger point, which ties into the first, is that Democrats can NOT continue to betray their base and expect them to support them, and that is proven by the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was passed last night. If Democrats do something Republicans have not been able to for decades, which is to limit the rights of women’s choice, there will, and SHOULD, be massive blowback.” 64 Democrats supported this amendment. Shame shame!

As Wireless Mike noted elsewhere ” only the left has made concessions while the right has stood firm on ideals.” Why would the left concede women’s rights? Women and Democrats did NOT hand Democrats huge majorities in order to legislate like Republicans.

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avatar Monty Kroopkin November 8, 2009 at 1:49 pm

annagrace and Wireless Mike,

The Democratic Party is NOT the Left. The DP thrives on betraying its base. It main function in propping up capitalism is to fool millions of people into supporting the party as THE only alternative to the much worse Republicans (and all the smaller parties even further to the right), while regularly selling us all out at the most fundamental levels. It’s a “good cop, bad cop” scam. How people are fooled into supporting the DP is all about throwing us real progressive concessions now and then, while never doing anything to threaten corporate control of society.

We should all protest the Stupak-Pitts Amendment and demand it NOT be included in the Senate bill and in the reconcilliation bill that comes out of the conference committee. And every House member who voted for the amendment should be opposed in the 2010 DP primaries, and if that fails to boot them out then people who usually vote DP should also oppose the bastards through support of Left alternative party candidates in November. The pigs should pay for their crime.

Stop calling the DP the Left. Read what the real Left is saying about issues. I get the impression from most of the comments at the OB Rag that people are NOT doing that. In our state, we have 2 Left parties that actually qualify to be on the ballot, which is no easy achievement, given the restrictive rules imposed by the major parties-dominated legislature. The Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party have websites at

http://www.peaceandfreedom.org/home/

and at

http://www.gp.org/index.php

and a wide array of other Left parties have online publications and websites that one can browse at multi-party portal sites such as

http://www.victoryiscertain.com/linksarchive/parties.html

and

http://www.broadleft.org/index.htm

Left parties are an important arena for developing new ideas about issues and tactics, and a source of otherwise unavailable reporting on events. Left parties contribute to the pressure that progressive social movements have to exert to get concessions from the corporate power structure. And, at some point, the only way progressives can really win in this country is going to be by building an organization that unites a new progressive majority to throw out the corporate parties, both DP and RP. That organization will have to be both an electoral one and simultaneously one with the ability to act independently of the elected officials to force change from below, through strikes, boycotts and other direct actions.

Stop saying the Left is conceding women’s rights. The Left is not in power.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm

My friend Monty only has it half right. Of course, I can agree with much of what he says here, but he is seriously mistaken in the rest of what he lays out. Politics is way more complicated than what he suggests, there are way many more gray areas, and it is not all black and white. We all cannot be as pure as Monty wants us to be.

Just for starters, Monty dismisses the millions of progressives and leftists who reside in, vote with, work and struggle within, and identify with the Democratic Party. Take Move On or Democracy for America – two progressive groups with millions of members who work within the DP. There are leftists – aren’t they?

So it’s insulting to them to tell them all they do is lie and manipulate and double-cross us true Americans.

Monty claims that only the true left is worthy of our attention, and that true left is outside the DP and is sequestered in tiny organizations.

It feels good to be pure but does nothing to combat the fascist reactionary and racist movement that is afoot in this country. As progressives, we must align with all those willing to stand up to the Sarah Palins and Glenn Becks, and not only side with those purist leftists who follow the correct line.

So, Monty get off your high horse, quit saying you know what and who the true and real left is. You are making the same mistake that the German left did during the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. The German left believed then that the Social Democrats – much like the DP here in this country – were no better than the Nazis, so their programs flowed from that mistaken and ultimately lethal analysis, and they fought the Social Democrats more than they did the rising Nazis. History tragically showed them their error.

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avatar Monty Kroopkin November 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Frank, I said no such thing. Such a simplistic position would be garbage. (I refer here to “Monty claims that only the true left is worthy of our attention, and that true left is outside the DP and is sequestered in tiny organizations. “)

I advocate no “pure” anything. I advocate that progressives read what the full array of left parties and groups out there have to say.

The Social Democrats in the 1930s in Germany was a self-identified Marxist, socialist party. The Democratic Party in the U.S. is not and has never been that. It is a false comparison.

It is an objective fact that those inside the Democratic Party who do self-identify as socialists (or as any kind of leftist) are not, and have never been, a majority of that party. The DP platform and DP majority supports capitalism, not socialism. It is also an objective fact that there are self-identified socialist, communist, and anarchist organizations outside the DP. At times during U.S. history, some of these organizations had mass memberships, in the millions, not just thousands. Today, no one organization has such size. Government repression (done by both the DP and the Republicans) has played no small part in blunting the influence of left parties and groups (the Haymarket trials, Palmer Raids, McCarthyism, Taft-Hartley Act, COINTELPRO, etc.) Size and influence of left groups in the future? Time will tell.

It is an objective fact that were it not for organizations like the IWW, we would not have won the 8 hour day. Were it not for organizations like the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, the DP would not have been pressed to enact Social Security in the 1930s.

The DP is the not heart and soul of the Left and the DP alone cannot defend us against rising fascism. Indeed, there are pro-corporate and pro-imperialist elements in the DP that ARE a large part of the threat of rising fascism. To defeat rising fascism, we are going to need a stronger left, outside the DP, that is not hamstrung by the DP’s pro-capitalist platform and that is fully able to educate people that the PURPOSE of fascism is to prolong the life of capitalism, by stripping away all the inconvient obstacles that democracy creates. It is precisely because capitalism is currently experiencing a new depression (defined as 10% or more unemployment) that we are seeing corporate-backed fascist groups rising. They desperately want to distract and prevent people from looking at the alternative to capitalist destruction of our lives and planet: democracy with rational socialist and environmental policies.

Should the broader left act in coalition with the progressive elements within the DP? Of course yes, whenever possible. But we have to push the public conversation to the left. If we don’t do that, we allow the right to continue to drag the definition of “mainstream” further and further to the right. Progressives inside the DP end up with less and less room to work in, if the independent left does not do the heavy lifting and build support for sane, humane policies.

So, again, I urge people to read the left press. (And, please notice, I am not pushing any one political party or group as the “correct” one). And it would be a great addition if the OB Rag expanded the links section, to help people find more of this material more easily. ZNET has a pretty comprehensive Alternative Media portal, for example.

So, Frank, I will stay on my “horse”, thank you. It is a “horse” consisting of a lifetime of studying history and social science. And I will continue to support the OB Rag and all efforts to create spaces for communities of people to talk with each other, free of control by the Corporate Press. We can have no democracy without these free speech venues.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 12, 2009 at 10:35 am

Thanks, Monty, for your support. You were one of the first supporters of our blog, and we will always treasure your contributions to our early beginnings.

Sure, a lot of the history that you recount is true. I emphasis “history” because we have a different political landscape these days.

It is an objective fact – to use your phraseology – that without the Democratic Party, America would not have its very first African-American president. For this to occur in a society that had the first race-based system of slavery in world history and in a country that has had a white-dominated political, social and economic system ever since is no small thing. In fact, it is a great thing.

For those progressives and leftists who want to denounce Obama (I’m not saying you’re one of them) at this early stage do not have an appreciation of our country’s history of racism.

Again, I hope we can work on what unites us, so yes, stay on your horse, and help us figure out this historic challenge for progressives: how to defend Obama against the reactionary racist movement – that is by definition – a fascist movement and at the same time criticize him for his policies that are wrong, like sending 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 18, 2009 at 6:39 am

Frank, You say:

“I hope we can work on what unites us, so yes, stay on your horse, and help us figure out this historic challenge for progressives”

What is the historic challenge for socialists in the United States?”

Do we have a place at the table of the “left” for discussing the road forward in a democratic America? Do we have a place at the table in the OBRag?

The key feature that permitted the ascendancy of a populist administration in Venezuela was the agreement of multiple political persuasions from the left, and many who were formally from center parties that placed their votes with this coalition as well, to push the right out of power after they had been discredited by their own record of democratic abuses.

If “progressives” seek progress then they should let us sit at the table in the United States and it cannot happen if we cannot sit at the table in places like this blog.

A contributer for the website I participate in makes a very good point when I asked him if he thought if “Progressives” in the United States were “anti-socialist.” His response was:

As for the progressives being anti-socialist, I’m not sure they think of themselves as anti-socialist. As I see it, they believe that the U.S. Constitution does, or at least theoretically could, ensure a democratic form of government. Until they understand that our Constitution not only does not ensure a government of, by, and for the people, but it actually prohibits the people from having power over government, they have little choice but to pretend that progress has been or could be made within that
framework.

Whether you call it democracy or socialism, government of, by, and
for the people has never existed in the United States of America, and is
prohibited by our Constitution.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Gary – by asking if “socialists” have a place at the table of US leftists and progressives, I’m assuming you are presenting yourself as the “socialist”, and as you now live in Venezuela, you live in a land of socialism, therefore you must be socialist, right?

I have to laugh at that equation, as you and I have known each other for a long time, and as I’ve been a democratic socialist since college whereas you have recently come to leftwing politics, I will excuse you (but not Steve). So for you to ask the question is somewhat ludicrous.

Socialists have a long tradition and history in American politics. Unfortunately, unlike in Europe and Asia, the term “socialist” has become a dirty word, and mainstream politics, media, etc try to push socialists to the sidelines, fairly successfully I might add. And with your quote from you friend (is that Steve?), we can see where you are coming from. You and your friend appear to diss and ignore this long history, and assume that socialists and leftists had/ have nothing to do with our Constitution, revolution and 2 1/2 centuries of political struggle.

We do have one socialist in Congress, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. We even almost had a socialist governor here in California in the thirties. But still, many still shy away from the term.

In a philosophic sense, it does not matter what you call it, the ideas of a democratic social and economic society still are abound. And without democracy, socialism cannot be had. That’s why I began my political life as a New Leftist – part of a generation that rejected the “Old Left” of the then-USSR and China. We could see then – and still do – that the old constructs that called themselves “socialist” were in need of serious revamping. This is why I have celebrated with the various “revolutions” of eastern Europe, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, and the democracy movement in China that was brutally put down by the government 20 years ago, and the democracy movement in Iran last June – that is still going on.

Some say that Jesus was the first socialist.

I may be a socialist, but I don’t make that the issue. I work with and have worked with people from all over the political spectrum – except the far extreme right. I grew up in a Republican household – and I loved my parents.

I have had lots of respect for Hugo Chavez, your hero. However, today I read where he has recently expounded on the goodness and correctness of Robert Mugabe – fairly repudiated by most of Zimbabwe’s leftists and democrats – and Ahmadineja – the despot of Iran – who kills his own people while they demonstrate for democratic reforms and who denies the Holocaust (not to mention Carlos the Jackal – who killed innocents in the name of liberation). Now, maybe this is all Western corporate propaganda, but if it isn’t, it demonstrates that Chavez is grossly out of touch with much of the rest of the world. There is international solidarity, certainly, but this is not it.

Chavez is constantly criticized by the Western press,and their criticism of him comes from the corporate, imperial mindset – and not from the left. There is a difference.

But Chavez is part of the growing left-wing tilt of South America – definitely a good development in that part of the world. So, bueno suarte, Gary.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 23, 2009 at 10:26 am

You did not answer my question. Are socialist viewpoints welcome on the OB Rag?

Stephen Lendman did not make the comments you are assuming are attributable to him. Mark E. Smith was making a technical point about the U.S. Constitution, that it is not a document in its inception that put the ultimate decision of whom gets elected in the general citizenry, but in an electoral college of representatives. In contemporary context, that during the previous elections to Obama, that the process was decided by the Judiciary, not the votes of the people. This is an important distinction if a constitution really reflects the will of the people or is a system of failsafe’s that can control the ultimate outcome from the legislative sectors. Smith also makes an additional challenge to the U.S. system that the control of the government by two parties and the many obstacles placed by those parties in front of other political persuasions to have access to the election process makes the electoral system undemocratic. He advocates not voting as a means of discrediting the parties in power, which is not my position.

This demands an inquiry if the U.S. Constitution really is a mechanism for a democratic system of elections for U.S. people or hinders that possibility. Can you entertain the idea of a new constitution being drafted in the United States that places the power of deciding election outcomes with the popular vote? Or is it a document representing truths carved in stone? Remember we have a representative form of government. If representatives can be controlled by their parties then the constituents have no real representatives and it is not a popular democracy but a republic controlled by those who control and fund the parties.

If you wish to laugh at an equation, consider a professed “democratic socialist” of long standing that is not associating himself with any socialist party inside the United States and likely voted for a democrat in the last election. Is this not amusing on some levels? It would be to many in Socialist Parties in Europe, Asia, South America, etc. It makes no sense.

What value is having a political philosophy if your vote cannot follow it? There is the DSA in the USA. Are you aligned with it politically? If your long standing self-described political orientation is democratic socialist and mine is short lived, as a socialist, by your estimation, what is the defining value of beliefs held between longevity and consistency, putting those beliefs behind a party and a candidate? Did you vote for a democratic socialist candidate in the last election?

I cannot vote here in elections. I am not a citizen and I am not a member of the PSUV. My political orientation has never been defined by me. I asked a question only.

What Hugo Chavez is navigating inside his own country is not clearly being represented in the media sources of corporate sources, by your own admission, yet I see you making assumptions that seem informed by the very media you are suggesting may be tilted. Is Obama making political alliances with goverments he may not fully support philosphically? Are you challenging his decision to do so? I feel your remarks are not well informed to comment on Venezuelan foreign policy decisions.

More so, how can you associate “revolutions” that are being characterized, by your own admission, by corporate media sources when they may be misrepresented to appeal for support from richer western countries as legitimately representing popular sentiments? These countries are not the USA. Many are having multiple sectors of unrest, divided between poor and privileged interests, with the privileged interests having the funding and media support and the poor not. Your comments , in this behalf, are not giving voice to the complexities involved. Many of these countries are in the midst of having their majority poor sectors displaced by emerging governments in favor with the NATO coalitions experiencing dislocations from their lands for corporations interests, the same corporations that are promoting these situations as “popular” revolutions.

You say:

“I may be a socialist, but I don’t make that the issue. I work with and have worked with people from all over the political spectrum – except the far extreme right. I grew up in a Republican household – and I loved my parents.”

If you are of a political belief it is an issue what you support, vote for, and promote, if not then what is the point? Is this a political position or a position of political convenience that accommodates the situation?

I am glad you loved your parents.

Likewise, your comments about Chavez are not informed. The essential vehicle for Chavez was the demands of the popular majority for a constitution that would give them not only voice but power to redevelop their country, their place in it, and the things it could change for them in reality. Chavez has been between a popular sector demanding he enforce their constitution from the top while they develop self-governing councils from the bottom. Chavez is in the middle between a violent and agressive upper-class and a divided middle-class and the majority who elected him. He is trying to move the country towards a socialist country without creating a socialist state. This is the major rub between the support base and the opposition. The opposition thinks like you, that the socialists want to create a state that controls their lives rather than give power to the majority. In the end, would you associate yourself with community councils in OB if they came from the majority sector of the population that wanted to create their on self-governance? It is a big question. This is the struggle that is taking place. It is the basic concept of politics in the United States that the smartest, riches sectors should make the life decisions for the rest below. It is a top down system.

Chavez is not my hero, but I respect his tenacity and vision. He has a great deal of enemies, no less the greatest military power on earth. It will likely not continue without some kind of military confrontation from that military power with all the associated media campaigns against Chavez. The test will be if those majority who demanded their constitution and power will take arms to defend their sovereignty but a test that will be sad for all. We do not need another war.

You say:

“Now, maybe this is all Western corporate propaganda, but if it isn’t, it demonstrates that Chavez is grossly out of touch with much of the rest of the world. There is international solidarity, certainly, but this is not it.”

Frank, it seems you are not certain what to believe. Of course Chavez is out of touch with the much of the rest of the world. Much of the rest of the world is in accordance with the concept of being ruled by smarter people than the average citizen. This is the point to the struggle here, to revolt against this concept. Are you representing change or accordance? I don’t see an argument for progress for democracy in your arguments. You put democracy before the people like it can exist without them. People come first. The majority are poor disenfranchised and, capable of learning the difference between slavery and freedom. But for them freedom means choices for their lives just like it means for AMERICANS. They believe that socialism from the bottom is more democratic than capitalism from the top.

Socialism is a dirty word in the USA because it was made a dirty word and we all bought it and are the apologists of its detractors, even on the left, as it seems from your general assumptions. It is not the concept in the rest of the world. The other countries can distinguish between false starts and corrupted practice and the general philosophical goals of a movement. In the USA we see only ghosts and devils and bad results for us if we get out of line, and it is a reasonable concern.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

It’s a ludicrous question and I’m not going to get into a pissing match wid ya.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

Gary, I really do enjoy your writings about Venezuela. So keep it up … on that subject… as that is where you are. We need info from there. But when you stray into US politics, you get lost. While your general points are valid, you don’t have the context of what is going on here in hand, and you lose yourself. For example, you mention a new constitution. The extreme right would love that! We have a budding racist mass fascist movement here, and they would love to see President Obama assassinated or thrown out of office. The way to move against it is to align with as many forces as can muster against this movement. This is the historic context right now.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 23, 2009 at 11:41 am

I will Frank…I just hope I am not reporting a different take on a new U.S. war. That would be a huge tragedy and one, I believe, we won’t see from Obama. But there are many bad indications here right now with new arms sales to Chile and demands on Lula in Brasil, to accommodate additional base sitings. The Monroe doctrine is not going to go down without a fight I fear. Eva Gollinger, the U.S. / Venezuelan lawyer who has been revealing U.S. unpublicized intentions through her method of soliciting FOIA documents just posted a new web site http://www.centrodealerta.org/ to alert people about what is coming down the pike. Unfortunately it is in Spanish, but a few of the archived U.S. State department and military documents are in English.

Your general assumption of my misread on the internal political situation of the U.S.A., especially in regards to the extreme right, could be true but I do see the danger, as I indicated in another post on the Rag. I read into your comments that you see a danger in giving the American People a constitution that gives them power is a recipe for disaster. It is an interesting commentary. How do we know what the real barometer of public opinion, politically, of the United States is without giving agency to the reactionary representations of the corporate press? And if it is true that this is the temperature of the people, how do we heal the country from this disease? Is Rush the other President of the U.S.A.? Is it really true?

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 23, 2009 at 11:55 am

No matter what the US military does in South and Central America, the American people are too bogged down already in 2.5 wars to allow another, plus the economic situation may probably get worse. Obama faces a revolt within the military – Sarah Palin is being allowed to go to the largest army base in this country (Ft Bragg) and badmouth the commander in chief.

Your comment that you “read into your comments that you see a danger in giving the American People a constitution that gives them power is a recipe for disaster,” is funny, not only did I not say that, it is a meaningless part of the pissing match that I refuse to have with you. Re-read what I wrote if you must. No one is “giving” anyone anything. People take power when they’re ready. If you seriously think that (a new US constitution) is something that should and could be on our political agenda right now – then you really are out of touch with things up here in the belly of the beast.

Yet, we do need reporting and analysis from your part of the world.

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avatar annagrace November 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Gary (and Monty) I always read with interest what people post. How do you translate these positions into action in terms of health care reform? Are you advocating a certain strategy to assure that there will be a public option in the bill? Who are you calling and what are you saying?

Will you be critiquing the mayor’s mid-year budget adjustment tomorrow and presenting an analysis and a course of action?

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avatar jettyboy November 8, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Seems to me a bit early to be celebrating, as it’s only half way to being a law of any kind. I’m sure the right will organize more for the 2nd half in the senate. I do wonder how many more “compromises” the Dems will make until the Republicans have the gutted bill they want to please their corporate masters.

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avatar Wireless Mike November 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm

There is one sticking point that I have never been able to get a clear answer on. How will a pre-existing condition affect the price of health insurance? The bill before Congress prohibits insurance companies from denying health insurance to individuals with pre-existing conditions, but does it limit how much more they would have to pay?

For example, I am unemployed and diabetic with some other minor health issues. As such, I cannot get health insurance at any price. Under the new bill, would I pay the same rate as a person with perfect health, or would I pay more, and how much more? If I still cannot afford to buy health insurance under the new plan, and I get fined for not buying it, exactly how it that better? Maybe someone can answer this for me and other readers in a similar situation.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 8, 2009 at 9:04 pm

WM – As I understand it, if you cannot afford to buy health insurance, you will be provided with some kind of benefit package that would allow you then to afford it.

Actually, once the big brother government guys find out it’s you, they publicly lash you, until you promise to buy the socialistic, fascistic, marxist, maoist, capitalist, running dog health care option. How could you favor any kind of government-supported health care system, as it appears that the private sector pro-profit health care system has treated you very well. Just because you can’t get health insurance now because you have diabetes, you’re still alive and breathing aren’t you? The health care insurance companies provide you with free air – be a little more grateful.

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avatar annagrace November 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Wireless Mike- it seems that you would qualify for the public option if you are currently uninsured. My understanding is that the public option would be like Medicare in the sense that a pre-existing condition would not be factored into the cost of your premium. How much the public option would cost however is not available yet. And I can’t figure out whether subsidies would be provided for the public option too.

Your question is an important one. A lot of people in a similar situation.

There is a very long discussion of what the bill does and does not mean here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-bergthold/betsy-mccaughey-is-wrong_b_349579.html

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avatar lane tobias November 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

I think Wireless and Anna both have the most valid concerns. Pre-existing conditions are going to have to play some kind of role in funding. Whether it is the insured (us) paying for it through our premiums or the government paying that extra bit remains to be seen……

The whole abortion thing in this bill really hurts. How can sweeping reform sidestep the Constitution? I almost want to say the best bet for women would be for folks to organize AFTER reform is passed and then go to the Supreme Court. That seems to be the only way civil and human rights can be saved in this country…..in the meantime, my guess is that family clinics that serve low-income populations now will find a way to work within the system while still offering sanitary and safe abortions. But its still a major concern….I have been lucky enough not to have grown up in a time period where the “coat hanger” method was the Plan A. I hope I don’t have to bring my yet to be born daughter up with that as the only option if she wants to have some say over her own body.

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avatar doug porter November 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

the inclusion of the anti-abortion requirements in the house bill is a travesty. it was a maneuver by religious right wingers to undermine support by progressives. fortunately, it is unlikely that these anti-abortion provisions will make it out of reconciliation once the Senate votes on its bill, particularly if pressure is brought to bear. read about this clever maneuver by the right here: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/11/9/802393/-Blindsided-By-Politicized-Religion.-Again.-And-2010-Looms.

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avatar annagrace November 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for the link Doug. I am concerned by how many religious right wingers have found a “home” in the Democratic Party and the extent of the political reach of the C Street Family – a Christian fundamentalist frat house cum lobbyist – in general, and among Democrats specifically. In addition to Stupak, the Family is collecting rent from Dems Heath Shuler (NC) and Mike Doyle (PA).

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avatar annagrace November 19, 2009 at 4:09 pm

There is an excellent breakdown of the current ( as of 11/19) House and Senate bills in the New York Times. Definitely worth checking out. Wireless Mike and other readers who are concerned about mandated coverage language, penalties and exemption should definitely take a look at the section “Individual Mandate.”
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/11/19/us/politics/1119-plan-comparison.html?hp#tab=0

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 24, 2009 at 4:12 am

Frank,

Your comment indicates a cultural disconnect:
“No matter what the US military does in South and Central America, the American people are too bogged down already in 2.5 wars to allow another, plus the economic situation may probably get worse.”

No matter what the military does? Do the American people have control over their military and its adventures. Do you realize the American Military is securing commands in the entire world right now? The military is not hiding this fact. http://www.cdi.org/issues/USForces/commands.html There it is including over its own people. There is a world domination game playing out and the American people have no voice in it.

The American people are bogged down with two parties in perpetual power that don’t represent their best interests unless war is a good business and a job creation vehicle for those incumbent parties. War is not an acceptable business for a just society so it needs to come off the table as an option. Talk about a “public option” for health care. What could be a better option for our health, and every other countries health as well than a peace based economy?

It matters that there is not a war in South America and the American people are going to be held responsible for what the Corporate Military Complex does in its name. It is understood abroad by many that the U.S. Citizenry has been hijacked by this adventurism but what is not understood is why there is not more resistance and organizing behind an alternative structure. If you take the “more realistic” approach of backing a complicit “lesser of evils” DNC into the future how is this trend going to end? After the mission is accomplished? If the Greens and Peace and Freedom and DSA are offering a different societal vision, when is the moment to start building the viability of these parties?

If the “progressives” and a left in the United States keep voting in fear of the Republicans, this cycle will never be broken and we will live out our lives constantly being frustrated by the lack of reform and never building a Peace Based Economy. There is a concept, Annagrace, of real heath care reform. Calling representatives who are beholding to a corrupt party system which has hijacked public interests can only hope to temporarily adjust the steering on a dangerous course.

If what I have seen here in the community councils, it is likely a movement of women that will be the grassroots base working the streets for building the third party movement for the USA. And the time is now.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 24, 2009 at 8:33 am

Wow. Gee whiz. But don’t worry you’ll be safe down there in Venezuela. “The time is now” to at least try to understand what’s going on here.

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avatar Shawn Conrad November 24, 2009 at 8:38 am

Gary,

We don’t use the Constituion we have. We sure as hell are not going to buy (as we don’t freaking make anything here anymore it seems) a new one.

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avatar Monty Kroopkin November 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm

The world is a much smaller place that it was before the invention of the radio, the internet, etc. Our understanding of what is “going on here” needs to take into account more than our own local community and more than what is included inside those wierd lines on the map we call “countries.”

Gary is certainly not making any novel point when he says that in most of the rest of the world there is a widespread understanding that socialism is an unfinished goal, not the permanently failed and dead project that our Corporate Press want to brand it. Contrary to the picture of dead communism that we get from the Corporate Press in most of its reporting about the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries, for example, most of the governments of those countries continue to pursue a wide range of socialist policies and programs. Socialism continues to be a major factor in the governments of many countries in the rest of the world. It is folly to think that American progressives can have a valid analysis of much at all without “socialism” having a “seat at the table” in our conversation. To hell with the “bad name” that the capitalist press has always assigned to socialism.

How can we understand the rise of a new fascist movement within the boundaries of the USA without looking at what is happening to the American Empire, with all its more than 800 military bases in more than 40 countries, and with its major corporations having economic interests in virtually every country on the planet? We can’t. It is no accident that American military and economic hegemony over the globe is declining at the same time that a new fascist movement is showing its face here. It is no accident that this new fascist movement is gaining a major boost from the Corporate Media at the same time that the 2008-2009 Great Recession has grown into a depression (defined as 10% or more unemployment).

We can’t understand it either without doing an historical analysis of BOTH major political parties of the USA, and the roles both parties have played in building and sustaining the Empire, and the relationships both parties have with the corporate power that determines so much of the political agenda of government.

We can’t effectively counter the new fascism without understanding it, and its relationship to corporate power.

The healthcare reform bill that we are probably going to see pass is not going to be free, universal, public healthcare. We will probably have to continue to fight for that, for who knows how long. The bill is going to be a major windfall for the profits of the insurance industry. It may save many lives if it actually provides coverage for millions who now have none. But will it? Although lobbying people who are in power to do a bit more of what is more humane is of limited value, for exactly the reasons Gary cites, it is still worth doing. It is not enough though.

Organizing an independent mass anti-capitalist movement in the US is still what is needed and has long been needed. “Third” party work as well as independent union work as well as the type of work done by the Progressive Caucus inside the Democratic Party could (and should) ALL been seen and treated as essential parts of building a movement that is capable of ending capitalism, along with its henchmen of imperialism and fascism.

The time is “now”? The economic depression and the rise of a new fascist movement certainly gives us all a very strong reason to act sooner, not later. If not now, then when?

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avatar Shawn Conrad November 24, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I have come ot find that most people that are “anti-capitalist” usually have no money because they haven’t, well, taken advantage of captialism.

Is this you Monte? Can we still find you in your parent’s house (hopefully not in that “finished utility room” in the basement)?

Are you mad about healthcare because you don’t get your rear end out of bed in the morning to earn it? I am not accusing you of sloth, but am curious about your “status”.

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avatar Vulcan Tourist November 24, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Do you know any Latin, Shawn? No? Here’s the beginning of your Latin linguistics education: look up “ad hominem”.

Then look in the mirror.

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avatar Shawn Conrad November 25, 2009 at 8:30 am

You just blew my vulcan mind you anonymous coward!

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 24, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Shawn, in a much more literal sense what is Capitalism in America is General Motors, General Electric and General Atomic, L3 and SAIC, Me and Halliburton; are these the countries that you belong to? Do they form your identity of what represents America to you? The United States of America is not Capitalism. It is a political state, one which has become the vehicle for corporations to operate and have its power and influence to promote corporate interests. You don’t really believe any of that represents you, do you?

Whether calling themselves Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, Progressive or just disengaged, it has been my observation as an American that we really do believe in the right of our country to determine the future of the world, in the name of of democracy, as they like to say. Do you not share that vision?

Could it be that this vision is also wrong?

If you really try to research U.S. History you will not find any overwhelming argument why this should be so. We are not a people that are more democratic then all the combined countries of the world. Capitalism is not a democratic practice. It is an economic strategy, not a social contract that builds a democratic society. Do you think that Capitalism is freedom? Freedom and Liberty are concepts linked to Capitalism in our beliefs as Americans.

Is freedom for a corporation that can assert a greater influence than you…
to effect an outcome that could influence how your government makes decisions..
that could determine your future give you freedom of choice?

Where is your future in this equation? Your job? Your health care? Your education?

Other countries have accomplished basic rights of access to jobs, education, and health care from the force of will of their citizens on their governments because they had the numbers, and the power to influence their governments. These advantages were paid by taxing their corporations for the privilege of doing business in their countries and the common taxes that all pay to fund it. Their people fight for these services and they don’t feel they need to apologize for it, but somehow, in the United States, we can feel like we are wrong to demand the same. You see now that many favor a single payer health care solution. They are not buying the corporate line anymore.

Where is our democracy for the interests of the majority of Americans to demand of their government the same? It seems it is in formation….again.

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avatar Shawn Conrad November 25, 2009 at 8:27 am

Gary,

We are an infant compared to other nations, and in my opinion we are acting our age. We do worhip corporations and the dollar. Maybe ethics are in decline so our worth is misplaced. I wonder if we have gottten too far from our natural instincts and have traded loyalty to a strong pack leader to hovelling around some frail semblance of a human that works people to death to make themselves appear important and powerful.

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