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Republican Budget Plan to Kill Medicare Gets Vote Next Week

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed a budget plan for 2012. It's scheduled for a vote next week. Among its features: Ending Medicare and gutting Medicaid.

[T]he nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has outlined what adoption of this proposal to supplant Medicare with vouchers and private insurance exchanges would mean. The overall cost of healthcare would go up, and retirees' out-of-pocket medical expenses would double — an increase that would push tens of millions of people living on fixed incomes over the financial brink.

Ryan calls his plan "The Path to Prosperity." For who? No surprise here: it calls for further tax reductions for corporations and wealthy individuals. He claims to be saving Medicare, notwithstanding his plan would push tens of millions of people over the financial edge. Ryan writes: [More...]

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Obama Budget Won't Include Social Security Cuts

The Wall St. Journal reports President Obama's budget, to be released on Monday, won't include changes to social security:

"The president believes that we should strengthen the program without putting at risk current retirees or slashing benefits for future generations, and he believes we can only achieve this goal by working together—Democrats and Republicans—to find a bipartisan solution," said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.

Joan at Daily Kos has more.

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Don't Blame it On the Baby Boomers

The first baby boomer turned 65 on January 1. Millions more will follow. ABC News has a video report, dissing the boomers in every way: from calling them "demanding" to implying they are only concerned about themselves and their needs.

The worst is when the reporter says boomers will soon be demanding social security and medicare, "payable by the generations that came after them."

As if baby boomers are asking for a free ride. [More...]

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U.S. Apologizes for Intentionally Infecting Guatamalan Prisoners With STD

Reprehensible news article of the day:

From 1946 to 1948, American public health doctors deliberately infected nearly 700 Guatemalans — prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers — with venereal diseases in what was meant as an effort to test the effectiveness of penicillin.

American tax dollars, through the National Institutes of Health, even paid for syphilis-infected prostitutes to sleep with prisoners, since Guatemalan prisons allowed such visits. When the prostitutes did not succeed in infecting the men, some prisoners had the bacteria poured onto scrapes made on their penises, faces or arms, and in some cases it was injected by spinal puncture.

If the victims came down with the disease, they were treated with antibiotics.

The U.S. officially apologized today. The President of Guatamala appropriately expressed his outrage, calling the tests "crimes against humanity."

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About the Long Term Care Benefits in the Health Care Bill

(Warning: This post is going to be controversial and expresses my views only.)

Both the House and Senate bills would create a voluntary federal program to provide long-term care insurance that pays small cash benefits to people with severe cognitive or physical disabilities. Like the elderly.

I don't think most people understand what long term care insurance covers. It covers nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and for the cognitively or physically disabled, some home health care costs in lieu of going to a facility. This isn't medical coverage but coverage that assists those who can't feed, clothe, toilet or bathe themselves. You aren't eligible until you can't do at least two of the above. The payments cover a fraction of the actual cost of the services. In other words, you have to be basically physically or mentally dysfunctional to qualify for what is a paltry amount of benefits. [More...]

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Studies Show CO Women Pay More For Health Insurance

Studies show women pay up to 50% more than men in health insurance premiums when they buy individual policies in Colorado. It's not just because of maternity coverage:

They pay more even when maternity coverage is not included. And in many cases, a female nonsmoker pays more for health coverage than a man who smokes.

Pending federal health care legislation would change that. What do the insurance companies say?

... the insurance industry warns that lowering premiums for younger women could mean higher premiums for most everyone else.

...Insurance companies probably would have to raise prices on other groups to make up the difference if they were forced to lower prices for younger women, said Tom Gosselin, director of small-group underwriting at Anthem.

[More...]

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Target and Others Halts Sales of "Illegal Immigrant" Halloween Costumes

Good for Target, Walgreen's and other stores which have pulled Halloween costumes mocking undocumented residents from their shelves and websites:

Several well-known chain stores have halted sales of an "illegal alien" Halloween costume after complaints from immigrant-rights activists.

The costume includes an orange jumpsuit similar to prison garb, with ILLEGAL ALIEN stamped across the chest, a "green card" and a space alien mask. Activists began complaining Friday when they learned the costume was being sold in stores or on Web sites of retailers including Target, Walgreen's and Amazon. The costume was priced between $27.49 and $39.99.

The costume was made by Forum Novelties Inc., based in Melville, New York. Now that's a company boycott I'd support.

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Study Shows Support for Abortion Rights Falling

A new study shows fewer Americans support abortion rights.

Only 47 percent of Americans now feel abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a drop from 54 percent a year ago, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 45 percent say it should be illegal in all or most cases. That's up from 41 percent a year ago.

Demographically: [More...]

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Is There a Right to Health Care in the Constitution?

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said “I think health care is a privilege. I wouldn’t call it a right.”

Journalist Arthur Salm makes the argument that health care is a right under the Constitution. His authority:

Take this from the Preamble to the Constitution (my italics):

” … establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare

And this, from the Declaration of Independence (again, my italics):

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, Salim argues these documents, "as read and understood through modern sensibilities" provide a right to health care. [More...]

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Expanding the Discussion of Race to the Nation's Indigenous Peoples

The Gates arrest and its aftermath proves that the discussion of race and its impact on life in the United States continues to stir emotion. The discussion is nonetheless important. It's too easy for members of one racial or ethnic group to ignore or remain ignorant of the perceptions commonly held by members of other races and ethnicities.

Too rarely does the discussion include the nation's indigenous peoples. Brenda Golden provides this brief account of the injustices Native Americans have endured from the days of conquest to the present. She reminds us that the native leaders who resisted conquest or mistreatment "were branded an enemy and thrown in prison if not killed in battle."

Many of these leaders were imprisoned for long periods of time; Geronimo died a prisoner of the US at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on February 17, 1909.

This reminder is particularly timely given that Leonard Peltier's "first full parole hearing in 15 years" was held today. The results should be known in about three weeks. [more ... including a new addendum to the original post]

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Lamar Smith: Deport 'Em All

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is "vastly expanding" a Bush administration initiative "to identify and deport illegal immigrants held in local jails." A pilot program in Harris County, Texas has been expanded to scores of additional counties "with an eye toward establishing it nationwide by late 2012."

One might think the program would please Rep. Lamar Smith, the super-genius who equates illegal immigrants with "terrorist weapons," but Smith fears that focusing deportation efforts on individuals who committed crimes creates "a de facto amnesty" for undocumented workers who, after entering the country, live peacefully, support their families, pay their taxes, and obey the nation's laws. This is the super-genius' preferred solution:

“We can prevent many of these crimes by deporting illegal immigrants before they have committed them, instead of waiting until after the fact,” he said, echoing the views of many hard-liners.

We could prevent a whole lot more crimes by locking up all the Republicans before they commit them. What do you think of that idea, Rep. Smith? [more...]

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Whose Principle?

On "Face the Nation" today, Mitch McConnell said that Republicans could filibuster Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation vote if they decide to oppose the president's Supreme Court nominee. On May 19, 2005, the very same Mitch McConnell said this:

Because of the unprecedented obstruction of our Democratic colleagues, the Republican conference intends to restore the principle that, regardless of party, any President’s judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote.

McConnell argues that the filibuster is an acceptable alternative because Democrats established that precedent. It's all so clear now. Republican "principles" are meant for Democrats to follow, not Republicans.

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A Question of Priorities: Future Soldiers or Today's Veterans

Combine The Terminator with Robocop, throw in a little Iron Man, top it off with "The Million Dollar Man," and you get this guy: the soldier of tomorrow (if tomorrow arrives in 2030 or so).

As a soldier enters a crowded marketplace, sensors mounted on his helmet automatically scan faces in the crowd, identifying a known insurgent; a cursor in the heads-up display highlights the target and cues the weapon, which can be set to stun or kill; a simple voice command unlocks the trigger.

Given the nation's experience with Pentagon procurement, it's fair to predict that the futuristic weaponry won't work while the advanced body armor will give way to a butter knife. More troubling is the notion that future soldiers will be "enhanced with prosthetics" and fed "smart drugs." The Pentagon should put those ideas aside until it enhances its ability to provide mental health care to veterans. [more ...]

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Dobson Surrenders

James Dobson, in a farewell speech to the Focus on the Family staff, said:

“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”

Whether Dobson is capable of "humanly speaking" is questionable. The man who adamantly opposed the right of women to control their own bodies, of families to make their own end-of-life decisions, of patients to benefit from stem cell research, of gays to enjoy equal rights, and of Harry Potter fans to enjoy their books, is no fan of human rights.

Perhaps the one positive aspect of George Bush's presidency is an unintended consequence: a liberal victory (albeit incomplete) in the culture wars. [more ...]

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Ryan Moats Meets an Insensitive Officer in Dallas

NFL running back Ryan Moats just wanted to get his wife to the hospital before her mother died. You can't blame him for rolling through a red light. You can blame the officer who pulled him over outside the ER, ignored his pleas (and those of hospital staff), threatened to screw him over, and took his time writing a ticket.

His mother in law passed away while the offer forced Moats to remain in his car as he checked for outstanding warrants.

Dallas police officials apologized after confirming that the scene was captured on the squad car's video camera. Too little, too late for Moats and his wife.

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