Benny's World

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Emma Claire Edwards

Emma Claire is 10 years old today. I'm certain John and Elizabeth will have a great time with giving EC a birthday party.

I remember my 10th birthday as a little embarrassing, but mainly because it was a surprise party and I wasn't accustomed to surprise parties or anyone paying attention to me on my birthday.

Happy, happy to Emma Claire and her family.

Here's the special video Astrogirl created for John's birthday last year and I think it is applicable here:

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good Post by Digby

I'm not saying much other than Digby calls it the way I sort of see it about the primaries. I think she is leaning Obama, but overall, she tries to be fair to both Clinton and Obama.

Worth a read.

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American Idol Fans are Nuts

The bottom two tonight were the best last week: Carly and Syesha. They are being ripped off.

Carly went home in a high note, but I find it ironic that she was voted out on "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Here's Carly's performance:

Jason and Brooke should have been voted the weakest, but as Simon sez, they are "charming" and appeared more human.

Update: David Cook, who surprised me with his training in theatrical music, but it shines here:

I hope he wins.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Cheap shots? A Matter of Life or Death

I had an inclination Elizabeth Edwards would not sit down too long to take BS from McSame, who accused her of "cheap shots" when it came to his governmental coverage for healthcare.

And I was right. She wrote something for the Wonk Room at Think Progress, which is the bigger blog for the Center of American Progress...and where she is a senior fellow.

Opening remarks:

John McCain accused me of taking a “cheap shot” on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” yesterday for noting that people with preexisting conditions, such as he and I have, would not be able to get health care under his plan –- and that he perhaps was not as sensitive to this problem as he should be since he has been in government health care his whole life.

In regard to McCain's claim of poor health care under another nation and knows what it means not to have it, Elizabeth had this salient point that the issue isn't about them but it should be about the American people in general:

Sen. McCain noted that he was not receiving government health care for the six years he was in captivity. That is true. But it has nothing to do with my point — which is that the problem with Sen. McCain’s health care plan is not how it affects us –- but how it affects the tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who, unlike Sen. McCain and myself, do not have the resources to pay for quality health care.

Elizabeth further notes:

McCain’s health care plan is centered around the idea that we’d be better off if more Americans bought health coverage on their own, rather than receiving it through a job or government program. But maybe since he has never purchased insurance in the individual market, he does not know the challenge it presents for Americans with preexisting conditions.

A recent study showed that nearly nine out of every ten people seeking individual coverage on the private insurance market never got it. Insurers will disqualify you for just taking certain medicines because of the possibility of future costs, including common drugs as Lipitor, Zocor, Nexium, and Advair. People who have had cancer are denied coverage and those who get cancer run the risk of simply being dropped by their insurer for any excuse that can be found. And insurers make it a practice to deny coverage to individuals in high risk occupations, such as firefighting, lumber work, telecom installation, and pretty much anything more risky than working in an office.

In regard to the question about pre-existing conditions, and McCain says he would have a medicare trust fund, Elizabeth blasts McCain on his contradiction montra about big government and spending:

McCain opposes universal health care because he claims it represents a “big government takeover and mandates.” But yesterday, he said he would help cover people with preexisting conditions by creating a “special Medicaid trust fund.”

A “special Medicaid trust fund”? Talk about a big government takeover. Tens of millions of Americans have preexisting conditions. If he is going to expand Medicaid to cover Americans with preexisting conditions, he is talking about a massive, massive increase in the Medicaid program. He says he opposes more government involvement in health care, but his idea really would be government-run health care.

My questions is: why is he doing this? [and]If he is so concerned about expanding government’s role in health care, why doesn’t he just tell the insurance industry that they have to cover people with preexisting conditions? Why is he more concerned about protecting the insurance industry –- an industry which, by the way, his corporate tax cut plan gives a $1.9 billion tax cut to –- than the tens of millions Americans with preexisting conditions?

Yeah, the McSame attitude. And Elizabeth is creating the frame we need to present against Rovian frames.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards: "We Should Not Matter"

The Citizen, the newsletter of the KSG, interviewed Elizabeth during her visit. They are now just getting around to publishing it. She was asked about her influence as a spouse with voters on the campaign trail, media reform, and being a parent on the campaign trail.

Q: You’ve now done a presidential campaign twice. Has the role of a candidate’s spouse has changed?

The people who broke the mold on campaigning [as the spouse of a presidential candidate] are people that nobody ever thinks about: Betty Ford and Roslyn Carter. Roslyn Carter would go out and sit in the kitchens of people in Iowa and talk about the price of fertilizer. We didn’t have CSPAN or other things that followed her around and got to see that this was what she was doing, but she did a lot of that-campaigning without [her husband]. Betty Ford doing the same thing, campaigning and being out there and speaking her own mind.

I think spouses are nearly irrelevant. I don’t want to say totally irrelevant.

But can you really make a positive difference? Probably not.

Then EE pauses with this question:

And should you make a difference at all? I think no. I think you’re role is so minimal, largely ceremonial. You can take on issues, but the likelihood of a presidential first spouse taking on a truly controversial issue-reading, literacy, childhood vaccination, beautifying our highways-this is the stuff of first ladies. We’re not talking about anything that’s truly groundbreaking. So what difference does it make?

I had a slightly different bent. I was interested in military families, having come from one. But that’s not controversial. So why in the world should I matter? Or Michelle [Obama] or Cindy [McCain]? We should not matter. We’re picking the leader of the free world and yet there’s this fascination [with the candidate’s spouses]. It’s this celebrity culture. … I expect a tremendous fixation on it. When we’re making this choice I think is really counter-productive.

Q: In your Forum address, you were pretty critical of the media for putting entertainment ahead of substance. Do you think that part of the problem with the media is more of a demand problem? The analogy that comes to mind is, everyone wants a Big Mac even though they know it’s bad for them. And we have a public that wants to find out the latest on Britney Spears. So how do you disentangle what people want from what they should want?

A: I think a lot reasons people eat a Big Mac as opposed to a salad is because they can drive through and get the Big Mac and eat it while they drive. And they can’t eat the salad. If somebody put a salad out in front of them, people might eat that instead. But we make it very easy to eat the Big Mac, very hard to eat the salad. And therefore people make the choices that they do.

We make it very hard to get really good information about candidates or about issues, certainly on investigative things, and very easy to hear about what’s happening with Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or-and this is the most incredible to me-Anna Nicole Smith is sort of a freakish kind of character. Not a major star in any way. Yet we spend how many hours of certainly the cable news time and also on the national news on who is the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby? A completely useless piece of information about a completely minor character on the waterfront. Is that because that’s what we asked for? I’ve heard the press say it in embarrassed tones, “We wouldn’t be doing this kind of coverage if that’s not what people wanted,” but I’m flipping channels and I got nothing but Anna Nicole Smith!

Amen, Elizabeth. The next question was about ratings, so what should the media do? Elizabeth couched her answer more in terms of real journalism:

I want journalists nationwide to stand up and say, “That’s it. We’re going to be serious journalists. … We are not going to do this stuff anymore. You can hire some jacklight person.” And for the rest of us to say, “As long as Charmin is advertising the Anna Nicole Smith trial, I’m not buying Charmin.”… But I do think we need to at some point say “This is too important an issue.” We’re not going to get the general public to do it. So it’s probably going to require journalists to say, “I cannot, will not, be a part of this.” … I do think that there are some efforts to change the landscape. But there are still too many people who get their news from the network news. And the network news is just sorry. … I actually quit watching the national network news. Unless I know my husband is going to be on the national network news, I don’t watch it. I find it boring. I’ll watch [the NewsHour with Jim] Lehrer and I’ll watch BBC.
I know what she means. I hardly ever watch Network News, or Cable News. I get mine mainly from C-SPAN.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

I seldom disagree with Elizabeth, but this is one of the few times I will.

She mattered. Or else John McCain wouldn't have taken a cheap shot this morning at her criticism of his health care plan.

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McSame Says Elizabeth Edwards Lobbed a Cheap Shot

This morning, I watched This Week as John McCain was being interviewed. It was clear many times that McCain was very uncomfortable with Georgie's questions, most of which were legitimate about McCain's policies and agenda. He squirmed in his chair, dogged most of the answers. In particular, the one about health care seemed to have gotten his hackles up when Elizabeth Edwards' criticism was replayed. Here's the link to the clip:

It's about 13 minutes into the program.

Quick synopsis from The Hill, if you wish to skip watching the video:

Stephanopoulos, noting Edwards’ recent comments about McCain in The Wall Street Journal, said, “Her point is why shouldn’t every American be able to get the kind of healthcare that members of Congress get and members of the military get?”

A smiling McCain said, “It’s a cheap shot but I did have a period of time where I didn’t have very good healthcare, I had it from another government. Look, I know what it’s like not to have healthcare.” McCain was referring to the five-and-a-half years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

OK, McCain, maybe you haven't had it ever single day of your life, but you have since you got back from Vietnam.

Health Policy and Market blog has some good details that Georgie didn't ask McSame about today:

McCain would end the current personal income exemption for employer provided health insurance and replace it with an individual tax credit for those who have health insurance. But there are tens of millions who are not covered today and do not have access to an employer contribution for health insurance and therefore don't have a personal exemption that can be reshuffled into a personal tax credit.

But here's the problem:

There are tens of millions who are not covered today and do not have access to an employer contribution for health insurance and therefore don't have a personal exemption that can be reshuffled into a personal tax credit. But what will the source of his funding be for those who today don't have the benefit of the employer exemption but would be eligible for the tax credits?Moving the tax benefit of health insurance from the workplace to the individual as McCain does will likely encourage employers to drop their health programs and instead just give the health benefit contribution they were making to the worker in the form of wages.

McCain went on in the to say that "with all due respect to Mrs. Edwards," the Democrats want the government to make our health care decisions. He says families need to make their own health decisions. Arrogantly, he said, "well, the $5000K tax credit my plan would give families may not be enough, but it's better than what they got now. They can go across state lines and get cheaper insurance.

McCain doesn't get it. Here's the problem with that, and Elizabeth is correct about this:

You say that under your plan everyone is going to pay less for health insurance. Nice words, I admit, but they are words we have heard before. You must know when American families calculate the actual cost of health care, they have to include those deductibles and co-pays and not just the cost of the insurance. Are you talking about cheaper overall or just a cheap policy that doesn’t kick in until after thousands of dollars of deductibles have been paid?

Isn’t the type of competition you are talking about really a rush to the bottom? As long as you allow insurers to underwrite and deny access, you encourage insurers to offer plans that may be cheap, but that get that way by avoiding people with cancer or other high-cost diseases or by limiting benefits and treatments, particularly if the treatment is expensive or might be needed for a long time. We all live in the real world; those of us lucky enough to have health insurance have seen how insurers cut coverage and up co-pays or deny particular treatments. The insurance company makes money when it doesn’t have to pay for our health care. (I suspect that if they could, they would write obstetrical-only policies for nuns.) Doesn’t your plan really encourage insurers plans to compete to avoid people with cancer or other high-cost diseases? Don’t you think that the kind of competition that starts with a decent level of required coverage, that doesn’t exclude the care we actually need, would be better?

McCain also said the problem with government run health care was that it was inferior to us. "Go to Canada. Go to England. " Yet, on a Frontline show this past week, an investigation turned up that their health care is as good as ours. Our problem is that we overpay because of the overhead costs. Medicare administration cost is 3%.

McCain knows he gets better care through the government and it is cheaper. Yet the American people aren't allowed to have coverage as he does.

That's a cheap shot to our American people, Mr. Cain McCain.

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