Moving closer to Health Care Reform

Everyone on the Sunday talk shows yesterday optined that the health care reform effort was moving closer to passage. 

“We’re entering the final stage, and everyone is maneuvering to get the best possible deal,” said Drew E. Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “The odds of passing legislation are steadily moving up.”

The final bill will not be perfect, but I believe it will contain a public option of some kind.  The other big questions are financing  and affordability.  The reason I think the bill will have a public option is because a friend my husband  was talking to the other morning supports one.  He is not a political activist, tends to be conservative, and is a veteran.  He talked about the rise in premiums he had experienced and the fact that vets have now come to understand that they won’t lose their coverage under VA – or have to pay for it – but that others will gain  the kind of health care they have.  He thinks this is a good thing.  And the opinion polls show others are moving his way.

I think there will be an opt out provision for the states, but, unlike the stimulus funding, the governors will not be able to “refuse” to implement the reforms at all.  I think it will end up will a 3 to 5 year trial period after which a state could opt out or a similar period during which the insurance companies in a state would have to lower premiums or they would have to become part of the government provided health care.

There are a lot of details to negotiate.  Like how to pay for reform.  We will have to see if the President has, in the end, provided the weapon to defeat the bill .  Is his 900 Billion cap going to mean a bad bill or no bill?

Howard Dean has a great feature on his health care reform webpage.  The vote tracker allow one to sort for public option supporters.  Dean, like President Obama, is not supporting a particular bill, but iw helping to keep an eye on the votes in support of the public option.  His latest count is 218 house votes and 51 in the Senate.  We need to work on those undecideds in the House, but it appears that if all Democratic caucus members vote against the filibuster, the Senate can then pass a bill with a public option.  Go to his list and filter for undecided Democrats and if your Congressperson or Senator is on the list, give them a call.

Even John McCain now thinks Congress will pass a bill with some kind of public option.

“I think the Democrats have the votes, and in the House, Blue Dogs bark but never bite,” Mr. McCain said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” using the nickname for conservative Democrats . “So I don’t think they have a problem over in the House side. In the Senate I think the Democrats are very aware that they don’t want a repeat of the Clinton failure in 1994. So I think it’s very likely they will get something through. But it’s not clear to me what it is.”

The Democrats need to forget the Republicans and get the votes in the party.  Even Senator Ben Nelson appears to be moving toward support of some type of public option.

The remaining big pitfall is abortion and whether the bill has a provision to pay for the procedure under the public option.  Right now, I have to say that will be a compromise point and reproductive choice will remain a choice only for those that can afford a choice.

The President as Nobel Laureate

I’ve been following all the stories about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  From imagining what he said when told ( bad word is likely) to Maureen Dowd’s conversation between Bill Clinton and George W. to the calls to give it back to the hysteria on the right to the disbelief on the left and a lot in between.

President Obama reacted to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in the White House Rose Garden on Friday morning.

This picture from the New York Times shows the President making his statement about winning:  He will go to Norway to accept and he will give the money to charity.  And, yes, he was just like the rest of us, surprised.

While conservatives rather predictably expressed disbelief and disparaged the prize and the president, there also are many Democrats and those on the left who were scratching their heads early this morning. Nearly all agree it’s a rather stunning award for someone who hasn’t been in the presidency even a year, coupled with two wars, an economic downside, the Iranian threat as well as the intractable Mideast problems.

Two of the most interesting comments the collected on the Caucus blog are from Robert Krebs and John McCain.

Several people pointed to an article by Robert Krebs in Foreign Policy magazine last July, in which he argued that the Nobel peace committee’s intentions are always partisan:

And for good reason: The Nobel Peace Prize’s aims are expressly political. The Nobel committee seeks to change the world through the prize’s very conferral, and, unlike its fellow prizes, the peace prize goes well beyond recognizing past accomplishments. As Francis Sejersted, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the 1990s, once proudly admitted, “The prize … is not only for past achievement. … The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the prize to have political effects. Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

“Oh, I’m sure that the president is very honored to receive this award,” Mr. McCain said. “And Nobel Committee, I can’t divine all their intentions, but I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we’re proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category.

 ”But the best comment is from Calvin Trillin in his “Three Possible Explanations from the Nobel Committee”

Don’t be surprised. Don’t gasp. Don’t faint.
We’ve simply said, “George Bush he ain’t.”

The prize diplomacy can reap’ll
Prevent this guy from bombing people.

Since Henry Kissinger has won,
You know that this is all in fun.

Thank you, Calvin.

Waiting for Tuesday

It is Sunday night.  I’ve dropped ‘get out the vote’ flyers at maybe 300 households yesterday and today and talked to a bunch of people while doing so.  Several said they were going to vote even though they were mad at Dianne Wilkerson (who was arrested by the Feds last week for taking bribes) because they wanted to vote for Obama.  I have to say that I also felt like I was punched in the gut by the news of Dianne’s arrest.  The photographs are disconcerting.  What ever was she thinking?!  At any rate, I still expect a huge turnout for Obama here in Boston.

The polls are up for Obama.  No they are up for McCain.  Makes me positively dizzy.  So here is a little amusing but serious video.

Nine days and counting

There are all kinds of crazy things out there at this stage of the campaign including this video made by kids in a town in Japan named Obama.  According to my atlas, Obama is a town on the Western coast of Honshu.  The closest large city appears to be Kyoto.  If anyone else is more familar with Japanese geography, they should correct me.  At any rate, there is this video I found on Ben Smith’s blog on of a bunch of kids singing the praises of Obama – both the town and the candidate.

And then there is a very scary Sarah Palin telling Brian Williams in their interview with John McCain that Bill Ayres is definitely a terrorists, but maybe people who bomb abortion clinics aren’t.  Video clip here.  John McCain is seen sitting next to her like an indulgent father with a daughter he can’t really control.  He has to be appalled.

The Guardian  has the English analysis of the election this morning.    With the lead, Republicans Fear Long Exile, Paul Harris writes,

In America’s conservative heartland the talk now is not just of a win for Obama. With the Democrats poised for gains in the Senate and the House, moderate Republicans fear a wipeout that would leave their party in the grip of evangelicals increasingly out of touch with the public. Could the country be on the brink of change as deep as that ushered in by Reagan?

Barack Obama is holding on to his lead.  I haven’t seen the Sunday numbers, but yesterday no swing state polls were slipping to McCain.  I was watching the Nevada rallies on CNN late yesterday afternoon.  I noticed that the McCain shots seemed to to tight on the platform and candidate while the cameras pulled back at the Obama rally to show the huge crowd.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  Is this supposed to help McCain by making it appear that he has lots of people there?  Or help Obama by showing his crowds?

“I feel like we got a righteous wind at our backs here,” Obama told 35,000 people in Leesburg on Wednesday, a noteworthy crowd in a state that Democrats have not won since 1964. “But we’re going to have to work. We’re going to have to struggle. We’re going to have to fight” until the polls close.

The night before, Obama’s wife, Michelle, warned supporters in Miami to ignore all the predictions of an easy win.

“We can take nothing for granted,” she said. “My view is that Barack Obama is the underdog and will continue to be the underdog until he’s sitting in the Oval Office. We have to act like he’s 20 points behind.”   [quotes from the Boston Sunday Globe]

Anger: Can it win the election?

I think John McCain was projecting his own anger at the debate when he kept saying that Americans are angry.  I don’t think we are angry but we are frightened and anxious.  Harold Meyerson writing in the Washington Post called McCain an angry white man.

I thought for a while that McCain was going to trounce Obama with Joe the Plumber, but then he got angry and millions heard the names of the others that also served on the Community board with Barak and Bill Ayres.  And then when John McCain dismissed concern over the life of the mother and the protections that were being sought for her, I knew that he had lost the Clinton supporters who were still insisting they were voting for McCain.

I can’t really understand why McCain is behaving in what for him seems to be such an unnatural way.  If you look at his performanace on Letterman or clips of him at the Al Smith Dinner, he is quite funny.  But that’s not what you see on the campaign trail.  Obama, on the other hand, was self-deprecating and also funny at the dinner before moving into great remarks about the importance of service.  One gets the feeling that Obama knows who he is and is comfortable “in his own skin” as the saying goes.

In the end, I don’t think the anger does anyone any good.

Columbus Day Musings

The economic crisis is driving the election and Paul Krugman, a self-labled Liberal, has won the Nobel Prize. Is this an omen?  Slate Magazine has just republished a old column of his which explains liquidity in terms that even I can understand.

John McCain was supposed to deliver a new economic plan today, but instead decided to talk about how

“We have 22 days to go,’’ he said. “We’re six points down. The national media has written us off.’’ (At this the crowd booed loudly.) “Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections, and concede defeat in Iraq.’’

In a stump speech notable for large paragraphs of pessimism, Mr. McCain said: “These are hard times, my friend. Our economy is in crisis. Financial markets are collapsing. Credit is drying up. Your savings are in danger and your retirement is at risk. Jobs are disappearing. The cost of health care, your children’s college, gasoline and groceries are rising all the time, with no end in sight, while your most important asset — your home — is losing value every day.’’

Mr. McCain then said that he, not Senator Barack Obama, had the experience to turn the crisis around.

He offered no specifics, but at least he didn’t mention Bill Ayres and blame him for the economic crisis

Meanwhile Obama was giving a speech in Toledo, Ohio (the home town of the character, Klinger, from MASH) with a detailed plan of what happens next – after the rescue plan is implemented. 

Senator Barack Obama on Monday expanded his economic platform, including proposals to spur new jobs, to give Americans penalty-free access to retirement savings to help them through the downturn, to urge a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures and to lend money to strapped local and state governments.

During his remarks here, Mr. Obama gently scolded all Americans for “living beyond their means — from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street.” His audience of supporters applauded as he said it was a moment in the nation’s history to pull together and sacrifice.

(The McCain and Obama quotes are all from the New York Times)

So the big questions remain:  Can McCain once again be the Comeback Kid?  What role will race play?  Will the debate on Wednesday night make the race closer or seal McCain’s fate?

Rachel Maddow deconstructs Palin and other thoughts on the election.

Watching this segment on the VP Debate is well worth anyone’s 7 minutes.  Maddow skillfully looks at the quotes Sarah Palin attibuted to others (and throws in one John McCain quote from the first Presidential debate).  Maddow has found the quote from Ronald Reagan for example and puts it into context playing the actual quote.   Palin’s nice speech about losing freedom with the Reagan quote turns out to be Reagan speaking against Medicaid.  Did the McCain Camp really think that no one would figure it out?  And the McCain quote from the first Presidential debate in which he said that Eisenhower left a note offering to resign if the invasion of Normandy failed – not true.  And there is more. Check out this impressive job by Maddow.

This morning’s Boston Globe has an op-ed by Ellen Goodman reminding us that the Supreme Court, which opens for the new session on Monday is at stake in the election:

In the cold world of actuarial tables, the next president is certain to have one choice and probably more. Candidates for retirement are Stevens, the 75-year-old Ruth Ginsburg, and the homesick David Souter. That’s three of the four moderate and liberal justices on a bench that has made an art of 5-4 decisions.

You do the math. If Obama is elected, the court will stay pretty much the way it is. If McCain is elected, Katy bar the door.

McCain, who plays a maverick on TV, promised the court to the right wing. He told the women of “The View”: “I want people who interpret the Constitution of the United States the way our founding fathers envisioned for them to do so.” This prompted Whoopi Goldberg to ask if she should worry about being returned to slavery.

I’m pretty sure we don’t have to worry about a return to slavery, but we do have to worry about women’s right to choice and more executive power grabs with Supreme Court approval.

A lot of the Electoral College Maps have Obama at 264 – just 6 votes away.  So he needs one more large state like Virginia or Ohio or Florida or Wisconsin – all states in which he is trending higher.  On the other hand, McCain now needs all the toss-up states in order to win.

Political Chatter for October 1

Paul Krugman from Princeton and the New York Times is saying the new Senate bill is worse than the House bill that passed.  He is saying that the Senate bill will pass and than be redone after the election.  Krugman says the bill is designed more to stop the slide than to fix the problem.

The CBS poll is showing Obama up by 9 (49 to 40) outside the margin of error.   Obama also leads among women and independents, and appears to have narrowed the gap among whites – both men and women.   The InTrade Quote as I write this is 64.1 to 35.7.  Then a new (to me) website has Obama winning by 336 to 202 electoral votes.

I think, I hope, that the McCain campaign is imploding.  I heard on either Rachel Maddow or Keith Oberman that no candidate has ever come back from such a margin so close to the election.  Voting has already begun and the CBS numbers show people have made up their minds.  We shall see if Sarah Palin can make a dent during the debate tomorrow night or of Joe Biden can hurt.

More on Polls and other election stuff

After posting “reading the tea leaves”, I was checking out AlterNet and ran across several interesting posts.  First was an interesting piece by Joshua Holland about why polls drive us crazy.

Holland points out that the daily tracking polls and other national polls, while interesting, don’t mirror how the election will be won or lost.  He argues that one has to look at the individual states – particularly the swing states.

Remember that we don’t vote for president in the United States – we vote state by state for electors who vote for the president.  As I write, [September 20] new polls who Obama up by 9 points in Michigan, 5 points in Pennsylvania and a couple of points in Ohio – all crucial swing states.

He also points out a lot of experts are looking at who can get the voters to the polls on November 4 rather than who is leading in the polls.  So you combine all the new registered voters including new citizens and the new registrants under 35 and get them to the polls and that may be the election.  A lot of the under 35’s don’t have landlines and aren’t polled. 

And what is an election with out some fun?  This link has some great stuff.  I think my favorites are the Obama/Lion King one by Jon Stewart and the McCain debating McCain one.  Several of the videos are very serious, however, including the one by doctors about the possible state of John McCain’s health.

A few other random thoughts for the day:  When will we get to see Sarah Palin’s  (and Todd Palin’s) tax returns?  Will anyone mention the Keating Five to John McCain?  And since when does thinking about an issue before making a decision as Obama is doing about the Bush-Paulson-Bernanke bail-out proposal a bad thing?  Finally, can the Red Sox clinch a playoff spot tonight?

Reading the Tea Leaves

 So we are getting to nail biting time in the election and I’m busy studying polls and looking at everyone’s electoral maps.   This week alone we have the revelation the by a slim margin – maybe the margin of the actual election? – more people would rather watch a football game with Obama than with McCain by 50% to 47%.  This morning the Intrade market quotes are Obama 51.5 – McCain 47.3 This is very close to the football poll.  What exactly does that say about us anyway?  The same pollsters did the football poll also found by a larger margin 55% to 44% would prefer to have Obama as their child’s teacher. 

This morning about 5 am when I was unable to sleep, I entered The Fix’s “Pick Your President” contest.  I can’t embed the link to my map because WordPress doesn’t do Flash, but I will try to describe my electoral vote picks.  Remember they were made at 5 am on a Saturday morning.  The Fix’s picks as of September 9 totaled Obama 289  – McCain 249.  He included Ohio to put Obama over the magic 270.  The explanation was that the total was 269 and they decided to add Ohio.  The strange, to my mind, thing is that they have New Hampshire going for McCain.

The average from all of us kooks who have submitted maps as of this morning is Obama 286 – McCain 252. But my map is Obama 314  – McCain 223.  I added in Montana because I liked the speech Governor Brian Schweitzer gave at the Democratic Convention.  He’s the ultimate rancher regular guy turned Governor.  (Maybe what Sarah Palin could be when she grows up? Nah!)  Plus, they just elected Jon Tester to the Senate.  I added Virginia because I think that everyone is underestimating Mark Warner’s coattails.  And I threw in New Hampshire.  Montana is really a long shot – but if it goes for Obama, my changes of winning the Pick Your President Contest go up.

It will be interesting to see the polls in the next few days given the implosion by the McCain-Palin ticket this week.