Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hallgerðr Longlegs: An Appreciation

We are grieved to relay the news that longtime Political Rant editor and provocateur Hallgerðr, sometimes known as “Grousy Cat,” passed peacefully Tuesday afternoon in the arms of her human servant and companion of 21 years, following a two-month battle with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. She was 21 years old.

Born in Tucson, Arizona in April, 1992, Hallgerðr Longlegs was named not only for the Icelandic heroine of “The Saga of Burnt Njal” but also for her questing spirit and propensity for skillfully climbing in and out of boxes, cabinets, closets, baskets, etc.

Sarastro and Nirvana watch Hallgerthr
dispense wisdom from on high.
A shy cat, by nature, she preferred to allow others--like her sister, Auðn the Deep-Minded, who predeceased her in the late 90s-- to shine in the spotlight. Hallgerðr was, nonetheless, a quick-witted and astute feline who did not suffer fools gladly. 

Fast on the paw when hunting insects, and yet always ready to radiate sleep rays upon unsuspecting humans, she was a creature of contradictions. To her friends, she could be tolerant and warm—a plushy ball of purr on cold San Francisco nights, tempered by the noblesse oblige of her exalted station—while her adversaries feared the disciplining swat on the nose which she did not hesitate to dispense when provoked.

Grousy Cat & The Magic Shirt
celebrating the Obama win
In politics, though she declined to state an outright affiliation with any party, Hallgerðr’s leanings tended to the Liberal side. Still, she found much to discredit with a sharp barking meow on either end of the political spectrum, and her brief, yet cutting remarks were often a refreshing commentary during campaign speeches and debates in election season. Feisty to the end, she did not hesitate to make known her mind, or to offer her human servants corrective notes when necessary, even if that occurred at 5 a.m.

Throughout her long life, Hallgerðr brought great comfort and also the vaunted “black cat’s gift” of good luck to her chosen humans.

Hallgerðr is survived by her housemate and sometimes foe Nirvana, and her two adoring monkey-servants.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Bad Moon Rising Edition

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today...
--Creedence Clearwater Revival

"Start your horses..."
Let's start with the Republicans.... A recent piece in the NY Times rates the possibilities for Presidential Candidates in 2012. Please, everyone, hold back your hysterical laughter until the very end, when you can mock the candidates all at once. In that spirit, I thought I'd add my own *ahem* expert assessment on each of the choices the NY Times lists:

Dr. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney: Yah-huh. Front runner? Seriously? Frankly, this country had trouble electing a Catholic, so a Mormon? Think not. The closest thing to a front-runner, the 63-year-old former Massachusetts governor has business and economic expertise, is solid in New Hampshire, where he finished second in 2008, and can raise plenty of money. The downside: Some Christian conservatives remain skeptical of his Mormon faith; Iowa, the first test, isn’t friendly, though Tom Rath, the longtime national committeeman from New Hampshire, dismisses the impact of a loss there: “No Republican ever wins Iowa and New Hampshire.” Most of all, the Massachusetts health care measure, enacted when Mr. Romney was governor, looks like a state version of the national plan enacted by President Barack Obama. “It’s hard to distinguish the two,” says one of his likely rival candidates. “Most Americans don’t like Obamacare, almost all Republicans don’t.”

Palin Bachmann

Sarah Palin: Stellar, Republicans, look no further for your um...leader... thingie. This candidacy can only be improved by adding Michele Bachmann to the ticket. Palin-Bachmann 2012? Made of win. You heard it here first, folks. No candidate arouses the passions and intensity engendered by the 46-year-old, 2008 vice-presidential candidate. She is setting the agenda on issues ranging from the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York City to the Federal Reserve’squantitative easing program; she opposed both, others in her party followed. Many voters, and privately, many Republican politicians, question whether she could win a general election or has the capacity to govern. An abbreviated single term as Alaska governor doesn’t reassure.

Mike Huckabee: Well, y'know, he has Bill Clinton's endorsement -- hah. Maybe back in 2008 Bill would've been happier endorse Mike than Obama. But seriously folks. The man has a radio show and a hit weekend program on Fox News,with an Oprah style daily show in the works, co-hosting with Bob Barker. I'm thinking the Huckster is pretty well set in his cush spot.The 55-year-old former Arkansas governor won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and grasps popular culture. Had he won the South Carolina primary — he finished a close second to John McCain — he might have been the nominee. If he runs, he would have more competition for the religious right vote, particularly from a Palin candidacy. He isn’t trusted by economic conservatives, who view him as a closet populist. As governor, he handed down more than 1,000 clemencies, including one for a man who went on to kill four police officers in Seattle.

Newt and wife

Newt Gingrich: Really? No, Really? I thought this was a typo. But I guess now that--after two divorces--he has a properly media-friendly wife in Callista Bisek (see photo, right) he couldn't possibly lose, huh? The 67-year-old former House speaker is the most policy-versed figure in the field. He is comfortable and conversant on any subject. Yet in a party that stresses personal virtues, his two messy divorces and ethical transgressions may be disqualifications. “His personal life probably is an insurmountable liability,” Mr. Land said.

Tim Pawlenty: If the Republicans were looking for their Al Gore, look no further... I'm so sure he'll get the full support of the GOP machine, especially after exhorting them to prepare their own tax returns...The 50-year-old Minnesota governor could be the strongest of the long shots. He meets the conservative litmus tests on most issues and has moved to the right on matters like immigration. He is devoid of hard edges and his working-class roots are an alluring asset. He is spending a lot of time in neighboring Iowa, and David Yepsen, the former political reporter for The Des Moines Register, believes, “He has a style very appealing to Iowa; he could take off.” Still, even his supporters say the likeable Mr. Pawlenty lacks charisma. There are serious doubts that he can raise the $100 million that may be necessary for the nomination.

Mike Pence: Ah, Mike "We are a Nation of Prayer" Pence. Yeah, the evangelicals like this one, huh? Here is a taste of his fresh ideas. "Freeze federal spending immediately." Government shutdown. Very Ayn Rand. Loves it. Ask me what I'M praying for. No president has come directly from the House since James Garfield in 1881. The 51-year-old Indiana lawmaker, a favorite of evangelical conservatives, would be one of the stronger candidates to try. Some political observers believe that Mr. Pence, aware of this 130-year drought, is more likely to run for governor of Indiana in 2012.

Mitch Daniels: Nev-ah heard of him? Yeah, me neither. Here he is discussing the deficit: The current Indiana governor would bring the most comprehensive and cogent policy prescriptions. A former budget director under President George W. Bush, he has won wide praise from other Republicans and business executives for his six-year stewardship of his state. More interested in policy than politics, it’s an open question whether the 61-year-old Mr. Daniels would be willing to put in the thousands of hours a nominee is required to devote to fund-raising and campaigning in small hamlets.

Haley Barbour: I admit it would awesome to have a candidate from the picturesquely named Yazoo City, but as charming as this Presbyterian might be -- and nice of him to affirm that Obama is not a Muslim-- I just don't see him as a star. There is no one more connected to the Republican political and moneyed establishment than the Mississippi governor and former party chairman. The convivial, portly 63-year-old looks very much like the part of the big-time special-interest lobbyist he used to be, not a winning credential or look. A recent magazine article, in which he praises an old segregationist Citizens Council in the South, doesn’t help.

John Thune: Who? The 49-year-old tall, athletic, one-term South Dakota senator looks like the ideal presidential candidate. Yet he has no experience in national politics, and the Senate, where his record is very thin, isn’t a much better launching pad for Republicans than the House.

Rick Santorum: The "Compassionate Conservative?" Oh, NY Times, we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for candidates now. For those of you who are trying to place him in your minds, I have one name for you: "Terry Schiavo." Need more? Intelligent design, support for anti-sodomy laws, and this stellar comments made in 2006, that many women have disclosed to him that it is more "socially affirming to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children.... What happened in America so that mothers and fathers who leave their children in the care of someone else - or worse yet, home alone after school between three and six in the afternoon - find themselves more affirmed by society? Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism." Defeated in a bid for re-election to his Pennsylvania Senate seat four years ago, the 52-year-old stresses his conservative Catholic credentials, assailing John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech on the separation of church and religion from state. Even in the conservative Republican Party of today, it seems unlikely than an anti-Kennedy message would be a game changer.


And because you know I love polls, yes, indeedy, they are already polling in this horserace. Actually in light of the fact that we have no candidates to poll about yet, they're polling YOU and whether you're paying attention or not.



New Dawn of the Dead

Boehner Zombie

In the category of "this oughta be entertaining," Speaker John Bonehead...er Boehner has proposed "For the first time under the House rules, all bills will be required to be placed online. Committees will post their rules and their votes, as well as information about testifying witnesses in an effort to make public any conflicts of interest." Uh. huh. This from an institution that still doesn't have a Twitter feed or official Facebook page. We'll keep you posted on how that works out.... "Requiring bills to be placed online is 'very, very unusual and groundbreaking,' said Muftiah McCartin, a former staff director of the House Committee on Rules."

And in the Dept. of Unsolved Mysteries, perhaps the explosive impact of the words "Speaker Boehner" had something to do with the massive fish and bird die-off just before the Republicans take the helm. Just saying. Coincidence? I think not.

BTW, if you're a new media freak, did you know you can follow Speaker Bonehead on Twitter? I advise creating a special stream just for Republicans so you can tune it out any time your gag reflex becomes too much to handle.

First Zombies, now Vampires.

And dum-dum-DUMMMMM just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the specter of Dick Cheney rises again. Now that he has a heart...errr... a heart pump, Cheney is dipping his icy toe back into the world of politics. I was especially amused to read the following: "Mr. Cheney’s heart will never beat at full strength again, doctors say. His new mechanical pump, a partial artificial heart known as a ventricular assist device, leaves patients without a pulse because it pushes blood continuously instead of mimicking the heart’s own beat." Cue heartless jokes. Of course, the moment a liberal blogger goes for the...aorta, wouldn't you know that conservatives are all over him talking about "stay classy." Uh-huh. Cause folks on the tea party side have always been classy.

You know looking at him, I think Cheney's problem is he's just not as cute as that Rob Pattinson guy. Now if they could make him SPARKLY, he'd be a heckuva lot more appealing....

Twilight Dildo Sparkles For Robert Pattinson Fans - Video
See? Much better.


Palin Hit ListWhat has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.

Robert Kennedy, April 5, 1968

You know I used to live in Arizona. In Tucson. In the 8th District, Pima County. To say I was saddened by the shooting of House Democrat Gabrielle Giffords is an understatement, saddened, but not shocked. This is where we've come to, people. Words are not just words, violent rhetoric leads to ... well, to this. Sure, Jared Loughner is a crazy person, but from here it certainly looks like he's a crazy person who got inspiration from a toxic political atmosphere, and a crazy person who could get a Glock.

Lest we forget, back in 2008, it was Sarah Palin who whipped up the frenzy against Obama provoking an unprecedented number of death threats against a presidential candidate. It was also Palin who put the gunsights on Democratic districts, including, yes, that of Giffords. You can sign a petition telling Sarah Palin "

Threats of violence have no place in our democracy."

And in the Dept. of Unclear on the Concept, Tea Partier Judson Phillips has described the man who shot Giffords and 18 others as, I kid you not, a "liberal lunatic." Um... yes, well. You may uncross your eyes now.

Keith Olberman had a Special Comment that captured things well. "We need to put the gun metaphors away."

In all seriousness, I call this my Political Rant, but what I hope to do with this ranting is to inform--to amuse, for sure-- but also to get information out there, not to spark mere outrage, but to fuel debate.

If you think I'm not doing that enough, feel free to call me on it!

Til next time, folks!

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stuffing it all in

I did a survey for the Democrats today, and realized, as I tried to stuff the survey into the envelope, that the paper was just a fraction of an inch too large for the envelope provided. It suddenly seemed emblematic, but of what? That the Dems can't even get it together enough to provide a properly sized envelope for a mass mailing, or that we have so much to do we can't even manage to stuff it into the amount of time/space we have...


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Campaign To Salvage…Public Option? | The Plum Line

The Campaign To Salvage…Public Option? | The Plum Line

With health care reform in serious trouble, you’d think the last thing Dems should be doing is wasting their time trying to revive the idea of including a public plan as part of reform. But a growing number of House Dems are pushing an interesting strategy along these lines that’s worth a look.

To wit: Now that the idea of passing a fix to the Senate bill via a majority vote is being considered, why not revive the public option as part of that fix? A simple majority of Senators favors one, so such a fix could presumably pass via reconciliation.

But more to the point, such a move would make it easier for the Senate bill to pass the House, because it could win over enough liberals — many of whom don’t want to pass the Senate bill — to make it easier to secure the 218 needed for passage.

Cameras Roll As Obama Schools GOP

Cameras Roll As Obama Schools GOP: "Whether it was chutzpah, political savvy, or both, it certainly was refreshing. Reporters were thrilled with the British-parliament-type exchange between president and lawmaker. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder asked that forums like these be held monthly. The Nation's Chris Hayes suggested Obama next go before the progressive caucus. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post labeled it 'the most compelling political television I've seen...maybe ever. NBC's Chuck Todd added: 'The president should hold Congressional 'town halls' more often. Public needs to see this if they'll ever trust Washington again,'"

Transcript of President Obama's Remarks At House Republican Retreat In Baltimore

Transcript of President Obama's Remarks At House Republican Retreat In Baltimore

Better than the State of the Union

If you want to see where the real sparks are, watch President Obama at the GOP retreat on Friday. The speech is good, but it's the question and answer session afterwards that really hits home. It was like back during the election campaign. He was funny, he was plain-speaking. He called them out on tactics and partisanship, he was logical and debated hard. It was like watching the Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament!

Check it out online on CSPAN It was BRILLIANT. The best
part is not even his speech but the Q&A after his speech:

C-SPAN Video Player - President Speaks at GOP Retreat

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Olbermann's special comment on Joe Wilson

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Obama's Address on Health Care to Congress

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Here we go folks... I'd bang my head against the wall, but I'm unsure about the quality of the health care I'd receive...

Again, I can barely turn on CNN in the mornings because I know someone is going to say something about health care that will make me absolutely livid. Someone will say "trigger option" one more time and I'm going to put my head through the TV in an effort to scream directly at Olympia Snowe that people need %*^&%! health care RIGHT NOW. Like this second. Like twenty years ago. Like ONE HUNDRED years ago.

The Power to Cloud Men's Minds....
The debate -- if you can call it that-- is so freaking contorted now that nobody knows what side is up. August was, if you believe the pundits, a total disaster of town hall brawls. People are out there shouting "Keep your goddamned government hands off my Medicare!"

Voices of reason and logic, like Robert Reich--a former secretary of Labor and now professor at UC Berkeley-- are being practically drowned out in the furor. Here's his explanation of the public option, clear and simple.

But summertime's over, babycakes. It's time for the big B.O. to take things in hand because frankly this bipartisanshit-- sorry, bipartisanship thang ain't working out.

The Character of Our Country
In case you missed it, the full text of Obama's address to Congress is here. (Video here) Thank God, because just as Obama was getting to the emotional peak -- "That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character." my DVR cut off. Doesn't matter. Here's the rest.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.
Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character.

Shape the future. The time to call or email your reps is now.

Contact your individual representatives and senators.
Look 'em up, folks -- call your friends in Montana, call your friends in Blue Dog states. It's time to make a squawk --to inform these Congress members that THEIR jobs are on the line. Email is cheap -- health care isn't.

If you're interested in the details of Obama's own plan, visit the White House site.


In this week's New York Times, Paul Krugman puts out a simple defense of the public option:

Most arguments against the public option are based either on deliberate misrepresentation of what that option would mean, or on remarkably thorough misunderstanding of the concept, which persists to a frustrating degree: I was really surprised to see Joe Klein worrying about the creation of a system in which doctors work directly for the government, British-style, when that has nothing whatsoever to do with the public option as proposed. (Forty years of Medicare haven’t turned the US into that kind of system — why would having a public plan change that?)


And about the National Health Service...

Much maligned in the news in the month of August was the UK's National Health Service. Eric's mom-- who also sent me a link to this very interesting, and not atypical, story about the NHS-- was out here for a visit last week and happened to be staying in a B&B with a physician from the UK's National Health Service. I'm grateful to her and to Dr. Stephen Shepherd for letting me reprint some of his thoughts on this health care debate.


Whilst visiting San Francisco in August 2009 a few thoughts occurred to me concerning the current debate in the US about the proposed changes to the US Health care system and comparisons with the UK's NHS.

In every country in the world there are basically only 3 ways of accessing health care.

The rich simply pay cash for whatever they want.

Those with health insurance received 'managed care'

The poor are thrown on the basic healthcare provided by the State

In the UK the NHS covers both the last two catagorys. The standard of care for ALL is equivalent to the managed care received by US citizens with insurance. A few people in the UK have private health insurance, usually as a perk of their job. In the past this allowed you to bypass some of the NHS queues. Nowadays, with the better financed NHS, private health insurance tends just to allow you to have private room, rather than share a 4-bedded bay, which is the norm in NHS hospitals.

The vast majority of hospital specialists or Consultants do most of their work in the NHS and do private work to supplement their NHS income. Private hospitals are not really set up for complex procedures and if you are seriously ill you are best off with the NHS.

The key to the NHS is the General Practitioner or GP (Primary Care Physician). Your GP will refer you for both NHS and Insurance referrals, but will provide the bulk of your care. Most chronic diseases in the UK are dealt with by the GP, who will know you and your past history and will tailor your healthcare for you personally. Primary Care is very strong in the UK.

Now to deal with a few points:

Rationing: all healthcare is rationed, except for the rich. In the UK most treatments are covered by the NHS and your doctor is free to prescribe any drug or treatment that is marketed in the UK. The exceptions are new expensive treatments whose clinical effectiveness are assessed by an independent body called the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), before they become widely available on the NHS. In the US health care is rationed by the Insurance companies managed care system, or by your ability to pay. I understand it is not unknown for people to die in the US as they lack the money to fund their treatment. I leave the reader to decide which is the better system.

Waiting Times and Choice: in the past the wait for routine procedures could be measured in years, but since the advent of Tony Blair's Labour Government a lot of money has gone to improve matters. As a GP I can use the new Choose and Book computer system to book appointments during a patient's consultation, at a time and date of their choosing. Most routine appointments will be within a month. It is unusual for the wait for surgery to be more than 3 months. If your GP thinks you may have cancer, there is a rapid access system which gets you to see a Specialist within 2 weeks and any definitive treatment started within a month.

Quality: British doctors are trained to the same standard as those in the US and foreign graduates wanting to work in the UK must have a good standard of English and meet the clinical standards set by the various Royal colleges that supervise training in the UK.

Income: when the NHS was set up in 1945 many doctors feared that they would be out of pocket. This has proved to be far from the case. Most GPs earn £120000 from the NHS with very little from private work. Experienced nurses earn from £20-30000. Hospital Consultants earn around £100000 from the NHS, but their additional private income can vary from zero to £100000+ according to their speciality and/or personal choice.

Innovation: the charge that the NHS discourages innovation and invention just makes me laugh. The route to being a hospital consultant is through research. All hospital consultants only get their position once they have done some research and continue to do so once in post. British drug companies are amongst the best in the world and around 40% of current treatments had their origins in the UK.

I admit to wondering what lies behind the opposition to President Obama's health care reforms. I suspect that many Americans realise that sorting out your healthcare system will inevitably lead to other social reforms.

The NHS is a small part of a whole raft of social benefits that make up the British Welfare State.

Benefits are provided if you are unemployed, sick, disabled or caring for someone who cannot care for themselves. Everyone gets an old age state pension from 65. The elderly are one of the main beneficiaries of the NHS. Should you need residential or nursing home care as you get older then the state pays for that and allows you to keep significant personal assets.

The poor and other disadvantaged groups are not left to fend for themselves on the streets. Local government in the UK has a statutory duty to provide social housing for all who need it, together with social services care. The homeless are not left to roam the streets, but are housed in hostels, where they have their own lockable room. These hostels provide temporary accommodation until the local authorities can find somewhere permanent, usually in the form of a one or two bed apartment.

This extensive welfare system is the result of the Socialist Government of 1945 and is the result of the report carried out by Beveridge in the later years of WW2. It is important for Americans to remember that the UK, and Europe in general, is far more left wing than the US. The main British right wing party, the Conservatives, are much more akin to left leaning Democrats. The Labour Party is a left wing party that has moved a little more to the right under Tony Blair. Some of the views I have read from Republicans would have no place in British politics, except in our extreme right wing parties like the British National Party (BNP), who are viewed with contempt by the majority in the UK.

The downside of course to the Welfare state is the cost. Income tax in the UK starts at 20% and rises to 40% on any income in excess of £38000.

On mainland Europe the Social care systems are more generous than the UK, but their income tax rates are higher. In the US it seems you provide very minimal benefits, but have low income tax.

In the UK we have gone for the middle ground between the two.

A UK style system would almost certainly lead to the US middle class losing their mortgage tax relief, as happened in the UK. Perhaps this is the main reason for the opposition?

Benefits in the UK are aimed at providing a comprehensive safety net with benefit levels set to allow you to survive and stay in your own home. No one would choose to stay on benefit as even a modest income will give a better quality of life. For instance, except in times of recession, most people made unemployed would have found a new job within a month. The UK is still a net importer of employees.

A few people do slip through the net, especially in London, but people begging on the street is unusual in the UK and often they are people who have great difficulty engaging with any form of authority. Strenuous efforts are made by many state and charity groups to engage with these individuals.

Remember even these people have the right to see a GP and access all parts of the NHS. I have worked for a practice that provided services targeted at the homeless.

I am shocked whilst in the US, the richest country in the world, to see such affluence along side such abject poverty.

I would like to remind the US: 'No man is an island.'

Dr Stephen Shepherd, GP

Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire


Final words from the Grand Fromage
Watching the funeral of Ted Kennedy last week, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by how much there is left to do-- and from the top of Ted's list: the "cause of my life", which he outlined in an article for Newsweek last month. As usual, he doesn't just bemoan the opposition they face, but looks at the possibilities.

Incremental measures won't suffice anymore. We need to succeed where Teddy Roosevelt and all others since have failed. The conditions now are better than ever. In Barack Obama, we have a president who's announced that he's determined to sign a bill into law this fall. And much of the business community, which has suffered the economic cost of inaction, is helping to shape change, not lobbying against it. I know this because I've spent the past year, along with my staff, negotiating with business leaders, hospital administrators, and doctors. As soon as I left the hospital last summer, I was on the phone, and I've kept at it. Since the inauguration, the administration has been deeply involved in the process. So have my Senate colleagues—in particular Max Baucus, the chair of the Finance Committee, and my friend and partner in this mission, Chris Dodd. Even those most ardently opposed to reform in the past have been willing to make constructive gestures now.

I long ago learned that you have to be a realist as you pursue your ideals. But whatever the compromises, there are several elements that are essential to any health-reform plan worthy of the name.

First, we have to cover the uninsured. When President Clinton proposed his plan, 33 million Americans had no health insurance. Today the official number has reached 47 million, but the economic crisis will certainly push the total higher. Unless we act now, within a few years, 55 million Americans could be left without coverage even as the economy recovers.

All Americans should be required to have insurance. For those who can't afford the premiums, we can provide subsidies. We'll make it illegal to deny coverage due to preexisting conditions. We'll also prohibit the practice of charging women higher premiums than men, and the elderly far higher premiums than anyone else. The bill drafted by the Senate health committee will let children be covered by their parents' policy until the age of 26, since first jobs after high school or college often don't offer health benefits.

To accomplish all of this, we have to cut the costs of health care. For families who've seen health-insurance premiums more than double—from an average of less than $6,000 a year to nearly $13,000 since 1999—one of the most controversial features of reform is one of the most vital. It's been called the "public plan." Despite what its detractors allege, it's not "socialism." It could take a number of different forms. Our bill favors a "community health-insurance option." In short, this means that the federal government would negotiate rates—in keeping with local economic conditions—for a plan that would be offered alongside private insurance options. This will foster competition in pricing and services. It will be a safety net, giving Americans a place to go when they can't find or afford private insurance, and it's critical to holding costs down for everyone.

We also need to move from a system that rewards doctors for the sheer volume of tests and treatments they prescribe to one that rewards quality and positive outcomes. For example, in Medicare today, 18 percent of patients discharged from a hospital are readmitted within 30 days—at a cost of more than $15 billion in 2005. Most of these readmissions are unnecessary, but we don't reward hospitals and doctors for preventing them. By changing that, we'll save billions of dollars while improving the quality of care for patients.

Social justice is often the best economics. We can help disabled Americans who want to live in their homes instead of a nursing home. Simple things can make all the difference, like having the money to install handrails or have someone stop by and help every day. It's more humane and less costly—for the government and for families—than paying for institutionalized care. That's why we should give all Americans a tax deduction to set aside a small portion of their earnings each month to provide for long-term care
There have been lots of tributes to Ted Kennedy of course, but I remember this one as especially lovely, from last year at this time, when Ted Kennedy appeared at the Democratic National Convention. But perhaps even more moving was Senator Robert Byrd's tribute:

I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the loss of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq.

Neither years of age nor years of political combat, nor his illness, diminished the idealism and energy of this talented, imaginative, and intelligent man. And that is the kind of Senator Ted Kennedy was. Throughout his career, Senator Kennedy believed in a simple premise: that our society's greatness lies in its ability and willingness to provide for its less fortunate members. Whether striving to increase the minimum wage, ensuring that all children have medical insurance, or securing better access to higher education, Senator Kennedy always showed that he cares deeply for those whose needs exceed their political clout. Unbowed by personal setbacks or by the terrible sorrows that have fallen upon his family, his spirit continued to soar, and he continued to work as hard as ever to make his dreams a reality.

In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American.

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