August 10, 2009

Fortune Editor Breaks With CNNers On ObamaCare; IDs 5 Freedoms Lost, Inevitable State Control

CNNmoneyFortuneSomeone forgot to send the CNN health care kool-aid over to the office of Fortune editor at large Shawn Tully in the days leading up to July 24. Tully in turn forgot to toot his own horn, and ObamaCare opponents forgot to take a peek inside what is normally enemy lines to find it.

In a must-read special report at affiliate CNNMoney.com, Tully lays bare Barack Obama’s core claim, while identifying five freedoms many Americans will lose if ObamaCare passes in its current form. In fact, Tully’s piece is so good, it should be the equivalent of Betsy McCaughey’s 1994 broadside that helped torpedo HillaryCare — if only people knew about it.

Anyone who knows the e-mail address of CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, who, as Matthew Balan of NewsBusters noted earlier today, is an ardent ObamaCare defender, should forward Tully’s column to her. Copies to Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Howard Kurtz, and many others at CNN wouldn’t hurt either.

Here are the introductory paragraphs and key points Tully made (bolds in text are mine):

5 freedoms you’d lose in health care reform

If you read the fine print in the Congressional plans, you’ll find that a lot of cherished aspects of the current system would disappear.

In promoting his health-care agenda, President Obama has repeatedly reassured Americans that they can keep their existing health plans — and that the benefits and access they prize will be enhanced through reform.

A close reading of the two main bills, one backed by Democrats in the House and the other issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Health committee, contradict the President’s assurances. …. page by page, the bills reveal a web of restrictions, fines, and mandates that would radically change your health-care coverage.

If you prize choosing your own cardiologist or urologist under your company’s Preferred Provider Organization plan (PPO), if your employer rewards your non-smoking, healthy lifestyle with reduced premiums, if you love the bargain Health Savings Account (HSA) that insures you just for the essentials, or if you simply take comfort in the freedom to spend your own money for a policy that covers the newest drugs and diagnostic tests — you may be shocked to learn that you could lose all of those good things under the rules proposed in the two bills that herald a health-care revolution.

In short, the Obama platform would mandate extremely full, expensive, and highly subsidized coverage — including a lot of benefits people would never pay for with their own money — but deliver it through a highly restrictive, HMO-style plan that will determine what care and tests you can and can’t have. It’s a revolution, all right, but in the wrong direction.

Tully then lists and discusses the five freedoms lost under ObamaCare:

  1. Freedom to choose what’s in your plan
  2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs
  3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage
  4. Freedom to keep your existing plan
  5. Freedom to choose your doctors

The following paragraphs from Tully about Point 4 should be enough to shut down the nonsensical claim that ObamaCare won’t ultimately end up being state-controlled and state-run, whether you’re currently in an ERISA (i.e., company-sponsored) plan or not (bolds are mine):

The bill gives ERISA employers a five-year grace period when they can keep offering plans free from the restrictions of the “qualified” policies offered on the exchanges. But after five years, they would have to offer only approved plans, with the myriad rules we’ve already discussed. So for Americans in large corporations, “keeping your own plan” has a strict deadline. In five years, like it or not, you’ll get dumped into the exchange. As we’ll see, it could happen a lot earlier.

The outlook is worse for the second group. It encompasses employees who aren’t under ERISA but get actual insurance either on their own or through small businesses. After the legislation passes, all insurers that offer a wide range of plans to these employees will be forced to offer only “qualified” plans to new customers, via the exchanges.

The employees who got their coverage before the law goes into effect can keep their plans, but once again, there’s a catch. If the plan changes in any way — by altering co-pays, deductibles, or even switching coverage for this or that drug — the employee must drop out and shop through the exchange. Since these plans generally change their policies every year, it’s likely that millions of employees will lose their plans in 12 months.

Wow. After ready Tully’s column, even those who have deeply imbibed the kool-aid won’t be able to say they weren’t warned.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Story On New GM, With AP Help, Buries News About Financial Non-Disclosure, Unique Risks

GovernmentMotors0609State-controlled General Motors issued a supposedly comprehensive 8-K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission last Friday.

If you only read the Associated Press’s coverage of that document’s release, courtesy of reporter Tom Krisher, you would at least know that:

  • The company doesn’t expect sales to improve during the rest of the calendar year.
  • That the $50 billion in post-bankruptcy funding it has received (over and above tens of billions in other forms of aid ranging from bailout loan write-offs to pension relief, none of which Krisher mentioned) may not last beyond “the short-term,” which in accounting parlance usually means a year.
  • Despite the item just mentioned, GM has taken steps to get ready for a hoped-for initial public offering next year. (Though only time will tell, yours truly, as explained below, thinks this move looks more like posturing and misdirection than anything substantive.)

All of that is nice, but the fact remains that GM produced no second quarter financial results. Further, as I noted this weekend, GM has said that second quarter financials won’t be coming out for a long time, if ever.

Exhibiting very weak news judgment, Krisher saved that information for the last two paragraphs of his 23-paragraph story, which read as follows (saved here at host for fair use and discussion purposes, and for future reference after AP makes it inaccessible):

The company also disclosed Friday that it would not report second-quarter earnings this year, but it will disclose its performance for the three- and nine-month periods before Sept. 30. Those reports will come after the third quarter closes, and the company said they will not comply with general U.S. accounting principles. GM, however, will file reports that meet the accounting standards in 2010.

Spokeswoman Renee Rashid-Merem said GM won’t file the second-quarter earnings because of the extensive work still needed to set up the books for the new company. The new company also needs to finish accounting changes made necessary by selling its good assets to the new company.

“Would not report second-quarter earnings this year” in the first sentence above, combined with “won’t file second-quarter earnings” in the second paragraph, would appear to really mean, “won’t ever,” or “won’t ever, unless we decide to go public.” And the GM spokeswoman’s excuse for not filing is pathetic, given that accounting systems at the “old GM” were in place for decades, and in bygone days were seen as the model the world should follow.

Here are some other things one learns from the GM’s 3,100-page 8-K (over 90 pages of primary test and followed by 3,000-plus pages of exhibits) that Krisher either chose to leave on the cutting-room floor, or didn’t detect in the first place. These are the kinds of things you see either in poorly-run companies, or as is the case with this one, companies controlled by a government:

  • “As part of our business plan, we have reduced compensation and have reduced and will continue to reduce headcount for our management and non-management salaried employees, which may adversely affect our ability to hire and retain salaried employees.” Translation: Since the government is dictating salaries, good people may leave, and we may suffer.
  • “Our plan to reduce the number of our retail channels and core brands and to consolidate our dealer network is likely to reduce our total sales volume ….” Translation: We’re trying to shrink our way to profitability. That can work, but shrinking companies don’t usually do IPOs, and an astute Krisher might have pointed that out.
  • “MLC (Motors Liquidation Company, the new name of the “Old GM) determined that its internal controls over financial reporting were not effective. …. The lack of effective internal controls could materially adversely affect our financial condition and ability to carry out our business plan.” Translation: We didn’t have a handle on things when the government started bailing us out, we still don’t, and we don’t know when if ever we will.

Also, one of the voluminous loan or security agreements in the 8-K exhibits has a limitation on purchases of corporate jets. I wonder how the car czars and the apparatchiks from Treasury (known as “UST”) are getting to and from Detroit?

To me, here’s the real kicker, showing that the administration’s promise not to meddle in GM’s affairs is in no way binding:

“The UST (or its designee) owns a controlling interest in us and its interests may differ from those of our other stockholders. …. To the extent the UST elects to exercise such influence or control over us, its interests (as a government entity) may differ from those of our other stockholders and it may influence matters including:

- The selection and tenure and compensation of our management;
- Our business strategy;
- Our relationship with our employees, unions and other constitutencies; and
- Our financing activities, including the issuance of debt and equity securities.”

Translation: It only looks like we’re in charge here.

Also, while GM cited customer confidence as a risk factor, it didn’t cite the real and serious problem it has with the significant plurality of American consumers who are opposed to the bailout of the company, to the point where they have told pollsters that they won’t buy GM vehicles under any circumstances. The risk to GM is that these people really mean it, and that they will stick to their no-buy pledge over the long-term.

Readers who have hung in there through this post will also be amused by this paragraph from the 8-K:

We are a private company (technically, they are, according to business definitions — Ed.) and are not subject to the filing requirements of Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. We are a voluntary filer with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Translation: Even though U.S. taxpayers essentially own 61% of the company, we don’t have to tell anyone anything if we don’t want to. Be thankful for what you get, and leave us alone.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

No Virginia, There Isn’t Freedom of Speech…

Filed under: Activism,Wide Open — Rose @ 2:58 pm

At least not for Christians in Richmond Virginia, that is…

From Catholic News Agency (bold is mine)

Jail officials censored mother’s letters over religious content

Richmond, Va., Aug 8, 2009 / 10:06 am

Civil rights and religious freedom groups are criticizing the Rappahannock Regional Jail in northern Virginia, charging that the jail illegally censored the letters a Christian mother sent to her jailed son for being “too religious.” Jail authorities cut out so many Bible passages that her letters resembled “Swiss cheese,” the groups said.

The letters of inmate mother Anna Williams were stamped for censorship with the words “Religious Material from Home,” a press release from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports. On at least one occasion, all that was left of a three-page letter was its salutation, its first paragraph, and its signature “Love, Mom.”

A July 9 letter from civil and religious liberty groups to the jail’s superintendent, Joseph Higgs, Jr., protested the alleged censorship.

Alleged?

…Such censorship destroyed the religious messages Ms. Williams sought to convey to her son and reduced her letters to something resembling Swiss cheese. Using scissors or a hobby knife, Jail officials literally cut the religious portions out of Ms. Williams’ letters and delivered only the snippets that did not quote the Bible.

…The letter to the superintendent was signed by officials from the Becket Fund, the Rutherford Institute, Prison Fellowship, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and several local and national American Civil Liberties Union officials.

…Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund, was a signatory to the letter.

The citizens of Rappahannock County should be alarmed that their government has decided to join North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran in treating the Bible as dangerous contraband,” he said in a statement.

Although the Bible says, ‘the truth shall set you free,’ prison authorities shouldn’t treat the Bible as a security risk,” he added. “In censoring this mother’s letters, the prison violated the First Amendment rights of both the prisoner and his mother.

Ya think? You know I can’t help but wonder how much coverage this would have gotten if it had been a Muslim mom sending her boy passages from the Koran…

As Long As We’re ‘Learning From Other Countries…’

Filed under: Activism,Taxes & Government,Wide Open — Rose @ 10:15 am

The following piece came from Pravda in late April:

American capitalism gone with a whimper…

It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent (sic) into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.

True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.

Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.

First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their “right” to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our “democracy”. Pride blind the foolish.

…The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America’s short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?

These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.

…So, should it be any surprise to discover that the Democratically controlled Congress of America is working on passing a new regulation that would give the American Treasury department the power to set “fair” maximum salaries, evaluate performance and control how private companies give out pay raises and bonuses? Senator Barney Franks, a social pervert basking in his homosexuality (of course, amongst the modern, enlightened American societal norm, as well as that of the general West, homosexuality is not only not a looked down upon life choice, but is often praised as a virtue) and his Marxist enlightenment, has led this effort. He stresses that this only affects companies that receive government monies, but it is retroactive and taken to a logical extreme, this would include any company or industry that has ever received a tax break or incentive.

The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.

The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.

Read the whole thing here. I’m overjoyed at how the whole world now “thinks so much better” of us (eyeroll).

So was the author a prophet who can spot a Stalin-like regime from a mile away; or just another crazy Ruskie on too much vodka?

Well, let’s look at some of what’s happened since he wrote the article…

  1. The Long-Legged Mack Daddy and his “Gangsta Government” decided in May that fundamental property rights should be confiscated and given to the UAW lap dawgs (the organization who contributed millions to BO). Fiduciary duty? Rule of law? Fool, please…
  2. To the peril of the very auto companies taxpayers were forced to bail-out, racist, bigoted homophobe “PDB” (Puff-Daddy BO) and his “Gangsta Government” disproportionately closed white-owned auto dealerships, even though most of them would be getting taxpayers a better return on their forced investment than the minority-owned dealers who were kept on.
  3. In an attempt for more “turf,” er, I mean power & control, DJ Scary Barry and his “Gangsta Government” push for a complete & comprehensive overhaul of a healthcare system with which over 80% of the American people are satisfied. If passed, he and his “peeps” will decide who “is worth” getting care and by extension who lives and dies.
  4. Lost in a tidal wave of dissent and disapproval, “Fitty-Trillion Cent” and his “Gangsta Government” have started a new company: “UberCommie & Snitch.” A thug will track you down, fit you with shackles and/or violent crimes and make you pay for disagreeing with “the one.”

Seeing as that just skims the surface, I’d say the old Russian was right on the money. I think I need the vodka now…

DC Students Get Positive Results…

Filed under: Activism,Education,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Rose @ 10:10 am

Positive for STD’s that is…this from the Washington Times (HT: The New Media Journal)

D.C. to Offer STD Tests In Every High School
Expansion of Program Draws Praise

By Darryl Fears and Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

D.C. school officials are planning to offer tests for sexually transmitted diseases to all high school students in the coming school year, expanding a pilot program that uncovered a significant number of infected children.

The program conducted last year at eight high schools found that 13 percent of about 3,000 students tested positive for an STD, mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia, according to the D.C. Department of Health.

The expansion places D.C. public schools in the vanguard of a growing number of urban school districts that test adolescents for STDs. About 12,000 students attend public high schools in the District.

… “The program tells us that a lot of students in the public school system are engaging in unsafe sex,” said Walter Smith, executive director of D.C. Appleseed, which advocates for more AIDS outreach and education in the schools. “If 13 percent of these students are testing positive for STDs, those same kids could get HIV. A lot needs to be done to get the message out to the schools . . . and this very high STD rate is an indication that what we’ve been doing is not effective.”

In a 2007 study by the D.C. public school system, 60 percent of high school students and 30 percent of middle school students reported having had intercourse. Twenty percent of the high school students said they had had sex with four or more partners, and 12 percent of the middle school students said they had had three or more partners.

… “We have Third World statistics in terms of our HIV issues, and from the HIV perspective, we do need to find a way to identify students so that we can help them,” said William Lockridge, a member of the State Board of Education representing Ward 8.

But he said parents need to be involved. “Right now, if you play sports in a public school, you have to get permission from your parents. If you take a field trip, you have to get permission from your parents. Why would it be any less for this? …. Only if the parent gives the consent upfront would I do this.”

D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) offered a different viewpoint. “This isn’t necessarily intended to comfort adults,” said Catania, who chairs the health committee. “I don’t think you turn a blind eye and pretend these problems don’t exist.”

Well, seeing as [the lack of] parental involvement is the very condition that plagues most low-performing and/or inner-city schools, I don’t see that as being a far-reaching, effective solution.

So much for handing children condoms and expecting them to morph into responsible creatures capable of interjecting common sense and good decision-making into a situation.

The United States Congress has proven that strategy a failure time and time again…

Lucid Links (081009, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:10 am

RedState — “Let’s Talk Astroturf (Democrats Are Paying People to Show Up at Congressional Town Halls)”; “What if Obama Threw an Astroturf Party and Nobody Came?

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WashTimes’s editorialists have read Australian press reports concerned that Burma aka Myanmar “could be ready to build a (nuclear) bomb in less than five years.”

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Well, President Obama is getting it right in Afghanistan, says the Wall Street Journal in an editorial

Pakistan has been an early Obama Administration foreign-policy success. Only three months ago, the Taliban were marching on Islamabad and U.S. officials were fretting about the lack of Pakistani will to resist Islamist extremism. But the U.S. worked behind the scenes to encourage a counterattack, Pakistan’s military has since retaken the Swat Valley in the north, and Mr. Zardari’s government has put aside some of its petty domestic squabbling to focus on the main enemy. President Obama has also stepped up the pace of drone attacks, which are now thought to have killed more than a third of the top Taliban leaders.

May it continue until all of them are either pushing up daisies or have surrendered, and we achieve something Obama has said shouldn’t necessarily be our goal: Victory, just like in Iraq — twice — under his predecessor.

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Noted at Hot Air (via CityBeat; go here to find the underlying link) — “CBO Missed ObamaCare Cost by $1 trillion?” Given the track record of government programs, the question mark probably isn’t necessary.

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Sarah Palin’s right, as usualAlso at Hot Air, this time in the Green Room from Legal Insurrection (bolds are mine) –

(Palin’s) critics, however, didn’t take the time to find out to what Palin was referring when she used the term ‘level of productivity in society’ as being the basis for determining access to medical care. If the critics, who hold themselves in the highest of intellectual esteem, had bothered to do something other than react, they would have realized that the approach to health care to which Palin was referring was none other than that espoused by key Obama health care adviser Dr. Ezekial Emanuel (brother of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel).

…. Put together the concepts of prognosis and age (as bases for determining whether someone is worthy of care), and Dr. Emanuel’s proposal reasonably could be construed as advocating the withholding of some level of medical treatment (probably not basic care, but likely expensive advanced care) to a baby born with Down Syndrome. You may not like this implication, but it is Dr. Emanuel’s implication not Palin’s.

Obama has surrounded himself with people holding views in the neighborhood of Dr. Emanuel’s — or worse. It’s absurd to think that people whose beliefs are of or close to Dr. Emanuel’s mindset would not end up running statist health care.

As noted yesterday, Palin, as usual, fearlessly called it as it is — which is why she is so hated by those whose mission in life, as is the case with ObamaCare, is to obfuscate, deceive …. and control.

Positivity: Families survive hardships of cancer thanks to Gloria’s Angels

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Seattle (video is at link):

Aug 7, 2009 / 03:15 pm

CNA recently published a story about Gloria Strauss, a young girl whose struggle with cancer and her reliance on her Catholic faith during her illness, is leading people to the faith.

Her short life also inspired the creation of an organization to reach out to families with a loved one facing a chronic illness. Today, we take a look at the stories of two families who have been touched by the efforts of Gloria’s Angels.

Gloria’s story begins with her being diagnosed at the age of six with a form of cancer called Neuroblastoma.

Amazingly, she witnessed to her Catholic faith constantly during her struggle with the disease.

Her father, Doug, told CNA that Gloria had a beautiful gift: she was able to draw people to Christ through her cancer. “She taught us all how to carry a cross. Her gift to us was her living example of her commitment to a relationship with God through constant prayer. She always said, “Yes.”

“From shots to sickness it always began and ended with the sign of the cross,” Doug continued. “Often doctors would have to stand and wait as she made the sign of the cross and prayed. Amazing to watch!”

It wasn’t just her actions that drew people to Christ. Doug recalled how everyone spoke of Gloria’s presence. “She had this presence that allowed people to want to be with her and pray for her.” Even at the age of seven, “she knew her calling to bring people to God through her cancer.”

After Gloria passed away on September 21, 2007, the Strausses, together with Seattle businessman Bob Turner, founded Gloria’s Angels to assist families in caring for their loved ones who are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

Matt Miller was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at the end of February 2008, leading him and his wife KyAnne to ask the Lord for assistance.

When they first met with Gloria’s Angels, it was at a time when the family “couldn’t keep all the balls up in the air anymore,” KyAnne told CNA. With five children between the ages 26 and 6, including one with Autism, it was difficult for the Millers to keep up with meals, yard work, babysitting and chores around the house.

Gloria’s Angels stepped in to help the family optimize their ability to care for Matt.

“First off, they organized a meeting with our family and friends that were on an email group I had set up,” KyAnne explained. “They presented a template in a Power Point presentation” which “showed different areas of service that we needed including, yard work, housecleaning, meals, babysitting and especially prayer.”

“Within a very short period of time we had three meals a week being delivered, our yard and hedge whipped into shape, landscaping done by a man we didn’t even know. It did Matt a world of good to see the yard looking so great. There were groceries delivered and babysitting outings that our kids thoroughly enjoyed,” she continued. “We had the Rosary being said for us by people we didn’t even know.” ….

Go here for the rest of the story.