Healthcare Prison Blues

Last week, country-western stars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood sang a little tribute to the on-going disaster that is Obamacare. We thought we would check in with Johnny Cash and see if he had any song to sing on the subject.  He said there was in fact a certain song that had been creeping and crawling around his head, and it goes like this:

(To the tune of Folsom Prison Blues)

 

Johnny-Cash-bio

The Man In Black sings a ditty to Obamacare

I hear the train wreck coming

it’s rollin’ round the bend,

and I don’t see it workin’ ‘til I don’t know when.

I’m stuck in Healthcare website,

and time keeps draggin’ on.

But that train wreck keeps a rollin’

on down to San Antone

 

When I was just a baby, my momma told me “Son,

always have insurance, don’t ever go it alone.”

But when I got that cancellation letter,

I just wanted to die.

And now I get that error message,

I hang my head and cry.

 

I bet there’s politicians gettin’ fancy insurance plans.

They’re probably gettin’ covered for everything they need.

Well I know I had it comin’ …

no insurance for free.

But those pols get their exemptions,

and that’s what tortures me.

 

Well if they freed me from healthcare prison

and my old health plan was mine

I bet I’d move it on a little further down the line,

far from healthcare prison.

That’s where I want to stay.

And I’d let my old healthcare plan

blow my blues away

 

Sing along here:

 

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Meanwhile, On Al Jazeera America …

It has been almost two months since Al Jazeera America (AJA), the American outlet of Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera, debuted in the U.S. Viewers of the network note its impressive graphics and lack of commercials, a welcomed change of pace compared to most cable news in the States. The network also employs a host of familiar faces that help bolster AJA’s image as just another news network. It remains to be seen just how radical AJA will let its coverage becomes once it grows more assured of its acceptance into the mainstream. Already AJA’s Sunni sponsors have let the mask slip.

AJA LogoDespite a petition drive to exclude AJA from cable distribution, AJA’s coverage is definitely on the rise.  Last spring and summer, AJA went on a hiring spree, hiring producers, writers, technicians, and hundreds of other staffers.  AJA also snapped up big news names like Joie Chen, David Shuster and Soledad O’Brien, and then opened 12 American bureau offices.  Broadcasting began August 20.

Of course, AJA is not just another news network.  AJA’s parent company, Al Jazeera, is owned by the government of Qatar, the tiny, oil-rich, Sunni Muslim state in the Persian Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia.  Qatar is ruled by Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who, despite his personal business dealings with Israel, is pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Israel.  Al Jazeera’s news coverage has reflected those views.

In fact, Al Jazeera is so pro-Muslim Brotherhood it recently got kicked out of Egypt for instigating Muslim Brotherhood protests there.  In 2008, Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief threw an on-air birthday party for Samir Kuntar, convicted killer of an Israeli family.

Americans learned to hate Al Jazeera in the days after 9-11, when Al Jazeera first repeated the charge that American Jews were warned beforehand of the attacks in New York, then repeatedly broadcast interviews of Osama bin Laden.  Al Jazeera has even described the War on Terror as “so-called,” and suicide bombings as “paradise operations.”

Through the years Al Jazeera has had on-air personalities who were blatantly anti-Semitic.  One popular Al Jazeera show, “Shari’a and Life,” features a host who regularly criticizes Shiites, Americans and Jews.

During the height of the Iraqi war years, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described Al Jazeera as “the mouthpiece of Al Qaeda,” while President George W. Bush referred to Al Jazeera as “a terrorist organization.” Upon the initial invasion of Afghanistan and later in Iraq, US military forces bombed local Al Jazeera offices because of the support they had given terrorists.

Now that AJA is on the air in the US, Americans will get to judge for themselves if AJA will be an independent news network covering news items important to Americans, or if AJA possesses the dispositions of its parent company.

While the network’s foreign news coverage is acceptable, the viewer gets the feeling that AJA is “up to something” whenever the news involves Israel, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Mideast in general.

Take for example the network’s coverage of the civil war in Syria.  A Pew studyrevealed that most of the Syrian coverage by AJA was similar to most other American networks, but AJA spent much more time covering the humanitarian aspects of the story and the hardships of the rebels.  And no wonder – Qatar has funded the rebels.

In its domestic news coverage, AJA is clearly left-leaning.  Typical of a pattern, in a recent day’s news broadcast, President Obama is shown speaking and blaming Republicans for the government shut-down, then the GOP response was only paraphrased in passing by the show’s anchor.

Strictly as a marketing issue, this liberal domestic news slant puts AJA in the same crowded category as most other American news channels, like ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR and MSNBC, leaving Fox News alone in the right-of-center TV news coverage.  Granted, AJA is only weeks old, but so far it is positioning its domestic news coverage in a pretty crowded field.

One recent episode of an in-depth news talk show on AJA, “The Stream,” revealed a definite anti-Israeli bias.  The episode addressed the issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and how to get Israel to discuss peace.  Special guests included members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which is a scandal in and of itself. The ISM is an organization, not of peace activists, but of para-militants who actively work with Palestinian terrorists and who call for armed force against Israel. ISM activists protect weapons-smuggling tunnels and have been photographed with assault weapons. Another group on the show calling itself Combatants For Peace (CFP) equates Israeli soldiers with Palestinian “combatants” (i.e. terrorists).  Neither the CFP nor ISM’s websites acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, even with defensible borders.  The Stream even included a former Israeli soldier, who complained of Israeli aggression against Palestinians.  He was probably trying to be Israel’s version of John Kerry, circa 1971.

The show featured furrowed brows and hand-wringing about how to get “both sides to stop talking past each other,” and how to “open a dialogue.”  A stream of viewer tweets across the bottom of the screen confirmed that the viewers were of the same mindset.  There was also some talk of “Israel’s occupation” and the need to boycott Israel’s products in order to foster peace talks.

AJA also maintains a website to supplement its on-air overage.  Recently, the website reported on a study that calculated the number of deaths from the Iraqi war to be over 500,000, dramatically higher than estimates from most other studies.  The website also included a letter from an inmate and hunger-striker at Guantanamo, complaining of the force-feeding he has to endure to keep him alive.  Poor guy!

So what is a news-watcher to do?  When it comes to foreign news coverage, most of the important news involves Middle East matters, a subject where AJA is pretty biased. For domestic news, so far AJA’s coverage is similar to the coverage of several other networks.

But beyond these questions, what is the point of Al Jazeera even coming to America?  Why would the Emir of Qatar go through the hassle and expense?  One theory could be that AJA is some sort of pan-Arab pride project.  And it is true that most significant regions of the world have at least one major news network.  Some have also speculated that AJA is just a vanity project on the part of the Emir of Qatar, which is possible.

One other theory, and it is speculative but worth pondering, is that AJA may be getting into the American mainstream, slowly getting accepted, so that if there is another 9-11, a war involving Israel, or some other mass terrorist event, AJA will be there to share its pro-Al Qaeda or anti-Israel side to American viewers.  Kind of an “embedded news network,” ready to propagandize at a moment’s notice. Given Al Jazeera’s past loyalties to Al Qaeda and positions against the US and Israel, it is certainly possible.

When Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, he is reported to have said that Al Jazeera “gives a voice to those who are not typically heard,” and “speaks truth to power.” Actually, in the event of a war involving Israel or another large-scale terrorist attack against Americans, AJA will be a vehicle for arguing against speaking truth to terrorist powers. It may in fact be terrorized Americans.

 

This column was originally published in Front Page Magazine

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Life Of Julia Update

Remember Julia?  You know, the Obama campaign cartoon figure who was helped at every stage of her life by some government program that had been begun by President Obama but scheduled for destruction by the dastardly Mitt Romney?  Most Americans wondered who Julia was and why they were being asked to pay for everything in her life.

Well, elections have consequences, and thanks to President Obama’s re-election in 2012, Julia’s support checks are still flowing, from you, dear reader, to Julia, after a brief pit-stop in Washington, DC.

Or are they?  We thought we would check back with Julia and see how she is holding up in this period of government shutting down and implementing Obamacare.

At 3 years old, Julia tries to go to Head Start, which is closed because of the government shut-down.  Julia’s mother has to care for Julia during the day, so Julia’s mother loses her job.  President Obama told us that he supported Head Start, and that if Mitt Romney were elected, Head Start would close.  Oh well.  At least Julia’s mother was able to get unemployment, some welfare benefits and an Obamaphone.

Always on the receiving end of some government program, Julia was the quintessential American citizen

Always on the receiving end of some government program, Julia was the quintessential American citizen so far as the Obama 2012 campaign was concerned

In her teens, Julia takes the SAT and begins applying to colleges.  Julia’s high school was part of the “Race To The Top” program, implemented by President Obama.  She then qualifies for a Pell Grant and enters college to pursue a Flatulence Studies degree.  In a coming of age weekend, Julia has an unplanned pregnancy but terminates the pregnancy, paid in full by Obamacare.  Mitt Romney would have defunded all these options to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

In four years, Julia accumulates $105,000 in student loans.  After graduation, she is shocked to learn that she must either work for the government to go back to college to defer her loan payments.

Out of boredom and needing a little companionship, Julia goes to a nearby clinic to get a free Obamacare pap smear.

One day Julia goes to the Vietnam War Memorial to heckle the veterans who are crossing the “barrycades” to pay their respects and to get arrested as acts of civil disobedience.  Julia gets caught up in the commotion and gets arrested with the others.  She is thrown in a jail cell worse than the men from the protest.  Thanks to the Emily Ledbetter Act, which was signed into law by President Obama, Julia is able to stand up for her rights and get a jail cell equally as nice as the male arrestees.  Julia makes friends with some of her cell-mates, and they share Mitt Romney horror stories.

As a relief from the stress in her life, Julia goes on vacation to the Grand Canyon, only to find that it is closed due to the government shut-down.  She decides to drive to Mt. Rushmore, which may be closed, but because it is outside she figures she can at least view the monument.  Instead, orange cones keep her from pulling over to the side of the road or even slowing down to get a good view.  She consoles herself by looking at Mt. Rushmore from her rear-view mirror while she drives away at 65 miles per hour.

Julia heard somewhere that the Liberty Bell is at least viewable through a window, so on her way back home she drives to Philadelphia to see it.  When she gets there she notices that because of the government shut-down, the Park Service has covered up the window with black felt.

Julia starts a web-development company from home, and then receives a letter from her health insurance company.  Like other small business owners, Julia is outraged to learn that her health insurance premiums will increase 120% in 2014.

A sister who has type 1 diabetes relates how she appeared at her hospital to get her monthly insulin supply and was told that her insurance was cancelled and that henceforth she would need to pay $1,000 per month out of pocket for the insulin.  The sister persuades Julia to let her move in and sleep on Julia’s couch until the sister can “figure something out” with her finances.

Julia’s web development business slows to a trickle, and without any health insurance, she looks for a job.  She has a stroke of good luck when she gets a job with the IRS, which is hiring new employees to enforce Obamacare on those Americans not exempt from it.  These jobs would not have been available had the dastardly Mitt Romney won the election.  Julia gets a so-called “platinum health insurance policy” along with President Obama, members of Congress, their staff members, and other federal employees.  Yay!

Because of the government shutdown, Julia is issued a furlough notice, but Congress agrees to continue her paychecks.  She spends her days in her cramped apartment, eating Fig Newtons and watching daytime TV, nagging her sister about her sister’s non-existent job search.  It becomes clear that her sister has stopped bathing and has given up on finding a job.  This means that the sister is excluded from the unemployment rate, which of course is not reported because of the government shut-down.

Out of boredom and needing a little companionship, Julia goes to a nearby clinic to get a free Obamacare pap smear.

Sadly, Julia contracts an extremely rare disease that would require millions of federal dollars to pay for operations and drugs to keep her alive.  A local Independent Payment Advisory Board (recklessly dubbed by Sarah Palin as a “death panel”) decides that Julia’s life is not worth the federal money needed to prolong it, and that Julia has nothing left to contribute to society.  Nothing.  Julia is given a pill to end her life.  Julia’s sole heir is her sister, but after estate taxes and probate fees the sister inherits nothing besides Julia’s pet cat Barack.

Out of boredom and needing a little companionship, Julia’s sister goes to a nearby clinic to get a free Obamacare pap smear.

 

 

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Five Game-Changing Questions On Obamacare

“What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  is the question that tripped up the bridge-keeper in the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, resulting in the bridge-keeper’s immediate death.

Well-thought out questions about Obamacare directed at President Obama would not result in the same fate, but politically-speaking, they could be just as much of a game-changer.  Maybe this is why President Obama has allowed so few questions following his recent statements concerning Obamacare.  This is an unpopular law that is being promoted with empty slogans and outright lies.

But tough questions must be asked.  Here are five of my suggestions:

Question 1:  “Why do you refer to Obamacare as a law that is already in place when your administration has been treating it as a malleable bill for three years?”  There are many examples of administrative actions taken that contradict the wording of the Affordable Care Act, but here are a few: over 1200 Obamacare waivers have been granted since the law’s passage, primarily to labor unions.  The administration has also abandoned the CLASS Act part of Obamacare, and the administration has recently announced a delay of two years for the employer mandate.  None of these actions have any basis in the wording of the law as passed by Congress.

So why not make a few more changes to Obamacare, especially if they are supported by the general public?  Republicans in Congress only seem to be taking their cue on the changeability of Obamacare from the Obama administration itself.  It is pretty inconsistent to spend three years changing a law and then claim that because it is a law, with the president’s signature, that the law cannot be changed.  Of course it can be changed – President Obama has been changing it on the fly for three years!

Question 2:  “Why is it so wrong to bargain with congressional Republicans on a continuing resolution that changes some or all of Obamacare when you have essentially been bargaining with your supporters on Obamacare since it passed three years ago?”  This is the problem with granting waivers and exemptions from the law that is binding on the general public.  Apparently it is fine to bargain with supporters of the administration – and that is what it is, an implicit bargain for continued political support — but not OK to bargain with Republicans.

I will answer my own question here, which is that the Republicans cannot threaten to withdraw political support for President Obama, because Republicans are the loyal opposition.  But the question should be asked anyway.  It exposes the cynicism at work here.

Question 3:  “When you were a senator in 2006 and a Republican president requested that Congress raise the debt ceiling, you spoke on the Senate floor that such a request showed a ‘lack of leadership’ and you voted against the increase.  Now your aid compared congressional Republicans who oppose raising the debt limit to terrorists and arsonists.  Do you stand by that characterization?”

Let’s face it: President Obama is asking senators and representatives to vote “yes” on something.  And instead of meeting with these people and making the case for a higher debt limit, he calls them names and threatens them with blame for a “no” vote or not acting at all.  Not only is this childish, but it is also unrealistic.  Calling people names is not a good way to get them to do what you want them to do.

Question 4:  “Why not equalize the applicability of Obamacare to everyone, including yourself, the entire executive branch, Congress, their staffs and families?”  This different treatment may be the most annoying part of Obamacare.

The public has watched with disgust the shenanigans in Washington, where healthcare policies for the political class and federal workers are exempt from the healthcare laws that apply to the rest of us.  Even the IRS agents who are in charge of enforcing Obamacare on the rest of us do not want to be subject to it.

Question 5:  “How could you have been so wrong in promising a $2,500 annual drop in healthcare premiums for a typical family of four under Obamacare?”  President Obama mentioned this figure many times throughout his 2008 campaign, and in the months preceding the passage of the law.  President Obama may claim that he was making a good faith projection, but the reality is that when he repeatedly made this promise he was way off.  Instead of going down, most family’s healthcare costs are going up.  Way up.  Healthcare premiums may well replace the mortgage, food and car payments as a typical American family’s top monthly expense.

So, after all these and other questions, a typical Obamacare supporter might complain of ineffective messaging – they usually do.  But in this case the Obama administration has already pledged $67 million to over 100 organizations to help “navigate” consumers through their health insurance options under Obamacare.  Celebrities have signed up to help promote Obamacare.  Now NBC News has decided to spend a whole week extolling the virtues of Obamacare.

Maybe NBC News can persuade me that the letter I received last week telling me of a 71% premium increase, for a worse health insurance policy, was not in fact true.  Or maybe NBC News can tell thousands of employees whose hours were dropped to part-time because of Obamacare, that their demotions were for the best.  Obamacare is a disaster and anyone trying to sugarcoat it or even explain it has a tough road to hoe.

Reality is difficult to hide.

 

This column was originally published in Front Page Magazine

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Obamacare On The Balcony

Recall from history that one of the Eastern Block’s longest-serving and brutal dictators, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, fell from power after a single speech in front of his subjects.  On December 21, 1989, President Ceausescu spoke from a balcony in Bucharest to a group of about 80,000 Romanians, during which opposition to Ceausescu’s rule galvanized.  A few people in the crowd began booing and jeering, totally unheard-of during Ceausescu’s rule.  The booing spread, then the crowd began chanting opposition slogans, and eventually charged the presidential building en masse.

Proof that government control and media support can fall in a flash

Proof that government control and universal media support can fall in a flash

The popular opposition galvanized despite unanimous support of the military and state-run media.  Within three days of the speech, Ceausescu and his wife had been deposed and executed, and Romania became a newly-freed, former communist country.  It was a staggeringly-swift turn of events.  And it all began and gathered momentum during a single speech, now known as the Ceausescu Balcony Speech.

Metaphorically, Obamacare has just now walked onto the balcony and has begun to speak to its subjects, us Americans, who will be held captive by its new regime of laws, regulations and distortions.  Despite widespread positive coverage from the mainstream media, liberal celebrities, and even politicians who accuse opponents of racism, doubts are coalescing.  Popular support has never been that strong, and people are only now coming face to face with the real problems of Obamacare, and they don’t like it.

The media is starting to cover horror stories of healthcare premiums doubling and tripling, and thousands of workers getting laid off or converted to working less than 30 hours a week.  Doctors are retiring to avoid having to deal with it.  Retired workers are losing their insurance and told to go to the Obamacare exchanges for coverage.  Health insurance companies are exiting states.  A new problem has also emerged: Americans are being told of a newly-discovered Obamacare “family glitch,” in which many workers will be able to keep their healthcare coverage but their spouses and children will be dropped.

The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the Obama administration to provide paid “navigators” to “get the word out,” and help from liberal celebrities can only sugar-coat things so long.  Within the next few weeks Americans will receive notices in the mail describing the true, terrible details of changes to their healthcare coverage.

A few lucky Americans, like some unions and members of Congress and their staffs, will be exempt from Obamacare.  Agents at the IRS, who will enforce Obamacare on the rest of us, are urging Congress to vote against a proposal that will place them in the same healthcare boat as the rest of us.  Seems like the healthcare that is good enough for the rest of us is not good enough or the IRS!

And whatever happened to President Obama’s promises?  Remember when he told us “if you like your doctor or healthcare plan, you can keep it”?  The White House doesn’t want us to remember those comments.  President Obama also probably wants us to forget when he said that under Obamacare a typical family’s healthcare premium will decrease by $2,500.  The reality is that for most Americans, their health insurance premiums will rise dramatically, and they may not be able to keep their current insurance coverage at all.

The dynamics in Congress are just beginning to change.  A few days ago the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund the government except for Obamacare.  Even some Democrat representatives voted for it.  Only a few weeks earlier, this would have been unthinkable.

While the Democratically-controlled Senate is expected to pass a resolution that will fund Obamacare, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid is trying his best to pass the resolution in such a way that vulnerable Democrat Senators up or re-election in 2014 do not need to publicly show their support for Obamacare.  Voters back home in Alaska, Arkansas or North Carolina, for example, might not approve of their senators voting to keep Obamacare in place.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s filibuster did not win a vote on defunding Obamacare, but he was at least successful in presenting to the general public some of the arguments against Obamacare that are usually ignored by the mainstream press, and Democrats in general are on the defense.

Yes, the bottom is falling out of Obamacare support, and like the end of Nicolae Ceausescu, it could be very quick.

 

This column was originally published in Front Page Magazine

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