Stephen Hawking Responds To Right Wing Misinformation on Health Care

Earlier in the week a number of right wing sites such as Human Events and Investor’s Business Daily were making the claim that “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”

Their “logic” is to 1) confuse health reform as proposed in the United States with the British system, even though the two are quite different and 2) claim there is validity to the claims that health care reform will lead to “death panels” when nothing of this nature is contained in the bill. Yet another flaw in their logic is that Stephen Hawking lives in the U.K. He has responded to this claim:

I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.

Right Wing Claims About Obama/Hitler Signs Debunked

Debunking right wing claims can be a full time job considering how frequently they arise. The latest to excite the conservative blogospohere is a claim that those bringing anti-Obama Nazi signs to health care town halls were really Democratic plants. Fortunately some journalists do spend the time researching these claims. David Weigel found that it was really a Lyndon LaRouche supporter, not a mainstream Democrat, who carried the sign in question:

A conservative Michigan blogger is accusing Democrats and “union thugs” of “planting” a man holding a sign comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler at a town hall meeting held by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). The evidence: One member claimed to see the man (who was African-American) passing out Dingell literature.

The truth is a little murkier than that. The man was a supporter of fringe Democratic activist Lyndon LaRouche, whose LaRouchePAC has been running with the “Obama=Hitler” theme for a few months now. That “I’ve Changed” poster seen at the rally can be downloaded as a PDF from LaRouche’s Website.

Conservative blogger Stephen Gutowksi pointed out the LaRouche connection in a video linked by BlogProf, the Michigan conservative who questioned the Dingell event.

What’s this mean? It’s really not good for conservative opponents of Democratic health care reform plans when their fellow activists are pictured with signs comparing the president to Hitler or accused of painting swastikas on congressional offices. The solution: Blame these incidents on “plants” or call them hoaxes. If they want to know how hard this will be, though, they should ask the anti-Iraq War protesters who watched coverage of their events focus on the craziest, fringiest people there. The LaRouche cultists are not “plants.” They want, sadly, to be allies.

Where Scientists Were Wrong On Climate Change

While most people would prefer that the predictions on climate change are not true it is primarily conservatives who think because they don’t like the findings they can just assume the scientists are wrong. Increasingly it does look like the scientists weren’t completely correct in their predictions. Newsweek shows that things might be worse than predicted:

The loss of Arctic sea ice “is well ahead of” what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast, largely because emissions of carbon dioxide have topped what the panel—which foolishly expected nations to care enough about global warming to do something about it—projected. “The models just aren’t keeping up” with the reality of CO2 emissions, says the IPY’s David Carlson. Although policymakers hoped climate models would prove to be alarmist, the opposite is true, particularly in the Arctic.

The IPCC may also have been too cautious on Greenland, assuming that the melting of its glaciers would contribute little to sea-level rise. Some studies found that Greenland’s glacial streams were surging and surface ice was morphing into liquid lakes, but others made a strong case that those surges and melts were aberrations, not long-term trends. It seemed to be a standoff. More reliable data, however, such as satellite measurements of Greenland’s mass, show that it is losing about 52 cubic miles per year and that the melting is accelerating. So while the IPCC projected that sea level would rise 16 inches this century, “now a more likely figure is one meter [39 inches] at the least,” says Carlson. “Chest high instead of knee high, with half to two thirds of that due to Greenland.” Hence the “no idea how bad it was.”

The frozen north had another surprise in store. Scientists have long known that permafrost, if it melted, would release carbon, exacerbating global warming, which would melt more permafrost, which would add more to global warming, on and on in a feedback loop. But estimates of how much carbon is locked into Arctic permafrost were, it turns out, woefully off. “It’s about three times as much as was thought, about 1.6 trillion metric tons, which has surprised a lot of people,” says Edward Schuur of the University of Florida. “It means the potential for positive feedbacks is greatly increased.” That 1.6 trillion tons is about twice the amount now in the atmosphere. And Schuur’s measurements of how quickly CO2 can come out of permafrost, reported in May, were also a surprise: 1 billion to 2 billion tons per year. Cars and light trucks in the U.S. emit about 300 million tons per year.

Documents Show Karl Rove Had Key Role In Firing of US Attorneys

What a surprise. Rove lied about his role in the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. The New York Times reports:

Thousands of pages of internal e-mail and once-secret Congressional testimony showed Tuesday that Karl Rove and other senior aides in the Bush White House played an earlier and more active role than was previously known in the 2006 firings of a number of United States attorneys.

Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.

But the documents, released by the House Judiciary Committee after a protracted fight over access to White House records and testimony, offer a detailed portrait of a nearly two-year effort, from early 2005 to 2007, by senior White House officials, including Mr. Rove, to dismiss some prosecutors for what appear to be political reasons.

The Washington Post quotes House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers:

Under the Bush regime, honest and well-performing U.S. attorneys were fired for petty patronage, political horse-trading, and, in the most egregious case of political abuse of the U.S. attorney corps — that of U.S. attorney Iglesias — because he refused to use his office to help Republicans win elections.

TPM Muckraker reports that National Review editor Rich Lowry offered to help the White House spin the firings. The White House response in hearing that Lowry offered to help: “Anyone better?”

Camille Paglia on Health Care Strategy and Protest

I probably would have ignored Camille Paglia’s column in Salon if not for this line:

Ever since Hillary Clinton’s megalomaniacal annihilation of our last best chance at reform in 1993 (all of which was suppressed by the mainstream media when she was running for president), Democrats have been longing for that happy day when this issue would once again be front and center.

I sometimes feel like I’m the only liberal who believes health reform failed in 1993 not because of the Harry and Louise ads but primarily because of Hillary Clinton.

Paglia is also very critical of Obama’s handling of health care reform. At this point I think some of  her criticism is valid, some is not, and some is just off the wall. There is nothing totalitarian, as Paglia claims, in the White House asking for help by sending in examples of false claims about health care reform in order to provide fact checking. It is not as if they are asking for names and rounding people up. (This  is also not unprecedented. As I’m also on a lot of  conservative mailing lists, during the 2004 campaign I often passed on examples of false claims being spread to my friends in the Kerry campaign if I thought they were not yet aware of them so they could prepare responses.)

As for her less outrageous criticism,  before we can judge Obama’s strategy on health care reform we need to see whether or not it turns out to be successful. After all, much of Obama’s political strategy is to do the opposite of Hillary Clinton. Clinton tried to write health care legislation in secret and insisted on doing it her own (megalomaniaca) way. In response Obama is doing it out in the open and leaving the details of legislation to Congress (sort of how things were originally designed in the Constitution). He did try to rush the legislation too quickly  but the misinformation campaign from the right wing shows why this was desired.

If health care reform does pass, then in retrospect  Obama’s political moves which are now being criticized will be seen as genius.

Pagilia also shares my criticism of Nancy Pelosi and other liberals who have been attacking those protesting health care reform. Rember, protest is patriotic.

Update: Outside links to this post have brought in a lot of comments repeating the usual right wing misinformation.

I am not going to waste time on this post responding to the ridiculous claims that the bill will lead to “death panels” as this was recently reviewed in several posts including here, here, and here.

Nor am I interested in any of the whining that Obama supported a single payer plan in the past but now says he doesn’t. Obama has made it clear that in the past that a single payer plan was his preferred plan if starting from scratch, but the realities are that we must work with our current plan.

Sure, Obama is trying to some degree to cover himself with both supporters and opponents of a single payer plan. All politicians do this on many issues. The real issue is not what Obama’s personal views are now compared to what they were in the past but the plan which is now on the table.

For conservatives who think there is a plot to sneak in single payer: the White House has been pretty strong in rejecting the idea of a single payer plan and the proposed laws bend over backwards to try to appease the insurance companies.

For liberals who are upset that Obama is not pursuing a single payer plan: there is no chance of this passing. All the current opposition to the current plans would be greatly intensified if those who are satisfied with their own insurance, along with those who are paranoid about government plans, were really to be forced to join a government plan.

Many other issues related to health care reform are discussed in other posts here in the health care topic.

Questions on Health Care Reform Answered

Christopher Hayes takes a tongue in cheek look at health care reform. His answers are not much more off the wall than the bogus Republican claims, but they are funnier:

1) Is it true that all of the bills currently proposed would end the practice of “rescission,” whereby health insurance providers refuse to treat customers who’ve paid their premiums simply because they’ve become ill?

No! That’s a common misunderstanding. Actually, all of the bills would ban incisions, that is, they would legally bar surgeons from performing surgery until a panel of twelve gay illegal immigrant government bureaucrats unanimously signed off on the procedure.

2) Is it true that health care reform would ban insurers from refusing to insure people because of pre-existing conditions?

Wrong again. To get rid of health inequality, the bills actually mandate that every American be given a pre-existing condition. A National Illness Commission, with academics appointed from Harvard, Reed College and Berkeley, will evaluate each citizen, and based on their demographic profile, choose their malady. Each disease or syndrome is scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe. White christian men will receive pre-existing conditions of 8 or higher. Black people, “wise latinas,” and ACORN members will be exempted.

3) I heard the proposals currently under consideration provide seniors with option of free counseling sessions under Medicare, where they can discuss a living will and end-of-life care.

That’s a huge misconception. The bills require all senior citizens (who are non union members) be euthanized on their 70th birthday. Under section 278(c)ii all last rites will be performed by Jeremiah Wright using a Q’uran.

4) I’ve heard the bills being proposed would require insurers to provide preventative care, like mammograms, free of charge.

No, but all lactating mothers will be forced to breast-feed poor children.

5) Will the current bills plug the “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug benefit so seniors don’t have to pay exorbitant out of pocket expenses for their medication?

Absolutely not. The legislation will ban donuts.

Obama Attends Health Care Town Hall

Obama Portsmouth

Barack Obama attended a town hall meeting on health care reform at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. From his opening comments:

Despite all the hand-wringing pundits and the best efforts of those who are profiting from the status quo, we are closer to achieving health insurance reform than we have ever been. We have the American Nurses Association supporting us. (Applause.) We have the American Medical Association on board. (Applause.)

America’s doctors and nurses know firsthand how badly we need reform. We have broad agreement in Congress on about 80 percent of what we’re trying to do. We have an agreement from the drug companies to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. We can cut the doughnut hole in half if we pass reform. (Applause.) We have the AARP on board because they know this is a good deal for our seniors. (Applause.)

But let’s face it, now is the hard part — because the history is clear — every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they’ve got. They use their influence. They use their political allies to scare and mislead the American people. They start running ads. This is what they always do.

We can’t let them do it again. Not this time. Not now. (Applause.) Because for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary — what is truly risky — is if we do nothing. If we let this moment pass — if we keep the system the way it is right now — we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Your premiums will continue to skyrocket. They have gone up three times faster than your wages and they will keep on going up.

Our deficit will continue to grow because Medicare and Medicaid are on an unsustainable path. Medicare is slated to go into the red in about eight to 10 years. I don’t know if people are aware of that. If I was a senior citizen, the thing I’d be worried about right now is Medicare starts running out of money because we haven’t done anything to make sure that we’re getting a good bang for our buck when it comes to health care. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for the simple crime of being sick. Now, that’s not a future I want for my children. It’s not a future that I want for the United States of America.

Obama answered several questions. Some were in response to the misinformation I’ve discussed in other posts. Here is his response to a question about Medicare cuts:

Well, first of all, another myth that we’ve been hearing about is this notion that somehow we’re going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay? So I just want seniors to be clear about this, because if you look at the polling, it turns out seniors are the ones who are most worried about health care reform. And that’s understandable, because they use a lot of care, they’ve got Medicare, and it’s already hard for a lot of people even on Medicare because of the supplements and all the other costs out of pocket that they’re still paying.

So I just want to assure we’re not talking about cutting Medicare benefits. We are talking about making Medicare more efficient, eliminating the insurance subsidies, working with hospitals so that they are changing some of the reimbursement practices.

Right now hospitals, they are not penalized if there are constant readmission rates from patients that have gone through the hospital. If you go to a — if you go to a car company or a auto shop, if you say, “Can I have my car repaired?”, you get your car repaired — if two weeks later it’s broken down again, if you take it back, hopefully they’re not going to charge you again for repairing the car. You want them to do it right the first time. And too often we’re not seeing the best practices in some of these hospitals to prevent people from being readmitted. That costs a lot of money. So those are the kinds of changes we’re talking about.

Now, in terms of savings for you as a Medicare recipient, the biggest one is on prescription drugs, because the prescription drug companies have already said that they would be willing to put up $80 billion in rebates for prescription drugs as part of a health care reform package.

Now, we may be able to get even more than that. But think about it. When the prescription drug plan was passed, Medicare Part D, they decided they weren’t going to negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price on drugs. And as a consequence, seniors are way over-paying — there’s that big doughnut hole that forces them to go out of pocket. You say you take a lot of medications; that means that doughnut hole is always something that’s looming out there for you. If we can cut that doughnut hole in half, that’s money directly out of your pocket. And that’s one of the reasons that AARP is so supportive, because they see this as a way of potentially saving seniors a lot of money on prescription drugs. Okay?

Video is available at Crooks and Liars.