Aetna Deals Blow To Obamacare Showing Sanders Was Right On Need For Single Payer Plan

Aetna

Aetna has announced that they are going to greatly scale back the number of markets in which they will participate in on the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. This is very bad news for Obamacare. Last year it was looking like insurance companies were doing well and wanted to increase participation. The big question is what happened.

One possibility is that Aetna is telling the truth that the plans were not profitable as sicker people than they anticipated were joining, leading to greater costs.

Another possibility is that Aetna is doing this to retaliate against the Obama administration for fighting their desire to merge with Humana.

Consumers are screwed either way. Having less competition in the exchanges due to fewer companies offering plans will likely lead to higher premiums. On the other hand. allowing further consolidation of the insurance industry will also lead to less competition and higher costs.

During the fight over the Affordable Care Act there were proposals for a public option modeled on Medicare or for an option for older individuals (who are probably the most responsible for the higher costs Aetna complains about) to buy into Medicare. Both were blocked because the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, opposed these plans. With no Republicans voting for Obamacare, they could effectively block either idea. It is unknown if things would have been any different if the White House had pushed more forcibly for these plans.

Of course Bernie Sanders had the right idea in taking these concerns over profit out of the equation in proposing Medicare for All, which Hillary Clinton opposed during the campaign. It is also unknown if Sanders could have brought enough liberal Democrats into Congress with him over the next few elections if he was the nominee. It is probably a safe bet that a DLC based Democratic Party under Hillary Clinton will not move the country to the left in such a manner.

Hillary Clinton Responds To DEA Decision On Marijuana But Continues To Back Prohibition

Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during her primary night gathering at the Philadelphia Convention Center on April 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton defeated her democratic rival Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania presidential primary.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has released a response to the decision of the FDA which I discussed yesterday to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug. From Think Progress:

In a statement published yesterday in the Cannabist, Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to the Clinton campaign, applauded the DEA’s concurrent move to loosen restrictions on growing marijuana for research — and indicated Clinton will go even further to accomplish what Obama has failed to so far.

“We applaud the steps taken today by the Obama Administration to remove research barriers that have significantly limited the scientific study of marijuana,” Harris said. “Marijuana is already being used for medical purposes in states across the country, and it has the potential for even further medical use. As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects.”

“As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance,” she continued. “She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.”

As is common with Clinton, there is some benefit to her conservative approach, while she remains behind the times on the issue. With regards to medical marijuana, reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug would be a tremendous improvement over its current status as a Schedule I drug. While physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs can be prescribed. Presumably this would put an end to the federal government interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

On the other hand, Schedule II drugs are the most restricted class of drugs which are prescribed. The class includes drugs such as Morphine, OxyContin, Methadone, and Norco. Written prescriptions, or a highly secure electronic prescribing system, must be used, and refills cannot be included. One reason to support the medical use of marijuana is to reduce the use of the more addictive and dangerous medications now in use.

More importantly, while a Schedule II drug can be prescribed for medical purposes, it does not end prohibition of marijuana. Over the past several years there has been growing support for legalization, with sixty-one percent in favor as of last March. The change Clinton supports would do nothing to resolve the problem of mass incarceration and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.

In contrast, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson both support an end to prohibition. As I also noted yesterday, the generally incoherent Republican nominee Donald Trump is for and against legalization of marijuana.

DEA Refuses To Reclassify Marijuana But Acts To Facilitate Research

Reefer Madnes

The DEA has rejected a request to reclassify marijuana and it will remain a Schedule 1 drug. NPR reported on the decision, and the questionable rational:

The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.

“This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”

Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside heroin and LSD, while other, highly addictive substances including oxycodone and methamphetamine are regulated differently under Schedule II of the law. But marijuana’s designation has nothing to do with danger, Rosenberg said.

This conflicts with a growing body of evidence that marijuana does have medical benefits, along with being safer than opiates for treatment of chronic pain.

The DEA did include one item in its decision which could lead to an increase in research on medical benefits of marijuana:

DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA- registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana. At present, there is only one entity authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States: the University of Mississippi, operating under a contract with NIDA. Consistent with the CSA and U.S. treaty obligations, DEA’s new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.

Of the presidential candidates this year, Hillary Clinton has been the most conservative on marijuana and drug policy, while Jill Stein and Gary Johnson support legalization. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this, or virtually anything else.

It Is Sad To See Some Sanders Supporters Acting Like Clinton Supporters & Republicans

Sanders Clinton CNN

We are accustomed to seeing Clinton supporters spread misinformation, ignore facts, and try to prevent those they disagree with from expressing their views. It is a shame to see some Sanders supporters using the same tactics.

There are many valid sources of information about Hillary Clinton which are relevant to the campaign. There are also right wing sources which spread misinformation which Sanders supporters would be wise to stay away from. I recently found a Sanders supporter spreading bogus claims about Clinton, claiming that being on Coumadin should disqualify her from being president.

The claims were written by Jerome Corsi, one of the writers who spread the Swift Boat Lies against John Kerry. The article they linked to was one of many on the same topic posted by him at World Net Daily. The source is a second reason for Sanders supporters to be skeptical.The article uses pseudo-science to make claims which are contrary to current standards of medical care. The source of the information is a quack physician who lost his license due to holding views which could jeopardize the lives of his patients.

As both a physician and long-time Sanders supporter I attempted to correct this misinformation after it was reposted in the Progressive BERN Party Facebook group. Besides noting the medical fallacies in the argument and how untrustworthy the source was, I pointed out that if Sanders had a medical condition which required the use of such a medication we would be defending his ability to still be president.

There are enough valid arguments against Clinton being president. There is no benefit in repeating  bogus claims from the far right. This is true of this particular argument, as well as many others from right wing sources which are sometimes repeated by Sanders supporters.

The reaction at the Progressive BERN Party Facebook group was to ban me from the group after pointing out the medical facts. That is certainly an intellectually dishonest and cowardly way to respond to being corrected on the facts. We might expect such thinking from Clinton supporters, and from Republicans. Unfortunately it is also seen in some Sanders supporters. Besides, if the goal is to really promote a new political party along the lines of Sanders’ views, and in opposition to Clinton’s views, what sense does it make to ban someone who has been promoting such views for quite a long time? Sanders supporters should be seeking to broaden their groups, not play games such as this.

Utah Declares Porn To Be A Public Health Crisis

Pornography Utah

The authoritarian right loves to legislate what others may or may not do, especially when it comes to sex. Utah is passing a resolution declaring porn to be a public health crisis. USA Today reports:

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will sign a resolution declaring pornography a “public health crisis” at the Utah state capitol today.

The resolution was introduced by Republican state Senator Todd Weiler in January 2015, to battle the “pornography epidemic harming” the state and the country.

The resolution, which was passed last month, calls for increased “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level,” to combat pornography.  Anti-pornography group, the Utah Coalition Against Pornography posted on Facebook that the resolution signing marks a “time to celebrate and recognize this historic moment.”

Weiler maintains that the resolution is not a ban on porn or an attack on masturbation, but the first steps toward creating a plan to protect children and families from it.

“Due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the Internet, young children are exposed to what used to be referred to as hard core, but is now considered mainstream, pornography at an alarming rate,” according to the bill. 

Ian Kerner, a psychotherapist and sex expert, says the anti-pornography movement is rooted in a long history of stigmatizing sex and masturbation.

“So much of the anti-porn movement is based on a sense of alarmism,” Kerner said, adding that the anti-pornography movement has blurred the line between child and adult access to pornography. “In this country, we really bundle together children and teens with consenting adults, and the issues are not the same for children and teens as they are for consenting adults.”

In contrast, the American College of Physicians recently called on doctors to do more regarding a real public health crisis which is ignored by many conservatives–climate change.

Larry Flynt is responding by sending a free issue of Hustler to every member of the Utah state legislature, although I’m not sure why he would want to reward those people (other than for the free publicity).  He also issued this statement:

“[T]he Utah Legislature is obviously confused about what constitutes a public health crisis, so I’ll send them our latest issue and they can see for themselves that we’re no danger to the public, only to the repressed,” Mr. Flynt said in a statement.

“In 1969 President Lyndon Johnson and the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography found that no evidence exists that exposure to explicit sexual materials cause any kind of criminal behavior,” the 73-year-old self-declared smut peddler said. “This report has been gathering dust for over 40 years, and Utah is only dragging out this issue now to satisfy religious zealots.”

The porn website XHamster.com responded in the opposite manner compared to Flynt in protest over the passage of the recent “religious liberties” law in North Carolina. They protested by blocking access to the site from computers located in North Carolina. That probably hurt even more than Bruce Springsteen canceling a concert in North Carolina.

Obama, Clinton, and Sanders & The Drug War (Sanders Has The Best Position)

Commuted Sentences Obama

The drug war is one of several areas where Obama has tried to move in the right direction, but his overall accomplishments over the last seven years have been disappointing. Far too little has changed. The White House has now announced that President Obama is reducing the sentences of sixty-one more individuals imprisoned due to drug laws, bringing the total to 248:

Today, the President announced 61 new grants of commutation to individuals serving years in prison under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws. More than one-third of them were serving life sentences. To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six Presidents combined. And, in total, he has commuted 92 life sentences.

Underscoring his commitment not just to clemency, but to helping those who earn their freedom make the most of their second chance, the President will meet today with commutation recipients from both his Administration and the previous administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. During the meeting, the commutation recipients will discuss their firsthand experiences with the reentry process and ways that the process can be strengthened to give every individual the resources he or she needs to transition from prison and lead a fulfilling, productive life…

While this is welcome news, both liberal and libertarian commentators have expressed regrets that Obama hasn’t done more. Vox notes:

…the White House is still falling far short of the expectations it set for itself two years ago, when it encouraged thousands of prisoners to apply for shorter sentences. Then–Attorney General Eric Holder even went so far as to speculate that 10,000 prisoners might get their sentences reduced by the end of the Obama administration.

In that context, the 61 new commutations — and even the 248 total commutations — look different: a very small, incremental change that may signal the White House will do more in future but almost certainly won’t help it live up to its own expectations.

This comes not long after considerable discussion in the medical field regrading the negative impact of handling drug abuse as a criminal as opposed to a health matter, including in an article in The Lancet:

In a report published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal, Beyrer and an international team of researchers assessed the growing body of evidence for the public health impacts of programs such as opioid substitution therapy and needle exchange programs. In addition to criminal justice changes, the researchers made specific recommendations for policy makers to improve access to services that can reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV.

“We think there is the first opportunity in a generation to have meaningful drug reform,” said Beyrer, who led the research for the report , which was commissioned by The Lancet and Johns Hopkins University

The report comes weeks before the United Nations General Assembly Special Session convenes on April 19 to discuss drug policy for the first time since 1998.

“There is pressure from a number of countries who feel the war on drugs has failed them, particularly Central and South America, where there is some of the worst drug-related violence,” Beyrer said. “We sought to review all the scientific evidence so it would be available to the U.N. member states when this is being debated.”

According to the report, injection drug use has led to increases in new HIV and HCV infections. Unsafe injection practices, such as sharing needles, are linked to about 30% of HIV transmission outside of sub-Saharan Africa. HCV transmission is also high among people who inject drugs, and a study in the United States found that more than half of people got infected in the first year they were injecting.

Hillary Clinton’s opposition to needle exchange programs, along with her hard line overall on the drug war, was an issue in the 2008 election. This year Bernie Sanders differs from his current opponents in going the furthest to oppose the continuation of the drug war:

Bernie Sanders’ campaign is now officially neck and neck with Hilary. Considered by many of us, to be a voice of progress and a champion for a new America. Much of his platform is forward-looking and based on reimagining what Americans should value in the future. To reinforce this outlook, many of his major policies address the redistribution of wealth and the reevaluation of some of the country’s long-standing campaigns—with the the War on Drugs being at the top of the list. Bango, Bernie!

Now pay close attention here, his mandates related to the War on Drugs are to treat and rehabilitate non-violent drug offenders rather than imprison them, to prevent large companies from further profiteering off of prisons and to legalize cannabis. If he is elected and this reform is passed by Congress, America would look very different—for the better, we like to think.

As much as Big Bernie is an advocate for policy change, he’s also focused on creating a major cultural shift. This is most strongly evidenced by his plan to create treatment facilities for non-violent drug offenders. If implemented correctly, the plan would encourage Americans to be more sympathetic towards those who have fallen victim to drug addiction, regardless of how or why. As Sanders sees it, it takes a community to help someone get back on their feet, and we need to be in the business of creating the infrastructure to make this happen…

There were also recent reports that a top Nixon aide had described the real reasons for the war on drugs:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harper’s writer Dan Baum for the April cover story published Tuesday.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

This also fits into the Clinton model of expanding police power. I fear that if Clinton is elected we will slide backwards on continuing the disastrous drug war.

Lacking A Message, Clinton Again Relies On Misinformation In PBS Debate

PBS_Dem_Debate_2

At the PBS Democratic Debate Hillary Clinton recycled some old lies about Sanders, and created some new ones. I’ll debunk some of each. The full transcript can be found here.

An early point of contention between the candidates was over health care, with Clinton falsely claiming that “before it was called Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare.” No, actually Hillarycare was a seriously flawed plan with major differences from Obamacare.  Making matters worse, Hillary got Bill to agree to veto any other health care proposals. The Republican counter proposal was far closer to Obamacare, although, not surprisingly, it was friendlier to the insurance industry. Clinton kept us from getting either something close to Obamacare, along with any other Democratic proposal. She was hardly a progressive who gets things done.

Clinton continued to portray Medicare For All as eliminating other plans while ignoring all of its advantages. Although single payer is far less expensive than our current system, Clinton claims we would “actually be worse off than they are right now.” How could we possibly be worse off if we no longer have to pay towards the corporate profits of the health insurance industry, not to mention its huge infrastructure? How could we possibly be worse off than with the current high premiums on the individual market, which still leave us with astronomical deductibles? Clinton talks about this as starting over, but Medicare for All is actually just expansion of a highly successful program.

They next disagreed over expansion of Social Security as Sanders and most progressive Democrats advocate. Slate discussed this further in an article entitle Clinton’s Social Security Plan Is a Little Hazy. And Sanders Called Her Out on It.

Clinton tried to hide the major differences in how their campaigns are funded in claiming, “I’m very proud of the fact that we have more than 750 thousand donors, and the vast majority of them are giving small contributions.” That is probably why I keep getting emails from the Clinton campaign asking for a $1 donation. By asking for $1 they can pad the numbers. The real source of Clinton’s donations can be seen from how the DNC just rolled back their limitations from lobbyists. It is just one more way in which the DNC is acting to help Clinton, and smelling a lot more like the RNC.

Sanders pointed out the difference:

What we are talking about in reality is a corrupt campaign finance system, that’s what we’re talking about. We have to be honest about it. It is undermining American democracy.

When extraordinarily wealthy people make very large contributions to Super PACs, and in many cases in this campaign, Super PACs have raised more money than individual candidates have, OK? We had a decision to make early on, do we do a Super PAC? And, we said no. We don’t represent Wall Street, we don’t represent the billionaire class, so it ends up I’m the only candidate up here of the many candidates who has no Super PAC. But, what we did is we said to the working families of this country, look, we know things are tough, but if you want to help us go beyond establishment politics, and establishment economics, send us something. And, it turns out that up until — and this has blown me away, never in a million years would I have believed that I would be standing here tonight telling you that we have received three and a half million individual contributions from well over a million people.

Now, Secretary Clinton’s Super PAC, as I understand it, received $25 million dollars last reporting period, $15 million dollars from Wall Street. Our average contribution is $27 dollars, I’m very proud of that.

When Clinton tried to dodge the issue, Sanders went on:

SANDERS: The people aren’t dumb. Why in God’s name does Wall Street… (APPLAUSE) But let’s not — but let’s not — let’s not insult — let’s not insult the intelligence of the American people. People aren’t dumb.Why in God’s name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it; they want to throw money around.

Why does the pharmaceutical industry make huge campaign contributions? Any connection maybe to the fact that our people pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?

Why does the fossil fuel industry pay — spend huge amounts of money on campaign contributions? Any connection to the fact that not one Republican candidate for president thinks and agrees with the scientific community that climate change is real and that we have got to transform our energy system?

Factcheck.org also pointed out Clinton’s dishonesty in claiming that Sanders “took about $200,000 from Wall Street firms” through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. While Sanders did receive money from the DSCC, which hardly sounds like a crime, Factcheck.org pointed out that a relatively small percentage of the DSCC’s contributions came from Wall Street.

Sanders attacked Clinton regarding her views on regime change, including in Iraq and Libya. Clinton repeated her previous tactic of lying about Sanders’ record in bringing up resolutions he voted for which had nothing to do with overthrowing other governments by force in Iraq and Libya as Clinton advocated. As I discussed after the third debate, Politico fact-checked this and pointed out the resolution Clinton referred to was a nonbinding resolution “calling on Qaddafi to desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, [and] resign his position.” This is far different from the promotion of the removal of Qaddafi by force which Clinton orchestrated, leading to catastrophic results. Similarly, the resolution regarding Iraq which Clinton keeps mentioning was to promote the move towards democracy in Iraq. Sanders supported economic sanctions and did not support the invasion of Iraq as Clinton did.

Clinton bragged about Obama hiring her to be Secretary of State but his was far more for political reasons than an endorsement of her judgment. Throughout her four years as Secretary of State, Clinton’s neoconservative advice was generally rejected (other for in Libya, where the policy was a failure). Clinton’s defense of her foreign policy views became even more bizarre when she embraced Henry Kissinger. As Sanders responded:

Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate — and I believe in her book — very good book, by the way — in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.

I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.

Clinton once again tried to make herself look like a great supporter of Barack Obama and make Sanders look like a constant critic. She falsely claimed that Sanders wrote “a forward for a book that basically argued voters should have buyers’ remorse when it comes to President Obama’s leadership and legacy.” This refers to the book Buyer’s Remorse–How Obama Let Progressives Down by Bill Press. The book begins with:

I speak as a  proud liberal.

I speak as a strong supporter of President Obama.

From there it does criticize Obama for letting progressives down, discussing both the positives and negatives of the Obama administration. Sanders does not have a forward (at least on my copy of the book) but there is a brief blurb on the back cover from Sanders:

Bill Press makes the case why, long after taking the oath of office, the next president of the United States must keep rallying the people who elected him or her on behalf of progressive causes. That is the only way real change will happen. Read this book.

Hardly the sort of near-treason which Clinton suggests. The next blurb on the back cover is from Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under her husband. Reich also recently wrote that, “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”

Clinton was also wrong when she said Sanders was “calling several times that he should have a primary opponent” in 2012, grossly exaggerated anything which Sanders did say on the subject. She totally ignored how she opposed Obama before she supported him. This not only includes th2 2008 primary battle, which included her campaign spreading the Reverend Wright smears, and other dirty tricks. Clinton was quite hostile towards Obama’s foreign policy views after she left office as Secretary of State, and was running against Obama’s policies earlier in the current campaign. She will turn on Obama’s legacy again should she find it politically expedient.

Clinton concluded in her closing remarks yet another smear, which Sanders could not respond to, that he was a single issue candidate. In this post alone there are multiple issues which separate them such as on the role of money in politics, their views on Medicare for All, Social Security reform, disagreement over embracing the legacy of Henry Kissinger, Clinton’s support for regime change in Libya as well as Iraq. Other issues which Sanders is running on also came up which I have not included here, such as ending the drug war and reforming marijuana laws. There are also many other differences on other issues which were not raised during the debate, such as substantial differences over climate change and on social/cultural issues.

While Sanders certainly concentrates on limited issues during the campaign for political reasons, he has demonstrated many reasons to support him on a variety of issues. In contrast, Clinton’s bright yellow jacket  (which I  think she borrowed from Curious George’s friend in the yellow hat) seemed to receive more attention than anything she had to say at the debate. Clinton’s problem is that she lacks any real message at all, failing to provide voters a reason to support her. Even many of  those who do support her are acknowledging this problem.

Update: Accusations Of Lying Dominate Republican Debate

Clinton Attacks Sanders With Series Of Bogus Sound Bites At MSNBC Democratic Debate

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,  stand together before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C.  The Democratic presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders reached an agreement in principle on Saturday to hold another presidential debate next week in New Hampshire and three more later this spring.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Wednesday’s one-on-one debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (transcript here) was probably the best debate yet, and unfortunately the lowest rated. Unlike the CNN Town Hall the previous day, Clinton did not struggle to come up with answers. Instead she repeated a serious of prepared sound bites which made her seem ingenuous.

Clinton, an old DLC Democrat, is making a huge mistake in getting into a debate she cannot win when she claims to be a progressive. She has already admitted to being a centrist, and she just shows her propensity for changing her views based upon political expediency when she claims otherwise. She also opens herself up for mocking by actual progressives, such as at Common Dreams, when she claims to be a progressive. As I recently pointed out with this graph, Clinton is much closer to the Republicans ideologically than Sanders and his supporters:

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

If Sanders made any mistake on this line of attack, it was to give the impression that holding certain views are a litmus test of whether one is a progressive. Certain individual progressives might disagree on one or more positions. It is the overall world view which counts, with Clinton opposing progressive viewpoints on a wide range of issues.

Clinton is also fighting a losing battle when claiming not to be part of the establishment because she is a woman. By that logic do we vote for Carly Fiorina? Citing support from Howard Dean does not also help her considering how Dean has sold out to be a lobbyist for they pharmaceutical industry.

Clinton’s sound bites on so many issues are total nonsense. Despite what she claimed, HillaryCare was not ObamaCare. HillaryCare was a highly flawed plan which failed both due to its flaws and her unwillingness to compromise on the details.  Her bungling of health care reform was the first sign that she is a progressive who gets things done. She also got far less done in the Senate compared to Sanders who was influential on passing many amendments.

Clinton repeated her nonsensical attack on Sanders’ proposal for free public universities in saying, “What I want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump’s kids, get to be able to afford college.” Donald Trump’s kids are not going to go to free public universities.

In attacking Medicare for All, she falsely claimed, “Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again.” Expanding Medicare, a highly successful program we have now, is not starting all over again. And, in any event, Sanders is not going to take away ObamaCare before Medicare for All is available as the Clinton camp has suggested. Meanwhile, Clinton has no serious proposals to handle the high costs of health care which persist under ObamaCare, despite its improvements to the system, while Medicare for All would provide a solution.

Clinton continued to distort Bernie Sanders’ record on guns, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA. She now claims to be more liberal, despite having described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton was put on the defensive regarding her ties to Wall Street and the speaking fees she received from Goldman Sachs. Back when it was seen as a race between Clinton and Jeb Bush, leaders of Goldman Sachs made it clear that they saw Clinton as being on their side. She evaded a question as to whether the transcripts of her highly-paid speeches to them will be released to the public.

Clinton denied that payouts from Wall Street affect her views. Elizabeth Warren has disagreed.

I would also caution Clinton from repeating the phrase, “I have a record” while the FBI investigation of her email is in progress. She also repeated one of her dishonest sound bites here in claiming, “They are retroactively classifying it.” As Reuters described months ago, some of the email was “born classified” and as Secretary of State Clinton should have known the material was classified at the time. Further email releases have only made matters look worse for Clinton since this article was posted.

Clinton tried to excuse her actions by bringing up Colin Powell and Condalisa Rice. What they did does not excuse any violations of the law by Clinton.  Plus stricter rules were put into place in 2009 in response to the abuses under the Bush administration which Clinton violated.

Clinton brags that Obama made her Secretary of State, but that was a political decision. He had rejected Clinton’s views, such as her talk of obliterating Iran, during the campaign. Obama ran foreign policy from the White House, and the Obama administration usually rejected Clinton’s more hawkish, neoconservative advice. Sanders pointed out how he was right on the Iraq war, and warned of the perpetual warfare we are likely to see if Clinton is elected. Unfortunately Clinton’s hawkish views on Libya and Syria were not discussed during the debate. Sometimes I wish Sanders would also move further beyond his usual sound bites.

The issue of electability came up with Sanders pointing out how well he does in head to head match-ups against republicans. Old left versus right arguments re electability no longer apply. These days elections are won by getting out the base. Bernie can do that better than Clinton. Plus Sanders does better with independents while Clinton does poorly in the battleground states. Voters are looking for a candidate with integrity, and a reformer who who fix the system Clinton is too close to, not where a candidate falls on the flawed right to left spectrum.

Sanders is working towards improving his support among minorities (with news coming out earlier in the day that a former NAACP head is planning to endorse Sanders.) He was smart to bring up the impact on minorities when opposing the death penalty. He pointed out that, “too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. That’s number one. We have to be very careful about making sure about that.”

Sanders also discussed the water situation in Flint, Michigan. When he spoke of the children being poisoned, an issue where both Democratic candidates agree, I quipped on Facebook that Republicans do not agree–they think that the poisoning of children is an issue which should be left up to the states. (My blow by blow account of the debate on Facebook has been left public for now.)

Besides the issue of whether Clinton is a progressive and a member of the establishment, another topic which came up during the debate was a faux complaint from Clinton that Sanders was waging a negative campaign on her.

The Clinton machine is probably the dirtiest machine in all of politics, yet when someone presents an accurate criticism of Clinton’s record she cries about how she is being smeared. The Clinton machine spread the Reverend Wright and Birther smears against Obama eight years ago. This year we have seen twisting of Sanders’ words to claim sexism, a distortion of his position on guns, and claims that Sanders is going to take Medicare, Medicaid, and even ObamaCare away from people.

Slate called Sanders the winner but did have some criticism of his performance, while others called it for Clinton. David Graham at The Atlantic called Sanders the winner but was reluctant to call Clinton a loser. He highlighted Sanders’ concentration on limited issues, which I think is largely part of his strategy to take on Clinton and build a winning general election coalition. Google showed that there was more interest in Sanders than Clinton during the debate. More importantly, the types of search queries look more like those who are looking to become engaged with the campaign:

Hillary Clinton

  1. How old is Hillary Clinton?
  2. Who can beat Hillary?
  3. Where is Hillary Clinton today?
  4. Will Hillary win?
  5. How much is Hillary Clinton worth?

Bernie Sanders

  1. Where will Bernie Sanders be speaking?
  2. Why Bernie Sanders?
  3. Who would be Bernie Sanders’ VP?
  4. How to donate to Bernie Sanders
  5. Where can I see Bernie Sanders in NH?

Sanders Strong And Clinton Off Her Game In New Hampshire Town Hall

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

Bernie Sanders had a strong night while Clinton had a terrible performance at the CNN Town Hall Wednesday night (video and transcript here). It was almost painful to see her stumbling to come up with answers to some of the questions.

Sanders criticized Clinton’s claims of being a progressive saying, “you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.” He elaborated a later exchange:

But there are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: As I mentioned earlier, the key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

Virtually all of the trade unions and millions of working people understand that our trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, etc. — have been written by corporate America and the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers… millions of working people understand that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, et cetera, have been written by corporate America.

And the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers out on the street, move to China and other low-wage countries, and bring their products back into this country. And that’s one of the reasons why the middle class of this country and the working class is struggling so hard.

Secretary Clinton has been a supporter in the past of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. Reluctantly, and after a lot of pressure on her, she came out against the TPP, and I’m glad that she did.

Every sensible person understands that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.

For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. Well, there are no benefits to excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

I was in the lead in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. I’m in opposition to the pipeline right here in New Hampshire and the pipeline in Vermont. I think we have got to move aggressively away from fossil fuel if we’re going to leave this planet in a way that’s healthy and habitable for our kids.

So those are just some of the areas…

CNN described how Clinton performed in their report on the event:

Clinton delivered an uneven performance at the event, sounding confident on policy answers and connecting with the audience when she shared moments from her personal life but stumbling on topics that have dogged her throughout the campaign, including her vote on the Iraq War and her relationship with Wall Street.

Her toughest moment of the night came when she was asked to address the paid speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department.

Clinton started to explain that Goldman wasn’t the only group that paid her for speeches. But when Cooper interjected and asked, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?” Clinton appeared caught off guard.

“Well, I don’t know. Um, that’s what they offered,” she said. Clinton went on to insist that at the time of the speeches, she was undecided on whether to seek the White House.

“I didn’t know, to be honest, I wasn’t — I wasn’t committed to running,” Clinton said, uncharacteristically tripping over her words. “I didn’t — I didn’t know whether I was running or not. I didn’t.”

And in one of the more revealing exchanges of the night, Cooper asked Clinton what would be wrong with the so-called “political revolution” that Sanders frequent calls for. Clinton paused before responding: “That’s for Sen. Sanders to explain.”

I wish that when Clinton is stumbling over her answer on Iraq more people would move on to the key point that, while she admits she made a mistake on the Iraq vote, she continued to make the same type of mistake with her positions on Libya, Syria, and Iran. We are not looking at an isolated mistake. We are looking at a pattern of dangerously pushing the country towards more warfare.

Often the best part of town halls are when members of the audience ask questions entirely different from those of the news media. Clinton faced one such question:

This may come a little bit from right field, this may seem, but it’s very personal to me and resonates probably with many other people who are elderly dealing with health issues.

The question is coming to me as a person who is walking with colon cancer. And I’m walking with colon cancer with the word terminal very much in my vocabulary, comfortably and spiritually.

But I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance and — their end of life with dignity.

As I have found Clinton to do so often during the years, she began to speak incoherently on the topic, unable to answer the question and demonstrating why, as a physician, I do not want to see Hillary Clinton anywhere near health care policy. Tonight she showed no understanding of end of life counseling or palliative care. In the past she messed up health care pretty badly with her awful attempt at health care reform, and she generally sounds ignorant when discussing health care issues.

The night was a success for Sanders and a disaster for Clinton. Unfortunately I do not think that this event received much attention. Hopefully she was thrown off her game by her difficulties in Iowa and will also perform poorly at Thursday’s debate.

Update: The MSNBC New Hampshire Democratic Debate

Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Washington Post Logo

The Washington Post has carried op-eds both in support of Bernie Sanders and in opposition to him. I looked at a couple of them yesterday. The  Post followed this up with an editorial full of right wing attacks on Sanders which were out of touch with reality. Bernie Sanders has responded:

At a breakfast with reporters here Thursday that was hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Sanders fired back — again and again and again.

“That’s not a new argument. We’ve been hearing that months and months, and that’s in a sense what this campaign is about,” Sanders said in response to a request for his reaction to the editorial. “People are telling us, whether it’s the Washington Post editorial board or anybody else, our ideas are too ambitious — can’t happen. Too bold — really? Well, here’s something which is really bold. In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country. The middle class has become poorer and trillions of dollars have been transferred to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

“That’s pretty radical, isn’t it?” Sanders said. “Where was The Washington Post to express concern that the middle class was shrinking?”

…When he was asked about foreign policy, Sanders detoured: “Getting back to The Washington Post — check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq.” (They supported it.)

At another point: “I know The Washington Post may think I’m radical, but I’m not.”

More on Sanders’ response at Common Dreams.

Just as The Washington Post was wrong on the facts when they supported the Iraq war and in ignoring the economic meltdown, they totally botched the health care issue:

He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from. Getting rid of corporate advertising and overhead would only yield so much. Savings would also have to come from slashing payments to doctors and hospitals and denying benefits that people want.

He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do. His program would be more grounded in reality if he addressed the fact of chronic slow growth in Europe and explained how he would update the 20th-century model of social democracy to accomplish its goals more efficiently. Instead, he promises large benefits and few drawbacks.

Medicare for All is not a program which Sanders has pulled out of the air. Supporters of health care reform have discussed this for years. It is not difficult to see where the savings would come from. To begin with, Medicare is much more efficient in the use of health care dollars than the private insurance industry. This isn’t just about getting rid of corporate advertising and some overhead costs. This is about eliminating the vast amount of money spent on the health insurance industry and the huge profits they make. This is all money which would be better spent on health care for Americans.

Rationing? These days all health care payers have restrictions on what they will pay for. We already have rationing, and often it is the private payers which are more restrictive than the government Medicare program.

Some of the savings will come from the fact that Medicare often pays less than private insurance. Despite this, there is good reason why many of us doctors support the plan. The secret is that we believe we will come out ahead financially with Medicare for All. Here’s why–

Back in the old days, a medical practice would typically have one biller. Now things are much more complicated. Many practices need to pay additional people to handle the billing because of the complexity of handling different rules from each payer–and the billers are very likely the highest paid non-medical employee in any medical practice you step foot in. It gets even worse. We also have to have employees to handle getting prior authorizations from different payers for tests, procedures, and prescriptions, again dealing with multiple sets of rules. On top of all this, a growing amount of payment to physicians comes from incentive payments which come from not only practicing medicine as required, but having somebody enter all the data into the insurance company computer systems. Again, each payer has their own set of rules, often requiring more than one employee to handle them. Plus it is a headache to try to keep track of all the rules from each payer.

Just compare this to the overhead of a medical practice in Canada, which has a single payer plan similar to Medicare for All.

Plus if we have Medicare for All, we will no longer have to worry about bad debts from uninsured patients, and receiving payments significantly lower than from Medicare on patients with Medicaid. It is a win financially for many physicians, as well as for most Americans who will no longer have the large insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses they now face.

The Washington Post also questions whether Sanders  can pass his agenda. Whether or not he can is a fallacious reason not to support him. Sanders’ supporters see what Sanders speaks about as being a description of his long-term goals, not a set of promises to be completed his first hundred days in office. With our current grid lock in Washington, no candidate will be able to quickly get their goals through Congress, but I see Sanders has having a far better chance of bringing in members of Congress who will support him than Clinton. If Clinton is the nominee, my bet is that many people will split their ticket, wanting members of the other party to keep an eye on a president they know is untrustworthy.

Plus the important thing in voting for a president is over matters more directly under the control of the president. Sanders is far less likely to get us involved in unnecessary wars than Clinton or the Republican candidates. Sanders is more likely to reform the surveillance state and back away from the drug war. A Sanders Justice Department will treat those who violate the law on Wall Street far different than I would expect a Clinton Justice Department to respond.

It is The Washington Post, not Bernie Sanders, which is spreading fictions.