Saturday, June 30, 2012


It took but an hour for my Congressman Peter Roskam to fire off an email blast to his IL 6th District constituents lamenting the Supreme Court's upholding the Constitutionality of Obamacare. As GOP House Assistant Deputy Whip, Roskam will be whipping up his caucus to perform a wasteful, symbolic only vote July 11 to overturn Obamacare.

Roskam's reaction can be summed up in two words: sour grapes. Having lost the March, 2010, legislative battle that passed Obamacare, and having lost the June 28, 2012, Supreme Court ruling upholding its Constitutionality, Roskam goes the the well of cruelty and heartlessness toward the 40 million folks shut out of the health care system one more time in his upcoming exercise in futility.

Roskam appears bewildered when he claims the American people hate Obamacare. Maybe his pallin' around the wealthy and well insured 1% for his entire Congressional career his insulated him from the millions of grass roots folks who have been going bankrupt, experiencing catastrophic decline in health and yes, plain ol' dying from lack of health care. It could be he simply isn't informed of the benefits already being enjoyed during the first 27 months of this life improving and life saving law. Therefore, to improve his understanding, he should know the following:

7 million young people between 18 and 25 are now allowed to remain on their parents health insurance

Medicaid drug rebate for name brand drugs is increased to 23.1%

Insurers are prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits

Insurers are prohibited from excluding pre-existing conditions for children under 19 years old

Insurers can no longer charge co-payments for preventive care and medical screenings on all new insurance plans

Insurers' ability to impose annual spending caps are restricted (and completely abolished in 2014)

Insurers are prohibited from dropping policyholders when they get sick

Medicare is expanded to small rural hospitals

Insurers must spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on eligible expenses and issue rebates to policyholders if they fail to do so

Adults with pre-existing conditions are now eligible to join a temporary high risk pool which will be superseded by the health care exchange in 2014

I could go on but there is not enough space in this piece to list all the amazing benefits of Obamacare. That is why the law was so big. Congressman Roskam did a photo op during the House debate in 2009 showing him struggling to carry the entire 1,000 page bill up the Capitol steps. He said he opposed Obamacare because he didn't have time to read it. The folks whose lives were ruined or ended waiting for decent health care coverage are the only one who really didn't have time. Our political culture often laments the uninformed voter. What we really should fret about is the uninformed Congressman.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Just when I think former President Jimmy Carter had faded from the world scene, he pops up and pens the brilliant and critically needed NY Times op ed "A cruel and unusual record". Octogenarian Carter, who turns 88 September 1, still travels the world seeking peaceful solutions to the world's most intractable political problems such as a peaceful settlement of the Israeli Palestinian dispute.

To this human rights loving American, his latest piece is almost too painful to read. In it Carter chronicles our catastrophic fall from championing passage of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights used by human rights activists and the international community to replace dictatorships with democracy and promote human rights and the rule of law. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US has abandoned ten of the Declaration's 30 articles. How? By allowing indefinite detention or even targeted assassinations of persons, including American citizens, suspected of affiliation with terrorists organizations or "associated forces", cancelling restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow wholesale violations of privacy rights, use of drone aircraft to bomb civilian dwellings in non war zone areas that have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children, and use of torture including water boarding and intimidation tactics involving power drills, automatic weapons and sexual assault. Carter didn't mention US policy of launching immoral, illegal and criminal wars of choice, but the millions of folks in the Middle East devastated by those wars would surely have added that little tidbit of US inhumanity to mankind.

Carter has more moral courage and wisdom than any leader on the American political stage today. He continually holds up a mirror to show the grotesque caricature of a human rights beacon Uncle Sam has devolved into. Sadly, we find that these atrocious policies have been institutionalized into our political culture, so much so that no one in the government or the media or the citizenry mentions them. No one, that is, except James Earl Carter, Jr. As painful as it is, every American with a heart and a soul should read Carter's piece and ask whether this once great country has any future worth saving.

Though legally eligible, Carter is too old and too hated by the war and torture crowd to run for President. Maybe when the President is re-elected, he can appoint Carter to a new cabinet post: Secretary of the American Conscience.

Also published in the Chicago Sun Times, July 2, 2012