Friday, December 18, 2009

Health Care Astroturf.

From Mediaite, more on the astroturf, or corporate-backed, organizations working to bring down health care reform. Who says the right is falling apart? They've been doing circles around the Dem party for decades now. They've got the true lock-down on organizing! Really sad after a while watching the public be so easily manipulated against their own interests.

Obama Health Care Protest

In August, the month the health care debate gave way to disrupted town hall meetings and “death panels,” the AARP dug its heels into the ground and refused to withdraw its support for the public option. At about that time, trend stories began to emerge from Fox, CBS, and others about how “thousands” were leaving the AARP and an anti-public option competitor, the American Seniors Association (ASA) was gaining ground. Now, a liberal blog accuses the ASA of being a “conservative front:”

In a detailed investigation, liberal blog and news aggregator Raw Story dug through news reports and incorporation papers to find connections between the ASA and conservative causes. The group’s founder, Jerry Barton, was previously an executive at an auto parts company that sponsored Glenn Beck, and one of the ASA’s major supporting organizations, the conservative think tank Institute for Liberty, has further ties to the Tea Party and 9/12 movements.

For this, The Raw Story accuses the ASA of being an “Astroturf” organization: (emphases added)

ASA isn’t the first organization that has presented itself as a conservative alternative to the AARP, while actually being invested in promoting right-wing corporate causes with little connection to seniors’ interests. A very similar group, the United Seniors Association, gained notoriety in 2002 by serving as a front for the pharmaceutical industry and also lending its support to Bush administration energy policies and a telecommunications issue important to AT&T.

Throughout this year’s health reform debate, various members of the media have exposed similar “Astroturf” groups like FreedomWorks and Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, which, like ASA,say they’re standing up for regular people but in reality are organized by a narrow and influential group of elites.

Here’s the thing: the ASA is upfront about its political leanings, and so the bait-and-switch charge rings false. Its website announces that it’s a “conservative alternative to the AARP” — in fact, its 160-character Google result announces the same thing.

Partisanship aside, Raw Story’s real beef here should be with Fox News and especially with CBS, which presented the group as a “serious competitor to the AARP” (and not just ideologically) despite its miniscule membership of 40,000-odd people versus the AARP’s membership of 35 million. False balance, anyone?

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Mumbai to Address Removal from ANH.

From Times Online, a story about the court battle in Mumbai to remove a woman in a vegetative state for 36 years from artificial nutrition and hydration:

Aruna Shanbaug was raped 36 years ago at the Mumbai hospital where she worked as a nurse. She has remained in the same hospital ever since; brain dead, confined to bed in a vegetative state.

Now the country’s highest court has said that it will consider whether to allow Ms Shanbaug, 61, to die — a landmark decision that could recast laws on euthanasia in India, where mercy killings are illegal. According to Pinki Virani, a journalist who filed a petition pleading for Ms Shanbaug, who was 25 at the time of the brutal attack, to be allowed to die, her current state makes her “virtually a dead person”.

During the assault Ms Shanbaug’s assailant, a hospital cleaner, wrapped a dog chain around her neck. It cut off the bloodflow to her brain and damaged her brain stem, leaving her paralysed. She is now force-fed by nurses twice a day at the King Edward Memorial Hospital and cannot speak, see or hear.Her attacker, Sohanlal Bartha Walmiki, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1974 for attempted murder and robbery.

Ms Virani wants the court to issue instructions to “ensure that no food is fed”, an act that is at present outlawed. Previous pleas for euthanasia on behalf of coma victims have been rejected.However, while the Supreme Court initially issued a notice stating that “under the law of the country,

we cannot allow a person to die” it has since suggested that withholding food from Ms Shanbaug might not be considered euthanasia, since “her life is worse than animal existence”. It has ordered a medical evaluation of her condition.

The petition to the Supreme Court claims that Ms Shanbaug’s right to human dignity, enshrined in the Indian Constitution, is being violated by keeping her alive. “She has a right to not be in this kind of subhuman condition,” it says.

According to Ms Virani, Ms Shanbaug’s condition has deteriorated over the years.

“She is not able to talk, hear or see anything. She is like a vegetable, totally devoid of any element of human life,” she said.

The petition adds that Ms Shanbaug’s parents died many years ago and “none of her sisters or brothers or any other relative has ever bothered to visit her”. Her former fiancé, who was a doctor at the hospital, occasionally visits her.

In a book she wrote about the patient in 1997, Ms Virani described how she existed “in a totally pathetic state. Her wrists are twisted inwards, her fingers are bent and fisted towards her palms, resulting in growing nails tearing into the flesh very often. Her teeth are decayed and giving her pain.”

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Long Shadow of the Catholic Bishops.

From Barbara Coombs Lee of Compassion & Choices on the impact the USCCB's change of Directive #58 will have on all of us"

The vote by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), directed a change in its "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services," and I have written about the authoritarian nature of these Directives - on Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

The new language in Directive #58, creates "an obligation to provide patients . . . medically assisted nutrition and hydration" in all instances except when a patient is actively dying.

The revised Directive fails to respect settled law that empowers patients with the right to refuse or direct the withdrawal of life prolonging care, including artificial nutrition and hydration. The Supreme Court in the case of Nancy Cruzan recognized that such a choice is a fundamental liberty guaranteed by the US Constitution. State courts have reached the same conclusion based on State constitutional law and common law. But the Bishops have demonstrated no interest in patient choices that conflict with their Directives.

In the summer of 2000, Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis forced Steven G. Becker to leave a Catholic hospital in St. Louis and go home to die. Rigali overruled a decision to remove a feeding tube that had been approved by a court decision, advised by the hospital's ethics committee and requested by Becker's wife Christie, in keeping with her husband's wishes. Rigali is now chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities and participated in crafting the newly adopted language in Directive 58.

Modern Healthcare reports,
"One solution to the issue was offered by John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and consultant to the U.S. bishop's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, which helped draft the new Directive along with other groups. He said that if attempts to resolve a conflict over a feeding tube by talking through the issue failed, the patient or their legal guardian are free to seek care elsewhere."

And Catholic commentator Michael Sean Winters writes in
America, The National Catholic Weekly,
"And, if she doesn't like the way Catholics do health care, go somewhere else. It's a free country and there are no guards at the hospital doors. And, if there is no other hospital to go to, start one."

This is the scope of the bishops' order:
• Catholic health care systems and facilities provide services in all 50 states. Services encompass acute care, skilled nursing, hospice, home health, assisted living and senior housing. Catholic institutions include:

624 Roman Catholic-affiliated hospitals.
499 nursing homes.
48 Catholic Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).

Catholic hospitals employ 525,193 full-time employees and 233,934 part-time workers.
• More than
5.5 million patients were admitted to Catholic hospitals during a one-year period.
• 8 of the top 13 non-profit hospital systems in the country are Catholic health systems.
• The Directive conflicts with all advance directives that decline artificial nutrition and hydration in the setting of permanent unconsciousness or advanced dementia.
• Catholic health care is especially concentrated in some states and communities. In certain areas, including many of the nation's poorest, it's the only option.
• Over 30% of patients in Washington, South Dakota, Iowa and Alaska are in Catholic hospitals, which are now unable to honor advance directives that decline tube feeding.
• Catholic institutions provide more than
20% of care in Oregon, Montana, Connecticut, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Idaho, and, North Dakota.

and the population the Bishops' Directive will impact:

• About 300,000 people receive feeding tubes each year. Roughly 75% are 65 years or older.
74% of Americans believe close family members should be the ones to decide medical treatment for a family member who cannot communicate his or her own wishes.

Apologists for the Bishops like to talk of the charitable nature of Catholic institutions, but taxpayers pay for health care to conform with USCCB Directives:

• Religiously sponsored hospitals in the United States bill the government more than $40 billion a year, while using religious doctrine to restrict medical care.
• In order to obtain public funding and still place its religious beliefs above the medical needs and individual conscience rights of its patients, Catholic and other sectarian health care providers have sought and obtained
special government accommodations that have permitted these institutions to refuse to provide services they deem morally objectionable, while remaining eligible for public funding.
• Combined Medicare and Medicaid payments accounted for
half the gross patient revenues of religiously sponsored hospitals in 1998. The other half came almost entirely from insurance companies and third party payers, not from churches or other religious sources.
500 Bishops voted November 17th to overrule the advance directives of millions of Americans and almost no one reported it.
Compassion & Choices is spreading the word, and will keep you up to dateas the Bishops move to implement their latest Directive.

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My Token 'War on Christmas' Post.

From CNN:

Americans are in a war that pits the politically correct against Christmas carolers, some say. They say it's a battle that plays out in the halls of Congress, retail stores and public schools across the country, and it's one that's been raging for years.Republican Rep. Henry Brown of South Carolina introduced a resolution this month asking that the House express support for the use of Christmas symbols and traditions and frown on any attempt to ban references to the holiday.

"Each year, I could see a diminishing value of the spiritual part of Christmas," Brown said. "It would seem like another group would go from the Christmas spirit to the holiday spirit.""What I'm afraid of -- if we don't bring some kind of closure to this continuous change, then in 20 years it will almost be completely different from what we see today ... and so we would lose the whole emphasis of what the very early beginnings of Christmas was all about.

"So far, the resolution has one Democrat and 72 Republicans as co-sponsors. The House hasn't taken it up, but the chamber adopted similar resolutions in the past.Barry Lynn, an ordained minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, isn't keen on the prospect of congressional action.

"Resolutions like this come up because there is this bizarre view by some members of Congress that there is a war on Christmas and that they have to be the generals in some responding army," he said.

"My advice to the lawmakers would be promote anyreligion you have through your private acts, and don't try to 'help' the baby Jesus by passing a resolution on his behalf. It is arrogant and ridiculous at the same time," Lynn said.

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Is Church Name Calling Constitutional?

From conservative WorldNetDaily, a story of calling a church a spade, and being taken to court for it. Doesn't the first amendment allow insults as long as they aren't damaging (like O'Reilly calling Dr. Tiller a killer for years?) I hate to say it but the Catholic church and their legal support, Thomas More Law, sound like sore losers who don't want discrimination called what it is: hateful, insulting, defamatory.

One of the article's paragraphs reads: "But referring to the Supreme Court rulings prohibiting excessive government entanglement in religion, Judge Andrew Kleinfeld asked, 'What could be more entangling than telling the cardinal to defy the Vatican?'" If the state can't get involved in the church's affairs, how can dictating the relationship between the cardinal and the Vatican be their business? And if the state's role is to protect citizens from discrimination, how can it allow the Church to discriminate?

And one quick note: we hear a lot about how the church is marginalized, discriminated against, being driven out of San Francisco (and other public places). Yet, what they really wish to do is marginalize, discriminate and drive out minority groups. Claiming discrimination in order to continue discriminating is not a logical position.

Judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals now are deciding whether a formal government document condemning Catholics as "hateful," "insulting" and "defamatory" and urging members to defy church beliefs is permissible under the U.S. Constitution's ban on government hostility toward religion.

The city of San Francisco formally adopted a resolution that condemned the Catholic church specifically for its moral teachings. The resolution was challenged by the Thomas More Law Center, a national Christian legal advocacy group based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Oral arguments were presented to the 11 judges of the circuit appeals court yesterday in a case expected to "flush out what the U.S. Supreme Court means when it proclaims that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not permit hostility toward religion."

The formal statement from the San Francisco Board of Supervisers attacked the church's belief because it prohibits the adoption of children by homosexual duos.

Read more here.

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Louisiana Happiest, New York Unhappiest?

Dare I say it and suffer guilt for a troubled cliche? Ignorance is bliss!

Arkansas News Channel 5 reports that those in conservative states are happier and those in liberal states are unhappier. Go figure. Get your own stupid cliche.


No to the Casey Compromise.

The Center for Reproductive Rights dissects the Casey Amendment and tells us what's wrong with it:

There are three reasons that the Senate health care reform bill should not adopt the antidiscrimination amendment – or language similar to it – proposed by Sen. Robert Casey (D.-Penn.). The Senate healthcare reform bill currently prohibits discrimination against individuals or health care facilities on the basis of “willingness or unwillingness” to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions (emphasis added). The Casey proposal would add protection against discrimination by federal and state governmental agencies, but would only make such protection available to individuals and health care entities that do not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

You can read the entire article at the link above.

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