My Public Option

As we wait to see whether Harry Reid can deliver on his promise to get a public option into healthcare reform legislation, I’m wondering why more Americans aren’t clamoring for the exact same health security I enjoy.

I’m not 65, and I’m not struggling beneath the poverty line. But I do qualify for a little-known federal insurance program that ensures I get the treatment I need. This program has saved the lives of more than a million Americans—including my father’s and my own.

A year ago, I learned I’d inherited the same cystic kidney disease that nearly killed my father in 1972. Back then, Wayne Nix was a young schoolteacher with a wife and two little girls to support, and after his diagnosis, he had two choices facing him: death or financial ruin.

Dialysis and transplantation were established, successful treatments, but they were expensive, and all of the private insurance companies back then refused to cover patients like my dad.

Luckily for my family, activists successfully lobbied Congress to create the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program.

Republicans and Democrats voted in support of this legislation, and President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. My dad was among the first beneficiaries of the program, which ensured that kidney patients would get access to life-saving dialysis and transplant treatments, regardless of age or income. The program covered my dad’s dialysis costs for seventeen years, and his transplant in 1991.

Today, as I watch the endless cable news loops highlighting the disheartening acrimony and willful misinformation pervading our healthcare debate, I’m amazed that renal disease was ever added to the Medicare program. That it enjoyed such strong bipartisan support in the seventies seems impossible now. But, back then, Congress believed covering kidney patients was just a stop-gap to tide them over until universal healthcare covered everyone. Even Richard Nixon was on board with the idea of a national health insurance plan.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that never happened. (more…)

My Public Option

As we wait to see whether Harry Reid can deliver on his promise to get a public option into healthcare reform legislation, I’m wondering why more Americans aren’t clamoring for the exact same health security I enjoy.

I’m not 65, and I’m not struggling beneath the poverty line. But I do qualify for a little-known federal insurance program that ensures I get the treatment I need. This program has saved the lives of more than a million Americans—including my father’s and my own.

A year ago, I learned I’d inherited the same cystic kidney disease that nearly killed my father in 1972. Back then, Wayne Nix was a young schoolteacher with a wife and two little girls to support, and after his diagnosis, he had two choices facing him: death or financial ruin.

Dialysis and transplantation were established, successful treatments, but they were expensive, and all of the private insurance companies back then refused to cover patients like my dad.

Luckily for my family, activists successfully lobbied Congress to create the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program.

Republicans and Democrats voted in support of this legislation, and President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. My dad was among the first beneficiaries of the program, which ensured that kidney patients would get access to life-saving dialysis and transplant treatments, regardless of age or income. The program covered my dad’s dialysis costs for seventeen years, and his transplant in 1991.

Today, as I watch the endless cable news loops highlighting the disheartening acrimony and willful misinformation pervading our healthcare debate, I’m amazed that renal disease was ever added to the Medicare program. That it enjoyed such strong bipartisan support in the seventies seems impossible now. But, back then, Congress believed covering kidney patients was just a stop-gap to tide them over until universal healthcare covered everyone. Even Richard Nixon was on board with the idea of a national health insurance plan.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that never happened.

I had my own transplant in May of this year. Because I also have private insurance, Medicare is my secondary payer. Through legislative changes made to Medicare ESRD over the decades, private insurance was forced to cover more Americans with kidney disease than they ever did when left to only market forces or their own good intentions. As President Obama says, this public option kept private insurance honest.

Between my two policies, most of my bills arrive saying "paid in full." I also know that if my husband or I lose our jobs, or my private insurance drops me, or I hit some arbitrary cap, Medicare’s got my back.

If a public health insurance option works for one disease, why shouldn’t all Americans enjoy the same level of health security? I must admit, I feel guilty to have access to this government program, when my friends with, say, cancer or MS, do not.

My sense is that if more Americans knew about this successful and existing public insurance option for one disease, they’d be telling their representatives in Congress to make sure the public option becomes a realistic option for all Americans.

Jennifer Nix is a writer and activist, and publisher of Guernica Magazine.

Of Books and Blogs

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I started reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City yesterday, and I know what will be consuming my weekend. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, get thee to a bookstore or an online retailer and be prepared to get hoppin' mad. And ready yourself for discussions of the book here at the FDL Book Salon on November 12th, and on the 19th, when Rajiv will join us. Here's a little teaser from Publishers Weekly:

As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone—like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed.

The book salon here at the Lake is an organic blogosphere development, which is definitely chipping away at the myth that blogs are just the crazy, uncouth and unwashed masses who aren't fit to hold forth on the issues facing our nation and the news of each day. I dare anyone to compare the level of discourse in our comment sections during recent salons with John Dean and Sidney Blumenthal, with the reviews that appeared in mainstream papers like the New York Times, as Jane did in this post. Warms my heart to see citizens engaging and weighing in on matters so vital to our democracy.

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Of Books and Blogs

1400044871101_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v65593524_.jpg

I started reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City yesterday, and I know what will be consuming my weekend. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, get thee to a bookstore or an online retailer and be prepared to get hoppin' mad. And ready yourself for discussions of the book here at the FDL Book Salon on November 12th, and on the 19th, when Rajiv will join us. Here's a little teaser from Publishers Weekly:

As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone—like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed.

The book salon here at the Lake is an organic blogosphere development, which is definitely chipping away at the myth that blogs are just the crazy, uncouth and unwashed masses who aren't fit to hold forth on the issues facing our nation and the news of each day. I dare anyone to compare the level of discourse in our comment sections during recent salons with John Dean and Sidney Blumenthal, with the reviews that appeared in mainstream papers like the New York Times, as Jane did in this post. Warms my heart to see citizens engaging and weighing in on matters so vital to our democracy.

(more…)

No More Dancing Bears

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Know much about dancing bears? These poor creatures are held in captivity and all but starved to death. Their noses and palates are pierced clean through, then muzzles and chains are attached. And when their masters yank those chains? The bears dance, just to make the excruciating pain stop. Thankfully, this horrific cruelty has been outlawed in much of the world, as well it should be.

Something akin to this practice, however, is alive and well within Democratic circles, and it's one reason why funding on the left is so screwed up. The truth of the matter, which most of us have been too afraid to say publicly, is this: The monied, "center-left" elitists, who pretty much dominate Democratic funding, treat those of us working to build a successful, progressive media infrastructure, which can rival the right's message machine, as though we were their very own dancing bears.

"You want money?" Tug, tug! "Dance for us!" We dance, and then maybe they throw us a scrap of funding. Or not. Usually not. Instead of pouring big and long-term money into media and general operating support as the right has done, the left parcels out tiny bits here and there, and, boy, do we have to dance for what little we get.

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Foley: “We Track Library Books Better Than We Do Sexual Predators.”

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Republican Mark Foley in happier times, at the American Council of Life Insurers 1999 Capitol Challenge invitational. That’s all I’m sayin’. JN

Nothing like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Representative Mark Foley was the chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus. That headline is a reference to Foley’s statement when he introduced new legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet (!!). (more…)

We the Blogs

Well, kids. I’m back. Thank goodness for your optimism and tremendous insights on Friday night. You pulled me back from the  brink, after my depressing dinner with some of the centrist and monied Dem gentry. Thank you kindly for your heroic efforts in the comments section. You fortified me so that when I saw this piece about the netroots in Time today, I resolved to get to work immediately on some posts and other writing that will drive home the truth about the budding blog infrastructure being both a vital medium for exchanging information and ideas, and for organizing. Maybe it is, as Jeffrey Feldman suggested in the comments, a matter of leadership and habits. In other words, I agree that we, who see the tremendous possibilities and value that blogs offer our democracy, must be the ones to lead the funders to the promised land, and teach them new media habits.

Afterall, it’s not surprising that Democratic funders do not understand the ballast that progressive blogs are and will continue to be to the Democratic party. They don’t know us. They eat a mainstream media diet, perhaps peppered with the occasional Nation or American Prospect article, if we’re lucky. And the mainstream media regularly trash the blogs, with few exceptions, with pieces like Perry Bacon Jr.’s this week:

…Moderate Democrats say it with remorse, conservatives with glee, but the conventional wisdom is bipartisan: progressive bloggers are pushing the Democratic Party so far to the left that it will have no chance of capturing the presidency in 2008.

Or maybe the Netroots aren’t all that. Make no mistake, these online activists are having a profound impact on the Democrats and on politics in general. But the phenomenon is in its infancy. Compared with established interest groups like organized labor and conservative Christians, the Netroots play a small role in national politics. Even their most ardent players now recognize that you can’t create a true movement using nothing but modems and instant messaging.

Oh, if only Perry and his ilk would spend a week really learning what the progressive blogs are about. First of all, they cannot lump all blogs and bloggers under a one-size-fits-all label, as there are those who are citizen journalists, researchers, commentators, activists, historians, Constitutional attorneys, movie producers, radio DJs, public relations professionals, professors, teachers, soldiers, and, increasingly, former and current members of their own media ranks. You name it, and you’ll find it on the blogs. We are their fellow citizens, and we’ve finally found ways to share ideas and information without having to rely on Perry’s editorial judgment, time constraints and, sometimes, outright biases.

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Hey, Funders. Opportunity’s Knocking

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Last night, I found myself in a private dining room at an upscale San Francisco eatery with four Democratic funding luminaries: a Bay Area venture capitalist, a honcho from an online auction site that shall remain nameless, a member of the Democracy Alliance and a Bay Area developer. I was, by the way, looking very forward to this dinner. Even bought my first pair of Jimmy Choos for the occasion–making me a mere 6’1".

I’d just finished reading about Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s new book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, in the Washington Post and my mood was buoyed by a mainstream paper rightfully taking BushCo to task for its rampant cronyism in the war profiteering "reconstruction" efforts in Iraq. I sang along to my James Blunt CD as I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. Parking karma smiled upon me and I found a space just steps from the restaurant. I had some bounce in my step as I approached the hostess. She, too, loved the Choos.

Call me Polly Anna, but I was feeling hopeful. If one could look past Bush’s win on the torture front yesterday, and consider the president’s current numbers in the polls and the effect they just might have on the midterm elections…well, then…there was room for a little optimism about the proposition that someday soon, right-wing fanatics might not control both the executive and legislative branches of our government, and we may someday be able to reverse Bush’s immoral and dangerous policies on torture–and rejoin the civilized world. Oh, and I was itching to share with these funders some of my thoughts on how exciting it was to see the blogs, progressive policy and membership groups, independent media, DC establishment Dems and the Clinton Faction all come together and lead the charge to keep ABC/Disney’s "Path to 9/11" from offering up a Republican airbrushing of history as "the official, true story" of our national tragedy. That was our infrastructure at work. Heck, we’d managed to get the corporate media and even some high-profile conservatives to take the network to task. There was much more about the blogs I wanted to share, too–the excitement about ideas and activism, the communication, the amplification of new voices and new messages. And in a San Francisco crowd, I was expecting to see some of my excitement reflected back at me.

Ummm…not. These funders sucked the life blood and optimism out of me in under half an hour. And left me plenty depressed today, I might add. But, now I’m just pissed.

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And If They Were American Nurses?

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Imagine, if you will, that:

“Five American nurses and a British doctor have been detained and tortured in a Libyan prison since 1999, and that a Libyan prosecutor called at the end of August for their execution… on trumped-up charges of deliberately contaminating more than 400 children with HIV in 1998. Meanwhile, the international community and its leaders sit by, spectators of a farce of a trial, leaving a handful of dedicated volunteer humanitarian lawyers and scientists to try to secure their release.

Implausible? That scenario, with the medics enduring prison conditions reminiscent of the film Midnight Express, is currently playing out in a Tripoli court, except that the nationalities of the medics are different. The nurses are from Bulgaria and the doctor is Palestinian.”

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People-Powered Publishing to the Rescue

Update: Please use the donation link to the right of this post. JN 

Regard the current conventional wisdom about what has become of media coverage of PlameGate. These would be the pearls of one Rem Reider from the American Journalism Review:

There are many ways to characterize the media’s response to the news that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was responsible for outing CIA operative Valerie Plame. "Feeding frenzy" isn’t one of them.

"Collective yawn" is more like it.

After all the blanket coverage of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, after all the speculation about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, after all the allegations of dastardly doings by the Bush White House, you’d think IDing the leaker would be big news.

That’s particularly true when it turns out the villain wasn’t an angry neocon bent on revenge against a critic of the Iraq war – Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson – but a Colin Powell ally who was at best a lukewarm supporter of the invasion.

Far from being part of an orchestrated plot or a vast White House conspiracy, Plame’s unmasking was simply the handiwork of that Washington, D.C., staple, an insider with a big mouth. The culprit was gossip, not political gunslinging.

It should be noted that the left is not giving up on this one, continuing to point ominously at Bush aides’ behavior vis-à-vis Plame and Wilson. But there’s little doubt that Armitage’s role is a body blow to the conspiracy theorists.

I’m sure Mr. Reider has pored over every last document, twist, turn, recant, can’t-recall, and obstruction this complex story entails, and he is eminently qualified to pronounce The Last Word on the investigation itself, as well as the media’s performance to date in explaining this story to the American people. Perhaps Patrick Fitzgerald should just throw in the towel right now, because certainly a media critic who has no experience reporting on this story–whatsoevercertainly knows better than the special prosecutor who has painstakenly investigated this sordid tale, and indicted Scooter Libby.

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