Health Policy

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Badly Broken: We Are Walter White

BreakingBad_logophotoI’ll bet tonight’s blog traffic will drop sharply, and explode on Twitter — and at 9:00 p.m. EDT exactly. That’s when the last episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad will air, following a 61-hour marathon of all preceding episodes from the last five years.

A friend expressed concern and astonishment at the public’s investment in this cable TV program, versus the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report published Friday, expressing heightened confidence in anthropogenic climate change:

“The report increases the degree of certainty that human activities are driving the warming the world has experienced, from “very likely” or 90% confidence in 2007, to “extremely likely” or 95% confidence now.” [source]

He’s right; we’ll be utterly absorbed by the conclusion of former high school chemistry teacher and cancer patient Walter White’s tale. We’ll have spent a fraction of intellectual energy on our own existential threat, in comparison to the mental wattage we’ll expend on a fictional character’s programming mortality.

But perhaps Breaking Bad’s very nature offers clues to our state of mind. Viewers are addicted to a program that upends perspectives and forces greater examination.

— The entire story of Walter White, a middle class white guy with a good education whose cancer threatens his life and his family’s long-term financial well-being, would not be viable were it not for the dismal state of health care in America. There are no Walter Whites in Canada, for example; the U.S. has become little better than a third world narco-state, our health and shelter dependent on ugly choices like crime because our system of governance cannot respond appropriately under pressure for corporate profitability.

We cling to White, though he has become the very thing we pay our law enforcement to battle, because he is us — morally conflicted, trying to safeguard our lives and our families in a deeply corrupt system. At the end of each Breaking Bad episode the distortion of our values is evident in viewers’ failure to reject a criminal character depicting a drug lord manufacturing and selling a controlled substance, while guilty of conspiracy, murder, and racketeering in the process.

In the background as we watch this program, we permit corporate-owned congresspersons to shut down our government in a fit of pique over the illusion of better health care for all. Continue reading

WHO, Bill Gates and Islamic Scholars All Push For Polio Vaccination in Province Now Governed by Khan’s PTI

There are public calls on a remarkable number of different fronts for a renewed commitment to polio vaccination in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, which is now governed by Imran Khan’s PTI party. Direct appeals to Khan are coming from the World Health Organization and from Bill Gates. A major conference of Islamic scholars also came out with a statement backing polio immunization and providing push-back against the view that immunization campaigns aim to sterilize Muslims or are run by Western intelligence agencies.

Dawn gives us the details of the WHO push:

World Health Organisation, Pakistan polio chief Dr Elias Durry on Thursday apprised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan in Lahore of the threat to the health of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa children due to non-vaccination, it is learned. PTI, which has the most seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, leads a coalition government in the province.

According to the relevant officials, the meeting has coincided with the confirmation of three fresh polio cases from Federally Administered Tribal Areas by National Institute of Health.

They said Fata had reported five, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa four and Sindh two of this year’s 13 countrywide polio cases.

Khan is eager to help in the campaign and has taken part in promoting immunization before his party was elected to govern KP:

The officials said WHO had publicly recorded its reservations about polio eradication efforts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in Peshawar.

They said the PTI chairman, who had inaugurated various polio campaigns in the country’s several cities, apprised the WHO, Pakistan polio chief of his eagerness to see fight against polio succeed.

The officials said Imran Khan carefully listened to Dr Elias Durry’s concerns about Khyber Pakhtunkhwa children’s vaccination and assured him that he would convey them to the PTI-led provincial government for necessary action on emergency basis.

“Imran Khan said he would issue special instructions to the provincial chief minister (who belongs to PTI) to ensure vaccination of all children under five as ensuring better health care in the province is his government’s top priority,” an official said.

Also joining the push for immunization is Bill Gates, as we learn from the Express Tribune:

Famous American business magnate Bill Gates has sought Imran Khan’s cooperation to eradicate polio in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as the province apparently failed to provide security to polio workers.

Gates sent a personal letter through his emissary to chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) Imran Khan asking for his party’s cooperation in furthering the anti polio vaccination programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said an official statement.

Imran Khan is scheduled to speak to him on the phone to discuss modalities of moving against polio which takes the lives of so many children in Pakistan especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Especially welcome news comes from a meeting held by Islamic scholars who produced a statement in favor of immunization and condemning the killing of vaccination workers. They also condemned Dr. Shakil Afridi and any other participation of intelligence agencies in vaccination programs: Continue reading

Sad Victory for Pakistan’s Taliban: Child Diagnosed With Polio in Region Where Vaccinations Were Denied

While much attention is appropriately focused on the horrific and brutal attacks by Pakistan’s Taliban on secular political parties as the country approaches elections in its first-ever transition from one civilian government to another, we have news today of a sad triumph by the Taliban as a child in North Waziristan has been diagnosed with polio after the Taliban successfully shut down polio immunizations there last summer.

Health workers are on the cusp of making polio the second disease after smallpox to be completely eradicated from the planet. The latest plan forecasts eradication by 2018, but a huge barrier is that conservative Islamic groups view Western vaccination programs as attempts to sterilize Muslims. In addition, the participation by Dr. Shakeel Afridi in a bogus vaccination program set up by the CIA to obtain DNA samples from Osama bin Laden’s compound added fresh fuel to the belief that vaccination programs also are used to spy on Muslims. Just under a month ago, a policeman protecting workers administering polio vaccine was shot and killed:

The latest attack took place in the afternoon in the Par Hoti neighborhood of the Mardan district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The policemen, Raj Wali and Mohammad Ishfaq, were accompanying two female workers on the second day of a three-day anti-polio drive, said Wajid Ali, a local police official.

The policemen were standing guard in the street as the health workers administered drops inside a house when an unidentified gunman, who appeared to be in his early 20s, walked up to them and opened fire. Mr. Wali was killed and Mr. Ishfaq was wounded, Mr. Ali said in a telephone interview. The gunman escaped.

That killing followed the deaths of eight vaccine workers last December and the violence has led to a significant interruption in the distribution of the vaccine:

In December, at least eight people engaged in polio vaccinations were shot dead in Karachi and the north-west, and in January and February two police officers were killed in similar attacks.

The UN said last month that some 240,000 children have missed vaccinations since July in parts of Pakistan’s tribal region, the main sanctuary for Islamic militants, because of security concerns.

And it is from the tribal area of Waziristan where we have today’s sad news of a child being diagnosed with polio:

A child has contracted polio for the first time in Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal belt since the Taliban banned vaccinations a year ago, a UN official said Monday.

“The new case has been detected in North Waziristan where we had been denied access in June last year,” the World Health Organization’s (WHO) senior coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, Elias Durry, told AFP.

Durry fears that this case is not likely to be isolated:

“We are worried because this new case comes as an example of a bigger impending outbreak of disease in the region,” the WHO official said.

In addition to making vaccination drives shorter and lower profile while working closely with security, the executive summary (pdf) for the new polio eradication plan has a key step of outreach to religious groups:

4. Religious leaders’ advocacy: markedly step up advocacy by international, national and local Islamic leaders to build ownership and solidarity for polio eradication across the Islamic world, including for the protection ofchildren against polio, the sanctity of health workers and the neutrality of health services.

Unfortunately, I don’t see an open call in the plan for bringing about an end to intelligence agencies undertaking new vaccination ruses, although “the neutrality of health services” would seem to touch on it. Meanwhile, Afridi has started a hunger strike in a desperate attempt to keep his name in the headlines.

No, Arkansas, Medicaid Is Not an “Entitlement.” It’s a Giant WalMart Subsidy

Arkansas, the home state of WalMart, just passed a law that will require “individuals” (by which it appears to mean biological humans) registering for Medicaid under ObamaCare’s expanded coverage to sign a document acknowledging that Medicaid is not an “entitlement.”

The Arkansas state legislature has officially passed legislation to use Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private insurance for some 250,000 state residents.

The bill used to do so contains one of the more unusual provisions I’ve ever seen in  health-care legislation. It requires those enrolling in the Medicaid expansion to acknowledge that they’re not enrolling in an entitlement program. The relevant section:

(i) An eligible individual enrolled in the program shall affirmatively acknowledge that:
(1) The program is not a perpetual federal or state right or a guaranteed entitlement;
(2) The program is subject to cancellation upon appropriate notice; and
(3) The program is not an entitlement program.

As a reminder, WalMart was involved in the design and passage of ObamaCare. The way in which Medicaid got expanded — in which the only way an employer can fulfill its obligation to provide health insurance for employees free of cost is to ensure they all make less then the 138% of federal poverty level that would qualify them for expanded coverage.

It has been clear from the start that WalMart had every intention of using that loophole to get free coverage for a significant portion of its 1.4 million American employees. And why not? It was a strategy WalMart was already using.

Since then, WalMart has been — as I predicted — made the moves necessary to ensure its workers are poor enough to get that freebie, largely by shifting more of them to part time work.

To a significant extent, this built-in reward for employers that keep their employees in poverty was all designed with WalMart — which was on Obama’s advisory committee — in mind. The Medicaid expansion, which, if you ignore the way it incents companies to keep employees at poverty wages, is an really important benefit of ObamaCare, is also a huge federal subsidy for Arkansas’ largest company.

So, no. Medicaid, especially in Arkansas, is not an “entitlement.” For legal individuals like WalMart, its actually a giant form of corporate welfare.

Maybe WalMart should also have to sign a form when its employees register, certifying that it knows it’s the biggest welfare queen ever created?

John Galt Kills Americans

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine yesterday released the results of a study addressing mortality in the United States as compared to other developed nations. The full report can be purchased here, where a summary also can be downloaded as a free pdf file. The press release on the study frames the questions addressed:

On average, Americans die sooner and experience higher rates of disease and injury than people in other high-income countries, says a new report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.  The report finds that this health disadvantage exists at all ages from birth to age 75 and that even advantaged Americans — those who have health insurance, college educations, higher incomes, and healthy behaviors — appear to be sicker than their peers in other rich nations.

“We were struck by the gravity of these findings,” said Steven H. Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and chair of the panel that wrote the report.  ”Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health.  What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind.”

From the summary, we have this long explanation of the causes of high US mortality, where I have added emphasis:

The panel’s inquiry found multiple likely explanations for the U.S. health disadvantage:

• Health systems. Unlike its peer countries, the United States has a relatively large uninsured population and more limited access to primary care. Americans are more likely to find their health care inaccessible or unaffordable and to report lapses in the quality and safety of care outside of hospitals.

• Health behaviors. Although Americans are currently less likely to smoke and may drink alcohol less heavily than people in peer countries, they consume the most calories per person, have higher rates of drug abuse, are less likely to use seat belts, are involved in more traffic accidents that involve alcohol, and are more likely to use firearms in acts of violence.

• Social and economic conditions. Although the income of Americans is higher on average than in other countries, the United States also has higher levels of poverty (especially child poverty) and income inequality and lower rates of social mobility. Other countries are outpacing the United States in the education of young people, which also affects health. And Americans benefit less from safety net programs that can buffer the negative health effects of poverty and other social disadvantages.

• Physical environments. U.S. communities and the built environment are more likely than those in peer countries to be designed around automobiles, and this may discourage physical activity and contribute to obesity.

No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage. Deficiencies in the health care system may worsen illnesses and increase deaths from certain diseases, but they cannot explain the nation’s higher rates of traffic accidents or violence. Similarly, although individual behaviors are clearly important, they do not explain why Americans who do not smoke or are not overweight also appear to have higher rates of disease than similar groups in peer countries.

More likely, the U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.

What stands out to me is that the list of reasons Americans die early overlaps significantly with the social goals of right-wing libertarians who worship Ayn Rand and John Galt. Continue reading

Walmart Takes Advantage of Health “Reform” It Championed

On September 9 and 11, 2009, I noted a dangerous aspect of the Senate health insurance reform plan (which I called MaxTax, after Max Baucus) that would ultimately become ObamaCare: it would give Walmart and all other low-wage employers an incentive to keep its employees in poverty.

It was the only way to get them health insurance for free.

The MaxTax offers this one, giant, out for corporations.

A Medicaid-eligible individual can always choose to leave the employer’s coverage and enroll in Medicaid. In this circumstance, the employer is not required to pay a fee.

In other words, the one way–just about the only way–a large employer can dodge responsibility for paying something for its employees is if its employees happen to qualify for Medicaid. Under MaxTax, Medicaid eligibility will be determined by one thing: whether a person makes less than 133% of the poverty rate. And who has the most control over how much a particular person makes? Their employer!

So if Wal-Mart wanted to avoid paying anything for its employees under MaxTax, it could simply make sure that none of them made more than $14,403 a year (they’d have to do this by ensuring their employees worked fewer than 40 hours a week, since this works out to be slightly less than minimum wage). Or, a single mom with two kids could make $24,352–a whopping $11.71 an hour, working full time. That’s more than the average Wal-Mart employee made last year. So long as Wal-Mart made sure its employees applied for Medicaid (something it already does in states where its employees are eligible), it would pay nothing. Nada, zip. Nothing.

Saturday, HuffPo mapped out what I, too, have been watching. Walmart is making the changes necessary to prepare to do this–charge you and I for health insurance for its employees (actually, more of its employees, as it already uses this approach where it can), all premised on the legal poverty Walmart imposes on its workers–by kicking precisely those employees who will qualify for Medicaid off Walmart insurance.

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers.

[snip]

Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare. Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

“Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan, which is one of the problems with the way the law is structured,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

I hate to say to the boy wonks who poo-pooed my concerns in 2009 I told them so. But I told them so.

What HuffPo doesn’t mention in its piece on this, though, is that this is all presumably by design.

Walmart, after all, was one of the partners behind the push for ObamaCare. In fact, as things started to drag in summer 2009, WalMart partnered with Center for American Progress and SEIU to try to nudge the process along. While the letter signed by the heads of all three organizations preaches of “shared responsibility,” it also talks of removing “the burden that is crushing America’s businesses” and an employer mandate that does not “create barriers to hiring entry level employees” (as workers forced into part time unskilled positions are sometimes facetiously called).

Walmart gave ObamaCare a lot of credibility back in 2009. It was clear then what the payoff was going to be. And they’re cashing in now: by making the poverty wages they pay their employees the trick to get us to pay their employee health insurance, rather than the billionaire Waltons who can afford it.

I guess that’s what Walmart believes constitutes “shared responsibility.”

Update: In other “I told you so” news, Liz Fowler–the former Wellpoint exec who wrote this legislation for Baucus–is headed back to industry to cash in.

Fourteen Dead and 170 Infected: Poor Regulation Built That

The latest figures indicate that fourteen people have died and at least 170 have been sickened by fungal meningitis arising from an injectable form of the steroid drug methylprednisolone. The bulk of the cases have occurred from patients receiving spinal injections for back pain but there is now at least one documented case of an infection arising from injection of an ankle. At a time when Republicans running for office all across the country routinely deride “job killing regulations”, we now have a sadly perfect example of how lack of regulation kills people.

The tainted drug causing the infections in these cases comes from a single compounding pharmacy in Massacusetts. Compounding pharmacies exist in a regulatory gray area and have pushed further and further away from their original form due to an absence of regulatory push-back. The FDA strictly regulates the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and assures that they are produced without risk of contaminating microorganisms that could cause infection upon use of the drug. However, compounding pharmacies are regulated only at the state level, mostly because their original role was to provide unique mixtures of drugs produced in response to prescriptions for individual patients. Sensing opportunity to operate in a regulatory gray area, “the free market” has moved in and compounding operations now openly flaunt the single patient idea. In the current case, CNN reports a CDC estimate that as many as 13,000 patients may have been injected with the tainted drug compounded by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The CNN article describes that the regulatory gaps are well-known but Congress has refused to act:

If Sarah Sellers’ warnings had been taken seriously 10 years ago, 12 people might be alive today.

Sellers, a pharmacist and expert on the sterile compounding of drugs, testified to Congress in 2003 about non-sterile conditions she’d witnessed.

“Professional standards for sterile compounding have not been consistently applied,” she told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. “The absence of federal compounding regulations has created vulnerability in our gold standard system for pharmaceutical regulation.”

Nearly 10 years later, there are still no federal sterility guidelines for compounding pharmacies that make and distribute drugs all over the country.

Further, we see that the court system has acted to weaken the poor regulations that previously existed:

In the 1990s, FDA regulators began to more closely scrutinize the industry, as some compounding pharmacies grew into larger operations that resembled small pharmaceutical companies.

In 1997, Congress passed a law bringing compounded drugs under FDA oversight, requiring that they meet certain standards for production, labeling and advertising. Specifically, the law banned compounding pharmacies from advertising their products.

A 9th Circuit court ruled that this last requirement was unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court upheld the decision in 2002. The court did not rule on the other portions of the law, though the FDA has not actively enforced them.

We learn from USA Today that problems from compounding pharmacies lowering safety standards while chasing higher profits through high-volume compounding have led to many known cases of infections and other medical complications over the last ten years or so: Continue reading

Rebecca Solnit’s Mirror

I’ve been laughing my ass off at the number of lefties who have linked to–or republished–this Rebecca Solnit piece scolding her “dismal allies” for being such grumps.

It’s not so much I mind someone trying to persuade progressives of the importance of voting for Obama in November. Solnit acknowledges that Obama has done some horrible things and recognizes the dilemma that might present. And as a swing state resident, I’m used to blue state residents imploring me about the importance of my vote. I’ve always weighed the responsibility of living in a more closely contested state seriously and in 2004 worked many many hours to elect a John Kerry I believed was a problematic choice. Solnit appears not to realize it (allowing one of her interlocutors from NV to equate voicing this dilemma with actual voter suppression, which is after all, a real thing that involves affirmative attempts to make it hard for people of color to vote), but we lefties in swing states actually do think about this stuff and weigh it seriously. It is fair to try to persuade us that voting for Obama is a better choice than not voting or voting third party.

It’s just that I’m stunned that anyone–particularly people who work with words–could imagine Solnit’s piece effectively accomplishes her goal.

This is a piece the 7th word of which is “briefly” that doesn’t wind down for another 2,765 words. It’s the 6th paragraph before Solnit gets around to providing an example of her complaint, and before you get there, you have to wade through vacuous language like, “There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad“–italics original.

By the time readers have gotten to the moral of Solnit’s story,

Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.

She has called or implied her audience is “dismal,” “rancid,” “Eeyore,” “snarky,” “poison[ing],” “sour” “complainers,” “kvetchers,” “caustic,” “pile of bile,” She accuses her audience of “bitch[ing],” “pound[ing] down,” “habitual[ly] tearing down,” engaging in “recreational bitterness.” She disdainfully labels the “lesser of two evils” metaphor a cliché, but then informs her readers that, “when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail”–and that’s just one of her many clichés. And all that’s before she accuses her audience of asking that “Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure.” She calls other people snarky?

Given the way she attacks her audience, I find it hard to believe that Solnit didn’t see the irony when she suggests we “thrive in this imperfect moment [] through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.”

And then there are Solnit’s details. She repeatedly implies that she “already know[s] most of the dimples on the imperial derriere.” But that’s not always clear. Three times she suggests Obama’s re-election is about access to health care; just once does she get it right that it’s about access to insurance. And here’s the complaint–the one that first shows up in the 6th paragraph–that appears to have set her off:

Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she’s anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

Not only does Solnit seem to misunderstand what has happened on the foreclosure front, but she also projects motives onto a guy who appears to have insisted on measuring Harris by her deeds, not her words. Was he really “attempting to crush Solnit’s ebullience”? Does she have evidence to that fact? Can she–someone who writes for a living and in this piece demands that people “describe [this political system] and its complexities and contradictions accurately”–really not imagine that this guy was simply providing precisely that complexity?

Along with her ironic call for generosity and kindness, Solnit also suggests people consider how they’re engaging in this movement.

ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

Solnit might ask herself these same questions. Indeed, she might take a lesson from Obama, a master story-teller. Rather than attacking the students and Latinos and struggling workers whose enthusiasm had waned–a strategy Solnit apparently shares with Mitt Romney–Obama has told stories about kids getting insurance coverage and students getting Pell grants and factory workers working longer hours again. Given the increased enthusiasm among his base, those stories appear to have worked like a charm.

But rather than tell those kind of stories, Solnit has opted for precisely the kind of attack she criticizes.

Good Thing the Democrats Forced That Vote on the Ryan Plan

Most of what I have to say about Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan I said on Virtually Speaking Sunday. I think the Ryan pick will hurt Mitt, and I think it opens up an opportunity for progressives to even box Obama in.

But I am enjoying the response from Republicans, who almost immediately started bad-mouthing the pick. First there was the BuzzFeed story–less than 48 hours after the pick!–describing how the political pros in Mitt’s staff opposed the pick. And now Politico describes the opinions of some three dozen Republican operatives, all of whom except Mary Matalin are queasy about the choice. (The Hill has a similar story.)

In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.

It is not that the public professions of excitement about the Ryan selection are totally insincere. It is that many of the most optimistic Republican operatives will privately acknowledge that their views are being shaped more by fingers-crossed hope than by a hard-headed appraisal of what’s most likely to happen.

And the more pessimistic strategists don’t even feign good cheer: They think the Ryan pick is a disaster for the GOP. Many of these people don’t care that much about Romney — they always felt he faced an improbable path to victory — but are worried that Ryan’s vocal views about overhauling Medicare will be a millstone for other GOP candidates in critical House and Senate races.

One big reason the operatives don’t like this choice is it makes their job–getting down-ticket Republicans elected–harder.

And that’s just what it does to the Romney-Ryan ticket. Forget how it plays in close House and Senate races.

“Very not helpful down ballot — very,” said one top Republican consultant.

“This is the day the music died,” one Republican operative involved in 2012 races said after the rollout. The operative said that every House candidate now is racing to get ahead of this issue.

And what Politico doesn’t dwell on–but what Crooks & Liars noted the other day–is that it’s already too late for most of the Republicans running for reelection to separate themselves from Ryan’s signature policy. Because they already voted for it.

Even as Mitt Romney was introducing Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, his campaign was preparing a defense of the House Budget Chairman’s draconian Medicare proposals. With good reason. After all, in April 2011 the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecast that Ryan’s scheme to convert today’s guaranteed Medicare insurance program into an underfunded voucher system would dramatically shift the health care costs onto America’s seniors. And in February 2010, Ryan acknowledged his privatization plan for millions of future elderly constituted rationing.

But it’s not just Team Romney that should be concerned about being caught red-handed with the proverbial gun pointed at the wildly popular program. Last year, 235 House Republicans and 40 GOP Senators–98 percent of all Republicans in Congress–voted for Paul Ryan’s budget and its blueprint to rationing Medicare.

What’s particularly remarkable about the Politico piece is that, in spite of widely expressed admiration for Ryan, just about all the anonymous sources admit that people hate his plan. The plan their bosses have already voted for.

I don’t think any of the geniuses in DC–whether Republican or Democratic–planned for this. I don’t think they intended to turn Mitt Romney into the poster child for the elites who have been looting our country. I don’t think Mitt realized that by picking Ryan, he would make the problem worse, not better.

But this election has now crystalized into a referendum on the austerity, oligarchy, and looting the Republicans (and more recently, the Democrats too) have been gradually introducing into our country.

Obama may still screw up the election. The economy may recrash, the drought may bring a price spike that makes people desperate enough to vote for Mitt, or there may be an October surprise.

And I’m sure Obama didn’t want to be running this election, pointing out how unpopular and disastrous are Ryan’s policies–policies which are not that different from some of his own.

But that seems to be where we’re heading. A referendum, from the top of the ticket on down, on the unpopular elitist policies that both parties in DC have been pushing for the last decade or so.

More Damage from Panetta’s Vaccine Ruse: UN Doctor on Polio Vaccine Drive Shot; Hundreds of Thousands Denied Polio Vaccine

As one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic, Pakistan launched a three day vaccination drive yesterday with a target of vaccinating the 318,000 children in North and South Waziristan who have not received their vaccinations. Across all of Pakistan, the goal is to vaccinate 34 million children under the age of five. The drive is being held despite a push by the Taliban to prevent vaccinations in tribal areas. The Taliban’s ban on vaccinations is aimed at stopping US drone strikes in the tribal areas and is in response to the vaccination ruse by the CIA.  Dr. Shakeel Afridi pretended to be doling out hepatitis vaccines in a failed attempt to retrieve DNA samples for the CIA from the bin Laden compound when it was under surveillance prior to the attack that killed Osama bin Laden. Today, a UN doctor and his driver were wounded when a shooter opened fire on them in Karachi. The doctor was reported to be working on the vaccine program.

Dawn reported yesterday that a jirga was convened today in the tribal areas to try to find a solution to the Taliban’s vaccine ban. That article gives good background information on the ban:

Although a nationwide anti-polio campaign was launched on Monday, the authorities were yet to convince the Taliban shura on the importance of getting children of North and South Waziristan vaccinated against the debilitating disease.

/snip/

Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who leads the powerful Taliban Shura, had banned the anti-polio drive in North Waziristan on June 16 and said that children would not take polio drops unless the government stopped drone strikes in the area.

He was followed by Commander Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan and other militant commanders in FRs D.I. Khan and Kohat.

In South Waziristan, the ban is much stricter because it prohibits vaccination against all eight childhood diseases, including polio.

“We have asked health workers to be careful and don’t put their lives at risk,” the official said, adding that they were waiting for the government’s response.

However, the Taliban ban is not the only barrier to vaccines:

He [the official quoted above] said the military operation in Orakzai and Khyber agencies was one of the factors which deprived children of the much needed vaccines.

Just the two tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan account for a large number of unvaccinated children: Continue reading

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emptywheel @adambonin Wait. David Brooks? Can I get my tuition back? @NateSilver538 @AmherstCollege
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emptywheel @adambonin Wait what?!?! I'd say got to Brunos but I understand ... sadly ... @NateSilver538 @AmherstCollege
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emptywheel Fat Evil Parallel Gore RT @twolf10: Snow sticking to ground in mid April, 2 days after almost hit 80. I blame evil parallel universe Al Gore
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bmaz That said Olivia Wilde was one light year closer to Suzy Miller than Chris Hemsworth was to the real James Hunt who I actually knew a little
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bmaz I was fortunate enough to meet Suzy Miller back in the day, and Olivia Wilde looks nothing at all like her.
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emptywheel @adamgoldmanwp Lots of reasons to imagine why it might remain suppressed, most innocuous of which is investigation in key stage.
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emptywheel @adamgoldmanwp It may not be in there--but it is in HHSAC report. Prosecutors won't let Dhokhar's team see it either.
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emptywheel RT @gregorydjohnsen: That last tweet was in jest - the only reason this unit was closed was the work of @adamgoldmanwp and @mattapuzzo - ht…
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emptywheel @adamgoldmanwp The language on that in the IG report--assuming it exists--is all classified.
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emptywheel @SarahKnuckey Or did someone give them bad intel .... again?
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JimWhiteGNV RT @jaraparilla: Saudi Arabia sacks intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan http://t.co/xG2W1PT0Hn #AboutTime #Interesting
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emptywheel @ilovaussiesheps Waiting for the fine print, which may have to do w/who gets to loot DIA. But ... looks like it.
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