Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Campaign To Salvage…Public Option? | The Plum Line

The Campaign To Salvage…Public Option? | The Plum Line

With health care reform in serious trouble, you’d think the last thing Dems should be doing is wasting their time trying to revive the idea of including a public plan as part of reform. But a growing number of House Dems are pushing an interesting strategy along these lines that’s worth a look.

To wit: Now that the idea of passing a fix to the Senate bill via a majority vote is being considered, why not revive the public option as part of that fix? A simple majority of Senators favors one, so such a fix could presumably pass via reconciliation.

But more to the point, such a move would make it easier for the Senate bill to pass the House, because it could win over enough liberals — many of whom don’t want to pass the Senate bill — to make it easier to secure the 218 needed for passage.

Cameras Roll As Obama Schools GOP

Cameras Roll As Obama Schools GOP: "Whether it was chutzpah, political savvy, or both, it certainly was refreshing. Reporters were thrilled with the British-parliament-type exchange between president and lawmaker. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder asked that forums like these be held monthly. The Nation's Chris Hayes suggested Obama next go before the progressive caucus. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post labeled it 'the most compelling political television I've seen...maybe ever. NBC's Chuck Todd added: 'The president should hold Congressional 'town halls' more often. Public needs to see this if they'll ever trust Washington again,'"

Transcript of President Obama's Remarks At House Republican Retreat In Baltimore

Transcript of President Obama's Remarks At House Republican Retreat In Baltimore

Better than the State of the Union

If you want to see where the real sparks are, watch President Obama at the GOP retreat on Friday. The speech is good, but it's the question and answer session afterwards that really hits home. It was like back during the election campaign. He was funny, he was plain-speaking. He called them out on tactics and partisanship, he was logical and debated hard. It was like watching the Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament!

Check it out online on CSPAN It was BRILLIANT. The best
part is not even his speech but the Q&A after his speech:

C-SPAN Video Player - President Speaks at GOP Retreat

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Olbermann's special comment on Joe Wilson

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Obama's Address on Health Care to Congress

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Here we go folks... I'd bang my head against the wall, but I'm unsure about the quality of the health care I'd receive...

Again, I can barely turn on CNN in the mornings because I know someone is going to say something about health care that will make me absolutely livid. Someone will say "trigger option" one more time and I'm going to put my head through the TV in an effort to scream directly at Olympia Snowe that people need %*^&%! health care RIGHT NOW. Like this second. Like twenty years ago. Like ONE HUNDRED years ago.

The Power to Cloud Men's Minds....
The debate -- if you can call it that-- is so freaking contorted now that nobody knows what side is up. August was, if you believe the pundits, a total disaster of town hall brawls. People are out there shouting "Keep your goddamned government hands off my Medicare!"

Voices of reason and logic, like Robert Reich--a former secretary of Labor and now professor at UC Berkeley-- are being practically drowned out in the furor. Here's his explanation of the public option, clear and simple.

But summertime's over, babycakes. It's time for the big B.O. to take things in hand because frankly this bipartisanshit-- sorry, bipartisanship thang ain't working out.

The Character of Our Country
In case you missed it, the full text of Obama's address to Congress is here. (Video here) Thank God, because just as Obama was getting to the emotional peak -- "That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character." my DVR cut off. Doesn't matter. Here's the rest.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.
Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character.

Shape the future. The time to call or email your reps is now.

Contact your individual representatives and senators.
Look 'em up, folks -- call your friends in Montana, call your friends in Blue Dog states. It's time to make a squawk --to inform these Congress members that THEIR jobs are on the line. Email is cheap -- health care isn't.

If you're interested in the details of Obama's own plan, visit the White House site.


In this week's New York Times, Paul Krugman puts out a simple defense of the public option:

Most arguments against the public option are based either on deliberate misrepresentation of what that option would mean, or on remarkably thorough misunderstanding of the concept, which persists to a frustrating degree: I was really surprised to see Joe Klein worrying about the creation of a system in which doctors work directly for the government, British-style, when that has nothing whatsoever to do with the public option as proposed. (Forty years of Medicare haven’t turned the US into that kind of system — why would having a public plan change that?)


And about the National Health Service...

Much maligned in the news in the month of August was the UK's National Health Service. Eric's mom-- who also sent me a link to this very interesting, and not atypical, story about the NHS-- was out here for a visit last week and happened to be staying in a B&B with a physician from the UK's National Health Service. I'm grateful to her and to Dr. Stephen Shepherd for letting me reprint some of his thoughts on this health care debate.


Whilst visiting San Francisco in August 2009 a few thoughts occurred to me concerning the current debate in the US about the proposed changes to the US Health care system and comparisons with the UK's NHS.

In every country in the world there are basically only 3 ways of accessing health care.

The rich simply pay cash for whatever they want.

Those with health insurance received 'managed care'

The poor are thrown on the basic healthcare provided by the State

In the UK the NHS covers both the last two catagorys. The standard of care for ALL is equivalent to the managed care received by US citizens with insurance. A few people in the UK have private health insurance, usually as a perk of their job. In the past this allowed you to bypass some of the NHS queues. Nowadays, with the better financed NHS, private health insurance tends just to allow you to have private room, rather than share a 4-bedded bay, which is the norm in NHS hospitals.

The vast majority of hospital specialists or Consultants do most of their work in the NHS and do private work to supplement their NHS income. Private hospitals are not really set up for complex procedures and if you are seriously ill you are best off with the NHS.

The key to the NHS is the General Practitioner or GP (Primary Care Physician). Your GP will refer you for both NHS and Insurance referrals, but will provide the bulk of your care. Most chronic diseases in the UK are dealt with by the GP, who will know you and your past history and will tailor your healthcare for you personally. Primary Care is very strong in the UK.

Now to deal with a few points:

Rationing: all healthcare is rationed, except for the rich. In the UK most treatments are covered by the NHS and your doctor is free to prescribe any drug or treatment that is marketed in the UK. The exceptions are new expensive treatments whose clinical effectiveness are assessed by an independent body called the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), before they become widely available on the NHS. In the US health care is rationed by the Insurance companies managed care system, or by your ability to pay. I understand it is not unknown for people to die in the US as they lack the money to fund their treatment. I leave the reader to decide which is the better system.

Waiting Times and Choice: in the past the wait for routine procedures could be measured in years, but since the advent of Tony Blair's Labour Government a lot of money has gone to improve matters. As a GP I can use the new Choose and Book computer system to book appointments during a patient's consultation, at a time and date of their choosing. Most routine appointments will be within a month. It is unusual for the wait for surgery to be more than 3 months. If your GP thinks you may have cancer, there is a rapid access system which gets you to see a Specialist within 2 weeks and any definitive treatment started within a month.

Quality: British doctors are trained to the same standard as those in the US and foreign graduates wanting to work in the UK must have a good standard of English and meet the clinical standards set by the various Royal colleges that supervise training in the UK.

Income: when the NHS was set up in 1945 many doctors feared that they would be out of pocket. This has proved to be far from the case. Most GPs earn £120000 from the NHS with very little from private work. Experienced nurses earn from £20-30000. Hospital Consultants earn around £100000 from the NHS, but their additional private income can vary from zero to £100000+ according to their speciality and/or personal choice.

Innovation: the charge that the NHS discourages innovation and invention just makes me laugh. The route to being a hospital consultant is through research. All hospital consultants only get their position once they have done some research and continue to do so once in post. British drug companies are amongst the best in the world and around 40% of current treatments had their origins in the UK.

I admit to wondering what lies behind the opposition to President Obama's health care reforms. I suspect that many Americans realise that sorting out your healthcare system will inevitably lead to other social reforms.

The NHS is a small part of a whole raft of social benefits that make up the British Welfare State.

Benefits are provided if you are unemployed, sick, disabled or caring for someone who cannot care for themselves. Everyone gets an old age state pension from 65. The elderly are one of the main beneficiaries of the NHS. Should you need residential or nursing home care as you get older then the state pays for that and allows you to keep significant personal assets.

The poor and other disadvantaged groups are not left to fend for themselves on the streets. Local government in the UK has a statutory duty to provide social housing for all who need it, together with social services care. The homeless are not left to roam the streets, but are housed in hostels, where they have their own lockable room. These hostels provide temporary accommodation until the local authorities can find somewhere permanent, usually in the form of a one or two bed apartment.

This extensive welfare system is the result of the Socialist Government of 1945 and is the result of the report carried out by Beveridge in the later years of WW2. It is important for Americans to remember that the UK, and Europe in general, is far more left wing than the US. The main British right wing party, the Conservatives, are much more akin to left leaning Democrats. The Labour Party is a left wing party that has moved a little more to the right under Tony Blair. Some of the views I have read from Republicans would have no place in British politics, except in our extreme right wing parties like the British National Party (BNP), who are viewed with contempt by the majority in the UK.

The downside of course to the Welfare state is the cost. Income tax in the UK starts at 20% and rises to 40% on any income in excess of £38000.

On mainland Europe the Social care systems are more generous than the UK, but their income tax rates are higher. In the US it seems you provide very minimal benefits, but have low income tax.

In the UK we have gone for the middle ground between the two.

A UK style system would almost certainly lead to the US middle class losing their mortgage tax relief, as happened in the UK. Perhaps this is the main reason for the opposition?

Benefits in the UK are aimed at providing a comprehensive safety net with benefit levels set to allow you to survive and stay in your own home. No one would choose to stay on benefit as even a modest income will give a better quality of life. For instance, except in times of recession, most people made unemployed would have found a new job within a month. The UK is still a net importer of employees.

A few people do slip through the net, especially in London, but people begging on the street is unusual in the UK and often they are people who have great difficulty engaging with any form of authority. Strenuous efforts are made by many state and charity groups to engage with these individuals.

Remember even these people have the right to see a GP and access all parts of the NHS. I have worked for a practice that provided services targeted at the homeless.

I am shocked whilst in the US, the richest country in the world, to see such affluence along side such abject poverty.

I would like to remind the US: 'No man is an island.'

Dr Stephen Shepherd, GP

Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire


Final words from the Grand Fromage
Watching the funeral of Ted Kennedy last week, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by how much there is left to do-- and from the top of Ted's list: the "cause of my life", which he outlined in an article for Newsweek last month. As usual, he doesn't just bemoan the opposition they face, but looks at the possibilities.

Incremental measures won't suffice anymore. We need to succeed where Teddy Roosevelt and all others since have failed. The conditions now are better than ever. In Barack Obama, we have a president who's announced that he's determined to sign a bill into law this fall. And much of the business community, which has suffered the economic cost of inaction, is helping to shape change, not lobbying against it. I know this because I've spent the past year, along with my staff, negotiating with business leaders, hospital administrators, and doctors. As soon as I left the hospital last summer, I was on the phone, and I've kept at it. Since the inauguration, the administration has been deeply involved in the process. So have my Senate colleagues—in particular Max Baucus, the chair of the Finance Committee, and my friend and partner in this mission, Chris Dodd. Even those most ardently opposed to reform in the past have been willing to make constructive gestures now.

I long ago learned that you have to be a realist as you pursue your ideals. But whatever the compromises, there are several elements that are essential to any health-reform plan worthy of the name.

First, we have to cover the uninsured. When President Clinton proposed his plan, 33 million Americans had no health insurance. Today the official number has reached 47 million, but the economic crisis will certainly push the total higher. Unless we act now, within a few years, 55 million Americans could be left without coverage even as the economy recovers.

All Americans should be required to have insurance. For those who can't afford the premiums, we can provide subsidies. We'll make it illegal to deny coverage due to preexisting conditions. We'll also prohibit the practice of charging women higher premiums than men, and the elderly far higher premiums than anyone else. The bill drafted by the Senate health committee will let children be covered by their parents' policy until the age of 26, since first jobs after high school or college often don't offer health benefits.

To accomplish all of this, we have to cut the costs of health care. For families who've seen health-insurance premiums more than double—from an average of less than $6,000 a year to nearly $13,000 since 1999—one of the most controversial features of reform is one of the most vital. It's been called the "public plan." Despite what its detractors allege, it's not "socialism." It could take a number of different forms. Our bill favors a "community health-insurance option." In short, this means that the federal government would negotiate rates—in keeping with local economic conditions—for a plan that would be offered alongside private insurance options. This will foster competition in pricing and services. It will be a safety net, giving Americans a place to go when they can't find or afford private insurance, and it's critical to holding costs down for everyone.

We also need to move from a system that rewards doctors for the sheer volume of tests and treatments they prescribe to one that rewards quality and positive outcomes. For example, in Medicare today, 18 percent of patients discharged from a hospital are readmitted within 30 days—at a cost of more than $15 billion in 2005. Most of these readmissions are unnecessary, but we don't reward hospitals and doctors for preventing them. By changing that, we'll save billions of dollars while improving the quality of care for patients.

Social justice is often the best economics. We can help disabled Americans who want to live in their homes instead of a nursing home. Simple things can make all the difference, like having the money to install handrails or have someone stop by and help every day. It's more humane and less costly—for the government and for families—than paying for institutionalized care. That's why we should give all Americans a tax deduction to set aside a small portion of their earnings each month to provide for long-term care
There have been lots of tributes to Ted Kennedy of course, but I remember this one as especially lovely, from last year at this time, when Ted Kennedy appeared at the Democratic National Convention. But perhaps even more moving was Senator Robert Byrd's tribute:

I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the loss of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq.

Neither years of age nor years of political combat, nor his illness, diminished the idealism and energy of this talented, imaginative, and intelligent man. And that is the kind of Senator Ted Kennedy was. Throughout his career, Senator Kennedy believed in a simple premise: that our society's greatness lies in its ability and willingness to provide for its less fortunate members. Whether striving to increase the minimum wage, ensuring that all children have medical insurance, or securing better access to higher education, Senator Kennedy always showed that he cares deeply for those whose needs exceed their political clout. Unbowed by personal setbacks or by the terrible sorrows that have fallen upon his family, his spirit continued to soar, and he continued to work as hard as ever to make his dreams a reality.

In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Health wealth and...and...I forget what the other one is... to a very special health care edition of ME's Political Rant.

So, this is how I know that it's time for a political rant -- when I'm standing in front of the TV SCREAMING at CNN and the monologue goes something like this, "What the $^&*!!^% are you talking about, you &*$$*%! ?/&*!%^!&*!! Why don't you ask that ??%!@&^&%@ #$ &*&^ %^$! what he'd do if his OWN !?#$%&# daughter were #&*^!#%^*$ sick and he didn't have his &^%?!$% precious Congressional health care ???? Are you a MORON????"

Now, far be it from me to take a reductionist view of a complex and byzantine issue, but can I just point out that nobody is getting ANYwhere right now? The truth is that I've had a hankering to put out a rant for a while, but now my blood pressure is up, my throat is sore from yelling at FOX news idiocy and yesterday I almost put my middle finger through the TV screen. Clearly, the time has come.

HR 3200 health billThere's a lot to cover here, but I'm gonna put this right at the top. You wanna know what's in H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, or the Health Care Reform bill? Here it is, in its 1018-page glory. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but consider that it's 80 pages shorter than Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (paperback edition) and it's double-spaced and in a larger font.

So the beauty of the Internet is that you can find anything you want if you just look long enough. As this bill wends its way through committees it obviously gets revised, and you can track the changes on

A Little Bird Told Me....

I think there should be a new rule: you may not be on TV, you may not be quoted, you do not get to talk about health care, if you are going to use the phrase "I've heard that..." as in "I've heard that grandma will be called up in front of death panels under this health plan....I've heard that kids under the age of 21 with bad acne and frizzy hair will be sterilized under this health plan...I've heard that Barack Obama wants to recycle old people into Soylent Wafers under this health plan."

The "I've heard that" impulse-- which I readily admit is hard to fight-- accounts for so much of the hysteria out there, like this frustrating email that you may have seen around the net:

On Page 425 of Obama's health care bill, the Federal Government will require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end their own life earlier. Yes... They are going to push SUICIDE to cut Medicare spending!!! And no, I am NOT KIDDING YOU! So those of you who voted for Obama have now put yourself and your own parents in dire straights... Congratulations!

If you check on the famous page 425, you can read for yourself what it says about Medicare paying for-- not forcing people to talk about -- a consultation about end of life care with a doctor. Anyone can read it for themselves.

If you're like me (or like Jon Stewart) you howled when there appeared to be hedging on the idea of a public option ( a government -run insurance plan similar to Medicare). I think it was all a ploy to get the rest of us SOOO riled up at the prospect of the public option being taken off the table that we'd get on the horn, and so here I am, on the horn to you, my friends. (Jeez, I sound like John McCain.) I'm sending out this rant with some special resources on who and how to contact in Congress, so please feel free to pass it on through the same channels we used last year at this very time...

Should there be health care for crazy people?

Republican vice presidential...Wow, I guess in principle I'm for mental health coverage in this reform bill, but there are obviously a lot of Crazy People (Sarah Palin) out there barking at the wind (Sarah Palin). People (Sarah Palin) who really need to schedule those 20 visits with a mental health professional.

Yes, I'm talking about Sarah Palin's Death Panel fiesta. By the way, in case you missed it, it was conservative Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) who put the so called "death panel" clause into the health care lottery. His comment on Palin's Death Panel crack? "How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up."

Not content with dissing that bastion of socialism, Canada, the misinformation storm has now swept up Britain too. To the point that they're finally hitting back, after watching their NHS system pilloried in the news, e.g. "Oh God, Americans would NEVER want SOCIALIZED medicine disaster like that SOCIALIST REGIME in BRITAIN forces on its people. They would have KILLED someone like Stephen Hawking under a system like the British." Except that Stephen Hawking LIVES in BRITAIN -- and he's not dead. Yeah. Um... yeah. Says Hawking to The Guardian newspaper: "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS." Moving on.


(All figures are for 2007 except for Japan, which is for 2006)

The White House has a website rebutting some of the claims that drive me insane (How many times do you think Obama is going to have to say, "You will be able to keep your own health insurance if you like it"?) But you can also read the excellent Consumer Reports Health Reform blog for up to date and well-researched information -- one of the better reads out there. It's part of their larger website covering Health Care reform, which has other good resources on it.

Consumers Union health policy analyst, Steven Findlay also had an editorial in USA Today back in June that laid out the basics with an historical persepctive pretty clearly. "Socialized medicine. Government-run health care. Rationing. Bureaucrats in charge. "Cookbook" medicine. Waiting lines. It'll break the bank. Welcome to the health care debate 2009. Sound familiar? These notions aim to instill fear. And once again, they bear no more relation to the reality of what is being debated in Washington than was the case when the Clintons had a go at health reform in the 1990s. Don't be misled this time. In fact, far more bipartisan agreement exists on many core elements of reform than you might think... What would be new is that people who don't have access to such coverage (and some who do) would be able to get coverage through insurance "exchanges." They'd be able to choose from a batch of private plans and policies that would have to accept all comers, offer comprehensive coverage, and be barred from "cherry-picking" only healthy people."

Has anyone else noticed that in fact, under he current system, someone-else-who-is-not-you is already making the decisions for us? When your employer gives you a "choice" of either a low-budget, it-would-be-great-if-you-never-get-sick coverage from Kaiser, or pay-through-the-nose-$800-a-month-Blue-Shield-PPO plan, you think you have choice? When insurance companies decide that they don't want to cover someone with a pre-exist, that they don't cover mental-health care, that they don't cover chiropractic, you think you have the power to make choices?

As Consumer Reports observes in their August 2009 issue,

Private health insurance already comes between you and your doctor. And because each company sets its own rules, it’s hard to imagine a more bureaucratic system. Some insurers decide which doctors you can see, which hospitals you can visit, and what drugs you can take and still be covered. And they may require copious paperwork before approving a treatment you and your doctor want. Health-care reform would standardize claim procedures to cut down on all of that. And it would protect you from other abuses, like being rejected for coverage or paying exorbitant premiums if you get sick.


The LA Times' Noam Levey had a good summary of where everything got left as Congress went on break.

Where does the healthcare overhaul legislation stand?August 2, 2009
Reporting from Washington -- Amid a flurry of activity on healthcare legislation, the House left Friday for its monthlong summer recess. The Senate will take off at the end of this week. The break comes as Democratic leaders are working to cobble together complex healthcare bills to bring to the floors of each chamber for votes this fall.

Here is an update on where the debate stands in Washington:

Has Congress agreed on how to ensure that all Americans will be able get health insurance?
The two major bills that have cleared committees in the House and Senate would establish insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, through which individuals and small businesses could compare a variety of plans that meet basic standards to be established by the federal government. The exchanges would include private plans as well as a government insurance program, which advocates say would pressure commercial insurers to lower costs and improve quality. The government would provide subsidies to help low- and moderate-income people afford the insurance.

Does that mean there will be a government plan?
Not necessarily. The government plan faces opposition from some who fear it could ultimately drive private insurers out of business. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, which is charged with evaluating the effects of legislation, has projected that would not happen. But because Republicans and some centrist Democrats object to a government plan, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate Finance Committee is trying to develop an alternative. That might be a system of health insurance cooperatives owned by consumers.

Will these exchanges really control the cost of healthcare?
Not by themselves. The two major bills include other provisions designed to encourage Americans to be healthier, such as eliminating co-payments for some checkups and other preventive care. Many believe that will ultimately save money. The House bill also contains several pilot programs in Medicare to encourage hospitals and doctors to deliver care more efficiently. For example, one committee inserted a provision to reward programs that provide care to chronically ill senior citizens in their homes to prevent costly hospitalizations.

Will that be enough?
Many business groups, labor unions and others believe the legislation must put even stricter limits on Medicare spending to curb unnecessary and inefficient care. The head of the CBO also has testified that the bills do not do enough to slow the growth of healthcare spending. Senior Democrats have pledged to adjust the legislation to do that over the August break.

Would that mean that Congress won't raise taxes to pay for this healthcare overhaul?
That's still not clear. The House bill would assess a new surtax on individuals who make more than $280,000 and couples who make $350,000 a year to raise $544 billion to help offset the cost. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has indicated that she might move to raise those cutoffs to $500,000 and $1 million. In the Senate, where there is little support for a new income tax, lawmakers are talking about other proposals, including taxing some health benefits or assessing fees on insurance companies. Senior Democrats plan to work on those details over the summer.


rotary-cell-phone.jpgNow, who do we need to call...

So here we are again -- are you up late at night scanning CNN and HuffPo? Are you railing at your TV? Are you seething with undirected rage? Here's my thought -- make up a little form letter that encapsulates how you feel and send it to members of Congress. Send a supportive email to the ones whose views you back, send an irate one to the members whose views make you mad. I don't care which is which, but get in there. Attached is a handy list (in Excel Format) with names, phone and fax numbers and email links -- feel free to use it liberally... Thanks to the site which keeps this sort of thing updated regularly.

The Roll Call of Shame (please feel free to call, fax or email your rants to these guys, click on his or her name to go to a link to email them directly.)

  • Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” "We're about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy."
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): "I don't know for sure, but I've heard several senators say that Ted Kennedy with a brain tumour, being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old, if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease, because end of life – when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems." Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ): Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.” "The Arizona senator rejected the suggestion that Republicans were to blame for any "scare campaigns" designed to derail healthcare, stating that the party instead is simply reflecting public sentiment."
  • House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA): “If it is just another name for government takeover of our health care, I’m not going to be for that,” said on CBS’s “The Early Show.”
  • Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chair of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, “Patients should be wary of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of seven senators involved in Finance Committee negotiations, left the bipartisan talks. Hatch informed Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) Wednesday afternoon that he couldn't continue to particpate because there were too many aspects of the bill that he could not back, including the employer mandate, individual mandate, Medicaid expansion and tax increase...Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): George Stephanapolous reports, "Graham told me that the U.S. Senate will not "go down the government-run health care road" despite a new poll showing 72 percent of Americans want a government role in health care -- and are willing to pay higher taxes for it. "The reason you're not going to have a government run health care pass the Senate is because it would be devastating for this country," Graham told me Sunday in an exclusive "This Week" interview.
  • Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.): Former big league pitcher Jim Bunning says he won't run for a third term as U.S. Senator from Kentucky. Bunning says his Republican colleagues have been doing "everything in their power" to dry up his fundraising. Bunning, who is 77, had a narrow win in 2004 and has been clashing with GOP leadership...Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho): Crapo sits on the Senate Finance Committee, whose members are instrumental in writing what is expected to be the dominant Senate version of the health care bill. Earlier this month, Crapo signed an op-ed in the Washington Post with 12 other senators calling for bipartisan solutions to the nation's health care crisis. He has expressed dissatisfaction with one of the current Senate bills, saying that it fails to provide affordable coverage for people who don't have it without affecting those who are happy with their existing coverage. Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.): opposes "rationed Health Care"...Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Sen. John Ensign(R-Nev.): Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, a leading conservative mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, admitted Tuesday he had an extramarital affair with a woman who was a member of his campaign staff....Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.): Congress should approach health care reform in steps, instead of trying to put together a comprehensive package...Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): Nine Republican senators are urging President Barack Obama to facilitate more inclusive reform of America’s health care system and say the creation of a public insurance option would “inevitably doom true competition.”
And now, Arf Arf: The so-called Blue Dogs (Contact these guys, they need to know how we all really feel!)

Who are these people and why are they doing this anyway? "So far this year, the Blue Dog Political Action Committee is on track to shatter all its fundraising records; in fact, the total for the first six months of 2009 — more than $1.1 million — is greater than what was raised in the entire 2003-04 fundraising cycle. Furthermore, according to analysis by the Center for Public Integrity of CQ MoneyLine data, the energy, financial services, and health care industries have accounted for nearly 54 percent of the Blue Dog PAC’s 2009 receipts (up from 45 percent in 2004). These contributions poured in as President Obama and the Democratic Congress have been making a major push to reform health care, develop a new energy policy, and restructure oversight of the banking sector. Clearly, these Dogs are having their day."

Any other questions on why the Blue Dogs are stalling health care reform?

Updates on what they were up to this week from the site. Are you represented by a Blue Dog? CALL him or her!!!
  • Jason Altmire (PA-4)
  • Mike Arcuri (NY-24)
  • Joe Baca (CA-43)
  • John Barrow (GA-12) voted against the health care reform bill last week in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Melissa Bean (IL-8)
  • Marion Berry (AR-1)
  • Sanford Bishop (GA-2)
  • Dan Boren (OK-2) Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.) didn’t plan to hold town halls following a Congressional delegation trip, according to the Oklahoman, but he has now scheduled three meetings for Tuesday.
  • Leonard Boswell (IA-3)
  • Allen Boyd (FL-2) "I cannot support this bill in the version it is in now," he said. "We can do better. We can make it better."
  • Bobby Bright (AL-2)
  • Dennis Cardoza (CA-18) In California, almost 200 supporters and opponents of health care reform gathered outside the Modesto office of Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D) to demand a meeting with the lawmaker, the Modesto Bee reported.
  • Christopher Carney (PA-10)
  • Ben Chandler (KY-6) In Kentucky, some of Rep. Ben Chandler’s (D) constituents brought their complaints to a dummy likeness of the Congressman at a town hall in Lexington, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • Travis Childers (MS-1)
  • Jim Cooper (TN-5)
  • Jim Costa (CA-20)
  • Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
  • Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3) one of the few Blue Dogs to meet publicly with her constituents this weekend. On Saturday, she tried to “to separate fact from fiction” in Sharon, Pa., according to the Herald in Mercer County. “I’ve read the bill and it does not in any way promote euthanasia,” she told them. “It gives you the ability to sit down with your doctor and talk about end-of-life issues such as will-writing and hospice care, and the doctor will be reimbursed. Before, they weren’t reimbursed for that.”
  • Lincoln Davis (TN-4)
  • Joe Donnelly (IN-2)
  • Brad Ellsworth (IN-8)
  • Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8) (AZ Daily Star editorial)I support reform that allows Americans to keep their current health-care program, keep their doctors and keep their hospitals. I support reform that creates competition through a strong public option that lowers everyone’s costs and competes with private insurers. I support reform that allows Arizonans who lose their jobs to afford insurance so they can get back on their feet without fear of getting sick. I support reform that will slow the growth of health-care costs and does not impose new taxes or burdens on our nation’s most valuable economic contributors, small businesses. I support reform that would allow this father to keep his insurance so his daughter and wife don’t have to go without proper care.
  • Bart Gordon (TN-6) Overall, the typical Blue Dog has received $63,000 more in campaign than other House Democrats over the past two decades, according to the CRP analysis. The top three recipients were Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), with $1.5 million, and Tennessee Reps. Bart Gordon and John Tanner, both of whom collected over $1.2 million from the industry and its employees, according to the data.
  • Parker Griffith (AL-5)
  • Jane Harman (CA-36)
  • Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration
  • Baron Hill (IN-9), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy
  • Tim Holden (PA-17)
  • Frank Kratovil (MD-1)
  • Jim Marshall (GA-8)
  • Jim Matheson (UT-2) voted against the health care reform bill last week in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Mike McIntyre (NC-7)
  • Charlie Melancon (LA-3), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, voted against the health care reform bill last week in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Mike Michaud (ME-2)
  • Walt Minnick (ID-1) Blue Dogs are choosing to speak with constituents over the phone
  • Dennis Moore (KS-3) Blue Dogs are choosing to speak with constituents over the phone
  • Patrick Murphy (PA-8)
  • Glenn Nye (VA-2) Blue Dogs are choosing to speak with constituents over the phone
  • Collin Peterson (MN-7)
  • Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL) Overall, the typical Blue Dog has received $63,000 more in campaign than other House Democrats over the past two decades, according to the CRP analysis. The top three recipients were Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), with $1.5 million, and Tennessee Reps. Bart Gordon and John Tanner, both of whom collected over $1.2 million from the industry and its employees, according to the data.
  • Mike Ross (AR-4) "The committees' draft falls short," the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose. Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.
  • John Salazar (CO-3) There will be a hot time in the old town hall meetings when John Salazar returns to his district for the August recess. Traditionally a time for elected federal officials to touch base with constituents, public meetings this year will be dominated by health care reform. Like The Daily Sentinel as stated in their “Blue Dog Salazar quiet on health care reform” editorial, many voters would like these meetings to “give representatives a chance to learn what their constituents have been reading about the measure and allow for a give-and-take about political, medical and moral choices within the system we have now and any kind of reform that might take place.”
  • Loretta Sanchez (CA-47)
  • Adam Schiff (CA-29-Pasadena) During much of the time when Schiff and others spoke, there was yelling from crowd, with individuals calling Schiff a liar and demanding he be recalled. Supporters, meanwhile, repeatedly yelled at the opposition to quiet down. The panel Schiff assembled included a representative from Kaiser Permanente, a consumer advocate, and representatives from smaller health-care groups. All professed some level of support for a public health care option.
  • David Scott (GA-13)
  • Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip: addressed 24 questions in a call-in on Thursday night, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. He also answered two written questions at the Henderson County Democratic Party’s picnic on Saturday, the Times-News in Hendersonville noted.
  • Zack Space (OH-18)
  • John Tanner (TN-8) Overall, the typical Blue Dog has received $63,000 more in campaign than other House Democrats over the past two decades, according to the CRP analysis. The top three recipients were Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), with $1.5 million, and Tennessee Reps. Bart Gordon and John Tanner, both of whom collected over $1.2 million from the industry and its employees, according to the data.
  • Gene Taylor (MS-4)
  • Mike Thompson (CA-1)
  • Charlie Wilson (OH-6)
Fight the Good Fight!! (If you like what your Senators and Reps are doing, contact them too to tell them to to keep up the good work.)

Wanna see a Town Hall for yourself? Here's the updated list of upcoming events -- pull out that oak tag and staple gun that puppy to a stake, then head out and shake it in front of a CNN camera please...

And TOMORROW, Thursday, at 2:30 EDT (11:30 PDT) Obama will be hosting an online forum on the Health Care Reform proposal. Details are here as to how to watch online, or you can Twitter questions to @BarackObama (tag with #hc09).

Special bonus for you Palin watchers out there. Ahh, the good old days of the campaign....
Unpossible. SFX: Head exploding, barely audible sound of brain fragments sliding down wall behind me. [via hipsterrunoff]

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sarah Palin Resigns

YouTube - Sarah Palin Resigns
How could I have forgotten to post this -- now a classic example of Palinista nonsense... What next? Reality show? Indictment? stay tuned....

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran protests go on--Iranian gov't divided

Meanwhile prominent figures, many who were part of the Iranian Revolution, issued conflicting statements, a sign that Iran's leadership was far from unified.

The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said Sunday an investigation into claims of fraud in the election will be announced by week's end.

But speaking to foreign diplomats in Tehran, he called the possibility of irregularities almost nonexistent.

"The possibility of organized and comprehensive disruption and irregularities in this election is almost close to zero given the composition of the people who are holding the election," Mottaki said.

On the other hand, Iran's influential parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani implicated the same people -- the Guardian Council -- of siding with one candidate.

"Although the Guardian Council is made up of religious individuals, I wish certain members would not side with a certain presidential candidate," Larijani told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) on Saturday, without naming whom he meant.


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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Roger Cohen reports from Tehran

I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her."

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ayatollah Khamenei to lead Friday prayers

Ayatollah Khamenei Grits.

According to the Iranian state-funded PressTV: "Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei will lead this week's Friday prayers in Tehran University."

Uh-huh, is that such a good idea after you know, the raids on students dorms at Tehran U. and all?

Real question -- have they made the switch to digital?

Read more at Ayatollah Khamenei to lead Friday prayers:

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Shadowy Iranian Vigilantes Vow Bolder Action

Oh I'm not liking this at all...

The daytime protests across the Islamic republic have been largely peaceful. But Iranians shudder at the violence unleashed in their cities at night, with the shadowy vigilantes known as Basijis beating, looting and sometimes gunning down protesters they tracked during the day.

The vigilantes plan to take their fight into the daylight on Friday, with the public relations department of Ansar Hezbollah, the most public face of the Basij, announcing that they planned a public demonstration to expose the “seditious conspiracy” being carried out by “agitating hooligans.”

“We invite the vigilant people who are always in the arena to make their loud objections heard in response to the babbling of this tribe,” said the announcement, carried on the Web site Parsine.

The announcement could be the first indication that the government was taking its gloves off, Iranian analysts noted, because up to this point the Basijis, usually deployed as the shock troops to end any public protests, have been working in stealth.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Will they remove Khamenei?

Appearing on CNN last night, Iran expert Reza Aslan reported this:

There are very interesting things that are taking place right now. Some of my sources in Iran have told me that Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who is the head of the Assembly of Experts -- the eighty-six member clerical body that decides who will be the next Supreme Leader, and is, by the way, the only group that is empowered to remove the Supreme Leader from power -- that they have issued an emergency meeting in Qom.

Now, Anderson, I have to tell you, there's only one reason for the Assembly of Experts to meet at this point, and that is to actually talk about what to do about Khamenei. So, this is what I'm saying, is that we're talking about the very legitimacy, the very foundation of the Islamic Republic is up in the air right now. It's hard to say what this is going to go.

Read more at Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising:

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Keller of 'NYT' in Iran: 'The Iranians Watch Us Closely'

Executive Editor Bill Keller of The New York Times, who has been in Iran for the past week -- and done some unexpected reporting -- tells E&P in two e-mails today that he originally went there to see his reporters in action, but then "plunged in" when the post-election story grew so big.

Keller responded to a request for information on his trip.

"Too busy to do justice to the subject," he wrote to E&P.

"Briefly, I came to watch our reporters in action and to get a (first) taste of a big subject. I try to get out in the field as often as I can, because nothing else gives you as good a sense of the complexities and texture of a story.

"I usually don't write on these trips, but this story got so big, and the correspondents were so welcoming of an extra pair of hands, that I plunged in. It reminds me why I got into this business. (Also, no one here wants to talk about the future of the newspaper business.)"

Read more at Keller of 'NYT' in Iran: 'The Iranians Watch Us Closely'

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Social Networks Spread Iranian Defiance Online

As the embattled government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be trying to limit Internet access and communications in Iran, new kinds of social media are challenging those traditional levers of state media control and allowing Iranians to find novel ways around the restrictions.

Iranians are blogging, posting to Facebook and, most visibly, coordinating their protests on Twitter, the messaging service. Their activity has increased, not decreased, since the presidential election on Friday and ensuing attempts by the government to restrict or censor their online communications.

On Twitter, reports and links to photos from a peaceful mass march through Tehran on Monday, along with accounts of street fighting and casualties around the country, have become the most popular topic on the service worldwide, according to Twitter’s published statistics.

Read more at the

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Iranians Outwit Net Censors

The Iranian government, more than almost any other, censors what citizens can read online, using elaborate technology to block millions of Web sites offering news, commentary, videos, music and, until recently, Facebook and YouTube. Search for “women” in Persian and you’re told, “Dear Subscriber, access to this site is not possible.”

Last July, on popular sites that offer free downloads of various software, an escape hatch appeared. The computer program allowed Iranian Internet users to evade government censorship.

College students discovered the key first, then spread it through e-mail messages and file-sharing. By late autumn more than 400,000 Iranians were surfing the uncensored Web.

The software was created not by Iranians, but by Chinese computer experts volunteering for the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has beem suppressed by the Chinese government since 1999. They maintain a series of computers in data centers around the world to route Web users’ requests around censors’ firewalls.

Read more at the

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Speech to the Muslim World

As usual, the NY Times has an interactive transcript with video.

The White House is making translations of the speech available in 13 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Dari, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Malay, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish and Urdu.

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu weighs in with a statement:

"The government of Israel expresses hope that President Obama's important speech will lead to a new period of reconciliation between the Arab and Muslim world, and Israel. We share Obama's hope that the American effort will bring about an end to the conflict and to pan-Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

"Israel is obligated to peace and will do as much as possible to help expand the circle of peace, while taking into consideration our national interests, the foremost of which is security."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Court upholds Prop. 8 but lets marriages stand

Court upholds Prop. 8 but lets marriages stand: "California voters legally outlawed same-sex marriage when they approved Proposition 8 in November, but the constitutional amendment did not dissolve the unions of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before the measure took effect, the state Supreme Court ruled today."



BASEBALL: Woman in the News; Strike-Zone Arbitrator -- Sonia Sotomayor - The New York Times

Back in 1992, Sotomayor arbitrated in the baseball strike--from the NY Times article at the time:

In her two and a half years on the bench, United States District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor has earned a reputation as a sharp, outspoken and fearless jurist, someone who does not let powerful interests bully, rush or cow her into a decision.

She lived up to that billing yesterday morning, when the fate of major league baseball was thrust upon her. After a two-hour hearing in which she grilled both sides on the fine points of labor law, she took only 15 minutes to issue an injunction that could break the deadlock in the baseball strike.

Ruling from the bench, Sotomayor chided baseball owners, saying they had no right to unilaterally eliminate the 20-year-old system of free agents and salary arbitration while bargaining continues. With those provisions reinstated, striking players have promised to play ball this season under the terms of the previous contract while the two sides try to hammer out a new deal.

"This strike has placed the entire concept of collective bargaining on trial," the judge said.

Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx housing project, just three miles from Yankee Stadium, in a neighborhood where baseball was revered. Although her friends say she is not an aficionado of the game, she has been known to slip off to the ball park once in a while to catch an afternoon game.

"I hope that none of you assumed on Monday that my lack of knowledge of any of the intimate details of your dispute meant that I was not a baseball fan," the judge said yesterday as the hearing began. "You can't grow up in the South Bronx without knowing about baseball."

Sotomayor, 40, is the youngest judge in the Southern District of New York. She was the first American of Puerto Rican descent to be appointed to the Federal bench in a city where generations of Puerto Ricans have lived, died and, yes, played baseball.

"She's tough and tenacious as well as smart," said Justice Jose A. Cabranes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a mentor and former professor of Sotomayor's at Yale Law School. "She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media."


Since then, Sotomayor has demonstrated a willingness to take the Government to task whenever she believes the circumstances warrant it. She has taken strong anti-Government positions in several decisions, including cases involving the White House, the religious rights of prisoners, and even the Hell's Angels. During her first year, she received high ratings from liberal public-interest groups.

In January, she ordered the Government to make public a photocopy of a torn-up note found in the briefcase of the former White House Counsel, Vincent Foster, who committed suicide. She said the public's interest outweighed the privacy of the Foster family.

Last September, she allowed the Hell's Angels motorcycle club to keep a Manhattan building it owned and called the Government's evidence of drug dealing there "rather scanty indeed."

In May 1994, she ordered New York State prison officials to allow inmates to wear beads of the Santeria religion under their belts. And in December 1993, she struck down as unconstitutional a White Plains law that prohibited the displaying of a menorah in a city park.

Read more at The New York Times.

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Obama Picks Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court

President Obama announced on Tuesday that he will nominate the federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, choosing a daughter of Puerto Rican parents raised in Bronx public housing projects to become the nation’s first Hispanic justice.

Judge Sotomayor, 54, who has served for more than a decade on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in New York City, would become the nation’s 111th justice, replacing David H. Souter, who is retiring after 19 years on the bench. Although Justice Souter was appointed by the first President George Bush, he became a mainstay of the liberal faction on the court, and so his replacement by Judge Sotomayor likely would not shift the overall balance of power.

But her appointment would add a second woman to the nine-member court and give Hispanics their first seat. Her life story, mirroring in some ways Mr. Obama’s own, would add a different complexion to the panel, fulfilling the president’s stated desire to add diversity of background to the nation’s highest tribunal.


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