Archive for the ‘Health Care Policy’ Category

Radio: ‘Granny Snatching’ and NJ ‘Corruption’

October 28, 2010

Melissa Hayes

As the first guest Oct. 28 on my radio show Washington Update, New Jersey journalist Melissa Hayes described the acquittal of a local mayor in a nationally important corruption case that’s part of the reform credentials of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Then Ron Winter, an award-winning journalist and military commentator, provided lessons from his dramatic new consumer book, Granny Snatching, about his fight against relatives to help his 92-year-old widowed mother live at home in dignity. Winter seeks national legislation to prevent similar abuses.

Hear the show nationwide with my co-host Scott Draughon via Live! on the My Technology Lawyer Radio Network by archive.

As background, I recently published, “Politicians, Press Cheat Taxpayers By Ignoring DOJ’s Wasteful Witch-Hunts” about the 46-defendant “Bid Rig III” corruption investigation in New Jersey. The indictments last year helped propel the Republican former New Jersey U.S. attorney Christie to the state’s governorship.

A New Jersey jury acquitted Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, 43, Oct. 28 of bribery charges involving $10,000 in contributions to a legal defense fund. Hayes covered the trial, and wrote two stories published today: The verdict and defense strategy, “Ridgefield mayor’s victorious defense worked to discredit FBI informant.”

At trial, the defendants attacked the main prosecution witness Solomon Dwek, a brothel owner who also committed a $50 million bank fraud. Dwek obtained leniency from prosecutors because he was willing to use taxpayer funds supplied by authorities to entice mostly Democratic candidates or office-holders into suspicious conversations about what they might do if given campaign “contributions.”

Dwek, now free on bond while he testifies against defendants, has long been earning between $10,000 and $12,000 a month taken from the assets of his fraud victims because bankruptcy authorities say they need him to sort through the paperwork. The office of current New Jersey U.S. attorney Paul Fishman, a Democrat, declined to send a speaker to the show.

Winter, the show’s second guest and my longtime friend from our early days in investigative reporting, described his latest book, Granny Snatching, and its importance for families as our population ages. The book’s introduction says:

What began as an act of kindness just before Christmas, 2008 when author Ron Winter and his family offered to share their home with his aging mother, ended in a rescue mission and a year-long legal battle against out-of-state relatives who were trying to commit her to an Alzheimer’s home and strip her of her assets.

The struggle was especially significant since Ella Winter does not have Alzheimer’s. Winter’s new book, is the gripping account of one family’s battle to confront a growing national phenomenon – Granny Snatching – wherein family members attempt to institutionalize elder relatives and gain control of their assets.

Ron Winter


Granny Snatching exemplifies the need for national legislation that will guarantee uniform rights for elderly citizens regardless of which state they live in or where they may be housed,” says Winter, who regularly writes and speaks on the military and politics.

He previously authored Masters of the Art: A Fighting Marine’s Memoir of Vietnam. “Advocates for the elderly have been pushing for such legislation for several years,” Winter continues. “Reported instances of elder abuse, under which granny snatching is classified, are climbing steadily toward the one-million mark annually in the US alone. This time, the victim was spared.”

About Melissa Hayes and The Jersey Journal
Melissa Hayes joined the Jersey Journal as a staff writer in October 2009 after three years at the Burlington County Times, also in New Jersey. She covers Jersey City and Hudson County, including municipal government and happenings, as well as Hudson County politics. Details.

About Ron Winter
Ronald Winter is an author, public relations executive, college professor and award-winning journalist. He regularly writes and speaks on the military and politics. Winter gave up an academic scholarship at the State University of New York at Albany in 1966 to join the Marines and fight in Vietnam as a helicopter crewman and machine gunner. He flew 300 combat missions and was awarded 15 Air Medals, Combat Aircrew Wings, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Details on books.

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Alabama’s Democratic Senate Nominee Barnes Questions Rival’s Health As Issue

October 17, 2010

Bill Barnes

Bill Barnes, the Democratic nominee for an Alabama U.S. Senate seat in the Nov. 2 election, raised a number of sensitive issues on my radio interview Oct. 14.

Among them, he questioned his opponent’s commitment to fighting for BP Gulf disaster victims and to serving out his term.

In an exclusive interview on Washington Update radio, Barnes said his Republican opponent Richard Shelby, 76, portrayed below in his longtime official photo, has shown scant interest in the plight of Alabama’s victims of the oil tragedy.

Sen. Richard Shelby

In response to a listener call, Barnes also voiced for the first time in his campaign suspicions among high-level Alabama Democrats that Shelby’s health might encourage him to resign shortly after the election to enable Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to shift to the Senate before his gubernatorial term expires in January.

“It’s a strong possibility that Mr. Shelby, Sen. Shelby, is suffering from some health issues,” Barnes said in his interview, noting that Shelby has made few campaign appearances. “Gov. Riley has been in the media quite regularly, drawing a lot of attention to himself, it appears. And I often wonder in my own mind, what’s the angle? Is he [Sen. Shelby] my true opponent?”

Gov. Bob Riley


Access the show nationwide on the My Technology Lawyer Radio Network archive. The weekly public affairs show’s founder Scott Draughon and I interviewed Barnes at 17 minutes past the hour.

See our attached news release for a more thorough description of quotations from the Barnes interview. The other guest was Jim Baldauf, president and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & GAS – USA, a non-profit, non-partisan research and public education initiative.

Trumka Warms Lawmakers On Economic Agenda

January 13, 2010

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Washington, DC –The AFL-CIO ‘s new President Richard Trumka urged government officials Jan. 11 to put far greater priority in coming weeks on improving the nation’s economy in such areas as jobs, worker rights and health care.

“This is a moment that cries out for political courage ─ but it is not much in evidence,” he said at a National Press Club luncheon that I covered for the club’s publications, with details at www.press.org.

Trumka led the United Mine Workers of America from 1982 to 1995 before becoming AFL-CIO’s secretary treasurer in 1995.  He succeeded longtime AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in September as the top executive of the country’s largest labor organization. 

Trumka summarized his travels since Jan. 1 to talk to “working Americans” about their concerns.

“Everywhere I went,” Trumka said, “people asked me, ‘Why do so many of the people we elect seem to care only about Wall Street?  Why is helping banks a matter of urgency, but unemployment is something we just have to live with?’”

“I came away shaken by the sense that the very things that make America great are in danger,” he continued.  “What makes us unique among nations is this:  In America, working people are the middle class.…But a generation of destructive, greed-driven economic policies has eroded that progress and now threatens our very identity as a nation.”

The union has announced a five-point program to create more than 4 million jobs with what he called “a crucial alliance of the middle class and the poor” to achieve legislative victories. 

But he singled out health care as an issue that “drives a wedge between the middle class and the poor” by Senate proposals to pay for expanded insurance by taxing employee health care plans.  “Most of the 31 million insured employees who would be hit by the excise tax are not union members,” he said. 

“The tax on benefits in the Senate bill pits working Americans who need health care for their families against working Americans struggling to keep health care for their families,” he said.  “This is a policy designed to benefit elites – in this case, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and irresponsible employers– at the expense of the broader public.”

In a veiled threat that he didn’t amplify, he said the labor movement is fighting “to win health care reform that is worthy of the support of working men and women.”

Aiming part of his remarks at Democratic lawmakers, Trumka warned against a repeat in 2010 of the disappointment his members felt in 1994 against Democratic incumbents when their party was routed at the polls.

“Politicians who think that working people have it too good – too much health care, too much Social Security and Medicare, too much power on the job – are inviting a repeat of 1994,” he said.

During Q&A, he declined to discuss specifics about his meeting with President Obama later in the afternoon except to say, “We’ll be talking about health care.”  He did say that the discussion would be “among friends.” 

In response to a related question, Trumka said, “We’re not going to accept a bad bill.” Obama and other Democratic leaders hope to eke out a slender victory on their health care insurance legislation in the face of almost united Republican opposition and increasing criticism from Democrats, including progressives and union members.

Trumka’s prepared speech was nearly seven-pages long single-spaced. Club President Donna Leinwand asked him to cut it short at about 1:35 p.m. to stay on the Club’s usual timetable enabling audience questions and a luncheon end by 2 p.m.

Trumka declined, saying, “Working people have been waiting 30 years for this.” 

The last sentences of his prepared speech were a warning to political leaders to choose between working for the general public or “the profits of insurance companies, speculators and outsourcers.”

“There is no middle ground,” Trumka concluded.  “Working America is waiting for an answer.  We are in a ‘show me’ kind of mood, and time is running out.”

Nov. 19: DC Radio Hosts Health Care Rights Advocate, Russia Intrigue Analyst

November 19, 2009

Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy (1971-1990)

The congressional debate on health care reform and allegations of Russian regime-ordered killings were featured on today’s DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio.  

This week’s show hosted two courageous participants in events that helped shape our world.  The show is available via the link at www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/update, which includes an archive of past shows.  Today’s guests were:

  • The Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, former Washington, DC Congressman (1971-1990), an advocate of expanded health care as a basic civil right, and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama.
  • Steve LeVine, the Business Week Washington correspondent who drew on his 11 years work in the former Soviet Union to author the recently published Putin’s Labyrinth: Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia.

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig.  The hosts began the show with an update on Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.  Topics included new developments in the health care battle, and the faith-based business success of the Chic-fil-A restaurant chain.

The show’s first guest helped lead a unique town hall-style hearing on Oct. 27 whereby patients whose insurance had expired testified about their limited options under the nation’s health care system.  In view of a Harvard study estimating 45,000 Americans dying each year because of lack of coverage, Fauntroy argued that basic health care should be considered as civil right under reform legislation. 

The Oct. 27 hearing, including a video of Fauntroy’s eloquent remarks surveying the rise and fall of great nations, was summarized on Nov. 5 by Kreig in a Huffington Post article: “Fans Of House Health Option Cite Rights Hopes, But Risk Big Defeat.”

LeVine’s book Putin’s Labyrinth focuses upon the life-and-death struggles by Russian dissenters to the government dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  LeVine described how six suspicious deaths in recent years of dissenters and others illustrate an alarming long-term pattern in Russian government.

Those patterns arguably continue with this week’s suspicious death in a Russian prison of Sergei Magnitsky, 37.   The prisoner was a Russian lawyer for the Hermitage Fund who had uncovered evidence of official involvement in the theft of $230 million from the government.  

LeVine’s book was originally published last year, and has been re-released in paperback with a new Afterword.

 About the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy

Walter Edward Fauntroy, 76, is the retired pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and a civil rights activist.  He is also a former member of the U.S. Congress.  He describes his life work as to advocate public policy that “declares Good News to the poor, that binds up the broken-hearted and sets at liberty them that are bound.”   A close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fauntroy helped organize the Alabama civil rights marches whose brutal disruption by police in March 1965 shocked the public and federal authorities into introducing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  That law enabled widespread black voting in the Deep South for the first time since Reconstruction. 

About Steve LeVine and Putin’s Labyrinth

Steve LeVine covers foreign affairs for Business Week.  Previously, he was a correspondent for Central Asia and the Caucasus for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times for 11 years.  His first book, The Oil and the Glory, a history of the former Soviet Union through the lens of oil, was published in October 2007. Putin’s Labyrinth, his new book, profiles Russia through the lives and deaths of six Russians. Details: www.oilandglory.com.

Fans of House Health Public Option Cite Rights, Hopes, But Risk Big Defeat

November 5, 2009
John Conyers, Jr. images

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr.

Defying Washington’s conventional wisdom on health care reform, two senior Democratic House members are preparing a grassroots campaign to sustain a vigorous public option following a vote scheduled Saturday.

To keep Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposed H.R. 3962 as strong as possible during conference negotiations with the Senate, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas are building on momentum from the unique town hall-style hearing they hosted Oct. 27.

The hearing generated videos of patients facing death because they could no longer afford their insurance or co-pays. It featured also physicians urging a public option, and a 1960s civil rights icon urging that basic health care should be a fundamental human right, as in most of the industrialized world.

But a public option faces a potentially fatal counter-attack during the weeks ahead because of lack of follow-up by its proponents despite favorable poll numbers, inspirational rhetoric and countless horror stories.

Not Enough Political Muscle for Option?
“We’re not seeing enough political muscle to sustain a strong public option right now, and we might not get anything at all,” a senior Hill health policy aide told me Nov. 4.

“Where are the buses of supporters?” he asked. “Sometimes we don’t get a single visitor on this for days, and barely a phone call. Where are the national strategy meetings like the civil rights groups had in the Sixties? The major public option advocates are too afraid of antagonizing the White House. This is what I call ‘Russian Roulette lobbying,’ with people thinking: ‘Maybe things will be OK.’ With that attitude, I don’t think so ─ not when you’re up against Republicans and insurance companies.”

The oft-controversial Jackson Lee, for one, is speaking out. “We are now losing 45,000 people every year,” she says, citing estimates that annual fatalities from lack of health coverage almost match the total for the Vietnam War, the nation’s longest. “This is a life-and- death crisis.”

Conyers and Jackson Lee each described their Oct. 27 hearing for ordinary patients and physicians as a pivotal moment in the fight for a public option, with numerous speakers suggesting also a theme that health care is akin to a civil right.

But even without the civil rights analogy, the current health care debate is developing an increasingly nasty racial subtext, as indicated by a Nov. 4 HuffPo article on a new business group ad implying that health reform will cost whites their jobs.

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid included a weak public option in pending House and Senate bills, even though a solid front of congressional Republicans, private insurers and most mainstream media have long disparaged the concept that insurers should have to compete with a government plan to keep insurance costs affordable.

A Congressional Budget Office study last week predicts that few consumers are likely to use the Pelosi bill’s public option because Pelosi’s rules would steer too many older or seriously ill customers into the public plan, thus creating unattractive pricing for others.

Also, Pelosi’s bill removed the proposal passed by the Education & Labor Committee by a bipartisan 27-19 vote that enabled states to create single-payer plans, leaving a model much like the Massachusetts experiment that is now attacked by critics from both parties as potentially unviable.

John Nichols, a columnist at The Nation, slammed the Pelosi bill. But fellow liberal and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman urged Democrats to approve the deal as the best one possible now. Indeed, the Washington Post reported Nov. 4 a counter-attack by so-called moderates to strip the option from the Senate bill.

Public Views on Public Option
On Oct. 27, most of the patient witnesses testified that they had private insurance when their lives began collapsing because of health care costs not fully covered, and ultimately unaffordable.

Conyers described last week’s hearing as like a religious service, when inspiration suddenly strikes. “We’ve had hundreds of hearings,” he said afterwards in an interview, available here. “Today was a transformative moment in the history of our accomplishing our goal,” he said. “You know when something special happens.”

The hearing was almost ignored by major news media with a few exceptions, such as a CNN camera crew (without an on-air reporter), the Pacifica Network’s progressive radio and a Montgomery County cable access host from Maryland.

But web-enabled coverage enables a way around news gatekeepers. My report today provides the first compilation of witness videos by filmmaker Robert Corsini, who flew from Los Angeles to cover the hearing and is expected to publish his own account in Truthout shortly. Corsini and his co-producer Natalie Noel are working on a documentary about post-Katrina recovery efforts in Gulf States.

Noel was a witness also, and obtained the interview whereby Conyers shared his impressions from his career-long fight for better health care. Arguing that every other industrialized country provides care at half or less of total U.S. costs, Conyers sponsors the single-payer H.R. 676 bill, with a public option as a fallback.

As a reader advisory: The stories and video below about hardship, hope and struggle are not for everyone. I showed one clip to a friendly Washington news editor, who responded in essence: “Who cares?” Lots of people have problems, and lots of members of Congress are adept at voicing words of concern, with scant results.

All too true. But a single video of Jackson Lee taking the cellphone call during her Aug. 11 town hall meeting has now racked up more than half a million views on one website alone. Fox, CNN and others demonized her for talking on the phone while an attractive white cancer patient was attacking the congresswoman’s position. You be the judge of whether there might be a subliminal race-based messaging prompting such an enormous reaction.

Critics also slammed her for thanking a town hall audience speaker who claimed to be a “general practitioner” but, upon investigation, confessed merely to working with physicians. Again, do we really think this particular congresswoman is the only one who thanks audience members without verifying their job-status in advance?

As the late conservative Paul Harvey used to say, let’s look at the rest of the story. What did she and Conyers think so important at their hearing last week?

For perspective, the Conyers career in Congress began with election in 1964, and before then as a staffer for his Michigan delegation colleague John Dingell. Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in U.S. history, like his father in the seat before him, has been an unsuccessful advocate of universal coverage in an unbroken streak extending back eight decades. Like Conyers, Dingell is willing to compromise now by supporting the more modest initiative of a public option.

Health Care as a Civil Right?
As for my own involvement, I occasionally attend Conyers-led health care briefings that are open for congressional staff, the public and media, and I recently saw an opportunity for new material not previously reported: The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a 1960s civil rights pioneer and former congressman, joined with the two current members to propose a public education campaign on better health care.

Fauntroy brings a rare perspective to an effort drawing on civil rights experience. As an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fauntroy was the principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and also the 1965 Alabama civil rights marchers whose brutal treatment by police soon prompted introduction and passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

At the hearing last week, others confirmed the day’s import. One of the first witnesses was cancer survivor Harriet M. Fulbright, widow of the Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, whose televised Vietnam War hearings helped change national opinion about the war four decades ago. “I can think of no subject more important,” she testified, “than health care for every citizen of this country.”

Jackson Lee and Conyers listened for three hours, occasionally joined by other Democrats. A video of her comments is here as she urged an all-out battle in the days ahead on behalf of those sick and dying. “And those lost souls are telling us: That in their name, we must have an insurance coverage system.”

One panel focused on physician opinions. Dr. Sanjeev Sriram, director of outreach for the 20,000-member National Physicians Alliance, quoted King as follows: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” The witness added, “Sadly, this nightmare is still going on today.”

The filmmaker Noel was a witness also. As Fauntroy beamed down from the dais, she thanked him for his civil rights service in her native Alabama. She went on to describe (with video here and her News from Indian Country column here) how she and Corsini began their documentary Reinventing Paradise about post-Katrina recovery problems in Gulf states two years ago.

She recounted how she later discovered that she had a Stage Three cancer, which exhausted her ability to pay for treatments or even to continue to pay her insurer, Alabama’s dominant carrier. With no options for life-saving care in Alabama and unable to work, she moved to Pennsylvania, where the state is providing twice-weekly treatments toward her full recovery.

Noel concluded her testimony by asking those present to consider: “What would happen if you were suddenly struck by your own personal Katrina?”

Her panel ended with a powerful clip from her forthcoming film showing two Louisiana criminal justice professionals describing their continuing helplessness last month to provide crucial mental health care. Each begged for a national dialogue on whether a fundamental American right should exist for such care.

Rise and Fall of Great Nations
At the hearing’s end, Fauntroy sought to provide an answer, based on his five decades experience seeking to transform civil rights concepts into policy. He’d already done so, of course, by organizing the iconic 1960s marches and by leading anti-apartheid protests in Washington in the 1980s that helped topple the white-run South African regime.

“Great nations rise and fall,” Fauntroy quoted British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli as saying more than a century ago. The retired pastor described his generation’s inspiration from Disraeli’s discourse that nations start in bondage, then move through such stages as “spiritual truth,” liberty, courage and abundance, and then decline into selfishness, complacency, apathy, dependence and then fall back to bondage.

“It remains for us to break this cycle,” Fauntroy told his audience, as visible here. “You can do it! We can do it ─ if we put our hearts and our minds to it. Let’s go do it!”

‘DC Update’ Radio Hosts Economist Bruce Bartlett

October 22, 2009

Author Bruce Bartlett, originator of “Reaganomics,” critiqued harmful economic policies Oct. 22 on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio. The show is archived via the link, which includes past shows.

Bartlett is the author of seven books, including the best-selling Impostor: How George W. Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, and two thousand of articles in national publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, Fortune and many others. His newest book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, was released Oct. 13.

In its review, the New York Times described him as “perhaps the most persistent — and thought-provoking — conservative critic of the party.” Bartlett has worked for Jack Kemp and Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Jude Wanniski, Gary Bauer and Ron Paul. He is a weekly columnist for Forbes.com, and has been a fellow at the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

In terms of policy, he wants the estate tax reduced, and believes that President Obama should not have taken on health reform or climate change this year. A sample of views:

On Career
I’m a syndicated columnist who spent most of his life working in Republican politics. I worked for then-Congressman Jack Kemp in the 1970s and helped draft the famous Kemp-Roth tax bill. In the early 1980s I was executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. In the late 1980s I worked for Ronald Reagan in the White House Office of Policy Development. I was deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy during the George H.W. Bush administration. I have also worked for various conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute. I was fired by the National Center for Policy Analysis for writing this book [Imposter].”

On “Why I Am Anti-Republican”
“I got an e-mail from a prominent Republican asking why I am so anti-Republican these days. Since many of my friends ask the same thing I thought I would share my reply: I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent.” Details.

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig. The hosts begin the show with an update on Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. Commentary includes Draughon’s ongoing research on a Republican grassroots revival, and Kreig’s breakthrough report for Huffington Post on Tuesday’s congressional hearing: “Will An Oct. 27 DC Hearing Make History For Health Rights?”

Update radio listeners can call in questions by phone at (866) 685-7469 or by email: radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com. As listener advisories: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear a Windows Media Player.

About Bruce Bartlett
Bruce Bartlett is an economic historian who has spent the last 30 years working in politics and public policy. He has served in numerous governmental positions, including as a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a treasury official under President George H.W. Bush. He is a weekly columnist for Forbes.com. Details.