Sunday, 02 September 2007

HEALTH CARE: A DOSE OF REALITY

Ken Berwitz

Ever hear of SCHIP? 

SCHIP is an acronym for State Children's Health Insurance Program.  It was created a decade ago with, I would assume, the best of intentions.  Now it is being used as a political end-around to foist universal health care on us. 

Here is today's editorial from the New York Post which tells the story.  Please pay particular attention to the paragraphs I have put in bold print, which tells the real story:.

SINK THIS SCHIP

September 2, 2007 -- To the indignation of health-cartel bureaucrats everywhere - and to an ever-compliant national media - President Bush is heartlessly denying health care coverage to millions of American kids.

Nonsense on stilts.

The Bush administration is trying to put the brakes on a health-cartel gravy train that states are increasingly exploiting to achieve their own agendas.

At issue is the scope of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Passed into law 10 years ago and funded through Medicaid, SCHIP was designed to subsidize states covering poor children - but not to encourage families that already had private insurance to drop it in favor of the government benefit.

One big issue is the definition of "poor."

The poverty level for a family of four is set by the federal government at $20,650 in annual income.

Under SCHIP, the feds granted states permission to cover children with family incomes exceeding twice the poverty level - $41,300 for a family of four.

But, as is often the case with entitlements, several states want to expand eligibility. California wants to give coverage to families that make 300 percent of poverty level. Pennsylvania is raising its ceiling to 300 percent. New Jersey's limit has been 350 percent for five years.

Here in New York, always-generous Albany has already passed a bill raising the eligibility limit for the state program subsidized by SCHIP, Child Health Plus, to 400 percent - $82,600 for a family of four - and is seeking federal approval for the increase.

This "gift," of course, is brought to you by the same Legislature and entrenched interests that have produced a New York Medicaid program that spends almost as as the next two states, California and Texas, combined.

The feds decided enough was enough.

Under new standards set by the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, states must now enroll "at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level" before they can expand SCHIP eligibility.

In other words, guarantee that the vast majority of truly poor children are covered before offering subsidies to the less-needy.

This change has gotten critics howling that the "cruel" Bush Republicans want to see children become ill.

Not surprisingly, the Spitzer administration - after encouraging the above-mentioned increase - has announced its intent to fight the new rules and is drafting a written response with other states listing their objections.

The Bush administration needs to hang tough.

The fact is that the state initiatives are barely disguised plans to inch toward universal government-run health coverage - "universal health care," as the advocates have it - via the back door.

A law designed for low-income families is now being nudged up to cover the middle-class bracket.

In the fantasies of the "universal coverage" crowd, their policies would mean the best health care for everyone at little or no cost.

In fact, something would have to give - either coverage or quality. Government-paid health care always leads to rationing - e.g., the long lines for high-end care seen in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The administration is right to put the brakes on this train before it goes completely off the tracks. .

In other words, the big, bad Bush administration is insisting that the truly needy get theirs before the states get their shot at turning this into a major step towards socialized health care.

For that, Bush & Co. is being skewered.  Not by me, I assure you, but by the people whose goal is more a system of socialized health care than providing for poor children. 

What these people want is the kind of system that causes Canadians, with the means to do so, to stream into the USA for health care because THEIR socialized system is a shambles of long waiting lists, inadequate equipment and, ultimately people who suffer because of it.  Is that really what we'd like the USA's health care to be?

This idea is not good for health care, not good for this country and may the Bush administration continue to stop it in its tracks.


GUEST EDITORIAL: INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY ON "CAIR"

Ken Berwitz

The next time you read an article about CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), you might want to keep the following editorial from Investor's Business Daily (www.investorsbusinessdaily.com) in mind.

I am posting it without further comment;  because if you need more than this to understand who and what CAIR is or what its motivations are, I doubt I'd ever be able to get through to you.

Here is the IBD editorial:.

CAIR Revealed

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, August 31, 2007 4:20 PM PT

Trail Of Terror: We've wondered why the Council on American-Islamic Relations director has spurned Senate invitations to answer terror charges. Now we know.


Related Stories: Who Are CAIR's Paymasters? | CAIR's Fuzzy Math


For the first time, evidence in a major federal terror case puts CAIR's current executive director Nihad Awad at a Philadelphia meeting of alleged Hamas leaders that was secretly recorded by the FBI.

After the Associated Press last week reported the bombshell, CAIR denied claims of ties to Hamas. "That's one of those urban legends about CAIR," said Parvez Ahmed, CAIR's chairman. "It's fed by the right-wing, pro-Israeli blogosphere."

In fact, the evidence was revealed by an FBI agent who testified at the terror-financing trial under way in Dallas.

Her name is Lara Burns, and she's the lead investigator in the case against operators of the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in America. CAIR, which she says received startup funding from HLF, is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, according to court exhibits.

President Bush froze HLF's funds after 9/11. It's now accused of being a Hamas front, and its leaders including one of CAIR's founding directors are on trial for allegedly funneling more than $12 million to aid Palestinian suicide-bombing operations.

Burns placed both Awad and his ethnic-Palestinian pal Omar Ahmed, who founded CAIR with Awad, at a Philly meeting last decade where she says Hamas leaders and supporters hatched a plot to disguise funds for Hamas suicide operations as charity for HLF.

According to FBI wiretaps, it was decided at the Hamas summit, which took place inside a Marriott hotel, that most of the funds collected by HLF in the future would be steered to Hamas.

Awad, like Ahmad, does not talk much about his pre-CAIR days.

But before 9/11, when Muslim groups received less scrutiny in America, he made his support for Hamas publicly known. At a March 22, 1994, symposium on the Middle East at Florida's Barry University, Awad said: "After I researched the situation inside and outside Palestine, I am in support of the Hamas movement."

Three months later, he and Ahmad founded CAIR. They promote the group as a grass-roots champion of Muslim civil rights, a "Muslim NAACP." But many of the things CAIR's leaders claim and what we later learn from the factual record don't square.

For instance, they've claimed that they get no foreign support and that their funding comes from local dues. In fact, the bulk of their support comes from two Arab countries tied to 9/11 Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

They've claimed that the size of the Muslim population in America is 7 million. In fact, it's closer to 2 million.

They've claimed that they're mainstream American patriots, when in fact they've told Muslim audiences that they want the Quran to replace the Constitution as the "highest authority in America."

They've also claimed that they don't support terrorism, even as three senior employees have been jailed in terror-related cases.

And now this. CAIR claims to be the voice of American Muslims. If so, it's been an especially loud one. But it has lost its credibility to speak honestly for any legitimate cause..


THE (LATEST) ROBERT MENENDEZ SCANDAL

Ken Berwitz

Robert Menendez was appointed to the US Senate by Jon Corzine, to serve the remaining portion of Corzine's term.  He was then elected by the (chronically gullible, often stupid) voters of New Jersey.

Before you claim I'm insulting all New Jersey voters, let's remember I'm one of them.  I don't think I fit the above description and know that many others don't as well.  Ok?

Anyway, Menendez has had a very, very shady past.  One example is his rental of a dilapidated home he owned in a downtrodden area, for a ton of money above its obvious value --- to a group that he could benefit with his political influence.  Here's the short form of this scandal, from the Center for Media and Democracy (www.prwatch.org):.

  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, N.J. for having an improper financial relationship with the North Hudson County Action Corp., a non-profit organization in Union City, N.J. Menendez leased a house to the group from 1994-2003, collecting over $300,000 in rent. In 1998, he helped the agency win designation as a federally qualified health care center, a label that helped it receive over $9 million in federal health care grants..
  • How bad does THAT stink?  Pretty bad, wouldn't you say?  But this is New Jersey, where Jon (91MPH and no seat belt for me) Corzine would appoint him to finish Corzine's senate term and enough voters are gullible and stupid enough to then elect him to a full term.

    Now another Menendez scandal has surfaced.  This one involves a woman who benefitted from her illicit relationship with him (hmmm, maybe THAT'S why Corzine appointed him.  They could compare life experiences). 

    But I am betting you don't know squat about it.  Why?  Because while a few mainstream media resources (the NY Times, Associates Press) did report it - and the forgot it just as fast - the only news source I can find that is actually pursuing it is the Weehauken Reporter.  (their URL is www.hudsonreporter.com).    Who reads the Weehauken Reporter?  Your guess is as good as mine, I never even heard of it until today. 

    But today is the day that we both read Al Sullivan's article on Menendez below;  as usual, (most of) the bold print is mine:.

    Former Menendez aide possible target of federal probe

    Medical Center records subpoenaed as part of investigation of lobbying efforts
    Al Sullivan
    Reporter senior staff writer

    POWERFUL A former aide to former U.S. Rep (and current Sen.) Robert Menendez may be the subject of a federal investigation.
    Kay LiCausi, who served as chief of staff for then-Rep. Bob Menendez from 1998 to 2002, is apparently the subject of an ongoing federal probe into her lobbying efforts.

    A federal grand jury in Newark recently subpoenaed financial documents from the Jersey City Medical Center regarding LiCausi's lobbying efforts on behalf of the hospital, possibly seeking to determine if she was lobbying while she still worked for Menendez.

    After leaving the employ of Menendez in 2002, LiCausi went on to head a successful lobbying firm that earned an estimated $1.3 million in 2006. She earned $280,000 for her work at the hospital between 2003-2006, according to JCMC spokesman Tom O'Neil.

    The documents

    LiCausi could not be reached for comment last week. But officials at JCMC confirmed that documents had been requested and supplied. O'Neil said the hospital had received two subpoenas for records, and that these would be supplied.

    "We're trying to cooperate to the fullest extent we can with the requests for information," O'Neil said. O'Neil would not comment on the content of the requests.

    Donald Scarinci, a close associate of Menendez who has also at times represented some of the same clients at LiCausi, agreed with published reports that quote Marc E. Elias, an attorney representing Menendez, as saying the matter is likely routine.

    "I heard the rumor about this during [Menendez's] campaign [for U.S. Senate last year]," Scarinci said. "It's probably where it comes from, and the U.S. attorney has an obligation to check things out if people bring allegations to him."

    Michael Drewniak, spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, said his office could not comment on the reports.

    Last investigation didn't pan out

    The LiCausi inquiry may have come as a result of an investigation into Menendez last year when federal officials looked into the fact that Menendez rented office space to the North Hudson Community Action Corporation - a successful non-profit low-income health care agency for which he also helped get government funding. In other words, he could have personally benefited, as their landlord, by getting government funds for them. Although the situation became fodder in a heated campaign against him by Republican Tom Kean Jr., federal authorities eventually determined that Menendez had not violated any laws.

    The resolution of the investigation came long after the campaign for U.S. Senate was over. The Menendez campaign still claims that the investigation was politically motivated to aid the effort of Kean to win the Senate seat.

    Although Menendez has declined to comment on reports claiming he and LiCausi had a romantic liaison, he has acknowledged several times that he had helped LiCausi build up her base of clients after leaving his employ.

    Brad Lawrence, an attorney with Message & Media, a public relations firm representing Menendez, disputed published accounts that said that Menendez "steered" LiCausi to clients. Lawrence said last week that he has asked for retractions from the Record of Hackensack, The New York Times, and the Associated Press.

    Lawrence said the word "steering" implies a less than savory transaction.

    "Menendez has never steered any lobbying contracts to her in any way," Lawrence said Wednesday. "There are three contracts after she left his staff that he has openly reported and admitted to helping her get, which are political contracts with his re-election campaign, the PAC that he has, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Those he in fact assisted her on, none of the others. The private sector ones he did not ever steer, push, whatever phrase you want to use, into lobbying contracts."

    He added, "The fact is that, when asked, Senator Menendez gave Ms. LiCausi a positive recommendation - as he has for numerous other former staff people. I believe that recommending someone is fundamentally different from 'steering contracts.' In two of the political/fundraising - not lobbying - contracts Senator Menendez had control over, he simply retained Ms. LiCausi to work for him. In the case of the DCCC, Menendez, as Democratic Caucus Chair, certainly was someone whose recommendation would be heeded, but again, Ms. LiCausi was primarily doing political consulting and fundraising - not lobbying - work directly for Mr. Menendez."

    High-profile lobbying

    LiCausi has represented several high-profile clients including Mills Corporation - which is currently constructing Xanadu Mall in East Rutherford; various clients at the former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne (including the designated developer Fidelco, Royal Caribbean cruise line, and other tenants), and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    While O'Neil could not discuss the case, published reports claim that the investigation is seeking to determine if Menendez helped LiCausi get the contract with JCMC, which was receiving federal funds.

    LiCausi also represented Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines at a time when Menendez was securing federal funds to help reconstruct some of bulkhead for Port Liberty in Bayonne. While Royal Caribbean officials say they received no subpoenas, the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the reconstruction of the Military Ocean Terminal area was uncertain as to whether or not it had received any.

    "I don't know," said Jay Coffey, who serves as the Law Director for the City of Bayonne and Counsel for the BLRA.

    Due largely to Menendez' efforts, the BLRA received almost $10 million for the project.

    Former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann, who commented in several articles in The New York Times, said LiCausi was also instrumental in brokering part of the deal for Roseland Properties/Fidelco, helping broker the deal for the developer for part of the terminal area, who is also represented by Scarinci's law firm

    One of the principals of Roseland Properties is developer Carl Goldberg, who also sits as the executive director of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which also oversees Mills Corp's massive ongoing Xanadu mall and entertainment project. In this regard, LiCausi appears to have lobbied on behalf of Goldberg in Bayonne, while at the same time having lobbied him on the behalf of Mills Corp. in East Rutherford.

    Sources say the subpoenas may have been prompted by testimony from former JCMC President and CEO Jonathan Metsch, who had hired LiCausi at the time.

    .

    So let's see:  Menendez "didn't violate any laws" by renting a seedy building in a seedy area for what some reports said was 5 TIMES ITS RENTAL VALUE) to a government organization he could benefit. 

    Then Menendez steered major contracts to a woman who worked under him - maybe in more ways than one - which involved entities he could do something for as a Senator.

    And mainstream media's reaction?  A shrug, another feature on Larry Craig and the 6,184th memorial to Princess Diana.


    TOM TANCREDO, ON THE NEW ORLEANS GRAVY TRAIN

    Ken Berwitz

    Tom Tancredo is a Republican congressman from Colorado who is running for the party's presidential nomination. 

    From all appearances, Mr. Tancredo doesn't have a prayer of winning either the nomination (he's way behind) or, even if he did, the presidency (it has been well over a century since a man went  straight from the congressional house to the White House).

    That said, however, Tancredo has a lot to recommend him.  For one, he is a tough-as-nails hardliner against illegal immigration rights (the term "illegal immigration rights" itself sounds idiotic, doesn't it?).  For another, he is perfectly willing to talk plainly and honestly about fraud -- like, for example, the New Orleans "aid" that is being poured down a sewer. 

    Read this piece from www.thehill.com  and see for yourself:.

    Tancredo slams Katrina spending
    August 31, 2007
    GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) said Friday it is time the taxpayer gravy train left the New Orleans station and urged an end to the federal aid to the region that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

    The amount of money that has been wasted on these so-called recovery efforts has been mind-boggling, said Tancredo, who is running a long-shot presidential campaign. Enough is enough.

    Citing administration figures, the lawmaker said that $114 billion has been spent on the effort to rebuild a large stretch of the Gulf Coast after the storm hit New Orleans in August 2005 and claimed more than 1,600 lives.

    At some point, state and local officials and individuals have got to step up to the plate and take some initiative, said Tancredo. The mentality that people can wait around indefinitely for the federal taxpayer to solve all their worldly problems has got to come to an end.

    The lawmaker criticized in particular the amount that has been wasted through fraud and abuse, estimated at $1 billion.

    This whole fiasco has been a perfect storm of corruption and incompetence at all levels, he added.

    .

    When Katrina hit:

    -The first responder, the city of New Orleans, did nothing -- with it's "illustrious" mayor Ray Nagin holing up in a luxury hotel. 

    -The second responder, the state of Louisiana, did nothing -- with its "illustrious" governor, Kathleen Blanco, crying on TV and telling people to pray. 

    -The third responder, FEMA, managed to evacuate and relocate virtually an entire city in less than two weeks with no meaningful help from anyone in the city or state. 

    So who did media blame for this fiasco?  FEMA of course.  And, also of course, that led to a direct hit on President Bush. 

    Bush's public words of encouragement to the FEMA director, Michael Brown  "You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie" were and continue to be ridiculed.  Nagin and Blanco?  Free ride, baby:  Not a chance media would blame the real culprits.  Never, ever would they waste this rich an opportunity to put President Bush in their crosshairs.

    Sick partisan idiocy like this was what pressured Bush to open the fiscal floodgates and give New Orleans - a city legendary for fraud and corruption - the keys to the mint.

    And has New Orleans ever been using those keys!  At least that's what Mike Tanrcredo is telling us. 

    Would you believe Nagin, Blanco or Tancredo when it comes to an honest assessment of how the city of New Orleans has been behaving?  That's like asking whether you'd believe Joe Isuzu, The Music Man or Abe Lincoln.

    Tancredo is, of course, correct.  Close the door to the mint.  Enough is enough.  Finally, at long last, let the CITY and the STATE start taking the responsibility for the demise of New Orleans.  Let them explain why those levees were not upgraded when money was handed to them years before, to be used for that purpose.  Let them tell us WHERE THE MONEY WENT (yeah, right). 

    And maybe, just maybe, let's see media blame the people who are actually responsible for this.  They can crap on President Bush the other 9,999 ways they usually do, but this one time try a little honesty.


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