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Palin and Bachmann fan health care hysteria

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, now a private citizen, has entered the health care fray with a post on her Facebook page, which can only mean one thing: It’s now officially embarrassing to belong to Facebook, the way it became embarrassing to be on MySpace a few years ago, when it became obvious every other member was there to promote either a mediocre bar band or herbal Cialis.

In a debate already rife with half-truths and outright distortions, Palin decided to up the ante with this perplexingly paranoid statement: “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

“Death panel?” What is she talking about? An article from Salon’s Alex Koppelman breaks down the details: It all stems from an op ed piece in the New York Post by Betsy McCaughey, in which she cherrypicked quotes from Office of Management health-policy adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, including a suggestion that we revisit how health care is rationed during a pandemic. Stripped of context, these quotes sound as though Emanuel is suggesting diverting health care away from the elderly and the disabled; in no way do they reflect any actual policies on the table regarding health care reform.

But how does this turn into a discussion of Obama Death panels, and, as the debate has trickled down to the masses, an idea that Obama’s health care plan is really about euthanizing the elderly and the disabled? Who would promote such nonsense?

Well, in her MySpace editorial, Palin herself credits Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann: “Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives.” City Pages has some further analysis, including a video of Bachmann’s floor speech; Bachmann primarily quotes from McCaughey’s column, but adds, “If you’re a grandmother with Parkinson’s or a child with cerebral palsy, watch out.”

The state education department has released the numbers regarding the progress Minnesota schools have made on yearly progress required by the No Child Left Behind law, and, at first blush, the news doesn’t seem good: As the Associated Press reports, nearly half of our schools did not reach their goal, a 12.5 increase from last year. The Pioneer Press’ Doug Belden and MaryJo Webster dig a little deeper into the data, and find that things are a little more complicated: “Statewide, more than 40 percent of schools failing to make adequate progress this year missed because of a single category, according to state officials.” Additionally, while schools have not made their No Child Left Behind goals, many have been making progress nonetheless.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman presents his budget today, and Chris Havens from the Star Tribune offers some of the highlights: St. Paul is going to have a smaller city government next year but will charge more for it, with as many as 45 workers laid off while taxes rise.

Despite budgetary woes like these, the Associated Press reports that Minnesota’s credit rating remains high. For those who didn’t know Minnesota even has a credit rating, MinnPost’s Joe Kimball detailed the rating system Monday, and its importance: There are three major bond rating services, and all give Minnesota nearly top marks, quoting one of the services: “Minnesota’s ‘AAA’ GO rating reflects the state’s excellent debt structure, broad-based economy with above-average wealth levels, and track record of management that is sensitive to changes in the state’s fiscal environment, with regular reviews of revenue forecasts.” This is especially important now, as Minnesota prepares to sell $600 million in General Obligation bonds today.

It seems like it has been a long time since Norm Coleman got any good news, so Monday must have been especially satisfying for the former senator: As Elizabeth Stawicki from MPR reports, Coleman was cleared of any wrongdoing in a case in which it is alleged that investor Nasser Kazeminy, a Coleman friend and campaign donor, attempted to “funnel $75,000 to Coleman through a Minneapolis insurance company that employed Coleman’s wife.”

MPR’s Tim Pugmire tells us that members of a Minnesota House panel are not satisfied with how the state has handled the unemployed. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, has some particularly strong words for the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED: “Nobody in this state should have to, when they’ve earned it, have to wait for four to six weeks to get a check from DEED, because there’s nobody at DEED waiting four to six weeks to get a payroll check.”

With the PGA starting, Tigermania has also begun. The Star Tribune’s Mark Craig reports that thousands of Minnesotans have headed up to Hazeltine National. “By the time he finished at 10:15 a.m., the stands at 18 were full and the rows of bodies were deep along the ropes,” Craig tells us, guessing at what the golfer makes of Minnesota: “Tiger Woods must think none of us has a job up here.”

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Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/11/2009 - 11:31 am.

    Former Governor Palin and Congresswoman Bachmann know exactly what their base likes to feed on and they dish it out in in large doses. For the rest of us, they provide a much needed element of humor.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/11/2009 - 11:37 am.

    I was listening to an interview Stephanie Miller was conducting with New York Rep. Joe Crowley this morning.

    They were “discussing” Palin’s “death panel” quote in particular. In between the streams of sophomoric one liners that constitute Millers interview style, Crowley managed to explain that there will certainly *not* be death panels; no indeed! And it is silly to suggest that meeting with a representative of the government to craft a “directive” for doctors to follow if you are unable to do so in an emergency was any sort of “death panel”.

    I was unaware that we’d be directed to have a meeting with anyone to craft any sort of “directive”.

    Huh. Let’s give that one a little thought, shall we?

    If we can agree that any sane human being wants to live is a default position, then the purpose of any meetings we are directed to have with our government health care worker to discuss emergency care directives can only be to draw lines at which the plug may be pulled.

    “Can you go on if your little toe is lost? How about the big one; a foot; a leg? At what point will the doctor be directed to ease your suffering and provide sweet succor, Mr. Jones?”

    If we can speculate that we will only be afforded one government health care worker per person (more probably one per 1000), I’d have to agree that “panel” is not an accurate description of the meeting Joe Crowley was discussing this morning.

    “Death consultation” is a much better way to describe the meeting Joe envisions.


    You are hereby directed to report to the Department of Public Health Care; Directives Div., Room 124 at 3:00 pm, on January 12, 2010 to meet with your case worker, ___________.

    Please be sure to bring your Department of Public Health Care folder, your Public Health Care services schedule and your Public Health Care ID.

    Also please arrive at least one hour before your appointment to fill out the required paperwork.

  3. Submitted by Annemarie Cairns on 08/11/2009 - 11:39 am.

    Before these two ladies make any more health reform comments, they should read this article with Pro-life Republican Senator Isakson
    on his role in Advance End of Life Planning legislation & Section 1233 of Obama’s reform. He calls claims of Death Panels and euthanasia “nuts”!

    Sarah Palin’s belief that the House health-care reform bill would create “death panels” might be particularly extreme, but she’s hardly the only person to wildly misunderstand the section of the bill.

    One of the foremost advocates of expanding Medicare end-of-life planning coverage is Johnny Isakson, a Republican Senator from Georgia. He co-sponsored 2007’s Medicare End-of-Life Planning Act and proposed an amendment similar to the House bill’s Section 1233 during the Senate HELP Committee’s mark-up of its health care bill. He was befuddled that this had become a question of euthanasia, termed Palin’s interpretation “nuts,” and emphasized that all 50 states currently have some legislation allowing end-of-life directives.

    Is this bill going to euthanize my grandmother? What are we talking about here?

    In the health-care debate mark-up, one of the things I talked about was that the most money spent on anyone is spent usually in the last 60 days of life and that’s because an individual is not in a capacity to make decisions for themselves. So rather than getting into a situation where the government makes those decisions, if everyone had an end-of-life directive or what we call in Georgia “durable power of attorney,” you could instruct at a time of sound mind and body what you want to happen in an event where you were in difficult circumstances where you’re unable to make those decisions.

    This has been an issue for 35 years. All 50 states now have either durable powers of attorney or end-of-life directives and it’s to protect children or a spouse from being put into a situation where they have to make a terrible decision as well as physicians from being put into a position where they have to practice defensive medicine because of the trial lawyers. It’s just better for an individual to be able to clearly delineate what they want done in various sets of circumstances at the end of their life.

    How did this become a question of euthanasia?

    I have no idea. I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

    You’re saying that this is not a question of government. It’s for individuals.

    It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you. The policy here as I understand it is that Medicare would cover a counseling session with your doctor on end-of-life options.

    Correct. And it’s a voluntary deal.

    It seems to me we’re having trouble conducting an adult conversation about death. We pay a lot of money not to face these questions. We prefer to experience the health-care system as something that just saves you, and if it doesn’t, something has gone wrong.

    Over the last three-and-a-half decades, this legislation has been passed state-by-state, in part because of the tort issue and in part because of many other things. It’s important for an individual to make those determinations while they’re of sound mind and body rather than no-one making any decisions at all.

    And the only change we’d see is that individuals would have a counseling session with their doctor?

    Uh-huh. When they become eligible for Medicare.

    Are there other costs? Parts of it I’m missing?

    No. The problem you got is that there’s so much swirling around about health care and people are taking bits and pieces out of this. This was thoroughly debated in the Senate committee. It’s voluntary. Every state in America has an end of life directive or durable power of attorney provision. For the peace of mind of your children and your spouse as well as the comfort of knowing the government won’t make these decisions, it’s a very popular thing.

    What got you interested in this subject?

    I’ve seen the pain and suffering in families with a loved one with a traumatic brain injury or a crippling degenerative disease become incapacitated and be kept alive under very difficult circumstances when if they’d had the chance to make the decision themself they’d have given another directive, and I’ve seen the financial damage. And if there’s a way to prevent that by you giving advance directives it’s better, both for the sanity and savings of the family

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/11/2009 - 11:53 am.

    Regarding NCLB: If any business or even any of us in our own homes were held to such continuously-rising, total perfection-requiring standards, all of us would be judged to be failing, too.

    The real purpose of NCLB, at least as it’s implemented in Minnesota, seems to be to make sure that the public thinks our schools are all failing. Then we can punish them by cutting their funding so that they’ll be forced to do better (which, of course, will work as well as expecting you to keep the laundry cleaner without wasting money on detergent, trying to force your car to run more efficiently by simply not putting gas in the tank, or dealing with the respiratory effects of polluted air by refusing to breathe).

    We need a more adequate, less punitive way of judging the performance of our schools, our teachers, our students and their families, than basing our judgment on a “continuous quality improvement” model given up as impractical to the point of being destructive by businesses at least a decade ago.

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/11/2009 - 12:07 pm.

    T.S… I’m so surprised that you and Ms. Palin and Ms. Bachmann missed a couple of tiny little details in all of this! “Read the bill,” indeed!

    1) Such meetings are completely voluntary (but since they take up the time of the professionals involved in holding such consultations, the government would now pay for that time).

    2) In making end-of-life plans, living wills, advanced health care directives, etc., it is perfectly acceptable to specify that you want to be kept alive, by any and all means, for as long as possible.

    Of course in assuming that such meetings would be for the purpose of forcing people away from option 2 toward requiring an early exit for the elderly, the disabled, etc., those who make that assumption likely reveal the darkness in the depths of their own hearts, and how the government would function for OTHER people’s family members if they and their friends were in charge.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/11/2009 - 12:28 pm.

    Annemarie have you seen “your” doctor lately? Have you been to the hospital?

    “Your” doctor *might* spend 10 minutes per week with you…*if* you’re seriously ill. ([s]he’s a busy guy [gal]).

    The picture that liberals are painting, a quiet thoughtful end of life discussion with “our doctors” is complete, unfiltered pap.

    When it comes to taking control of our lives to maximize efficiency, ObamaCare will tread where no insurance company has ever dared.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/11/2009 - 01:20 pm.

    “In making end-of-life plans, living wills, advanced health care directives, etc., it is perfectly acceptable to specify that you want to be kept alive, by any and all means, for as long as possible.”

    Well gee; thanks, Greg. I’m glad we have “your” permission.

    This is complete BS, people. No doctor is going to take up the time or the burden of documenting your living will. Guys like john Edwards have made hindreds of millions suing doctors if they put a band-aid on upside down…you think they are going to shoulder the legal burden of this, the most important decision anyone makes?

    This is going to be handled by a government paid health case worker. It’s going to be a form you will be required to fill out to be kept in your public health care file….I 100% guarantee it.

    Think about it. Has your health insurance company approached you about making a living will? Have they? Of course not; it’s a private matter.

    When did it become an issue? When the Democrat party decided it was time government took over managing your life.

  8. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/11/2009 - 02:08 pm.

    As per usual…

    T.S.? B.S.?

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/11/2009 - 02:47 pm.

    Thomas: An advance directive is a document you prepare long before you anticipate those last six months of life. You can ask your doctor for advice, of course, and/or your family and friends, but in the end the decisions are yours to make. Your family and/or a close friend should have a copy; your doctor should have a copy; and you should probably make a couple extras to give the hospital or nursing home when the time comes.

    Filling out the form gives you a chance to think about that last period of your life. If you develop an incurable cancer or other illness from which you believe you will soon die with or without aggressive treatment, you can say you prefer to receive only hospice care. If, on the other hand, you believe there might be some hope of recovery, you can ask that the medical folks do whatever they can to prolong your life. The decision is yours. There is no “death panel.” There is no euthanasia.

    Advance directives have been around for decades. The only difference now would be for the doctor to be paid for his/her time advising you about what the choices make may mean for you and your family.

  10. Submitted by Tim Walker on 08/11/2009 - 02:55 pm.

    Thomas Swift, you are completely, and I mean COMPLETELY twisting the actual words in the bill to mean something that they do not say.

    You are being untruthful.

    The only thing you are adding to this debate is misinformation.

    You are missing the very clear distinction between the words “mandatory” and “voluntary” — and keep saying that voluntary matters are mandatory.

    You are completely incapable of understanding even the basic meaning of words, and your reading comprehension is dismal.

    And I predict that your reply to my comments will ignore my points, either because you are incapable of accepting criticism, or you don’t care about the truth, or both.

    But, Thomas, prove me worng. I dare you. Pull out actual words from the bill itself that back up your outlandish claims.

    This means from the bill itself, not from talking points from some blog, or online bulletin board, or some other Free Republic hack hiding behind Internet anonymity.

    To help you along, here’s a link to the bill:

  11. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/11/2009 - 03:13 pm.

    Mr. Swift,

    If we can agree that any sane human being wants to live is a default position

    We can’t agree to that, and I don’t buy that premise. I suggest you read “Johnny Got His Gun” and get back to us.

  12. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/11/2009 - 03:44 pm.

    The verbal stylings of Swiftee are nothing short of demagoguery.

    The “either/or” thinking that worked in the past is no longer effective. The ability to think in terms of “both/and” will be valuable to discerning in the future what is occurring around us.

    “The test of a first-rate intelligence,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in words that could not ring truer today “is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

    Many of us fail the first part. We cannot hold two opposing ideas. This is an ability we will have to quickly acquire if we are to make sense of an increasingly complex and confusing world.

    Best to all….

  13. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 08/11/2009 - 03:55 pm.

    The quickest way to shut up Swiftee (that would be Thomas Swift to those unfamiliar with Mr. Swift’s more unsavory internet doings) is to ask him to provide actual facts to back up his misinformation campaigns. Works every time.

  14. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/11/2009 - 05:14 pm.

    I see. So the focus of this discussion is “shut[ting]” Swiftee up.

    And yet Democrats are squirting tears all over everyone’s shoes about having their little propaganda sessions “shut down”.

    How do you expect anyone to ever take you people seriously?..Seriously.

    Tim, have you read Charles Lane’s article in Saturday’s WaPo?

    “The 1997 ban on assisted-suicide support *specifically allowed doctors to honor advance directives*. And last year, Congress told doctors to offer a brief chat on end-of-life documents to consenting patients during their initial “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam. That mandate took effect this year.”

    “Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren’t quite “purely voluntary,” as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts.”

    Here is the crux of my position:

    “To me, “purely voluntary” means “not unless the patient requests one.”

    Right. As I’ve said, has anyone had their insurance company, you know, those evil bloodthirsty corporate types, approached you or your parents about what a good idea hospice is, and oh, by the way, don’t forget that Medicare will certainly pay for hospice.

    Back to Lane:

    “Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive — money — to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist.”

    “Once they’re in the meeting, the bill does permit “formulation” of a plug-pulling order right then and there….[As written in Section 1233] The doctor “shall” explain that Medicare pays for hospice care (hint, hint).”


    I believe that, when ObamaCare is going broke in 10 or 15 years, like Medicare is right now, those “fireside chats” with your doctor will be replaced by a visit from a government case worker.

    I admit that I have a bit of an edge on many people checking in on this issue; I’ve experienced government health care.

    I’m missing two teeth today. When I was 18, I went to a Navy dentist with a tooth ache and left two molars less than I had when I walked in.

    In the decades since, my private insurance, and in some cases cash from my own pocket, has allowed me to keep every last one.

  15. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/11/2009 - 06:50 pm.

    FYI I had both molars removed as a teenager, dentist said too big a mouth and not enough underlying bone structure. Not a problem and no pain and no expensive oral surgery.

    Colin Peterson was right town halls often bring out some loud people. I just had that confirmed by a senior citizen neighbor who is verified as a former candidate/citizen who attended more than a few meetings in his time. Thanks Rich!

  16. Submitted by William Geddes on 08/11/2009 - 09:12 pm.

    So the critics are saying there will be panels that look and determine whether they are going to pay for care or not? How is that any different than what the insurance companies do now? Personally I’d rather have someone who wasn’t trying to look after the insurance companies bottom line and make as much money as possible looking at and making that decision.

  17. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 08/11/2009 - 09:25 pm.

    Great news for Norm Coleman! Now that the election is over, the lawsuit is dropped. Never mind! Guess the suit did what it was supposed to.

  18. Submitted by John Roach on 08/12/2009 - 09:17 am.

    Although the ultimate fate of Mr. Swift is not important to me, I hope that for the sake of his family he has a living will or a care directive. I am currently visiting an 87 year old neighbor who was critically injured in a car-pedestrian accident back in February.

    He is barely conscious, and is permanently on a ventilator. He is too weak to use a slate and is unable to use the “talking valve” on the machine. His lungs slowly fill eith fluid and he must be “drained” a couple times per week, which is evidently quite painful.

    He has had multiple resistant staph-type infections. His legs and hips have been surgically repaired, but bone is working its way through his left hip and will soon penetrate the skin,requiring more surgery. Due to being permanently in bed, he is losing circulation in his legs, which are not healing. The doctors are preparing to amputate them in stages.

    Before the accident he was a spry and energetic guy. He did not have any sort of care directive. His son is horrified and believes that his Dad doesn’t want this. He has even brought in a lip reader to try to determine what his Dad wants, but Dad hasn’t been lucid enough for that to work. His daughter disagrees. She thinks her Dad would want all of this.

    The hospital and the acute care facility want money. A lot of money. Medicare doesn’t cover all of this stuff and the driver was an uninsured kid. This guy has no chance of recovery. He will take another horrible few months to finish dying while the doctors continue to suction him and chop pieces off of him.

    Afterwards, the care facility will take his house, his car, and anything else they can sell as partial payment for the service they are rendering. So Mr. Swift, I do hope you have something on file. Of course, that would require caring about someone other than yourself.

  19. Submitted by Susan Peterson on 08/12/2009 - 09:59 am.

    Amen, John. My mom, bless her, did have a directive, and also said often and loudly that she didn’t want to die in a hospital hooked up to breathing and nutrition tubes. So we took care of her at home, with the wonderful help of hospice nurses to keep her comfortable at the last, and she died peacefully in her bed, with her whole family around telling her how much we all loved her.
    Mom gave us many, many blessings and gifts over our lives, but that was surely one of the best. I have a care directive, of which Mr. Swift speaks so disparagingly, as a similar gift to my own children.

  20. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/12/2009 - 12:25 pm.

    Well thanks, John.

    I couldn’t care less what happens to you either…but thanks for using me to show everyone what an all around compassionate human being you really are ((hug)).

    Susan, you’ve misconstrued my point completely.

    I’m not disparaging “DNR” type directives at all; in fact, I’m all for it.

    I’m disparaging the idea that some scuttling little clerk in a federal office will not only be actively encouraging people to fill them out, he’ll be using my tax dollars to pay the middle man.

  21. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 08/12/2009 - 02:08 pm.

    Since Mr. Swift is resorting to links to make his dubious case, he should enjoy this one:

    As recently as a few months ago Newt Gingrich was recommending the use of exactly the same kind of “death panels” Johnny Isakson (R-GA) put into Obama’s bill.

    This is all about obstructionism as part of a greater effort to make sure there is no healthcare reform passed by Congress. Gingrich is a partisan hack who’s not afraid to lie about anything if it lets him score points on some TV blab show.

    And congratulations to Mr. Swift for derailing yet another otherwise constructive thread. Serious people are trying to fix our disastrous system while partisans seek to keep the mess we’ve got.

  22. Submitted by John Roach on 08/12/2009 - 02:25 pm.

    Mr. Swift,

    In your lengthy excerpts from Charles Lane’s WaPo article, I see no mention of clerks; scuttling, little, federal or otherwise.

    It does seem to mention one’s doctor quite a bit; although I understand you have a deep mistrust of any doctor who might take reimbursement from a government entity. No doubt all of your doctors and dentists take only private money and insurance; that way you can rest assured that they are competent.

    Since you seem to think it’s important to mention your experience with Navy medicine, allow me to relate mine: In 1984 my squadron flight surgeon detected a suspicious mass during a routine physical in Sigonella, Sicily. Within 24 hours, I was in Weisbaden, Germany for for diagnosis and (successful) treatment.

    Not exactly the picture of inefficiency and incompetence you try to project, is it? Reality has a nasty habit of doing that to right wing talking points, sad to say.

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