Weekly Pulse: Arrests over the Ryan Plan, and the GOP’s Kinder, Gentler Medicaid Cuts


By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

This week marks the final edition of the Weekly Pulse. I have been writing the newsletter since 2008 and it has certainly been an exciting time to be covering health care in the United States. Thanks to all the Media Consortium journalists whose work I’ve featured over the years, and thanks to our loyal readers, tipsters, Tweeters, and Facebook fans.

As the Pulse winds down, we look ahead to some of the most pressing health care issues facing the nation: The Republican war on Medicare and Medicaid and the anti-choice onslaught.

89 arrested over Ryan plan

Eighty-nine disability activists were arrested following their occupation of the Cannon House Office Building rotunda, Alison Kilkenny reports in The Nation:

The disability rights group ADAPT staged the event to protest Representative Paul Ryan’s Medicaid cuts, which would force people with disabilities to live in nursing homes rather than in their own houses.

Additionally, the House-passed budget resolution would turn Medicaid into block grants and reduce the program’s spending by more than $700 billion over ten years.

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones reports that the Republicans in Congress are putting forward some “kinder, gentler” proposed Medicaid cuts in the hopes that these less extreme proposals will have a better chance of passing that the more extreme cuts Ryan has been touting.

Kinder and gentler by Republican standards is still pretty radical. Republicans in both houses of Congress introduced bills that would make it easier for states to kick people off of Medicaid or erect new barriers to entry. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) claims that “only” 300,000 patients would be kicked off Medicaid rolls under his proposal, many fewer than those would be under the Ryan plan. Gingrey, however, admitted that he didn’t have an independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to back up his claim.

The war on choice

Sadie Doyle of In These Times takes a closer look at proposed legislation in Ohio that bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable:

Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” is part of a barrage of anti-choice legislation designed to circumvent the fact that abortion is legal by making it nearly impossible to obtain one. But, whereas other bills focus on cutting funding or creating obstacles to abortion, H.B. 125 takes a relatively new tactic: It aims to ban abortions outright if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat—which happens at around six weeks, before many women even realize they’re pregnant.

This bill is one of hundreds of pieces of anti-choice legislation percolating at the state level. Many of these bills seem deliberately engineered to provoke a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Anti-choicers seem eager to get their challenge to the Supreme Court as soon as possible, before Obama can appoint any more justices.

Meet the H.R. 3 ten

At RH Reality Check, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to another one of the 10 Democrats who co-sponsored the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). The bill, H.R. 3 would effectively end private abortion insurance coverage in the United States by imposing such onerous bureaucratic regulations on insurers that they would more likely to drop abortion coverage altogether rather than comply.

Michigan vs. teen moms

Pregnant teenagers are bearing the brunt of Michigan’s draconian new “fiscal martial law” bill that authorizes cities to appoint emergency managers with sweeping powers to take over cash-strapped cities, towns, and school boards. Students at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a high school for expectant mothers, were arrested and manhandled by police as they protested the impending closure of their school.

Amanda Marcotte writes in AlterNet that the move to close the academy epitomizes the contemptuous attitude that so many conservative anti-choicers have toward teen girls who choose to give birth:

The imminent shut down of Catherine Ferguson demonstrates the emptiness of Republican claims that they oppose reproductive rights because they value life.  Instead, Republican policies are rooted in a sadistic desire to punish and control, and to deprive women—especially young women, poor women, and women of color—of any opportunities whatsoever.

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Weekly Pulse: Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Deepens

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

A second reactor unit at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan may have ruptured, authorities announced on Wednesday. This is on top of their earlier revelation that the containment vessel of a separate reactor unit had cracked.

As of Tuesday, four nuclear reactors in Japan seem to be in partial meltdown in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami, according to Christian Parenti of the Nation:

One of them, reactor No. 2, seems to have ruptured. The situation is spinning out of control as radiation levels spike. The US Navy has pulled back its aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, after seventeen of its crew were exposed to radiation while flying sixty miles off the Japanese coast.

But despite three major explosions—at reactor No. 1, then No. 3, then No. 2—the Fukushima containment vessels seem to be holding. (Chernobyl lacked that precaution, having only a flimsy cement containment shell that collapsed, allowing the massive release of radioactive material.)

So, the good news is that only one out of four of the reactors is teetering on the brink of a full meltdown, and engineers might still be able to stave off disaster. The bad news, Parenti explains, is that spent fuel rods on the reactor sites could pose grave health hazards even if the threat of meltdown is averted. Even so-called “spent” rods remain highly radioactive.

The big question is whether the facilities that house this waste survived the earthquake, the tsunami, and any subsequent massive explosions at the nearby reactor. Given the magnitude of the destruction, and the relatively flimsy facilities used to house the spent rods, it seems unlikely that all the containment pools emerged unscathed. Parenti explains:

Unlike the reactors, spent fuel pools are not—repeat not—housed in any sort of hardened or sealed containment structures. Rather, the fuel rods are packed tightly together in pools of water that are often several stories above ground.

A pond at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is overheating, but radiation levels were so high that the Japanese military has postponed a helicopter mission to douse the pond with water.

Journalist and environmental activist Harvey Wasserman tells the Real News Network that the housing the spent rods (a.k.a. nuclear waste) is a chronic problem for the global nuclear industry.

Wasserman told GRITtv that the west coast of the United States has reactors that could suffer a similar fate in the event of a sufficiently large earthquake.

“If I were in Japan, I would at least get the children away from the reactor, because their bodies are growing faster and their cells are more susceptible to radiation damage. I would go out to 50 kilometers and at least get the children away from those reactors,” nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen told DemocracyNow! on Tuesday. At the time he said this, 70,000 residents had already been forced to evacuate their homes, and another 140,000 were ordered to stay indoors.

Mainstreaming anti-contraception

Kirsten Powers, Fox News’ resident self-proclaimed liberal, took to the pages of the Daily Beast recently to make the bizarre case that Planned Parenthood should be de-funded because the 100-year-old organization doesn’t really prevent the half-million abortions that it claims to prevent by supplying millions of clients with reliable birth control. (Powers was forced to concede that a gross statistical error rendered her entire piece invalid.) At RH Reality Check, Amanda Marcotte describes how Powers attempted to repackage fringe anti-contraception arguments for a mainstream audience. At TAPPED, I explain why Planned Parenthood’s abortion-prevention claim is rock solid.

Diet quackery

Unscrupulous doctors are cashing in on the latest diet fad: hormone injections derived from the urine of pregnant women, Kristina Chew notes for Care2.com. Patients pay $1,000 for consultations, a supply human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and a 500-calorie-a-day diet plan. There is no evidence that hCG increases weight loss more than a starvation diet alone. But paying $1,000 to inject yourself in the butt every day does evidently work up a hell of a placebo effect.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Female blogger reaches "breaking point" with Edwards

Amanda Marcotte is an influential and famously passionate supporter of John Edwards' candidacy. As the media reported last year, she threw herself under a bus to avoid harming his candidacy. So when she breaks with Edwards' campaign over his sexist remarks about Hillary Clinton yesterday, we need to pay attention. Here's what Edwards said via ABCNews:

Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., ... reacted to rival Sen. Hillary Clinton's emotional moment Monday.

Edwards offered little sympathy and pounced on the opportunity to question Clinton's ability to endure the stresses of the presidency.

"I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business," Edwards told reporters in Laconia, New Hampshire.

Earlier in the day, Clinton became emotional when speaking to a group of voters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Marcotte writes today at Pandagon blog:

Completely unacceptable amounts of sexism. It's bad enough that the media plays the game with Clinton where if she shows any emotion, she's too feminine or too scary, but if she's more stoic, she's a scary ballbuster, but to have her own party members (if political rivals) play that cheap sexist card is too much.

There's more...

Last Night at the Tank

You might know the Tank in Manhattan as the performing arts space home to Bloggers' Alley at the 2004 Republican National Convention. The Tank's moved to a new location since then, and last night was the site of a panel discussion on "Campaigning, Blogging, and Fighting Back" featuring Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte, MyDD's own (and former Bob Menendez Internet Director) Scott Shields, and Ari Melber of the Nation. It was really quite remarkable for a Saturday night in New York City to look out into the assembled crowd and see the likes of Majikthise's Lindsay Beyerstein, the American Prospect's Ezra Klein, Jessica Valenti of Feministing, TPM Cafe's Andrew Golis, Duncan "Atrios" Black, Phillip Anderson of the Albany Project, Culture Kitchen's Liza Sabater, Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog, Justin Krebs and David Alpert of Drinking/Living Liberally, Elana Levin of the Drum Major Institute/DMI Blog, YearlyKos' Gina Cooper, Jeffrey Feldman of Frameshop, and others I'm missing. The New York blogging scene is ascendant, it seems. Turnout was great, across the board. Maybe 80 people?

Somewhat surprising to me, no one seemed to have much interest in rehashing the Edwards' blogger situation. Instead, it was a facinating and, um, really mature and rich discussion on all things blogging and politics. I tried to furtively scribble some notes, but I was moderating and didn't capture as much as I would have liked. What follows are a few of the topics I was able to write down then or remember this morning.

We talked about how the parameters on the role and purpose of a "campaign blogger" haven't been set yet. We explored the idea of actively cultivating representatives for various strains of the netroots, and models of compensation as the key for unlocking the potential of the medium. We talked a lot about whether it makes sense to co-opt activist, advocate bloggers into an official campaign structure. (Lindsay had a great quote, something about how some animals thrive in nature but it makes no sense to bring "a warthog into your living room.") And we delved into whether we're experiencing a paradigm shift in how staffers -- bloggers or otherwise -- are seen as proxies, really, for a candidate they work for, and if there is a paradigm shift, does the netroots need to be more proactive in helping that shift along? In the meantime, it was argued, there's an opportunity to create a wedge between candidates and the netroots, a wedge exploited in the Edwards blogger situation. We talked about Democrats unlearning the apology reflex, and how the inclination to constantly assuage hurt feelings so is a product of the special -- in Ari's words -- "biorhythms" that make progressives who we are. We discussed whether blogging is changing language, perhaps quickly, and whether right now we're caught awkwardly in the sort of liminal phase where language we might consider appropriate, other folks might not. And we talked about how the negative reaction by some on the right to Ann Coulter's "faggot" comment indicates that they're arguing from a position of weakness.

But that's just the beginning of what was covered last night. If you had the chance to attend, please do add your thoughts in the comments.

Adios Amanda: Why Brian O'Dwyer is Angry (and me too)

Scott Shields recently asked you readers of MyDD as to why Brian O'Dwyer is angry re the recent Amanda Marcotte/Edwards blogging fiasco.  I googled "Amanda Marcotte", saw the post, read it and decided to join MyDD.  So hi everybody.

I'll be upfront.  I'm not a liberal or a progressive.  I'm a moderate.  I'm not a Democrat.  I'm an independent.  I'm also a Catholic.  Just like Brian O'Dwyer, who, also like me, is of Irish descent.

I believe that a woman has a right to an abortion, although I'm not much for partial birth abortion.  I was once fuzzy on gay marriage, but when it came down to it...I proudly voted against the proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage here in Virginia.  Unfortunately it passed.  I also was horrified by the pedophelia scandals.  And they had nothing to do with homosexuality or liberal bishops as people like Rick Santorum would tell you.  Oh, and I think Bill Donohue is a pompous bigoted blowhard.  You see, I'm able to disagree with the faith that I was raised.  OK?

There's more...


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