Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Unfunny Pictures

And, again... here are some pictures that the right-wing emailers call "funny".

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why do you need to Lie about the Health Care Law?

It's about time I approached some of these "viral" attacks on the recent health care legislation.

Here's one:

Obama Care Highlighted by Page Number
Hmm... Let's take a look at HB 3200...

Oh, wait.  This isn't the health care bill that passed congress.  It never even came up for a vote.  The ones that passed congress were H.R. 3590 and H.R. 3962.

Oh, details, schmetails.  Fine.  Let's look at the bill.  Even if it didn't pass congress.

Judge Kithil of  Marble Falls,  TX -  highlighted the most egregious pages of HB3200
Please read this........ especially the reference to pages 58 & 59
  JUDGE KITHIL wrote:   ** Page 50/section 152:  The bill will provide insurance to all non-U.S. residents, even if they are here illegally. 
The legislation reads, "...(T)he Secretary of Health and Human Services shall . . . promulgate such regulations as are necessary or appropriate to insure that all health care and related services . . . covered by this Act are provided . . . without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services."

It seems kind of weird that our emailer interpreted it this way.  At first glance, it seemed to me to state the obvious - that administrators couldn't make health care coverage decisions based on things like race, sex, religion, political beliefs, and so forth.

It makes sense.  And it stretches the imagination to think that this language would extend health care benefits to people who are in this country illegally, and subject to deportation.

But, in case you were wondering...  If our writer bothered to read ahead to section 242, he'd see that benefits are only available to "an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States."  So, it looks like our viral emailer wasted a good worry.

* Page 58 and 59: The government will have real-time access to an individual's bank account and will have the authority to make electronic fund transfers from those accounts. 
The sections included in page 58 and 58 refer to billing practices.  It ensures that, when you go to your doctor, you'll know as soon as possible if you're covered, and how much you will continue to owe the doctor after s/he's completed his or her services.  And it ensures practitioners that there will be consistent rules on how to do the billing.

As for the government having "real-time access to an individual's bank account" and having the authority "to make electronic fund transfers"?  Maybe our emailer was referring to the standard stating that these systems will "enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with the related health care payment and remittance."

Note the word "enable".  In my mind, that means, "make something possible."  Not "make it mandatory".  Or, "allow a biller to have unlimited access to someone else's bank account".

It means that, as a patient, you may choose to pay a copayment by bank debit.  If you and the provider want to.

And doctors and hospitals, if they wish, can receive payment electronically from insurance companies.

But I don't see how this would have allowed the government to grab whatever they wanted from your bank account.

** Page 65/section 164:  The plan will be subsidized (by the government) for all union members, union retirees and for community organizations (such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - ACORN).
This section reads, "The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall establish a temporary reinsurance program . . . to provide reimbursement to assist participating employment-based plans with the cost of providing health benefits to retirees and to eligible spouses, surviving spouses and dependents of such retirees."

So, when our viral emailer says that this is a "special" entitlement for unions and community organizations (particularly ones demonized by the right), it's an out-and-out lie.  These rules apply to any employment-based plan.

** Page 203/line 14-15:  The tax imposed under this section will not be treated as a tax.  (How could anybody in their right mind come up with that?)

The language is a little bit bizarre.

This refers to some taxes levied on high-income individuals to pay for the costs of the program.  Of course, congressional debate did change the parameters of these costs, which are detailed in plain English over here.  In the end, if you're making over $200,000 as a single taxpayer, you'll have to pay an extra 0.9% in payroll taxes.

This tax can't be used to offset the alternative minimum tax.  Thus, this tax is not considered "a tax" when it comes to calculating the AMT.

Hey, no one said that tax law made much sense to non-tax-policy wonks.

** Page 241 and 253:  Doctors will all be paid the same regardless of specialty, and the government will set all doctors' fees.
These pages refer to payment to doctors under Medicare.  And, for as long as I can remember, Medicare has always paid physicians according to a government-controlled payment schedule.

If a doctor feels that Medicare is paying too little, they have the right to refuse Medicare patients.  And they can continue to do so after passage of the recent health care bills.  So, in the end, nothing has changed here.

** Page 272. section 1145: Cancer hospital will ration care according to the patient's age.
Here's the text:  "The Secretary shall conduct a study to determine if, under the system under this subsection, costs incurred by hospitals described in section 1886(d)(1)(B)(v) with respect to ambulatory payment classification groups exceed those costs incurred by other hospitals furnishing services under this subsection (as determined appropriate by the Secreretary. Insofar as the Secretary determines under subparagraph (A) that costs incurred by hospitals described in section 1886(d)(1)(B)(v) exceed those costs incurred by other hospitals furnishing services under this subsection, the Secretary shall provide an appropriate adjustment under paragraph (2)(E) to reflect those costs incurred by other hospitals furnished."

So, how did "if we do a study and find out that cancer care costs more in certain places, we'll adjust Medicare payments to compensate" become "rationing of care due to age"?

Beats me.

** Page 317 and 321: The government will impose a prohibition on hospital expansion; however, communities may petition for an exception.
This is a (very slight) expansion to current anti-kickback law.  In order for doctors and hospitals to receive Medicare funds, they've needed to comply with anti-kickback provisions for quite some time.  Because Medicare felt it was unseemly to refer patients to hospitals that they owned, and services provided at these hospitals that they are subject to profit from.

They granted some exceptions to rural hospitals.  These rules tighten the anti-kickback rules governing such exceptions.  But it doesn't prevent the vast majority of hospitals from expanding as they please.

** Page 425, line 4-12: The government mandates advance-care planning consultations.  Those on Social Security will be required to attend an "end-of-life planning" seminar every five years. (Death counseling..)** Page 429,  line 13-25:  The government will specify which doctors can write an end-of-life order.
Oh, yes.  "Death Panels".  The proud recipient of's "Lie of the Year" in 2009.

For those who haven't kept up:  This version of the health care bill ensured that physicians who discussed advanced directives and living wills with their patient could be paid for this service.  It was never mandatory.

And these "end-of-life" orders?  They're signed by the patient.  The doctor only serves as a witness.

But, no matter.  None of these provisions made it into the health care bills passed by congress.

HAD ENOUGH????  Judge Kithil then goes on to identify:"Finally, it is specifically stated that this bill will not apply to members of Congress.  
Funny how he suddenly stopped citing sections of the health care bill when he made this claim.

That's because... there's no exemption.  Members of congress are subject to the individual mandate requiring that they obtain health insurance of a minimum standard.  Fortunately for members of congress, most of the health plans that they're eligible for (as a virtue of their employment) qualify.
Members of Congress are already exempt from the Social Security system, and have a well-funded private plan that covers their retirement needs. If they were on our Social Security plan, I believe they would find a very quick 'fix' to make the plan financially sound for their future."  -    Honorable David Kithil of Marble Falls,  Texas
This lie is so prevalent, I gave it a special article.

All of the above should give you the point blank ammo you need to support your opposition to Obamacare. 
There are lots of reasons why it's reasonable to object to the recently passed healthcare legislation.

These "facts" aren't among them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It must be stealth humor. Because I can't see it.

And, once again:  Here's an example of what right-wing email forwarders call "funny".

Crappy graphics are courtesy of the originator of this email.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Congress Has Committed a lot of Crimes - In My Imagination.

And, once again, another email decrying the congresspeople that other people elected:

Even if you aren't a Sports Fan this is Very Interesting!

36 have been accused of spousal abuse
7 have been arrested for fraud
19 have been accused of writing bad checks
117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
3 have done time for assault
71, I repeat 71
Cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related
8 have been arrested! For shoplifting
21 currently are defendants in lawsuits,
84 have been arrested for drunk driving
In the last year !

Can you guess which organization this is?
Is it the NBA Or NFL?
Give up yet?
Scroll down,

it's the 535 members of the
United States Congress
The same group of Idiots that crank out
Hundreds of new laws each
Year Designed to keep the rest of us in line.

You gotta pass this one on!

First of all, even if this was based on actual research (rather than just making things up), it's been circulating around folks' email boxes since 1999, originating from a set of articles in "Capitol Hill Blue".

But, if you look at the articles online, you'll notice a very important thing:  These statistics aren't in the article anymore.

As it turns out, a lot of people wrote to "Capitol Hill Blue".

It seemed a little funny - the previous articles cited sources, and named names.  This list did not.

And a lot of journalists asked for Capitol Hill Blue to do so.  Each time they were asked, they refused.

Finally, according to FactCheck, these "statistics" suddenly disappeared.  When FactCheck asked Capital Hill Blue about this, the proprietor replied, "I did not double check the facts (which I should have done), nor did I write or edit the stories. But they are still my responsibility."

So, there you go.  Even the original author won't stand by what he said.  And neither should your email forwarders.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How hard will YOU lobby to get your $118 back?

After a lot of hand-wringing, congress has finally agreed to raising the debt ceiling, and passing $2.4 billion in cuts to the federal budget.

But not all tax hawks are happy.  They see easy ways to make further cuts.

Well, they're easy until you actually sit down and think about them.

Here's one viral email:

U N B E L I E V A B L E ! ! Read and scroll all the way to the bottom. What is wrong with us??
How they vote in the United Nations: 
Below are the actual voting records of various Islamic States which are recorded in both the US State Department and United Nations records:  
Kuwait votes against the United States 67% of the time 
Qatar votes against the United States 67% of the time 
Morocco votes against the United States 70% of the time 
United Arab Emirates votes against the U. S. 70% of the time. 
Jordan votes against the United States 71% of the time. 
Tunisia votes against the United States 71% of the time. 
Saudi Arabia votes against the United States 73% of the time.
Yemen votes against the United States 74% of the time. 
Algeria votes against the United States 74% of the time. 
Oman votes against the United States 74% of the time.
Sudan votes against the United States 75% of the time.
Pakistan votes against the United States 75% of the time.
Libya votes against the United States 76% of the time. 
Egypt votes against the United States 79% of the time.
Lebanon votes against the United States 80% of the time. 
India votes against the United States 81% of the time. 
Syria votes against the United States 84% of the time. 
Mauritania votes against the United States 87% of the time.  
U S Foreign Aid to those that hate us:
Egypt, for example, after voting 79% of the time against the United States,still receives $2 billion annually in US Foreign Aid.
Jordan votes 71% against the United StatesAnd receives $192,814,000 annually in US Foreign Aid.
Pakistan votes 75% against the United StatesReceives $6,721,000,000 annually in US Foreign Aid.
India votes 81% against the United StatesReceives $143,699,000 annually.
Perhaps it is time to get out of the UN and give the tax savings back to the American workers who are having to skimp and sacrifice to pay the taxes. 
Pass this along to every taxpaying citizen you know.
Of course, when complicated statistics are involved, it's always best to check them.

In the case of these countries' voting records, the viral email author doesn't explain his methodology.  Fortunately for us, Snopes made an attempt to compile the statistics.  Fortunately for our email author, they come to similar results, for roll-call votes.  Most "votes", however, are not by roll call (making it impossible to determine who voted with and against the United States), or are voted in by consent (where no one objects).  So, when someone says, "This country has voted against us x% of the time", they're only counting the most contentious issues, for which a roll call was ordered.  Not that it's unusual to disagree with the United States on the most contentious issues - allied countries such as England and France vote against us about 40% of the time.

Now, as for the notion that we should "get out of the U.N. and give the tax savings back to the American Workers"?  Well, our foreign aid to these countries isn't set by the U.N.  They're decided by congress and approved by the president.

And, quite frankly, when even our allies, in the most contentious issues, are voting against us 40% of the time, it's probably in our best interest to be able to cast veto votes in the United Nations.  A power that we'd lose if we left.  A lesson that the U.S.S.R. once learned the hard way.

And if we explicitly tied our foreign aid to U.N. votes... well, I'd hate to see how that would "spin" against us.

But let's take a look at some of these foreign aid figures:

For Egypt - Yes, we are paying two billion dollars annually in aid.  However, the vast majority of this is military aid.  In exchange for this aid, the United States is getting priority passage through the Suez Canal.  And, unofficially, when we're Egypt's biggest arms dealer, the Egyptians have a very good reason to maintain a peaceful relationship with Israel.

In Pakistan - again, most of the money is for military aid.  In exchange, they've pledged to support our actions in the region.  And, as their support has weakened, so has our aid.

And, in Jordan, we're seeing the same trend.  Most of the assistance is military.  With the expectation that they'll maintain peaceful relationships with Israel, that they will provide logistic support to our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that they will make efforts to stop militants from attacking Israel.

Now, the wisdom of these schemes are certainly areas of reasonable debate.

"But," our viral emailer writes, "American workers are forced to scrimp and sacrifice to pay" for these programs.

Well, let's take a look.

The IRS says that, in 2009, they processed 144,103,375 individual tax returns.  In 2007, they processed 14,752 corporate returns, and 3,989,893 S-Corporation returns.  And, in 2008, they processed 3,146,006 returns for partnerships.  In total: 151,254,026 entities filed income tax returns.

Okay, not every person or entity filing income tax returns will be required to pay taxes.  Let's suppose that only half of them do.  That would create 75,627,013 taxpayers.

So, if you divide the costs of foreign aid to Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan amongst that tax base - these efforts are costing an average of $118 per taxpayer.

I never said that military hardware was cheap.  But it's not bankrupting too many taxpayers.