Saturday, August 01, 2009

Memo to Fox talkers: Al Qaeda not the only group that 'radicalizes' domestic terrorists

-- by Dave

There's been a lot of talk on the teevee -- particularly Fox -- the past couple of days about domestic terrorism, sparked by the arrests of 7 men in North Carolina for supposedly planning acts of terrorism on the behest of Al Qaeda.

What strikes so many of them -- including the Fox "All Star" panel Wednesday -- was that the suspects were so successful at blending in as regular American neighbors. But not once does it ever seem to cross their minds that this, indeed, has long been a feature of right-wing domestic terrorism in this country.

There's no doubt that the addition of Al Qaeda as a player on the domestic terrorism scene is cause for special concern. America has been fortunate in that, for the most part, its many would-be domestic terrorists have not typically been very competent. Adding a highly competent organization like Al Qaeda to the mix ratchets up the potential danger on this front significantly.

Attorney General Eric Holder was fairly thoughtful in his interview with ABC in addressing this:

"I mean, that's one of the things that's particularly troubling: This whole notion of radicalization of Americans," Holder told ABC News during an interview in his SUV as his motorcade brought him from home to work. "Leaving this country and going to different parts of the world and then coming back, all, again, in aim of doing harm to the American people, is a great concern."

... Holder said the ever-changing threat of terror and the pressure to keep up with it weighs heavily on his mind as he tries to ensure that the government has done all it can to anticipate the moves of an unpredictable enemy.

"But, you know, in the hierarchy of things, it's hard to figure out how to prioritize these things in some ways," he said. "The constant scream of threats, the kind of things you have to be aware about, the whole notion of radicalization is something that didn't loom as large a few months ago ... as it does now. And that's the shifting nature of threats that keeps you up at night."

Obviously, Holder is focused on these new cases involving international-terror entities. But the dynamic he's describing also fits what has been happening on an increasingly intense basis within the ranks of American right-wing extremist groups since the election of Obama: Not only are people being radicalized by right-wing rhetoric, an increasing number of them are joining organizations that preach the violent overthrow of American democracy -- our genuine enemies within.

People don't need to travel overseas to become violently radicalized in this country. Indeed, there are exponentially many more white Americans who have gone through "radicalization" from white-supremacist, nativist, and anti-abortion organizations than will ever be successfully recruited by Al Qaeda.

Now, there's plenty of evidence the Holder DOJ gets this. But the media -- particularly its right-wing component -- clearly doesn't.

Frequently mentioned on cable, for instance, the past few days has been the New York "terrorism" cell that was busted by the feds a couple of months ago ... except they turned out not to be so much of a "terrorist" cell after all.

Moreover, these cases have been relatively few and far between. We simply can't say that, however, of the regular drumbeat of domestic terrorism we get from the extremist American right -- both in recent months and indeed for many years running.

Now, we all remember how prescient the Homeland Security warning about far-right domestic terrorism proved to be. Yet Janet Napolitano was forced to apologize to the raving wingnuts for having issued it.

But then, right-wingers have been trying whitewash away the existence of these domestic terrorists for some years now. For the most part, movement conservatives have trouble seeing white right-wing domestic terrorists as just that. The only terrorists who matter, it seems, are those from overseas or with dark skin. (It didn't help, of course, that the Bush DOJ practiced an ugly double standard on this score.)

Which is why, periodically, we continue to see "lone wolves" committing acts of horrific violence, themselves domestic terrorists radicalized not by foreign organizations, but by entities that reside right here in America.

And periodically, the media are surprised by all this. Because they all thought the problem was just Al Qaeda.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Now Sean Hannity is mainstreaming far-right fringe theories on his Fox News show too

-- by Dave

Lou Dobbs is hardly the only right-wing pundit on the air transmitting bogus right-wing conspiracy theories. See, for instance, Sean Hannity on his Fox News show Wednesday night.

Hannity must be looking over his ratings shoulder at Glenn Beck these days, because he was cribbing from Beck, promoting the bogus far-right "constitutionalist" theories about state sovereignty Beck himself promoted a couple of months ago.

Hannity had on a couple of doofus state legislators from Nebraska who are promoting the notion of "state sovereignty" -- distinct from outright secession, but nonetheless built on a set of theories that were popularized in the 1990s by the Patriot/militia movement.

As I explained at the time:

Now, it's one thing to point out the radical origins of these "constitutional theories." But it's also important to understand where they want to take us -- to a radically decentralized form of government that was first suggested in the 1970s by the far-right Posse Comitatus movement.

They essentially argue for a constitutional originalism that would not only end the federal income tax, destroy all civil-rights laws, and demolish the Fed, but would also re-legalize slavery, strip women of the right to vote, and remove the principle of equal protection under the law.

Suffice to say that no one in this segment was particularly, um, persuasive. The only thing Hannity and his guests managed to convince anyone of was the growing reality that Hannity, like Dobbs and his Fox colleagues, has no compunction about reaching into that far-right grab bag for his nightly talking points. It's always amusing to see the critters they come out with.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

The Goldberg-O'Reilly Birther theory: It's an evil Obama plot to make conservatives look like wingnuts

-- by Dave

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Bernie Goldberg has a theory about why there's been a significant controversy over Lou Dobbs' promotion of the "Birther" conspiracy theory: It's all an evil plot by the Obama White House to string the story along indefinitely so as to make his right-wing opposition look like a nuttier bunch than a PayDay bar.

Goldberg: Well, let's get the easy part out of the way first. CNN should not, repeat, not fire Lou Dobbs for talking about this. Lou Dobbs didn't say Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, he said just the opposite! He said he was born in the United States. But then he said he should produce his birth certificate.

Now let's think about this for a second. Why wouldn't President Obama release his birth certificate? He was born in Hawaii, Hawaii last I checked is in the United States, and -- why in the world wouldn't he release his birth certificate?

O'Reilly: Can I answer that question?

Goldberg: Well, let me answer it first. OK? Let me just answer my own question first.

O'Reilly: OK, you answer it, and then I'll have the correct answer.

Goldberg: I have a theory. And the theory is this: That the Chicago Mafia inside the White House want to keep this crazy controversy going. Because the longer it goes, the better the chance that they will conflate the crazy right-wing fringe with regular conservatives and regular Republicans.

O'Reilly: That's not a bad theory. But from dealing with the Obama White House, now, for almost, more than a year, I will tell you they are, uh, as every White House I've ever experienced, they're arrogant, they're arrogant. And they're saying to themselves, 'We're not gonna let Lou Dobbs tell us what to do. We're not gonna let these cranks on talk radio tell us what to do. They want the birth certificate released? Tough. We're not going to do it, because we have the power, and we don't like that.' That's what it's all about -- it's a 'Ha ha, we're not gonna do what you say.'

Interesting theories, gentlemen. Unfortunately, they both tend to run aground on a simple fact: Obama actually released his birth certificate in June 2008. It reads, "Certification of Live Birth."

Now, as's definitive piece on the certificate issue explains, this is in fact the "short form" of Obama's birth certificate, not its long form, which is filled out by the hospital and kept in its records. So why doesn't Obama release the long form? Because Hawaiian law doesn't give him that option:

The document is a "certification of birth," also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents' hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health's birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

Now, if Goldberg and O'Reilly are so concerned that the public might conclude that mainstream conservatives are prone to far-right conspiracy theories and various other forms of wingnuttery, they might look in the mirror. It's the virtual definition of wingnuttery to even be asking why Obama won't release his birth certificate when he has in fact done so.

There's no Obama conspiracy keeping this garbage alive and tying it around the necks of mainstream conservatives. They're doing a very fine job of that themselves.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Now Lou Dobbs wants to pretend he was just 'reporting' Birther claims

-- by Dave

Judging from Tuesday night's performance, Lou Dobbs is pinning his hopes on salvaging the tattered shreds of his credibility on claiming that, gosh, he was just reporting objectively on the "birther" controversy:

Dobbs: A left wing group's liberal mainstream media have stepped up some attacks on me for reporting on the controversy over the president's birth certificate when in fact I've stated many times that President Obama is a citizen of this country in my opinion. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, called on CNN to fire me for my even discussing the story. Coming to my defense last night, Bill O'Reilly. ...

... Undocumented persons -- well I want to say first of all to Bill O'Reilly thank you. I do want to point out Bill O'Reilly also kicked my rear end around a bit, disagreeing with me absolutely on the issue of whether or not, as I said, the president could solve all of this by just simply releasing his long form. He and I disagree on that, but I appreciate Bill O'Reilly being a standup guy. And apparently I was a topic on another show on FOX News, Geraldo Rivera attacking me for being wrong on illegal immigration as well as the birth certificate controversy. How I could be wrong about that I don't know because all I said is the president is a citizen, but it would simple to make all this noise go away with just simply producing the long form birth certificate. Ann Coulter came to my defense partially.

... Well I've repeatedly stated that President Obama is a citizen of the United States. My question is simply why not provide the long form birth certificate and end all of the discussion.

If Dobbs thinks this kind of lame excuse is going to pass muster, he needs to think again.

Dobbs wants to have it both ways: He wants to claim he believes Obama is a citizen, but just wants to know why there hasn't been a birth certificate produced. In other words, he believes Obama is a citizen, but believes he might not be.

As Robot regularly replied to Will Robinson: "Does not compute." Especially Dobbs' pretense that he merely intended to shed some light on the story.

First of all, merely covering a story on your network means you think the story has some credibility. Yet every working journalist who has acquainted himself with it has recognized it for what it is -- a groundless conspiracy theory concocted by extremist wingnuts looking for any kind of possible ax to grind with Obama and willing to fabricate stories out of whole cloth.

In other words, it's the kind of story that no responsible journalist will devote any more than a dismissive sentence to reporting. But then, Lou Dobbs is not what you would call a responsible journalist.

But really, one doesn't demonstrate the skepticism or objectivity that Dobbs pretends he was exercising here by claiming "no one" knows "the reality" regarding Obama's birth certificate and remorselessly demanding to know where Obama's birth certificate is -- when in fact everyone's been trying to explain to him that it's in Hawaii (as indeed he finally reported last night).

Verdict: Epic Fail.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Malkin's latest screed on Obamas' 'culture of corruption' has a distinctly Clintonesque scent

-- by Dave

Michelle Malkin has a new book out. If it's as well researched as her two most recent outings -- which featured the classic right-wing technique of gathering any smidgen of evidence one can find to support a thesis (no matter how dubious or downright false) while carefully excising any smidgen of contradictory evidence (no matter how mountainous) -- it promises to be a real mess.

Malkin was on Sean Hannity's program Monday night touting it. I was particularly interested in how she described it -- heavy on innuendo, intimations of shady dealings, and a major emphasis on First Lady Michelle Obama as a kind of Machiavellian manipulator running the show from behind the scenes. She labels her "the First Crony."

This has a familiar ring, doesn't it? The wingnut right attacked Bill Clinton relentlessly as a corrupt Southerner involved in shady dealings (think Whitewater or Mena), while the Evil Hillary ran the show behind the scenes. And the mainstream right made heavy use of these attacks.

It's just deja vu all over again.

Especially the complete and utter loss of perspective:

Hannity: Now that you've done all this research -- and I'll let the audience, because you really, with great specificity and detail, go into the corruption -- how corrupt is this administration compared to others?

Malkin: Well, I think you have to judge them by their rhetoric. And if you look at the gap between the rhetoric and the reality, this has to be one of the corrupt, most corrupt administrations in recent memory.

Hmmm. I dunno about you, but when I look at the levels of corruption within an administration, I look for actual things like, you know, corruption. Things like Halliburton and Enron.

As for the gap between rhetoric and reality, I usually think of it as matter of disappointment and disenchantment, not of corruption per se (though it can indicate a kind of ethical corruption, depending on the facts). And I think most other people do too.

Malkin and Hannity sure have a strange standard for what constitutes "corruption." Especially considering they not only stood idly by and cheered while corruption ran rampant in Bush's little war zone but aggressively attacked anyone who brought it up as insufficiently patriotic.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

For some reason, Bill O'Reilly doesn't think Lou Dobbs should get the boot for spreading right-wing falsehoods

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly seems to have a little trouble understanding how the First Amendment works.

Free-speech rights mean the government can't stop citizens from saying things it doesn't like. Every citizen has that right.

But having a radio show or a network anchor's job is not a right. It's a privilege, one that people work very hard to achieve, and only a relative handful actually get. Who gets the privilege is decided by people holding the media pursestrings.

Nonetheless, O'Reilly seemed to think last night on his Fox News show that the Southern Poverty Law Center not only was "overreacting" to Lou Dobbs' promotion of the "Birther" conspiracy theories, but that they were attacking Dobbs' First Amendment rights in demanding that CNN remove him. He had on the SPLC's Richard Cohen to discuss it:

O'Reilly: Look, I still disagree with you calling for his head. I don't mind you coming out and saying you disagree with him, that it's totally absurd, it's wrong to exploit it, he's playing upon fears, there might be a racial component, although I don't think Lou Dobbs is a racist at all -- ah --

Cohen: When's enough, Bill? When's enough, enough? I mean, Lou's been doing this for years.

O'Reilly: It's never enough, enough. And in a free-speech society, Mr. Cohen, it's never enough's enough. Freedom of speech allows you to go up to the line without -- if Lou Dobbs was causing danger to someone, then you would be legitimate in calling for his firing. But he is not. All he's doing is bloviating. It's just bloviating.

O'Reilly's confused. If Lou Dobbs were indeed endangering someone -- one of several points at which the First Amendment does not protect speech -- then the authorities would be justified in shutting him down.

We citizens, however, have the right to demand that CNN take Dobbs off the air at any time, given that his position as an anchor there is purely at the pleasure of CNN executives and is not a matter of his right to free speech. No one is saying Dobbs can't go stand on a street corner and hand out pamphlets like the rest of his Birther friends do. They're just saying he hasn't the right to abuse his position as a major anchor at one of the cable networks by spreading false information and right-wing hatemongering.

Though certainly, one can see why O'Reilly might be touchy about that subject.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fox & Friends crew frighten elderly viewers: health-care reform is 'a subtle form of euthanasia'

-- by Dave

You know the opponents of health-care reform -- which obviously includes nearly every talking head who appears on Fox News -- are getting desperate when they start trying to scare elderly people by suggesting that President Obama's health-care plans will mean euthanization for old folks when they get hurt.

That's what the crew at Fox & Friends on Monday morning did, led by "Fox News legal analyst" Peter Johnson Jr., and aided and abetted by Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson. First they played a snippet of Obama at a town-hall meeting on health care:

But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that's not making anybody's mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know, and your mom know, that you know what, maybe this isn't going to help, maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.

This became the launching pad:

Kilmeade: Dying?!! Sucking it up?!! And not having surgery?

Johnson: Too sick, too expensive.

Kilmeade: Well, that's what this whole trend is!

Johnson: Absolutely. And some people are saying, 'Well, this isn't health care reform,' and other people are saying -- maybe me -- that this is a subtle form of euthanasia. And when you start looking at the proposals, you say, 'God, what's happening?'

Of course, all they had to do was watch the entire set of remarks on this by Obama in their context to realize what's happening: that effective reform means cutting the waste created by a medical establishment that thrives on unnecessary procedures -- he wasn't suggesting that people be denied life-saving operations.

Obama made this clear up front:

Well, first of all, Doctor, I think it's a terrific question, and it's something that touches us all personally, especially when you start talking about end-of-life care. Some of you know my grandmother recently passed away, which was a very painful thing for me. She's somebody who helped raise me. But she's somebody who contracted what was diagnosed as terminal cancer; there was unanimity about that. They expected that she'd have six to nine months to life. She fell and broke her hip. And then the question was, does she get hip replacement surgery, even though she was fragile enough that they weren't sure how long she would last, whether she could get through the surgery.

I think families all across America are going through decisions like that all the time. And you're absolutely right that if it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.

But here's the problem that we have in our current health care system, is that there is a whole bunch of care that's being provided that every study, every bit of evidence that we have, indicates may not be making us healthier.

What's happening? Right-wingers are getting desperate and throwing up anything to see if it sticks. Now Obama wants to kill old people. Oy.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Lou Dobbs and the Birthers: Mainstreaming fringe ideas for ratings eventually will catch up with you

-- by Dave

Howard Kurtz this weekend was only the latest media critic to pile on Lou Dobbs for his promotion of the Birthers' conspiracy theories on CNN. Like nearly everyone else, Kurtz dismissed the coverage of the story as "ludicrous," and his guests pointed out how profoundly irresponsible it was.

Indeed, Kurtz was a bit late to the story, as Jamison Foser observed:

Well, by the time Kurtz got around to addressing the issue on today's Reliable Sources, CNN President Jonathan Klein had weighed in, calling Dobbs' birtherism "legitimate" and denouncing Dobbs' critics as "people with a partisan point of view from one extreme." (Klein had earlier indicated that the story was dead and the birthers' claims baseless; his flip-flop raises the question of who is in charge -- Klein or Dobbs.)

... Had Kurtz addressed the Dobbs issue last week, when he should have, he might have been able to get away with not coming back to it. But by waiting until today, he put himself in a position where he had to either address Klein's comments, or shy away from criticizing the boss. He chose to keep quiet about Klein. And so we learned from Kurtz's unwillingness to criticize Klein that he likes having the job of media critic more than he likes doing the job of media critic.

As Eric Boehlert observes, the whole dustup has been overall a good thing:

But there was some good news last week, and it came from watching Dobbs' slow motion train wreck unfold on the airwaves. It came from seeing how eagerly -- how convincingly -- the birther claims were debunked, not only online by progressives, but within the mainstream press as well -- the same mainstream press that's often reluctant to show up high-profile media players such as Dobbs, no matter how badly it has botched the facts. And let's not forget conservatives, who dismissed and ridiculed the birther claims.

In the case of the birthers, though, Dobbs' corporate media colleagues were utterly relentless in their fact-checking. I still don't think Dobbs knows what hit him. And frankly, I'm not sure I've ever seen such a well-deserved media pile-on. It's hard to see how Dobbs' career survives the humiliation.

Of course, it's always dangerous when hateful and cuckoo conspiracy theories are ushered into the mainstream and right-wing critics are given a platform to peddle their hateful whodunits about Obama's nationality the way Dobbs did. But, in this case, I almost think it was worth running that risk in order to watch the tidal wave of media disapproval that Dobbs' fearmongering unleashed.

This is all true. It certainly is a heartening sign that Dobbs is finally facing this tidal wave for attempting to present as mainstream absurd rhetoric from the fringes of the far right -- because he has been getting away with doing precisely that for years.

Most of the time, this has involved his rantings about immigration, including his false claims that immigrants were bringing leprosy across the border and that they intended to take back the American Southwest for Mexico. As Alex Koppelman noted at the time, there was a consistent pattern even back then of Dobbs drawing on beyond-dubious far-right fringe sources for his "reporting."

Meanwhile, Dobbs has been overly generous in his dealings with right-wing extremists on his show. He's hosted Glenn Spencer of American Border Patrol without explaining to his audience that ABP is a longtime SPLC-designated hate group, and for good reason: they are unmistakably racist and white supremacist. He also hosted many leaders of the Minutemen movement (most notably Chris Simcox) on his programs over the years while hailing them as "a neighborhood watch" -- though he noticeably has failed to report it when the evidence becomes violently manifest that it is not anyone's idea of a civic-minded organization. More recently, Dobbs was one of the many right-wing pundits who attacked the Department of Homeland Security for its warnings about right-wing extremists.

That Dobbs has been permitted to operate in this fashion without facing the consequences among his fellow journalists has been one of the real ongoing media scandals that no one in the media wants to write about. So now it's out in the open -- and about time.

MM has put together a page where you can chime in on CNN's Lou Dobbs problem. Go make yourself heard.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sara on Thom (and Talk of the Nation)

-- by Sara

I'm going to be on Thom Hartmann's national show tomorrow morning about 10:15 PDT, talking about Canadian health care. (Every time the debate gets revived, these two pieces get popular all over again, and people want to talk about them.)

Listen in, and you can talk back to me here.

Update: I'm following that up with an interview with Lynn Neary of NPR's Talk of the Nation at 11:00 PDT. A busy morning indeed.

The Health Care Debate: Another Country Heard From

-- by Sara

Tommy Douglas -- Canada's answer to Abe Lincoln.
He didn't free the slaves, but he got everybody free health care.

One of the big differences between the 1993 Hillarycare debate and our current conversation is that we're hearing a lot more fact and lot less fiction about how other countries' systems actually work.

Thank the Internet. Back in 1993, the "Harry and Louise" ads succeeded because most Americans didn't have access to any other sources of information. Now, the whole world is at our fingertips. Anybody who really wants to know how health care is managed in Canada, or the UK, or Japan, or Australia can readily find someone with real experience in those systems who can tell their stories.

But progressive Americans living overseas aren't waiting around any more for y'all to ask. Some of us are getting proactive about sending our stories home. All around the world, there are millions of American citizens who have first-hand experience with other countries' health care systems. And Democrats Abroad, the world's largest political gathering of expatriate Americans, is getting us organized to tell our tales.

In an effort launched by my friend Lauren Shannon, an old-line Deanic who heads up DA Japan, DA started compiling a collections of stories and resources from American expats back in April. (The Health Care for America website has some of their gleanings here.) This week, Democrats Abroad Canada -- the largest of all the DA national chapters -- started leaning on its tens of thousands of members to ratchet up the pressure on the Congress folks and the newspapers back home.

(Procedural note: American expats register to vote in the last state they lived in before leaving the US. We can only vote for federal offices -- Congress, Senate, and President -- and thus our absentee votes don't have any effect on state or local politics. But expat voters -- many thousands of them, in some states -- can provide a significant margin in presidential elections, and we can also give our members of Congress an international perspective they might not otherwise get.)

Here are DA Canada's health care talking points -- the story those of us who live north of the border really want our fellow Americans to understand about the Canadian health care system:
It’s less expensive: It’s well known that Canada spends less of its budget on health care than the U. S. does, but anti single-payer propaganda says that Canadians pay more taxes. What they leave out is the chunk of money Americans pay to their insurance companies. If you add that amount to taxes you would find that, in sum, Canadians pay less.

No bureaucracy gets between you and your doctor: Despite propaganda from U.S. insurance companies, the Canadian system does not force patients to go through the government to get to their doctor. In fact, it’s pretty old-fashioned: you choose a doctor and make an appointment, show your health insurance card, and that’s it. If your doctor thinks you need to see a specialist or get further tests, he/she does not have to consult an insurance bureaucrat. If your specialist thinks you need an operation, you get it – without a stack of forms to fill out.

It’s user-friendly: Unlike the U.S. system, you don’t have to fear that an illness will strike you or a loved one and lead you into bankruptcy. You don’t have to master the minutiae of co-pays and all of the methods the insurance companies use to outsmart their clients. Just that lack of stress is a health benefit in itself.

Employers: The pro-insurance propaganda says that most people get health care through their employers. What about the people who lose their jobs, or are afraid to quit and try something else? They live in fear. Also, it is often said that small businesses provide the largest percentage of jobs in America. Many simply cannot afford health care for their employees.

Proof that the Canadian system works: Since 1966, when national health care was voted in – strongly opposed by the Canadian Medical Association - it has been considered one of the most important benefits of living in Canada. “Don’t mess with health care” is a message that Canadian politicians have been getting for over 40 years. Any candidate for national office who wants a U.S.-style system would lose - no doubt about it. This is not to say that there’s no room for improvement – even in the best of systems, there’s room for refinement. And when a system is under-funded or mismanaged, it’s not going to work as well as it was meant to.

In the U.S., polls show that support for the public option is very high - and growing. When it comes to the most comprehensive and least expensive (for the national budget and the individual wallet) health care, you just can’t fool all of the people forever.

But don't just take it from the expats. Foreign nationals working in America are weighing in, too. Over at HuffPo yesterday, another friend, Canadian-born Ian Walsh, shared his, um, visceral appreciation of his home country's system:
In 1993, at the age of 25, I became very ill with ulcerative colitis. I was hospitalized, and put on very expensive drugs. About a week after being hospitalized, the nurse watching me called in my doctors on a Sunday because I was deteriorating so fast -- pain killers were no longer having any effect (i.e., high doses of morphine were not working), I wouldn't let anyone touch me, and I was becoming delirious. At about midnight, they wheeled me into the operating chamber and took out my large intestine. While they were digging around, they found out I had appendicitis, and they took that out too. It would have burst within 2 days, and in my weakened state, it would have killed me.

Unfortunately, one of the treatments for ulcerative colitis involves immune suppressing drugs. My immune system basically shut down, my liver almost shut down, and I spent almost another 3 months in the hospital, riddled with extremely painful and crippling infections and other problems. At one point I was on 9 drugs; one of them was an antibiotic so expensive that only a single doctor in the hospital could approve it. My gastroenterologist called the treatment the equivalent of "pouring gold dust into your veins." I wasted away, my weight dropping below 90 lbs. I often joke that I was old young: I've used a walker, crutches and cane.

The ultimate point of my story is simple: I got the care I needed, when I needed it, and I never paid a single red cent.

Which is good, because I couldn't have afforded to pay. I was young and had very little money. The kind of care I received, even back then, would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the U.S.

If I had lived in the U.S., my parents would have faced a choice between paying for my incredibly expensive treatment or watching me die. They were both old and it would have wiped out their savings entirely and thrown them into bankruptcy. Frankly, I don't know how they could have supported themselves. My life, at that cost, would have had too high a price. I wonder how many Americans have had to make that calculation.

But I survived, and neither I, nor my parents, was bankrupted. In similar circumstances I doubt all of those things would be true for an American 25-year-old trying to survive the same medical condition in America's health care industry.

"Harry and Louise" were a fiction. So (largely) is the story of Shona Holmes, the GOP's current poster girl for the alleged "failures" of Canadian health care. That's all the conservatives have in this debate: made-up stories and the usual heaping helping of fearmongering.

What they haven't counted on is the fact that neither they nor the insurance companies they shill for have even the barest shred of credibility with the American people. Both factions have proven, beyond argument, that they're willing to sacrifice 22,000 American lives every year in the name of profit -- and that this mini-genocide is now far more salient to most of us than anything they could possibly have to say.

And they also haven't counted on the fact that the majority of Americans now have access to a global network of online acquaintances with whom they have far more reliably trustworthy relationships, and who will give them the straight story.

If you are reading this from inside the US, don't take the propagandists' word for it. Google up some people who've actually seen doctors in other countries, and ask them how it really works for them. And if you're a fellow expat, take a minute right now and write a note to your congressman back home, a letter to the editor of your hometown paper, and an e-mail blast to all your friends and relatives. Tell your story -- the good and the bad, the similarities and differences, the things you miss and the things you're amazed by.

The best way to dispel the great choking cloud of mendacity issuing from the insurance lobby is to take this conversation global, and hear first-hand from the people who've been there, done that. There's a big wide world of insight and experience out there -- and tapping into that could very well make all the difference in whether or not the US finally gets health care that works.

Crossposted from