Here at Liberadio(!), we had high hopes after the bittersweet moment of Election Day 2008, where Democrats and progressives were jubilant at the election of President Obama but frustrated at the loss of both state houses of the General Assembly to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction. Our hopes were high because, despite Tennessee’s electoral contrarianism, we had a pair of Republican Senators who did not seem to take cues from the Inhofe/Palin/Limbaugh/Beck wing of the party.

They were heady days in early 2009, when we saw former Sec. of Education and now Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator Lamar(!) Alexander join current Sec. of Education Arne Duncan in co-writing an op-ed for The Tennnessean on the importance of improving Tennessee’s charter schools laws. This was meaningful bipartisanship. It was almost—dare we say it?—statesman-like.

It seems to be shrinking. Like the ice caps.

It seems to be shrinking. Like the ice caps.

Our hopes, however, have since been dashed. It was not long before Lamar(!) was using Glenn Beck math in a prelude to boycotting bipartisan committee meetings.

And once he had set foot on the slippery slope of being a member of Republican leadership in an era in which true leadership seems to be in hiding, it wasn’t long before he had slid down into the depths, where he saw fit (with the blessing of advisers?) to repeatedly call Medicaid a “medical ghetto.”

“Or arrogant in its dumping of 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us, or any of our families, would ever want to be a part of for our health care.”

We’re left wondering whether he feels similarly about all government services, including public education.

Now we discover that he’s “quietly” trying to provoke teabaggers into another wave of astroturf town halls.

We can and should advocate for effective government, but achieving this model must always be done in recognition that there is a group of people, now including Lamar(!), that hate government and want to see it fail. We want to see good governance and a sound legislative process that attracts the best and the brightest to the domain of public policy. We want programs that are well-run so that they serve the American people well. With detractors and obstructionists like Lamar(!) thinking that his family is too good for government services, success is made difficult but not impossible. Fortunately, there are 100 Senators, and Lamar(!), should he choose to stand (a process requiring a spine) for re-election, will be up again in 2014.

We proudly present the 2009 Liberadio(!) Jive Turkey Award to… Lamar! Congratulations, sir. We hope that you and last year’s winner Bill Hobbs will enjoy cigars at the reception. The buffet table will be full of leftovers.

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Summary: Featuring guests Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves co-founder and Executive Director; and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

Links: Our Bodies Ourselves, Public Responsibility in Medicine & Research, Media Matters for America

A Black Eye, Part 1 The intro, the end of the world on celluloid, recounts possibilities (or impossibilities), Republican hypocrisy in Sumner County, plus the Media Matters for American Smackdown with Karl Frisch, in which he packs a whole lot of Sarah Palin in a short time. [38.3MB download mp3]

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A Black Eye, Part 2 A really big “oopsie” followed by a whole lotta backpedaling by Tennessee’s U.S. Senators Alexander and Corker, political performance art by Palin and her friends insults truth, justice and the American way, more health insurances woes keep us from the American dream, and our interview with Judy Norsigian, a hero of the women’s movement. [36MB download mp3]

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Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker make an appearance in the Tennessean this morning in which they attempt to explain their vote against an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would let corporate plunderers off the hook for rape.

The amendment, introduced by Senator Al Franken, would deny taxpayer dollars in the form of defense contracts to any company that asks employees to sign away their right to sue.

Their explanation? “We voted against the amendment because it was overly broad, banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees.”

Gasp! Too much benefit for employees? We can’t have that now, can we.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of elitism from the two gentlemen from Tennessee. They also voted for an amendment “that prohibits funds…from being used to directly or indirectly fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)” – an organization that fights for living and minimum wage legislation and increases, registers low- and moderate-income and minority citizens to vote, and counsels first-time home buyers.

For Senators Alexander and Corker, it’s this: “Large, national-treasury raiding and war profiteering defense contractors? Good! Working people trying to maintain a tenuous hold on the American Dream? Bad.

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Summary: Featuring guests Elliott Ozment, immigration law attorney; Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall; and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

Immigration Nation, Part 1 Nevermind the boy not in the balloon, there’s real news afoot. Ty Cobb 2.0, a healthcare reform package out of committee in the Senate, Senator Al Franken gets his first amendment passed by a roll call vote no thanks to Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker who would rather let corporate plunderers off the hook for rape, Tennesseans deserve fair and accurate elections, and an interview with immigration law attorney Elliott Ozment, who covers the controversial 287g program up for reauth in the Metro Council, why he used to serve on the Sheriff’s Immigration Advisory Council for the program but doesn’t anymore, the basic civil and human rights inherent in the immigration debate, Juana Villegas, and what he thinks would be a good solution to crime prevention in Nashville’s undocumented immigrant population. [21.3MB download mp3]

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Immigration Nation, Part 2 We hear from you, our listeners, as well as another immigration attorney, Sean Lewis, about immigration matters, and conclude that we are not looking at immigration reform as comprehensively as we need to. And we talk to Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, the man behind the controversial 287g program, to get his take on why the program is important, how it does or doesn’t work, accusations of racial profiling, and why it’s coming before the Metro Council once again. Plus, it’s an abbreviated version of the Media Matters for American Smackdown with Karl Frisch, in which he packs a whole lot of funny in a short time. [24MB download mp3]

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Jamie Leigh Jones testifies.

Jamieleigh Jones testifies.

While working in Iraq in 2005, Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was brutally gang-raped by her co-workers and left for a day locked in a shipping container. Her employment contract said that she was not allowed to sue – her allegations could only be heard in private arbitration.

Last week in his first legislative effort, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) proposed an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would deny taxpayer dollars in the form of defense contracts to any company that asks employees to sign away their right to sue.

Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention. (b) The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply with respect to employment contracts that may not be enforced in a court of the United States.

30 Republicans voted against the amendment and voted for protecting ginormous profit-making defense contracts for KBR/Halliburton, including Tennessee Senators Lamar! Alexander and Bob Corker. Click on each of the links to send them a nice note or call Sen. Alexander at 202-224-4944 and Senator Corker at 202-234-3344.

Senators Corker and Alexander no doubt agreed with the twisted and flat-out wrong logic of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who argued that “The Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts…that’s just not how we should handle matters in the United States Senate.” Given that the United States government was the other party in the contract, that would be exactly the kind of thing Congress should be involved in.

Senators Alexander and Corker did, however, vote for an amendment “that prohibits funds…from being used to directly or indirectly fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)” – an organization that fights for living and minimum wage legislation and increases, registers low- and moderate-income and minority citizens to vote, and counsels first-time home buyers.

If you’re keeping score at home for our two Senators it would be, Rape – 1, The American Dream – 0.

And if you think the sexual assault of women by defense contractor employees is a one-time occurrence, think again.

(H/T: HuffPo)

UPDATE: More from Joe Powell.

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Alexander the Not-So-Great

Alexander the Not-So-Great

Last week, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander claimed that cap-and-trade will cost consumer $1,761 a year – a little tidbit of info he got from Beck who got it from Drudge who got it from lyin’ right wing blogger who got it from a fuzzy-math fueled right-wing “think tank.”

Politifact took a look at the claim the Senator sent out in a press release and said, “you lie!”

His [Alexander's] statement that households will pay $1,761 in new taxes every year is based on a blogger’s incorrect assumptions and overly simple math. The estimate does not account for revenue that will be returned to consumers in the form of rebates and other efficiency measures. Furthermore, the number is based on old numbers; the Treasury estimate was written on the premise that all permits would be sold, which, ultimately, is not the form that the Waxman-Markey legislation has taken. Finally, both Alexander and McCullagh portray money raised by selling these permits as a tax. We rate Alexander’s claim False.

And while doing so, they also note that Alexander “is relying not on a study by an economist, but on an estimate from a blogger.”

Which makes me wonder, does Senator Alexander have staff that can fact-check his assertions before they are sent out in a press release or is he so caught up in taking his marching orders from radical right-wing cable news hosts and bloggers that he can’t be bothered with silly concepts like “truth?”

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I’ve already written a little about my own situation with regard to healthcare. I’m not particularly concerned, but let’s review the scenario:

I recently resigned from an employer to start a new business. Having a thorough personal understanding of the importance of health insurance (ranking it just underneath food and just ahead of rent/mortgage in terms of financial priorities), I planned to enroll in an individual plan. I also have a pre-existing condition, which makes any change to my insurance circumstances somewhat of a hurdle. So right now, I face:

  • getting approved for the individual plan for which I applied, albeit delayed while underwriters (at the same provider!) re-review my medical and health history because of my pre-existing condition, which has never resulted in the need for access to healthcare
  • or, getting denied for the individual plan for which I applied, forcing me to rely on COBRA, which not only is extremely expensive but also expires after 18 months

At the moment, my situation is not an emergency. It could become extremely expensive in the short term if I’m denied for the individual plan for which I applied, but I’m not too worried about being declared to be uninsurable, although that is a slight risk, as it is for all Americans. But is this health security?

And this brings me to my point. The primary reason we need health insurance reform in America right now is to ensure that Americans have adequate health security in a world with better diagnostics and rising healthcare costs. As life expectancy has increased, so has medical technology and information improved. We know more about chronic conditions now, and we have data that gives us a better grip on epidemiology. And there are epidemics. Everything from diabetes to cancer. And right now we operate in a world where, for most Americans, health insurance benefits are a function of employment and employers, and private insurers prefer working with groups rather than individuals, from among whom they’re quite satisfied cherry picking.

Here’s the thing about healthcare. Unless we achieve some type of actual health insurance reform, every single one of the 47 million uninsured Americans who is uninsured because they are uninsurable as designated by a private insurance company will continue to lack access to health insurance until they have spent down their assets–cash, house, investments–to poverty level, which allows them to qualify for Medicaid. They must then remain at a function of the federal poverty line– lest they become ineligible for Medicaid–until they qualify for Medicare at age 65. The alternative is to keep one’s assets and hope that one can just keep living long enough to survive visits to the emergency room when things get really terrible because that’s the only place that has a mandate, and the mandate is just to stabilize emergency conditions. And don’t forget: They’ll still bill you later.

So let’s be clear: Every American who gets an unexpected diagnosis just before changing jobs, or while covered under COBRA, lives with the extreme risk that they will lose access to insurance. Every American who actually has private insurance, maybe even likes their plan, might not realize that that plan likely carries a lifetime maximum in terms of what the policy covers. Maybe $1m. Maybe $5m. Or an annual maximum. Or a high enough deductible that, if an injury or illness preventing work occurs, might become punitive when extended across 30 years.

Our system of healthcare in America right now is the best in the world… for healthy Americans! For unhealthy Americans, it becomes a nearly guaranteed system of oppression. This is why some form of universal healthcare is a necessity. Because anything short of that is a systematic short circuit of the American dream for anyone who winds up injured or ill. This is why we’re all in this together. This is why we either need to pool our risk in a national consensus of some kind to ensure that no unhealthy American is left behind. Or we need a better idea that I haven’t yet heard.

So I want to hear from a Republican who opposes anything a Democrat proposes regarding health insurance reform: What do you say to the 47 million Americans without access to health insurance? What do you say to the hundreds of millions of Americans who are not independently wealthy and rely on meaningful health security to remain healthy and working? I get that you want to give ‘em all a tax credit. I get that. I’ve read John Mackey’s 8 Whole Foods Half Healthcare reforms that would lower costs, and not a single one of ‘em solves the problem of access to insurance when you’re uninsurable. So what else ya got, Republicans, because a tax credit ain’t gonna cut it in terms of keeping 47 million Americans out of poverty and ensuring that all Americans have health security. But I get this sneaking suspicion that you don’t actually care.

In the meantime, the Affordable Health Choices Act (in the Senate) and America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (in the House) provide an opportunity to expand health security to millions more Americans. Consider contacting Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Jim Cooper and encouraging them to support these bills.

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