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[Max Baucus's bill] really will be the most important progressive policy passed since Lyndon Johnson.
- Ezra Klein
Five committees in Congress have jurisdiction over healthcare reform, three in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate. Before Congress rose for its summer recess in August, four of the five committees had passed fundamentally similar healthcare reform bills. Yesterday, the final committee, the Senate Finance Committee lead by Montana Democrat Max Baucus, introduced its own bill. It has not yet passed it, but is beginning the process of debating and voting on it.
With the Baucus draft bill, Democrats in Congress agree in principle on 99% of what Obama wants in healthcare reform. In its current format, the Baucus draft bill would enact about 95% to 97% of what Obama campaigned on. This is a huge victory for Obama and for Democrats if only we have the wit to see it.
The healthcare reform package that Obama campaign on includes the following among its most notable elements:
Regulation of insurance companies including preventing them from dropping people or reducing their coverage because of a pre-existing condition
Expansion of coverage to most of the current uninsured, primarily through expansions to Medicaid, Medicare, and other existing government programs
Make health insurance more affordable through a variety of cost-cutting measures within healthcare as well as subsidies and tax credits for working families
Require employers to provide health insurance for their employees or face a fine
Establishment of healthcare exchanges where (some) individuals and businesses can choose a health insurance plan from among a menu of options, increasing competition
Creation of a "public option", a government run health insurance program available on the exchanges
The Baucus draft bill provides for all of these except the last item (the public option). Per the analysis by Ezra Klein, it is unfortunately weak on the employer mandate and on the healthcare exchanges, but it does include these elements. It is on this basis that I say that all of the Congressional committees agree in principle on 99% of what Obama wants (everything but the public option) and that if the Baucus version is enacted it will provide about 95% to 97% of what Obama wants (minus the weakness in the employer mandate and exchanges, and minus the public option).
If you think about it, this is an amazing achievement. Every Democratic president since Harry Truman has tried to pass universal healthcare. The most successful was Lyndon Johnson, but Medicare and Medicaid only cover a relatively small portion of the population. Yet not only does Obama look to be on the verge of succeeding where so many before him have failed, but he looks likely to get it through Congress in nearly the exact form he proposed it. That's one for the history books, folks!
Even if the Baucus draft bill is the final version that is enacted - without the public plan - it will be a huge improvement for this country, not only for the 47 million uninsured, but also for the majority of us who do already have health insurance. As Ezra Klein notes:
The legislation really would protect millions of Americans from medical bankruptcy. It really would insure tens of millions of people. It really will curb the worst practices of the private insurance industry. It really will expand Medicaid and transform it from a mish-mash of state regulation into a dependable benefit. It really will lay down out-of-pocket caps which are a lot better than anything people have today. It really will help primary care providers, and it really will make hospitals more transparent, and it really will be a step towards paying for quality rather than volume.
I absolutely and without reservation support passing the Baucus bill. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good and continue to suffer under a broken system because we are too proud to accept a partial reform. It will be a lot more than "half a loaf". In fact, it will be most everything we want.
Unfortunately, many progressives seem to have made the public option the sine qua non of healthcare reform. It isn't. It does not by itself regulate insurance companies in any way. It is not the element that is primarily responsible for covering most of the uninsured (that's the Medicaid and Medicare expansions). A healthcare reform bill without it will do nearly everything for people today that a bill with it will do. Yet to hear many progressives talk, you would think it alone is the only true element - oh, and it will give everybody a pony too!
Read Ezra Klein (different post; he is the one indispensible blogger on this issue) and Nate Silver for a reality check.
The fact is, the flaws in the Baucus draft bill in regard to the employer mandate and the exchanges are the kind of things that can and likely will be resolved in negotiations, either within the Senate Democratic caucus, or between the House and the Senate. Everybody agrees in principle that these elements must be included, the only dispute is over the details.
Which leaves the public option as the one issue left to be resolved (think about this for a minute - if someone had told you a year ago that Congressional Democrats would all agree on those health insurance regulations, would you have believed them? Yet they do). Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has proposed a compromise solution, a "trigger" under which if insurance companies do not reduce costs and increase coverage within a few years, the public option will be created. Read Nate Silver on why this may be the most progressive course.
Snowe's trigger option may yet be added as the Finance Committee considers the Baucus draft bill. Or it might be added as the Senate Democratic caucus decides what bill to take to the floor. Or it might be added during the conference between the House and the Senate to resolve differences between their bills.
If this compromise does get enacted, I think we will have about 99.5% of what we want. I'll take it. Will you?
President Obama's speech in Cairo this morning covered an amazing amount of ground. Beyond the message that Obama was directly conveying, he also communicated a message through the Islamic citations and allusions that he made in his speech. Many of these may not be familiar to non-Muslims so in this post, I provide links to references where you can learn more.
Overall, Obama displayed a deep knowledge of Islamic scripture, history, and views, and that in itself conveys his respect far more than just saying "I respect Islam and Muslims". I think this will be appreciated by many Muslims, even if they do not agree with the positions he took.
As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth."
This is from Surah al-Ahzab, verse 70. The Arabic text of this verse is Ya ayyuha alladhina amanu ittaqu Allaha wa qulu qawlan sadidan. The phrase ittaqu Allaha is often translated as "fear God" but the noun form taqwa really refers to an awareness or consciousness of God's presence, hence Obama's rendering.
That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.
Here, Obama alludes to the case of Nashala Hearn, an Oklahoma schoolgirl who was prohibited from wearing her headscarf (hijab) to school. As detailed on the White House blog, the U.S. Department of Justice went to court to fight for Nashala's right to express her religion. I covered this case in 2003 and 2004.
The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent it is as if he has killed all mankind. And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.
I have posted a number of times about Islamic non-violence movements. The reference to South Asia is most likely an allusion to Bacha Khan, who was a contemporary of Gandhi and founder of a 100,000-strong Islamic non-violence movement in India.
I also thought Obama's evocation of the non-violent struggle of African-Americans against slavery and segregation was very powerful.
All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.
Here, Obama refers to Isra and Mi'raj, the miraculous night journey taken by the Prophet Muhammad (sAas), in which he traveled to Jerusalem and ascended into the heavens. As Obama mentions, as part of this journey, the Prophet met and prayed with both Moses and Jesus (sAas). This is a wonderful story, and Wikipedia has links to a number of resources for further reading.
Obama also uses the standard invocation "peace be upon them" (in Arabic, sal'Allahu alayhi wa sallam, abbreviated sAas as above) that Muslims use whenever referring to God's prophets, not just the Prophet Muhammad. Whenever Muslims mention Jesus or Moses (holy to Christianity and Judaism, respectively), their names are always followed by invoking peace upon them.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition.
Here Obama refers to Muslim Spain. At a time when medieval Europe was often expelling Jews, Andalusia welcomed them. You can read more about Jews under Islamic rule from Jewish sources here.
The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
This is Surah al-Hujurat, verse 13, which is one of the more beautiful verses of the Quran, in my opinion. Rather than our differences being something we should fear, they are a gift from God to allow us to learn and grow.
What really struck me about all these citations and allusions is that they are all things that I, as a Muslim, would have mentioned and used to support what I was saying. It's obvious that Obama took a lot of time to talk to those learned in Islam and really listened to what they told him. Mashallah.
P.S. No, I did not intend for this to survive only as an Obama blog. But he keeps making it necessary for me to come back and post!
P.P.S. Thanks for the link, Al! Visitors from The Field, feel free to look around, and browse my older posts, although the blog is no longer active and comments have been shut down. I hope that you find this post of value to you and perhaps other posts on the blog as well.
No, not for endorsing Obama for president. For this:
And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist." He is "palling around with terrorists" (note the plural noun). Obama is "not a man who sees America the way you and I see America." Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.
By the time McCain asks the crowd "Who is the real Barack Obama?" it's no surprise that someone cries out "Terrorist!" The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama's middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers's Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.
Blogger Greg Sargent has similar thoughts. I do believe that the constant association of Obama (stressing his Muslim-sounding name) with words like "terrorist" and insinuations that he hates America leads inevitably to what we are seeing. The claim about Ayers is thin, but it allows this linkage and I can only believe that this is why McCain and Palin are using it.
I am scared for Obama's safety, I would be scared as someone who is visibly Muslim by my dress to go near a McCain rally, and I am scared that nutcases may also attack Obama offices or Obama supporters because they are stoked up by this rhetoric.
Senator McCain and Governor Palin, I call on you to take down your Ayers ads and stop the rhetoric that claims Senator Obama does not love America. People are scared right now because of the financial and economic crisis and many may be looking for someone to blame. Do not stand by when they take African Americans, Muslims, Arab Americans, or other racial and religious minorities as scapegoats. Stand up against it. All people of conscience should do so.
I am serving as a judge for the Brass Crescent Awards this year.
What are the Brass Crescent Awards? They are named for the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. Today, the Islamsphere is forging a new synthesis of Islam and modernity, and is the intellectual heir to the traditions of philosophy and learning that was once the hallmark of Islamic civilization - a heritage scarcely recognizable today in the Islamic world after a century's ravages of colonialism, tyrants, and religious fundamentalism. We believe that Islam transcends history, and we are forging history anew for tomorrow's Islam. These awards are a means to honor ourselves and celebrate our nascent community, and promote its growth.
The categories this year are as follows:
BEST BLOG: This category honors the most indispensable, Muslim-authored blog there is. Period.
BEST WRITER: Who is the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophically wise among us? This category is intended to highlight a blogger who may not post daily, but when they do post, they really make an impact.
BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOG: Which blog writen by a non-Muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue with Muslims?
BEST BLOG DESIGN: Which blog has the most aesthetically pleasing site design, appealing to the eye, evoking Islamic themes, and/or facilitating debate and discussion?
BEST POST OR SERIES: Which single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere was the most original and important, above all the others?
BEST FEMALE BLOG: The woman's voice in Islam is equal to the man's, and in the Islamsphere we seek to make sure the female perspective is highlighted and given its rightful due. Which Muslim woman's blog has done the most to explore the role that women play within Islam and society?
BEST NEW BLOG: Which blog is a true diamond in the rough, one that everyone should be reading but who most just haven't heard of (yet)?
BEST GROUP BLOG: Which multiple group blog in the Islamsphere has the best diversity of writers and the most interesting debate on Muslim issues?
BEST HUMOR BLOG: Which blog gets their point across by using humor in the most effective way?
BEST MIDDLE EAST/AFRICAN, EUROPEAN, SOUTH ASIAN, AND ASIAN BLOGGERS: The Islamsphere is truly a global phenomenon. In Iraq, despite the chaos and uncertainty, there is a sea change of free speech and expression, the vanguard of which are blogs. There are also bloggers in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Jordan, and most other countries that host Muslims, all of whom have their own perspectives on faith, culture, and politics.
The nominations phase for all 13 categories is now underway, so head over and start nominating your favorite blogs now!
Note, that the Awards methodology is slightly different this year:
1. Nomination phase (Wed Oct 1 - Fri Oct 24). Anyone with a valid email address may nominate blogs to appropriate categories. Blogs may only be nominated once for any given category. We also encourage you to nominate your own blog!
2. Panel phase (Fri Oct 24th to Fri Nov 7th). The top nominees in each category will be forwarded to the judges' panel, who will review the nominees and select the finalists.
3. Voting phase (Fri Nov 7 to Fri Dec 1).
4. Winners will be announced at brasscrescent.org around Eid ul-Adha.
What a night! What a victory! An historic day for our nation, with the first African-American presidential nominee of a major party. An incredible victory for Obama's insurgent campaign against the ultimate Democratic party machine (the Clinton campaign). And the first time a candidate I supported has actually won the nomination! :D
Truly a night to remember. Tomorrow (technically, later today :p ) the next stage of the fight begins, but for now a time to savor.
God willing, McCain is toast.