The Breakfast Club (Freedom Of Thought)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

Benjamin Franklin born; Soviet and Polish forces liberate Warsaw; Eisenhower farewell address; Japan earthquake; Al Capone is born;Muhammad Ali born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.

Benjamin Franklin

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Impeachment: Yes, Trump Broke Federal Law

The first article of impeachment charges him with abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging Democratic rivals.

Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage. President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations. President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation.

President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct through the following means:

(1) President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government — corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into —

(A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and

(B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.

(2) With the same corrupt motives, President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government — conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested

(A) the release of $391 million of United States taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated on a bipartisan basis for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression and which President Trump had ordered suspended; and

(B) a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued United States support for the Government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

Today the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s independent auditor, released its finding that Donald Trump broke the law by withholding the $214 million worth of equipment, training and other support to help Ukraine in its battle against Russian-backed forces.

While the Ukraine scandal has revealed a variety of abuses of power, there is one particular way in which Trump and his administration might have broken the law, when on his orders the administration withheld military aid to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress in what we now know is an attempt to coerce Ukraine into announcing an “investigation” that would smear Joe Biden.

The Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s independent auditor, released a judgment saying Trump did in fact break that law when through the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) he withheld the aid from Ukraine in the summer of 2019:

Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA.

To clarify some of the bureaucratese, a “programmatic delay” refers to a finite set of practical reasons the executive branch can use to justify temporarily withholding aid that Congress has appropriated. When that happens, the executive branch is required by the law to write an explanation to Congress; the Trump administration didn’t do that either.

If the Senate Republicans refuse to remove this man from office, and bar him from ever holding another elected office, they are putting their stamp of approval on this and any other president in the future, to break the law for his/her own gain and ignore the Constitutional oath of office.

Ladies and Gentlemen- Jimmy Smits

What? You thought he died after West Wing?

Ken Jennings is the Greatest of All Time!

Actually, not a bad ad from Steyer, where’s my Yang money dude?

Country Music

Yuk. With performance.

Tom Steyer’s Tie

The Giant Impeach

Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s story? It’s unsettling in that Hans Christian Andersen kind of way actually and a frequent target of censors who think it not suitable fare for children. I like them roasted but can’t finish a whole one anymore.

Meanwhile-

Oh, you want a closer look-

How about a South African perspective?

Ok, these are just screamingly funny.

It’s the Andy Yang Show!

He’s offering me $1000 a month for my vote. How about you Bloomberg? Steyer?

Hey, what do I always say? I can screw that up for you just as badly at half the price!

Cartnoon

Synchronicity. I was just talking with TMC about Asbestos and Serpentine Rock (for the uninitiate Serpentine forms a substantial amount of the bedrock of New York City because it’s tough and laughs at Glaciers, it’s also loaded with Asbestos and requires special precautions when working with it, Asbestosis and Mesothelioma are not good ways to die).

A Can Of Worms

The metaphor is that it takes some doing to get those wriggly creepy crawlies back in it. If I was looking for something punny I might reference the Diet of Worms (it’s a Cathedral in Germany not noom, get over it) which was a conference held to form a response to Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation.

Anyway, Part One of the Lev Parnas interview dropped last night. Want to see it?

Well, that’s 20 minutes anyway. MSNBC is once again making things difficult so I may revisit if I find a better and more stable source.

Not that I care what Joe and Mika think about anything, but this is what it is.

Here are 7 explosive claims from Lev Parnas’ interview with Rachel Maddow blowing up the Ukraine scandal
by Cody Fenwick, Alternet
January 16, 2020

  1. “President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas said. “He was aware of all of my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.”

    Trump has claimed that he doesn’t know who Parnas or his associate, Igor Fruman, are, despite appearing in multiple pictures with him. There was already good reason to assume this was false, but Parnas has not directly rebutted the dubious claim on the record.

  2. “It was not about corruption,” Parnas said of the Ukraine scheme. “It was all about Burisma, all about Biden, about Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”

    This claim completely undercuts the Republicans’ key defenses of the president against impeachment. They say he was legitimately pursuing an anti-corruption policy in Ukraine by asking for investigations of his political enemies. That was hard to believe on its own, but now Parnas is flatly contradicting it.

  3. Parnas said it was clear to the Ukrainians he was acting as Trump’s emissary.

    “Did anybody in the U.S. government or Mr. Giuliani actually convey to officials in Ukraine that you were there as a representative of President Trump?” Maddow asked.

    “Yes,” said Parnas. “Absolutely. Absolutely. Everyone.”

    Guiliani told Maddow that this “never” happened and called Parnas a “sad situation.”

  4. He said he made explicit to Ukrainian officials that Trump’s support and financial support — not just military aid — was dependent on an announcement of the investigations the president wanted.

    “It wasn’t just military aid,” Parnas said. “It was all aid. Basically their relationships would be sour. That we would stop giving them any kind of aid.”

  5. Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Ukraine was canceled explicitly to induce the country to announce the investigations, Parnas said.

    Parnas said that the cancellation of Pence’s trip confirmed to the Ukrainians that he was a legitimate representative of the president. He also said that Pence was “in the loop” about the reason the trip was canceled, but he didn’t explicit say how he knew this. He just indicated the top players were all aware of the plot.

    Pence’s later trip to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was arranged to get the country to announce the investigations Trump wanted, Parnas said. However, Pence has denied trying to get Zelensky to conduct the investigations.

  6. Attorney General Bill Barr was “on the team.”

    Barr has also tried to distance himself entirely from the Ukraine scandal. But Parnas claimed that “Barr had to know about everything” regarding the plan to push Ukraine to investigate the Biden and the 2016 presidential election. He acknowledged, though, that he didn’t speak to Barr directly.

    Maddow pointed out that, in his infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump specifically brought up Barr as being involved. Parnas said that didn’t surprise him, because Barr was “on the team.” The Justice Department, responding to Maddow’s request for comment on the allegations, said simply: “100 percent false.”

  7. Parnas also fingered Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) in the scheme, the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee that investigated the Ukraine matter.

    Parnas said he was introduced to, and worked through, Nunes aide Derek Harvey, but he was working on Nunes’ behalf.

    “Does it strike you as unusual or inappropriate that Devin Nunes would be one of the lead investigators?” Maddow asked.

    “I was in shock when I was watching the hearings and when I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there,” Parnas said. “Because they were involved in getting all this stuff on Biden.”

Yeah, the blockbuster is that Lev Parnas implicates Pence, Nunes, and Barr up to their eyeballs and he has the receipts and they don’t have even spurious claims of immunity.

It’s pardoning time.

The Breakfast Club (Preservation Of The Future)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

Start of Operation Desert Storm; Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off; Prohibition takes effect; Shah of Iran flees into exile; musical “Hello Dolly” opens.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.

Dian Fossey

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All The Fuss

Evidently Lev Parnas (tonight’s guest on Rachel) really does have receipts and there’s a lot of ‘smoking gun’ talk as the Articles, all two of them unfortunately, proceed to the Senate.

Oh, Shiff, Nadler, Lofgren, Jeffries, Demings, Crow, and Garcia.

Bolton’s Ghost Writer is apparently putting the finishing touches on his book which at least leaves him free for a Media tour to highlight the most salacious details and hype sales.

So the good news never stops for Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio. Couldn’t happen to a bigger asshole I’d say except they’re all pretty big assholes and this is not a pissing contest.

Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence
By Neal Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer, Washington Post
Jan. 15, 2020

Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer. The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption when he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could “penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.” No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say “no” to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: “Obstruction of Congress.” It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

The documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.

Both of us served in high-ranking Justice Department positions; we’ve never heard of an investigation that is kept from the Justice Department, given to a private lawyer and then publicly announced — investigations work best when done in secret. If Trump, as he has long claimed, was truly interested in pursuing anti-corruption efforts in the bizarrely specific form of a single investigation of a single American citizen, then he would have wanted an actual investigation. Instead, he was fixated on the public announcement of one — which, if anything, would have harmed the investigation by tipping off its subject. The public announcement would have helped only one thing: Trump’s personal political prospects.

And if Trump wasn’t really pursuing corruption in Ukraine, then his demand that Hunter Biden be called as a witness at the upcoming Senate impeachment trial also crumbles. This effort by Trump and his allies to shift attention away from Trump and toward the Bidens makes no sense on its own terms — after all, the president is the one being accused of impeachable offenses, not Joe or Hunter Biden. But the effort defies logic entirely, because Parnas’s notes make clear that his and Giuliani’s marching orders from Trump were to provoke a Ukrainian announcement of a Biden investigation, rather than an investigation itself. What could Hunter Biden possibly tell the Senate about that?

Trump’s push had nothing to do with what Hunter Biden did or didn’t do, and everything to do with whether Trump could extort and bully the Ukrainian leadership into casting aspersions on Biden regardless of what he did or didn’t do. That leaves Biden with nothing of relevance to say at a Senate impeachment trial — the final word on Trump’s preposterous effort to refocus scrutiny on the Biden family. That was, of course, the very push that got Trump into this mess in the first place, so to allow him to succeed now through the mechanism of impeachment would be irony bordering on tragedy.

But that’s not to say there’s nothing to learn at a genuine Senate impeachment trial — which, as the word “trial” suggests, features actual evidence and witnesses. That’s the third point emerging from the documents released Tuesday night. One of those documents shows how important it might be to have such witnesses testify before the Senate. The document is a letter from Giuliani to Zelensky when he was Ukraine’s president-elect. It begins: “I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States.” The letter then requested a meeting with Zelensky. This letter is a devastating indication of what has been clear to many all along: that Trump’s pursuit of an announcement that Ukraine was looking into Biden was an abuse of his public office for personal gain. That’s what this letter sure seems to be saying. And it makes clear that what was afoot had nothing to do with law enforcement or Biden’s possible corruption — it wasn’t a request from the official “President of the United States” but from a “private citizen.”

The letter is so damning to Trump that we can foresee the president claiming during an impeachment trial that Giuliani was lying — back then, and even still today. That’s where Senate testimony can prove crucial. There’s a reason the Supreme Court has called live testimony, including cross-examination, “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” Put Giuliani on the witness stand — and Trump, too, if he has the guts. And let the truth come out.

All told, the documents help explain Trump’s consistent push to bury the evidence against him. Every week, it becomes clearer why Trump has withheld documents from Congress, blocked executive branch officials and even private citizens from testifying before Congress, and overall, well, obstructed Congress, as the second article of impeachment rightly describes it. It’s because Trump is a man with something to hide. Let’s see what else he’s hiding — in front of the Senate next week, in a good, old-fashioned American trial for all to see.

I might tack on the Maddow interview later if it’s available, but I think it and the fall out will deserve its own piece.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Tim Kaine and Mike Lee: Why we’re introducing a resolution on war with Iran

For more than 40 years, the United States and Iran have had a troubled relationship. Because of the Iranian regime’s insistence on spreading terror throughout the region and its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, multiple administrations have considered a broad range of options — both military and diplomatic — to counter these threats.

The legality of many of these actions has been murky at best, and this has not always been the fault of just the executive branch. Far too often, Congress has been the one to shirk its responsibility to debate the proper use of force to meet global threats.

That needs to change. That’s why we have partnered to introduce a resolution that would prohibit war with Iran without congressional authorization.

Frank Bruni: Warren and Klobuchar Teach the Boys a Lesson

At the Democratic debate, gender comes to the fore.

Would a female Democratic nominee have a harder time beating Donald Trump than a male one?

I can’t tell you, because I don’t have a crystal ball and because it’s a stupid question, its answer dependent on which female candidate you’re talking about, on how she runs her campaign, on the twists and turns of the national conversation between now and November.

But I can tell you this: Either of the two women among the six candidates on the stage in Des Moines on Tuesday night would give Trump a serious run for his money. Both have earned the right to take him on. Both would be formidable presidents.

And both made clear, with commanding performances, how absurd it is that this country hasn’t yet shattered the highest glass ceiling of all.

I’m focusing on Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar because during the most electric stretch of this seventh debate of the Democratic primary, the focus was indeed on them — or, rather, on the idea that their party couldn’t risk nominating one of them at a juncture when getting rid of a Republican incumbent has seldom, if ever, been so important.

Eugene Robinson: Democratic officials have reason to hope for a happy ending. The debate shows why.

It wasn’t much of a donnybrook. It wasn’t even much of a food fight. At Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Iowa, the candidates generally aimed their fire at President Trump rather than at each other — and left the Iowa caucuses, just weeks away, totally up for grabs.

When the evening began, former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) all had a shot at winning the first-in-the-nation primary contest, according to polls. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was looking for a miracle. Billionaire Tom Steyer was doing whatever it is he’s doing. Nothing that happened during the debate seemed likely to send anyone soaring or tumbling.

I know, I know, you probably want an assessment of who won and who lost. All right, but only with the caveat that I didn’t see or hear anything game-changing. [..]

The Democratic Party’s dream is that at the end of the convention, as the balloons fall from the rafters, all umpty-seven candidates who started the race can come onstage and join hands in unity against Trump. Tuesday’s debate didn’t change the race, but it did give Democratic officials reason to hope that the happy ending they seek for might actually happen. These were not bitter rivals. They actually seemed to like each other.

Karen Tumulty: Can a woman be elected president? Let’s put that silly question behind us.

Can we now put this silly question behind us?

Of course a woman can be elected president. If she’s the right person for the moment. If she’s more appealing than the prospect of four more years of President Trump.

The same ifs are true for a man.

At Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate here at Drake University, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) found themselves still tangled in a distracting squabble over whether Sanders discouraged his Massachusetts colleague from running by telling her that a female candidate for president couldn’t win.

Sanders repeated his denial that he had ever said any such thing. “How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States?” he demanded.

Warren stood by her recollection that he had. “Look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head on,” she added.

Yes, let’s.

Amanda Marcotte: Why do minor culture-war issues dominate election coverage, while we ignore the serious stuff?

Why Trump’s plumbing obsession and a Democratic slap-fight over mansplaining get more coverage than real issues

Tuesday night offered one of the most damning illustrations of one of the most persistent problems in politics: The way a seemingly inconsequential culture-war fight can loom larger in the public imagination during elections than meatier issues like the economy, foreign policy and whether or not our democracy can survive a wannabe fascist president.

The Democratic primary debate touched on a large number of serious issues pressing down on the country: De-escalating tensions that Trump has escalated with Iran, affordable health care, tax policy, climate change, accessible child care, trade policy. But one of the big flashpoints, which threatened to loom over the rest of the debate, was what, on the surface, appears to be a quarrel between Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over whether he was kind of mansplainy to her that one time about whether a woman could win the presidency.

Meanwhile, at Donald Trump’s rally scheduled as counter-programming to the Democratic debate, the president — who is facing down impeachment and trying to recover from nearly starting a war with Iran — decided to spend his time doing a comedy routine that would have felt hackneyed in the ’80s, about his grievances with common household appliances like showers, toilets, light bulbs and dishwashers. [..]

Elections always get bogged down in minor bullshit — see also Hillary Clinton’s emails, false accusations that Al Gore said he “invented” the internet, John Kerry’s wind-surfing — but it’s particularly galling to see it happen in an election cycle where the very survival of our democracy could very well be at stake.

I’m frustrated by it. Most people I know are frustrated by it. And yet, even when we’re frustrated by it, it’s often hard to pull away from these culture war flashpoints.

Why can’t we all just collectively rise above it? Why are Americans so petty?

Cartnoon

‘Bama Bound

Minneapolis (or Providence)

Hey, I do things, I go places, I know people.

And people know me, I’ve been to some Netroots (“My name is Roger Murdock. I’m an Airline Pilot.”) and among the pleasures of that experience is that I’ve had a chance to chat with some fairly prominent folks who are not instantly recognizable.

I swear if I meet Scarlett Johansson I’m going to get her to autograph my forehead with a Sharpie and have it permanently tattooed. I’ve bumped into Pheobe Cates on the streets of Manhattan and it both took me a few seconds to really believe it and another moment to decide I’d be super cool about it and pretend not to notice but this was not like that-

Wendell Potter is a perfectly nice guy but he looks exactly like you would expect an insurance executive to look. I think he worked in Hartford at one point, certainly knew enough about it.

He was part of a panel on reforming Health Insurance (it’s not really care, you get that from Doctors and Nurses with the permission of your Insurance Company which my sister works for, not kidding about any of it). TMC, my web partner who of course accompanied me to a Left Web Conference, has a considerable background in Public Health with a CV that leaves most Doctors in stammering submission. Certainly worked on the Department Head of a pretty prominent Hospital who only tried to kill me twice.

She kind of dominated the discussion and afterward Wendell was anxious to chat and I mostly stood around and listened but I’m good at that and don’t mind it. He seemed knowledgeable, smart, a decent sort.

So, he has a level of credibility with me.

How the Health Insurance Industry (and I) Invented the ‘Choice’ Talking Point
By Wendell Potter, The New York Times
Jan. 14, 2020

There’s a dangerous talking point being repeated in the Democratic primary for president that could affect the survival of millions of people, and the finances of even more. This is partly my fault.

When the candidates discuss health care, you’re bound to hear some of them talk about consumer “choice.” If the nation adopts systemic health reform, this idea goes, it would restrict the ability of Americans to choose their plans or doctors, or have a say in their care.

It’s a good little talking point, in that it makes the idea of changing the current system sound scary and limiting. The problem? It’s a P.R. concoction. And right now, somewhere in their plush corporate offices, some health care industry executives are probably beside themselves with glee, drinking a toast to their public relations triumph.

I should know: I was one of them.

To my everlasting regret, I played a hand in devising this deceptive talking point about choice when I worked in various communications roles for a leading health insurer between 1993 and 2008, ultimately serving as vice president for corporate communications. Now I want to come clean by explaining its origin story, and why it’s both factually inaccurate and a political ploy.

Those of us in the insurance industry constantly hustled to prevent significant reforms because changes threatened to eat into our companies’ enormous profits. We were told by our opinion research firms and messaging consultants that when we promoted the purported benefits of the status quo that we should talk about the concept of “choice”: It polled well in focus groups of average Americans (and was encouraged by the work of Frank Luntz, the P.R. guru who literally wrote the book on how the Republican Party should communicate with Americans). As instructed, I used the word “choice” frequently when drafting talking points.

But those of us who held senior positions for the big insurers knew that one of the huge vulnerabilities of the system is its lack of choice. In the current system, Americans cannot, in fact, pick their own doctors, specialists or hospitals — at least, not without incurring huge “out of network” bills.

Not only does the current health care system deny you choice within the details of your plans, it also fails to provide many options for the plan itself. Most working Americans must select from a limited list made by their company’s chosen insurance provider (usually a high-deductible plan or a higher-deductible plan). What’s more, once that choice is made, there are many restrictions around keeping it. You can lose coverage if your company changes its plan, or if you change jobs, or if you turn 26 and leave your parents’ plan, among other scenarios.

This presented a real problem for us in the industry. Well aware that we were losing the “choice” argument, my industry colleagues spent millions on lobbying, advertising and spin doctors — all intended to muddy the issue so Americans might believe that reform would somehow provide “less choice.” Recently, the industry launched a campaign called “My Care, My Choice” aimed in part at convincing Americans that they have choice now — and that government reform would restrict their freedom. That group has been spending large sums on advertising in Iowa during this presidential race.

This isn’t the first time the industry has made “choice” a big talking point as it fights health reform. Soon after the Affordable Care Act was passed a decade ago, insurers formed the Choice and Competition Coalition and pushed states not to create insurance exchanges with better plans.

What’s different now is that it’s the Democrats parroting the misleading “choice” talking point — and even using it as a weapon against one another. Back in my days working in insurance P.R., this would have stunned me. It’s why I believe my former colleagues are celebrating today.

The truth, of course, is that Americans now have little “choice” when it comes to managing their health care. Most can’t choose their own plan or how long they retain it, or even use it to select the doctor or hospital they prefer. But some reforms being discussed this election, such as “Medicare for all,” would provide these basic freedoms to users. In other words, the proposed reforms offer more choice than the status quo, not less.

My advice to voters is that if politicians tell you they oppose reforming the health care system because they want to preserve your “choice” as a consumer, they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re willfully ignoring the truth. Either way, the insurance industry is delighted.

I would know.

Cigna. Yeah, Bloomfield. Close enough.

The Breakfast Club (Songs o Freedom)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

Martin Luther King, Junior born;Richard Nixon suspends U.S. offensive in Vietnam;Queen Elizabeth the First crowned;Work completed on Pentagon;first Super Bowl takes place.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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