HEALTH REFORM: Fired Up and Ready to Go Fix Health Care

Speaking to a big enthusiastic crowd of workers at the AFL-CIO's Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, President Obama looked to regain the momentum on health reform by recapturing some of the magic his campaign. (Full text here)

"In every debate there comes a time to decide, a time to act," the president said. For health care reform, "[T]hat time is now."

Responding to cries of "Yes we can" with "Yes, we will," the President prepared for what may be the biggest speech of his administration before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Laying out the goals of reform, Obama sounded confident in our nation's prospects for achieving them.

"We've never been this close. We've never had such broad agreement on what needs to be done," he said, "And because we're so close to real reform, the special interests are doing what they always do -- trying to scare the American people and preserve the status quo."

He hit back against those who would derail the debate with deceits and misinformation, asking "all those folks who say we're going to pull the plug on Grandma. What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one. Their answer is to do nothing."

HEALTH POLITICS: Facts are Stubborn Things

With health reform heating up, the White House is stepping up its efforts to dispel false claims and respond to the tidal wave of misinformation coming from foes of reform. 

On Tuesday the White House posted a video (below) from Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House's Health Reform Office, responding to the claims of a particular video that had been making the rounds on conservative media.

Douglass explains:

IN THE NEWS: Follow the White House's National Discussion on Health Reform

We'll be tweeting President Obama's national discussion on on health care reform this afternoon at 1:15 pm EDT. Hosted at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA, the event will feature questions from an audience of about 200, as well as those submitted online via YouTube and Twitter. The White House is streaming the event live here, and you can follow our coverage on Twitter (tags: #WHHCQ #HCR), and read our wrap up of the discussion later today.

HEALTH REFORM: Stories from America

Over at The Washington Post's Daily Dose, Ceci Connolly has another excellent Monday morning update, laying out the state of play for health reform.

Connolly notes that with Congress out, "the White House is filling the health-care space with a series of events—in person and over the Internet—to keep the spotlight on the president's top domestic priority."

First, there was the national health care day of service, this past Saturday. Today, at 5 pm, Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, will host a live-streamed, online discussion of health care reform. (Check the White House's Facebook page for more). Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius will talk health care on MSNBC's Dr. Nancy at noon.

On Wednesday, the President will host another town-hall discussion in Annendale, VA, with Americans able to submit questions online via YouTube and Twitter (hash tag: #WHHCQ). See the president's message below:

HEALTH REFORM: President Gives Debate Extra Time on Prime Time

In 90 minutes, it seems anything is possible.

Just hours after the U.S. soccer team shocked the world Wednesday, upsetting Spain, 2-0, in the semifinals of FIFA's Confederations Cup, President Obama took the health reform debate to prime time, in an hour and half town hall discussion hosted by ABC News. (Video here.)

Answering sometimes skeptical questions from an ABC-selected audience of providers and patients, CEOs and at least one auto mechanic, the president showed both a grasp of the issues and a plan for addressing them. Following a somewhat tough week for the health reform process, Obama restated the case for reform, reiterated his commitment to paying for reform—and explained that we as country can finally make reform happen.

How to Engage the Electorate in a Constitutional Convention?

Several speakers at the convention summit have raised the following program: how would such a convention engage a California public that is famously disengaged?

No one has a great solution. (There was a little talk about the Internet and Obama-style organizing). But the difficulty of engaging citizens is itself a strong argument for a constitutional convention. The convention itself would be so novel that, with a little bit of show biz (some ceremony, and you know your blogger's weakness for powdered wigs), it would attract attention and might, at the very least, teach people about their state and how it currently works. For the educational value alone, a convention might be worth having.

HEALTH REFORM: President Obama Outlines the Message and the Mission

President Obama, with Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist at his side in a bipartisan example that maybe some folks in Washington might want to pay attention to, held a town meeting in Fort Myers on Tuesday and told the crowd how and why health reform was part of his economic recovery agenda. He made the connections between the cost to families and the cost to the whole strained economic system, and pointed out the waste and frustration that could be reduced if we moved from massive paperwork to streamlined computerized health records. Here's the exchange:

QUESTION: Welcome to southwest Florida. In light of the fact that you've inherited an economic crisis, where does your priority lie with health care reform?

OBAMA: Well, it's a great question.

And I think it is — there are some people who are making the argument that, well, you can't do anything about health care because the economy comes first. They don't understand that health care is the biggest component of our economy and, when it's broken, that affects everything.

Chavez and His Plebiscite

Venezuealan president Hugo Chavez has employed direct democracy of a fashion, backing a series of plebiscites to enhance his own power. (His defenders point out that he has allowed himself to lose one of these plebiscites--so there). The latest referendum, scheduled for next month, would lift term limits and allow him to run for re-election. But it's not going well. Chavez, without evidence, is accusing President-Elect Obama of interfering in the vote. The Venezuelan president also wants tear gas used on his opponents, according to this Reuters story.

With Obama in White House, Denver ET Initiative Put On Hold

It appears that even those who believe in space aliens are optimistic about President Obama.

Readers of this blog know your blogger has been closely monitoring the effort to qualify a ballot initiative in the city of Denver to establish an extraterrestial commission. It's being pitched as a sort of civil defense thing--preparation for attack (and Denver is at some altitude, so the aliens would probably go their first).

Now the initiative's sponsor, Jeff Peckman, says he's putting the measure on hold. He tells the Rocky Mountain News that the initiative isn't needed because he's confident Obama will take the ET threat seriously. Perhaps this is part of the new Obama diplomatic strategy of engaging our adversaries.

Same Sex Marriage Advocates May Boycott Obama Inauguration

Many same-sex marriage advocates in California are furious at President-Elect Obama for giving the Rev. Rick Warren, who was a strong advocate of the Prop 8 ban on gay marriages, a role in his inauguration. One prominent member of the No on Prop 8 campaign team has declined his invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony as a result.