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The Unbearable Lightness of Reform

The Unbearable Lightness of Reform
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | Truthout

That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago - to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes - but in an eerie way he was forecasting America's political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that's gone awry - to clean house and make a fresh start - end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.

Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, "The Devil's Dictionary," defined reform as "a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation." So we got health care reform this week - but it's a far cry from reformation. You can't blame President Obama for celebrating what he did get - he and the Democrats needed some political points on the scoreboard. And imagine the mood in the White House if the vote had gone the other way; they would have been cutting wrists instead of cake.

Give the victors their due: the bill Obama signed expands coverage to many more people, stops some very ugly and immoral practices by the health insurance industry that should have been stopped long ago, and offers a framework for more change down the road, if there's any heart or will left to fight for it.

But reformation? Hardly. For all their screaming and gnashing of teeth, the insurance companies still make out like bandits. Millions of new customers, under penalty of law, will be required to buy the companies' policies, feeding the insatiable greed of their CEO's and filling the campaign coffers of the politicians they wine and dine. Profits are secure; they don't have to worry about competition from a public alternative to their cartel, and they can continue to scam us without fear of antitrust action. Read more.

Clunker Healthcare Bill Protects Private Insurers Damages Democracy

Clunker Healthcare Bill Protects Private Insurers Damages Democracy
By Billy Wharton | Counter Currents

Americans desperately need healthcare. The need is so desperate that many are buying into a “something is better than nothing” philosophy to support a healthcare bill that actively works against their own interests. The bill that Barack Obama plans to sign into law is being dubbed a “reform,” but actually amounts to a corporate restructuring that will solidify the reliance on the same private insurance companies that have caused the crisis in the nation’s healthcare system. As single-payer activist, Dr. Margaret Flowers stated, “The Democratic Party has now moved so far to the right that they have just passed a Republican health bill.” This is no surprise, private insurers and pharmaceutical companies have flooded the electoral system with money in order to guarantee their continued ability to accumulate profits.

Junk Healthcare Plans and the Race to the Bottom
At nearly 2,500 pages, the bill contains a myriad of loopholes that will allow private insurers to continue nearly all of the immoral practices that have, according to a Harvard University study, resulted in more than 40,000 deaths per year due to treatable conditions. In fact, private insurers will now receive taxpayer funds to subsidize the sale of junk healthcare plans that the group Physicians for a National Health Program estimates will only cover 70% of people’s medical needs. This will likely spark a race-to-the-bottom as employers look to provide the minimum amount of coverage possible, insurer’s grab ever-increasing chunks of public money and people continue to face the prospect of soaring out-of-pocket costs, deep medical debts and death from treatable illnesses.

However, Americans have adjusted to profit driven healthcare by avoiding it. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6 out of 10 Americans had deferred or delayed what they understood as necessary medical treatment. To close this option, the Healthcare Bill lends the coercive power of government to private health insurers. For the first time in American history, citizens will be forced to purchase health insurance or face stiff annual fines. Such a mandate guarantees that millions of people will be herded into the new “health insurance exchanges,” an idea created by the Heritage Foundation, in order to fork over their money to private insurers. Estimates are that this will produce more than 20 million new customers for abusive insurers such as Humana, Oxford and Aetna. Read more.

Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat


Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat
By Stephen Lendman

After eight years under George Bush, people demanded change. Obama and congressional Democrats promised it, then disappointed by accomplishing the impossible - governing worse than skeptics feared, worse than Republicans across the board on both domestic and foreign policies.

They looted the nation's wealth, wrecked the economy, consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures while expanding global militarism through imperial wars, occupations, and stepped up aggression on new fronts with the largest ever "war" budget in history - way over $1 trillion dollars annually plus supplementals and secret add-ons, greater than the rest of the world combined when America has no enemies.

Now the latest. March 21 will be remembered as a day of infamy, the day House Democrat leaders bullied, bribed, cajoled, muscled, and jerry-rigged Obamacare to pass, despite most Americans opposing it with good reason.

K Street Reaps Major Rewards Lobbying On Healthcare Legislation

K Street reaps major rewards lobbying on healthcare legislation
By Jim Snyder | The Hill

K Street appears to have cashed in on the lengthy battle over healthcare reform.

About 1,750 businesses and organizations spent at least $1.2 billion in 2009 to lobby on health reform and other issues, according to a study from the Center for Public Integrity released Friday. A precise figure isn’t available because lobbying disclosure forms don’t require companies or other groups to itemize how much they spend to lobby on a particular issue.

See the Center’s study here. Read more of the Hill's article.

Health Costs For Companies

Companies using "squishy numbers" for "double" tax deduction, now taken away under new health insurance reform. Does the IRS allow you to "estimate" your figures?

What President Obama Didn't Say

What President Obama Didn't Say
By Dennis Kucinich | Esquire

The gentleman from Ohio — the last man standing on health care, as he put it in this conversation with Esquire.com just before Sunday's vote — reveals the personal moments behind his decision, and how the fate of a nation, if not a presidency, could have turned out a lot differently had he said "no"

The meeting that took place on Air Force One was the fourth in a series of meetings that I had attended with the president in the last few months. There was a meeting on March 4 where the president called nine members to the Roosevelt Room at the White House, and eight of the members had voted for the bill when it passed the House last fall. I was the only one who voted against the bill. I thanked the president for inviting me even though I was a "no" vote. And in the more than hour-long meeting, the president covered a lot of territory about what he thought was important to consider. I sat quietly and listened carefully and took some notes. And at the end of the meeting, you know, we thanked each other, and I left.

When I arrived home that evening — March 4 — I still had this deep sense of compassion for the president for what he was struggling with in trying to pass the bill. And it was very clear to me that there was a lot on the line here — that he didn't say. I was just thinking about the scope of American history, and here's a president who's trying to do something, even if I don't agree with him. I told my wife, "You know I kinda feel bad about the situation he's in here. This is really a tough situation — his presidency is on the line." And I had a sense of sadness about what I saw him grappling with. I still maintained my position, still went forward in debates, arguing in meetings, arguing against the bill because it didn't have a public option, didn't have an opening for the states to pursue single-payer in a free manner. But at the same time I kinda remember the feeling that I had about watching him as he was dealing with this and, you know, trying to do what he felt was best for the nation.

Now keep something in mind about my relationship with President Obama: He and I campaigned together. A meeting with the president is always important — he and I have met dozens of times, during the campaign and since he became president — but we've met on many occasions. Four or five times about health care. So the relationship I have with him is a little bit different than other members who weren't on the campaign trail with him and who hadn't developed a relationship with him apart from the relationship that members of Congress ordinarily have with the president.

So I was really looking at Barack Obama the man, and thinking about his presidency. I've had differences of opinion with him on a number of issues. But I understand how this is a pivotal moment in America, and in his presidency. It's also a pivotal moment in American history. Of course, I carried that awareness with me into the next meeting, which took place on Air Force One on the fifteenth of March. Last Monday. So much has happened in just one week, but during that time, there had been a lot of speculation. I had done many interviews attacking the bill for its well-publicized shortcomings and I was not relenting. After we met on Air Force One, I didn't tell the president that "Look, I'm changing my position — you got me." We didn't have that discussion. Read more.

Diary of a Wimpy Health Care Bill

By Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director, National Nurses United, AFL-CIO and California Nurses Association

Passage of President Obama's healthcare bill proves that Congress can enact comprehensive social legislation in the face of virulent rightwing opposition. Now that we have an insurance bill, can we move on to healthcare reform?

As an organization of registered nurses, we have an obligation to provide an honest assessment, as nurses must do every hour of every day. The legislation fails to deliver on the promise of a single standard of excellence in care for all and instead makes piecemeal adjustments to the current privatized, for-profit healthcare behemoth.

When all the boasts fade, comparing the bill to Social Security and Medicare, probably intended to mollify liberal supporters following repeated concessions to the healthcare industry and conservative Democrats, a sobering reality will probably set in.

What the bill does provide

Marijuana, a Guide to Healthcare Mandates

By Michael Boldin

Now that Heath Care legislation has passed, the obvious question for opponents is this: Now What? My answer is best summed up with just one word:

Marijuana.

No, I don’t mean that you should go out and smoke away your anger and frustration. Instead, you should feel empowered. The best way to explain this is by telling the story of a disabled mother from Northern California.

ANGEL’S STORY

Angel Raich has been permanently disabled since 1995. She has an inoperable brain tumor, a seizure disorder and other serious medical conditions. In 1997, her doctor felt that marijuana would be an effective medication.

Chairmen Who Oversaw Healthcare Bill Express Hope That Something Good Can Be Inserted Now That It's Passed

Tri-Committee Chairmen Statement

WASHINGTON, DC — Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Sander M. Levin, and George Miller, the chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction over health policy in the U.S. House of Representatives, issued the following statement today regarding the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions for children, which is included in the historic health care reform law:

“Under the legislation that Congress passed and the President signed yesterday, plans that include coverage of children cannot deny coverage to a child based upon a pre-existing condition. We have been assured by the Department of Health and Human Services that any possible ambiguity in the underlying bill can be addressed by the Secretary with regulation.

A False Promise of Reform

The following statement was released today by leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, www.pnhp.org. Their signatures appear below.

As much as we would like to join the celebration of the House's passage of the health bill last night, in good conscience we cannot. We take no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer.

Instead of eliminating the root of the problem - the profit-driven, private health insurance industry - this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.

The hype surrounding the new health bill is belied by the facts:

* About 23 million people will remain uninsured nine years out. That figure translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering.

A Cloward-Piven Strategy for Single Payer?

By Chris Maisano

With yesterday's passage in the House of the Obama administration's health care reform bill, it would seem at first glance that the movement for national, single-payer health insurance has been seriously derailed. After all, if all of the hype and adulation surrounding the bill's passage is to be believed, the fight for universal health care is basically over, except for necessary technical tweaks that will "fix" and "improve" the bill in the coming years.

However, there are many serious flaws in the bill that will put single payer back on the political agenda sooner than we may think. The indispensable and indefatigable folks at Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) cataloged many of them in a press release earlier today, but they only briefly touch on an issue that I think could potentially be a central aspect of single-payer strategy in the coming years: Medicaid and the fiscal crisis of the states.

READ THE REST.

13 AG's Sue To Prevent Americans Receiving Improved Health Care Reform - So When Will Bush Be Prosecuted For Murder?

Bob Fertik of Democrats.com tweeted: "13 AG's immediately sued Obama for Health Care Reform - so when will 1 AG prosecute Bush for murder??" Prosecution of Bush

Date of video clip: July 25, 2008. View related videos.

Now That Obama's Signed It, Let's Reform the Reform

Now That Obama's Signed It, Let's Reform the Reform
By John Nichols | The Nation

The Nation editorial urging Congress to support President Obama's health-care reform legislation recognized that the measure was flawed. But it argued that there were practical and political reasons for supporting it.

The core point was that passing the bill needed to be seen as part of a process, not as a finished product.

As such, the editorial closed with the lines:

For all these reasons, we support passage of the bill, even as we urge the progressive community to begin the struggle immediately to correct its many flaws and improve its protections. Some of this can be done quickly, via the reconciliation process. Some of it can and should be done with new legislation, such as robust public option bills by Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Alan Grayson and proposals to expand Medicare and eliminate the health insurance industry's anti-trust exemption.

If this crucial second step is taken quickly and boldly, progressives will have an agenda and an argument for maintaining the pressure through this year's election cycle and in the years to come--when the crucial details of the reform will be implemented. Are we prepared to carry on a knock-down, drag-out fight with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? The opposition is formidable, but there is a base for mobilization in both houses of Congress. Ultimately, our message must be that genuine reform begins, and only begins, with passage of the current legislation. It ends with achievement of the goal that should be our new battle cry: Medicare for All. Read more.

Healthcare for All Pennsylvania: We Cannot Wait for 2014

In light of Sunday night's historic U.S. House of Representatives 219-212 "yes" vote on HR 3590 (and likely passage of the same in the U.S. Senate later this week) the legislative work of Healthcare for All Pennsylvania is even more crucial, more time-sensitive, and more opportune than ever.

First, there is something truly, politically remarkable when a majority of any U.S. Congress can agree on any set of reforms regarding a topic as big as healthcare economics and healthcare delivery. Underscoring the political achievement is the fact that we are in a mid-term election year, and funding of such elections is akin to the “Wild West.” Just a week ago, passage of this healthcare legislation appeared 50-50, at best. Two months ago, many were writing its obituary.

So, politically, HR 3590 is a feat; policy-wise, HR 3590 is rife with opportunities, challenges, and complications.

States Plan Lawsuit Against New Health Care Bill

States plan lawsuit against new health care bill | CNN

Ten states plan to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care reform bill, Florida's attorney general announced Monday.

Bill McCollum, the Republican attorney general under fellow Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, told a news conference that the lawsuit - joined by his counterparts in Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Washington state, North Dakota and South Dakota - would be filed once President Barack Obama signs the health care bill into law. Read more.

The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed

The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed
By Chris Hedges | Truthdig

Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s decision to vote “yes” in Sunday’s House action on the health care bill, although he had sworn to oppose the legislation unless there was a public option, is a perfect example of why I would never be a politician. I respect Kucinich. As politicians go, he is about as good as they get, but he is still a politician. He has to run for office. He has to raise money. He has to placate the Democratic machine or risk retaliation and defeat. And so he signed on to a bill that will do nothing to ameliorate the suffering of many Americans, will force tens of millions of people to fork over a lot of money for a defective product and, in the end, will add to the ranks of our uninsured.

The claims made by the proponents of the bill are the usual deceptive corporate advertising. The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors. The $1.055 trillion spent over the next decade will add new layers of bureaucratic red tape to what is an unmanageable and ultimately unsustainable system.

The mendacity of the Democratic leadership in the face of this reality is staggering. Howard Dean, who is a doctor, said recently: “This is a vote about one thing: Are you for the insurance companies or are you for the American people?” Here is a man who once championed the public option and now has sold his soul. What is the point in supporting him or any of the other Democrats? How much more craven can they get?

Take a look at the health care debacle in Massachusetts, a model for what we will get nationwide. One in six people there who have the mandated insurance say they cannot afford care, and tens of thousands of people have been evicted from the state program because of budget cuts. The 45,000 Americans who die each year because they cannot afford coverage will not be saved under the federal legislation. Half of all personal bankruptcies will still be caused by an inability to pay astronomical medical bills. The only good news is that health care stocks and bonuses for the heads of these corporations are shooting upward. Chalk this up as yet another victory for our feudal overlords and a defeat for the serfs.

The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care—$7,129 per capita—although 45.7 million Americans remain without health coverage and millions more are inadequately covered, meaning that if they get seriously ill they are not covered. Fourteen thousand Americans a day are now losing their health coverage. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume 31 cents of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, Physicians for a National Health Plan points out, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. Check out www.healthcare-now.org. It has some of the best analysis. Read more.

Michael Moore: The Great Thing About the Health Care Law That Has Passed? It Will Save Republican Lives, Too


The Great Thing About the Health Care Law That Has Passed? It Will Save Republican Lives, Too (An Open Letter to Republicans from Michael Moore)

To My Fellow Citizens, the Republicans:

Thanks to last night's vote, that child of yours who has had asthma since birth will now be covered after suffering for her first nine years as an American child with a pre-existing condition.

Thanks to last night's vote, that 23-year-old of yours who will be hit one day by a drunk driver and spend six months recovering in the hospital will now not go bankrupt because you will be able to keep him on your insurance policy.

Thanks to last night's vote, after your cancer returns for the third time -- racking up another $200,000 in costs to keep you alive -- your insurance company will have to commit a criminal act if they even think of dropping you from their rolls.

Yes, my Republican friends, even though you have opposed this health care bill, we've made sure it is going to cover you, too, in your time of need. I know you're upset right now. I know you probably think that if you did get wiped out by an illness, or thrown out of your home because of a medical bankruptcy, that you would somehow pull yourself up by your bootstraps and survive. I know that's a comforting story to tell yourself, and if John Wayne were still alive I'm sure he could make that into a movie for you.

But the reality is that these health insurance companies have only one mission: To take as much money from you as they can -- and then work like demons to deny you whatever coverage and help they can should you get sick.

So, when you find yourself suddenly broadsided by a life-threatening illness someday, perhaps you'll thank those pinko-socialist, Canadian-loving Democrats and independents for what they did Sunday evening. Read more.

Big Pharma a Big Winner in Health Care Reform

Big Pharma a Big Winner in Health Care Reform
By James Ridgeway | Mother Jones

The Republicans look a sour lot this morning, but the pharmaceutical industry appears more than content with the health care legislation passed by the House, and with its Democratic friends in the White House and on the Hill.

Big Pharma helps foot the campaign bills of a sizeable chunk of members of Congress, and both parties generally lined up behind the insurance and drug industries from the get-go. So it should come as no surprise that the Democrats, who long ago gave up any pretence of opposing corporate power, found a way to accomodate the pharmaceutical companies on the way to passing their tepid reform. To a large extent, the "debate" over health care was a show debate, an extended round of Washington smoke and mirrors. The administration cut its deal with Big Pharma early on, and pretty much stuck to it throughout the process.

In fact, the Dems actually made the drugsters look good, celebr ating the industry's generous "concessions" and "discounts" while ensuring that no real threat to Big Pharma’s profits would make their way into the final bill. The industry's main goal from the very beginning has been to fend off any government power to negotiate or seriously regulate drug prices—and this they did. Big Pharma's second big win was to prevent any measure that would have opened the way for American consumers to buy less expensive drugs abroad, especially from Canada.

At the same time, the supposed give-backs by the drug industry are projected to more than pay for themselves. The much-lauded discounts on brand-name drugs for seniors in the Medicare prescription drug program, for example, are good for Big Pharma because they discourage oldsters from switching to generics, or giving up meds they can't afford. (And just to be safe, the drug companies jacked up prices on their bestselling brand-name drugs this year.) Finally, more insured people simply means more money coming into the coffers, for Big Pharma as well as for the health insurance industry. Read more.

Pro-Single-Payer Doctors: Health Bill Leaves 23 Million Uninsured

Pro-single-payer doctors: Health bill leaves 23 million uninsured | Press Release
A false promise of reform

The following statement was released today by leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, www.pnhp.org. Their signatures appear below.

As much as we would like to join the celebration of the House's passage of the health bill last night, in good conscience we cannot. We take no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer.

Instead of eliminating the root of the problem - the profit-driven, private health insurance industry - this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.

The hype surrounding the new health bill is belied by the facts:

Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill

By Jane Hamsher, FireDogLake

The Firedoglake health care team has been covering the debate in congress since it began last year. The health care bill will come up for a vote in the House on Sunday, and as Nancy Pelosi works to wrangle votes, we've been running a detailed whip count on where every member of Congress stands, updated throughout the day.

We've also taken a detailed look at the bill, and have come up with 18 often stated myths about this health care reform bill.

Real health care reform is the thing we've fought for from the start. It is desperately needed. But this bill falls short on many levels, and hurts many people more than it helps them.

The Death of American Populism

The Death of American Populism
By Stephen Lendman

Ideologically it believes governments must provide for the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It opposes concentrated wealth, demagogy, and despotism, and supports democracy, human and civil rights, and social justice - an ideology the 19th century People's Party and 20th century Progressive Party endorsed without majorities.

Until recently, faint echoes remained, sadly silenced after Senator Bernie Sanders and sole House populist capitulated.

Former Kucinich for president consultant, David Swanson, said "he gave in to the power of a false narrative, and that he ought to have said so....I think the corporate media has instilled in people the idea that presidents should make laws and the current president is trying to make a law that can reasonably be called 'healthcare reform' or at least 'health insurance reform.' " I don't excuse Kucinich flipping....I just want to find the right explanation for it."

Yes, Rahm is Totally Vindicated


Yes, Rahm is Totally Vindicated
By: Jane Hamsher | FireDogLake

Ben Smith writes that if the health care bill passes with “unified, if grumbly, support on the left, it would seem to vindicate the White House’s fundamental approach, which was to take the left for granted as much as possible and focus on courting marginal members of the Senate.”

He’s absolutely right. As I told Jonathan Weisman of the Wall Street Journal the other day (which he didn’t print), “f#%king r$%ards” worked.

Nobody will take progressives in congress seriously, nor should they. Their threats are idle and they won’t fight for anything they believe in. In the end, they’ll just take turns shaking their fists in futility and alternately sucking so no serious liberal challenge ever emerges to anything. Read more.

Back From Iraq, Injured War-Zone Workers Fight Insurance Giant AIG, Face Financial Ruin

Back From Iraq, Injured War-Zone Workers Fight Insurance Giant AIG, Face Financial Ruin Civilian Contractors Accuse Insurer of Continuing To 'Delay and Deny' Claims
By Avni Patel | ABC News

Civilian contractors who were injured or wounded while supporting American troops in Iraq continue to face long battles with insurance giant AIG for payment of their disability claims, despite Congressional inquiries and calls to reform the system that has handled tens of thousands of disability claims from employees of overseas contractors.

The injured workers, including some wounded by small-arms fire or IEDs during insurgent attacks, complain that AIG has continued to "delay and deny" their claims nearly a year after a joint investigation by ABC News, ProPublica, and the Los Angeles Times first exposed serious problems with AIG's handling of disability claims under a government-funded insurance system. An analysis found that AIG challenged nearly half of the claims involving the most serious injuries.

"They will spend whatever it takes, or do whatever it takes, to berate, belittle and humiliate us," said Bill Carlisle, an injured Arkansas man who drove trucks in Iraq for nearly two years. Read more.

Democrats Pressured To Vote "Yes" On Health Insurance Reform Bill

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

HR 4789 and The Public Option: The Way Forward
By Rep. Alan Grayson | Huffington Post

Health care reform -- here's where we are. The House of Representatives is about to vote on a Senate bill without a public option. It looks like the reconciliation amendment will not have a public option. The House bill had a public option, but once the House passes the Senate bill, that's history.

Which is why I introduced H.R. 4789, the Public Option Act. This simple four-page bill lets any American buy into Medicare at cost. You want it, you pay for it, you're in. It adds nothing to the deficit; you pay what it costs. Read more.

Sign our Petition at WeWantMedicare.com.

A Little Visual Flair for Universal Health Care

By: Aaron Datesman, A Tiny Revolution

Point #1: According to a Harvard study, 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have insurance and can’t get access to health care.

Point #2: There’s around a gallon of blood in the human body. The blood of 45,000 people would fill a swimming pool 20 feet by 30 feet in size to a depth of about 7 feet, which is pretty gross.

Point #3: They approach politics with a bit more visual flair in Thailand.

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