Friday, July 31, 2009

More Lies, Damn Lies: Climate Change Edition


Via Proud Socialist in comments, Bonner is indeed a serial offender. More at Talking Points Memo.


Unbelievable. Unbelievable. They have no shame whatsoever:
As U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello was considering how to vote on an important piece of climate change legislation in June, the freshman congressman’s office received at least six letters from two Charlottesville-based minority organizations voicing opposition to the measure.

The letters, as it turns out, were forgeries.

“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”

Isn’t there a fucking law against this?

Grist obtained copies of the climate change letters which I’ve linked to here and here.

There’s more:

The letters came from the Washington lobby firm Bonner & Associates, which offers “Strategic Grassroots / Grasstops support to help you win.” It hasn’t yet come to light who hired the firm to do this possibly illegal work. Another set of forged letters claimed to represent a local chapter of the NAACP.

Bonner & Associates is a notorious astroturf outfit. Look what they did when PhRMA hired them to scuttle Maryland legislation to lower prescription drug costs:

Donna J. Stanley, director of Associated Black Charities, was ready to mobilize for political battle after she received a fax marked "urgent" this week.

The fax told her she needed to sign an attached petition "today" to prevent 600,000 of Maryland's poor and disabled from losing access to affordable prescription drugs. The fax, sent to dozens of community leaders, had the markings of a grass-roots effort, including grammatical errors and a handwritten cover letter.

But the appeal was actually generated by a sophisticated Washington lobbying firm trying to defeat several bills before the General Assembly supported by advocates for the poor.

In short, Bonner & Associates is a serial offender. They routinely forge letters, claiming to be from Hispanic and African American organizations or other advocacy groups, saying they oppose xyz legislation, and send them to members of Congress and others.

In short, they lie. They misrepresent, falsify, and lie.

I’m not a lobbyist nor do I know any, but I have a question: don’t you people have a code of ethics against this kind of behavior? No, I'm not kidding. Quit laughing. Seriously, if you don't have a code of ethics, maybe you'd like Congress to develop one for you.

There has been a huge uproar about this, prompting Bonner to blame a temp. Right. In light of their history, let me be the first to call bullshit. Must be the same “overzealous staffer” who was responsible for all the GOP fuckups during the Bush administration.

I’d like to know who hired Bonner & Associates. This is lower than low. There is no bottom for these people, no “too low.” And Congressman Ed Markey says his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming plans to launch an investigation into the affair.

I will just remind Bonner and whomever hired them that karma’s a bitch and she will make her displeasure known.

Lies, Damn Lies!

Via Kleinheider I learn that someone is peddling a pack of lies about the healthcare reform bill in an effort to scare the bejeezus out of people, just in time for the August recess.

Before this thing goes all “Obama is a secret Muslim” viral, I’m being proactive and sending the debunking to all of my friends and relatives who regularly send me “OMG is this true??!!11!!11!!ELEVEN!” e-mails. Because it is truly awful:
We're hardened, battle-scarred fact-checkers, so false claims in e-mails don't really surprise us anymore. But we sent Tolbert a copy of the latest from our in-box, and she was none too pleased.

"It's awful," she said. "It's flat-out, blatant lies. It's unbelievable to me how they can claim to reference the legislation and then make claims that are blatantly false."

The claim that the bill provides free health care for illegal immigrants is particularly egregious, Tolbert said. "No one's provided with free health care. That's ridiculous," she said.

In fact, the e-mail claims such outrageous things as:

• Page 42: The "Health Choices Commissioner" will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.


• Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.


• Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (read: SEIU, UAW and ACORN).


• Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.

Are any of these things true? Of course not. Not even close.

For bonus points note the use of these wingnut dogwhistles: ACORN, “unions,” "National ID cards" and “illegal immigrants.” I detect the aroma of the Swift Boat-“whitey tape”-“secret Muslim”-"Obama doesn't have a birth certificate" smears at work here. It’s "the Clintons had Vince Foster killed" all over again: the same crap the right wing has used to sink presidents and presidential candidates, and now they’re using it to sink healthcare reform. It’s sleazy, dirty, lying politics, and it hurts the very people they pretend to defend.

I suspect it's coming from the same source. I'd love to out these lying bastards, too. Maybe one of our crack reporters can get on it? Aw, who am I kidding! They're still rehashing the Great Beer Summit Of Ought-Nine.

Dialing Back Expectations?

Charles Krauthammer parses President Obama's July 22 speech and spies the language of retreat:
But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama's curious reference -- made five times -- to "health-insurance reform" during his July 22 news conference.

Over at Swampland, Karen Tumulty asked the president about the word change. She concludes:

The phrase "health insurance reform" is indeed an effort to tailor his message to the concerns of people who have coverage--who are, after all, the vast majority in this country.

Krauthammer claims this change in language represents a failure on Obama’s part, a dialing back of expectations. He’s only correct to a point. Obama certainly campaigned on an overhaul of our healthcare system, and I believe he had every intention of doing so, but the way this debate has been approached and framed from the get-go has always ensured we’d be talking about insurance reform.

If you look at who was invited to those White House meetings, it’s really always been about insurance. Every TV talking head, every Congress Critter, has always talked about insurance. Again, I’ve been talking about this for a long time, since I first clued in to how the healthcare narrative had become a health insurance narrative.

This debate is indeed a failure: a failure on the part of progressive groups to not get their ducks in a row and ensure we kept the conversation on healthcare, not just insurance. Because insurance is just one piece of the puzzle. We should have seen this coming, knowing the powerful and well monied corporate interests we’d be facing, realizing that the political status quo would guarantee any policy solution would focus on the corporate stakeholders while the rest of us would be left out. Business groups are always the squeaky wheel that gets the most grease; too often, the actual people are left out of the discussion.

If there was a failure to rally behind a single, simple message, it belongs on the left. Because we let the message be about health insurance, we won’t be getting the comprehensvie overhaul of our healthcare system that we need. We’ll get a little tinkering here and there. When we get to the end of this angst and rancor I fear we’ll have very little to show for it.

FGF: Breakfast Edition

This cracked me up. I bring you the late Minister Cleo Clariet and his fiancé Katherine Lane. Clariet passed away from heart disease in 2004, but not before this appearance on "The Kay Bain Show" was captured on tape. Now, through the miracle of YouTube, we can bring it to the world!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Burying The Lead

It’s made all of the headlines: President Obama’s own doctor is knocking “ObamaCare”! Check out this headline from Forbes:
Obama's Doctor Knocks ObamaCare

And this headline from CNN:

Obama's former doctor critical of White House health care plan

And here’s the Wall Street Journal:

Obama’s Former Doctor Criticizes Health Care Overhaul

Even the liberal Huffington Post:

Obama's Doctor: President's Vision For Health Care Bound To Fail

For shame, HuffPo, for shame!

Wow, if you didn’t read down (in some cases) all the way to the sixth paragraph, you’d think Obama’s own doctor was in favor of leaving things the way they are.

Here’s what he said:

Scheiner thinks that Obama's "public plan" reform doesn't go far enough. He supports the idea of that option for people who don't like or can't afford their HMO. But he worries that it will be watered down or not happen at all. "It's nonsense that the private insurance companies need to be protected," he says. "Why? Because they've done such a good job?"

So the news is that Obama’s former doctor favors a single-payer, public plan, not just that he’s “against ObamaCare.”

This kind of shit happens all the time and it really bugs me. I think a large chunk of people get their news from headlines and snippets grabbed over the radio or TV. Not everyone has the time or interest to read a whole story or even click the link. We're a society that skims for its news and information. But really we're at a place in this debate where the story is what someone like Dr. Scheiner is for, not against.

What it boils down to is this: is the story about politics, or is it about healthcare? Sadly, our inept corporate media has never, ever made this story about healthcare. It’s always been about the politics. A "Doctor Against ObamaCare" headline is a story about politics. "Doctor Favors Single Payer" headline is a story about healthcare.

You want to hear something amazing? Only Fox News got it right:

Obama's Former Doctor Opposes Health Care Plan, Calls for Single-Payer System

This is why I keep voicing frustration with how this issue has been discussed. We are fighting for healthcare, not health insurance. If insurance plays a role in arriving at healthcare, fine. But let’s remember what this is about.

Plenty of people have health insurance and yet lack healthcare. The 50 million uninsured don't just lack insurance they lack healthcare. And saying you can go to the emergency room is just lame. Emergency treatment is not "care."

I'm tired of hearing Rep. Cooper talk about "insuring" everyone and hearing that the Senate Finance Committee had to take a crash course in health insurance. That's just bullshit. As Dr. Scheiner said:

Looking at Obama's team of health advisors, Scheiner doesn't see anyone who's actually in the trenches. "I have a suspicion they pick people from the top echelon of medicine, people who write about it but haven't been struggling in it," he says.

Of course. They plucked people out of the establishment and got a policy that reinforces the status quo. Shocked? I'm not. It's the way our American system works. Real change is impossible in this day and age; the best we can hope for is a slight shift.

Which is too bad because when it comes to healthcare, this is probably our last chance.

News You Won’t See On TV

I did not know that there was something called the “World Outgames,” a kind of gay and lesbian Olympics, taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark right now.

I did not know that two Nashvillians, Sam Felker and Keith Little, are competing in these games and writing about it on their blog.

I did not know that on Tuesday the track and field competition was disrupted by a bomb attack that injured one runner. Sam and Keith were there during the attack and posted pictures on their blog.

You’d think with Nashville debating its non-discrimination ordinance right now, and the fact that at least two Nashvillians are actually at the games and witnessed the attack, that there might be some local media interest in this incident.

Silly me. Outside the GLBT media and blogs: **crickets**

I think it would be helpful for everyone to know about this, and the fact that hate crimes against the GLBT community occur even in progressive cities like Copenhagen.

Thank you, Nashville blogosphere, for doing the job our local media would not.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Is Why I Don’t Like Guns

A tragic story all the way around :
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- A 56-year-old man was killed with a shotgun by his son-in-law early Wednesday morning, police said.

The incident happened just after midnight inside a home on Maple Street near downtown Murfreesboro.

At about midnight, the victim's son-in-law said he heard a noise and got his gun to check out the situation. That's when he spotted his father-in-law, Dana Jankovoski, inside the apartment and said he mistook him as an intruder.

Tragic that this happened in a home; thank God it wasn’t a public place like a park, school, restaurant, bar, or some place where other lives would be at risk. And I can’t imagine what kind of pain the son-in-law is experiencing right now.

These tragedies are entirely preventable. If guns made us safer, we'd be the safest country in the world, with 90 guns for every 100 people, according to this 2007 report. We've armed ourselves to the teeth but we're no safer than any other country.

It's just stupid.

Astroturfing Healthcare Reform

[UPDATE]: Seems Jeff Crank is not a cancer survivor at all. Someone else at the rally is the cancer survivor. CBS screwed it up and sent out a clip that was incorrect. Shocked.


You knew it was happening, right? Right?
The new anti-health reform front group known as the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, is being managed by the lobbying firm known as the DCI Group. After being contacted by ThinkProgress this afternoon about its sponsorship of CPPR’s press conference last week, DCI Group staffers acknowledged that they coordinate PR for the front group. Not be confused with Conservatives for Patients’ Rigths, another front group opposing health reform, CPPR has been organizing lobbying efforts against health reform and publishing op-eds across the country with misinformation about the public option.

Tom Synhorst, a former staffer to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Dole, joined fellow right-wing operatives Doug Goodyear and Tim Hyde to form DCI Group in 1996. The firm quickly flourished working for the tobacco industry, coordinating a sophisticated astroturf campaign to build public opposition to tobacco regulations. Ironically, before helping to manage this “patients’ rights” campaign, DCI founded “Smokers’ Rights” groups across the country for the tobacco lobby. Indeed, DCI has specialized in manufacturing “grassroots” support — using telemarketers, PR events, and letter writing campaigns — to achieve policy results for narrow corporate interests.

Meanwhile, let’s move west, to Colorado and this anti-reform rally in Denver which featured speaker Jeff Crank, identified in newspaper reports as

state director for Americans for Prosperity, a public policy group backing free enterprise

I know about this because a clip from this rally was placed on the national news feed, and was aired on Nashville’s WTVF this morning. But Crank was identified simply as a “cancer survivor” (and he may well be) who made the outrageous claim that he “would have died” if his treatment had been in government hands. This is what prompted me to do what our local media would not, which is hit the Google.

Oh, my.

Jeff Crank, I have learned, is many things. He was a Republican candidate for Congress last year (he lost). He is a Republican lobbyist to the Colorado State Legislature whose clients include the Colorado Chamber of Commerce (which opposes healthcare reform) and the Colorado Chiropractic Assn. He is a conservative talk radio host.

And, as we have mentioned, he is Colorado state director of Americans For Prosperity.

Let’s look at Americans For Prosperity, shall we? According to SourceWatch, it is one of the groups behind the April 15 Tea Party protests. Americans For Prosperity’s other activities include sending a hot air balloon around the country to fight “global warming alarmism.”

And finally, they made their name fighting smoking bans around the country. Just like DCI Group. Gee, I wonder if there’s a connection.

Of course, none of this was mentioned when the news media interviewed “cancer survivor Jeff Crank” who would have died if the government had been involved in his healthcare in any way.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the activities of some other chapters of Americans For Prosperity, shall we? Yesterday, the Maryland chapter hung a Congressman in effigy at their state rally. Lovely.

By all means, let’s listen to the wackadoodle, racist, fringe of the Republican Party on healthcare, the people who oppose workplace smoking bans and hang Congressmen in effigy. And let’s pretend they are normal citizens when they are interviewed on the TV news, not the slithery, slimy things crawling under the rock that is the Republican Party.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Tea Party That Wasn’t

Ooops. Looks like some folks went to a tea party at Bart Gordon’s office and a healthcare reform rally broke out instead:
With less than 24 hours' notice, Change That Works Tennessee and its coalition partners staged a massive counter-demonstration at a Tea Party in front of Rep. Bart Gordon's office in Rutherford County. Our action turned the 'Tea Party' into a health care reform party.

A mere seven anti-reform "Teabaggers" were overwhelmed as over 60 health care reform supporters converged on the square in downtown Murfreesboro to urge Bart Gordon to support H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act.

"They didn't know what hit them," said Tony Cani, the state director of Change That Works. "Rutherford County is ground zero for conservative politics in Tennessee and we went right into their house and took over their event. I think a couple messages were sent today at this rally. First, the Teabaggers and the other enemies of change are not going to keep going unchallenged in Tennessee. Second, Bart Gordon needs to do the right thing and vote for health care reform because it isn't only conservatives who are watching his vote on H.R. 3200."

Wait a minute: only seven people showed up for a tea party? So much for that movement.

Watch the video:

Health Coverage Does Not Make You Fat

Wow, as we wrestle with this healthcare insurance reform thing, a lot of bullshit is seeping up through the floorboards.

The latest one being passed around in media circles is this bogus "health coverage makes you fat” study:
According to the study, health-care coverage literally encourages obesity, because people tend to become less careful about weight-gain when they know that insurance will cover at least some of the weight-related health costs in which they may incur.

Let me be the first to call bullshit on that one.

Let’s imagine someone at the grocery store trying to feed their family on a time and money budget. As they go down the aisles, are they thinking about their health insurance policy? Or are they thinking about the buy-three-get-one-free coupon for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese they clipped out of the paper that morning? Are they thinking that a head of broccoli costs $1.50 and is only part of a meal whereas you can pop a bowl of Chef Boyardee lasagna in the microwave and you’ve got dinner.

Or let’s say you’ve got an hour lunch break, during which time you’ve got to swing by the bank, pick up the dry cleaning, pick up your prescription at the drugstore, maybe make some personal phone calls your boss won’t let you do at your desk. As you swing through the Wendy’s drive-thru, are you thinking about your insurance policy or are you thinking about how fast you can inhale your lunch so you can get back to your to-do list?

I’m really not thinking that insurance plays into people’s food and lifestyle choices. At all. Here's a study for you: a ban on fast food advertising during children's TV programming could reduce childhood obesity by 18% according to a study last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research--the same folks who released the "health coverage makes you fat" research.

But let’s get back to insurance and obesity:

Though the study found weak evidence that more generous insurance encourages greater weight gain, or that risk-adjusted premiums discourage it, there was “strong” statistical evidence that being insured increases body mass index and obesity. So, will expanding health-care coverage to drive up U.S. obesity rates to new record-setting heights?
So even though people with generous insurance plans are not more obese than people with limited insurance plans, they still have found ”strong” statistical evidence that health coverage leads to obesity. Really? I wonder what else these people had in common. Jobs? Married? Kids? Did they own cars? Have blue eyes and brown hair?

Did they look at France, with its universal health care and low obesity rates, despite a diet rich in butter fat? No.

Did they look at America’s poorest citizens, who also tend to have the highest rates of obesity, yet also make up the ranks of the uninsured? No.

This whole argument just plays into the right wingers’ “personal responsibility” meme: if only you lazy lardasses would quit shoving Twinkies and KFC down your gullets, the rest of us wouldn’t have to pay through the nose for our health insurance. Once again, it’s blame everyone else except a system that is stacked against the people who need our help the most.

Obesity is a huge problem in America and yes, it has added tremendously to our healthcare costs. There are a lot of reasons for the obesity epidemic but no, I don’t think health insurance is one of them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bye Bye Public Option?

Apparently a “bi-partisan” Senate committee has dropped the public option:
Like bills drafted by Democrats, the proposal under discussion by the six Finance Committee members would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to any applicant. Nor could insurers charge higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

But it jettisons other core Democratic provisions in a reach for bipartisanship on an issue that has so far produced little.


They said any legislation that emerges from the talks is expected to provide for a nonprofit cooperative to sell insurance in competition with private industry, rather than giving the federal government a role in the marketplace.


Officials also said a bipartisan compromise would not subject large companies to a penalty if they declined to offer coverage to their workers. Instead, these businesses would be required to reimburse the government for part or all of any federal subsidies designed to help lower-income employees obtain insurance on their own.

So a “bi-partisan” committee is dropping the key Democratic reforms in exchange for ...?? Prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions?

Are you fucking kidding me? You’re giving away the store for that? The two most abusive policies insurance companies have, the biggest reason everyone hates insurance companies, the insurance industry’s largest PR negatives--you don’t negotiate those, you fucking morons. Those are a given. Those are the things that documentaries are filmed about, that make headlines in the newspapers and evening news: the woman with breast cancer denied coverage by Cigna, or the millions who cannot afford an insurance policy at all.

Those are the things you tell the industry they must stop, period. That’s not a bargaining chip. With stories like that in the news on a daily basis, they should be glad they are allowed to stay in business at all, not get wiped off the map in a wave of socialize medicine that makes insurance companies a quaint thing of the past, like house calls. Everyone has a "denied coverage" insurance horror story.

You don’t give up the public option for that. Those criminal practices were history when Congress first uttered the words "healthcare reform." You give up the public option for something else, something big, something truly controversial or groundbreaking. Something huge. Honestly, I can’t even think of what it would be, because I think the public option is crucial to reining in insurance company greed. And some "bi-partisan" Senators gave it up in exchange for insurance companies agreeing not to act like soul-sucking vipers.

The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce is cheering this deal. Which is a sure sign that it’s going to suck for consumers.

Here’s the best part:

They have met for hours in recent weeks in Baucus' office, joined by aides and outside advisers such as actuaries summoned to explain arcane details of insurance.

Of course they have. They have to learn all about insurance, the ins and outs and ups and downs of it. Because that’s what this has always been about: insurance reform.

Not healthcare reform, but insurance reform.

Epic Fail.

The Things I Learn On The Internets

Via dday at Digby’s, I learn that apparently all of those “Viva Viagra” ads and Cialis ads and Sally Field hawking Boniva ads and ads for Abilify which I used to think was one of those words President Bush just made up and Janeane Turner hawking her fake Restasis tears and all of that pharmaceutical clutter on the TV is actually a tax deduction for Big Pharma.

WTF??? Big Pharma is getting a TAX DEDUCTION for pushing their drugs? Why? Who cooked that up?
Drug companies get a TAX DEDUCTION for running ads for their drugs. Is this true of Frosted Flakes? Audi? Xerox? Does any other company in America get subsidized for airing commercials to get America to buy their products? It's not "significant money," though, so ending this direct payout from taxpayers to drug companies got shelved.

Not significant money? In 2004 drug companies spent $4 billion on direct to consumer advertising.

Set aside for a second the hypochondria that a nightly barrage of ads telling you that you have restless leg syndrome or iron-poor blood or any of a thousand ailments induces. Set aside the self-medication and the boiling down of complex medical issues into 30-second spots showing couples running through a field. Set aside how drug ads increase demand for medications and thus the costs. Set aside that some of these ads run before the Food and Drug Administration even completes their studies of the side effects. You mean to tell me that I'm helping PAY for these things, too?

If “my tax dollars” are going to go somewhere, it sure as hell better not be to help a gazillion billion dollar industry pay to promote its product.

I still can’t believe this. I'm thinking it has to be a mistake.

[UPDATE]: dday has since learned that the deduction is as a business expense, not a straight tax deduction. That certainly changes the outrage factor on the tax issue. But I agree that direct to consumer marketing of pharmaceuticals is a really, really, really bad idea that should never have been allowed to begin with and probably should be repealed.

But it probably won't be repealed, ever, because have you seen how many freaking pharmaceutical ads are on CNN and MSNBC and the other networks these days? Not to mention the three and four page ads in magazines and newspapers, filled with all of that fine print about how you might die of oily anal discharge from your weight loss pill? If the mainstream media loses that revenue they're screwed. Since they have a dog in this fight, expect them to pull out all the stops to make sure the cash river keeps flowing.

Just a hunch.

A Word About Birthers

Ha! Made you look!

No, this post is not about those birthers. Saturday night I happened to catch Ricki Lake’s fabulous documentary "The Business Of Being Born”. I highly recommend it, whether you are an expectant mother or not, because it addresses a lot of what’s wrong with our healthcare system in this country.

Nothing highlights the problems of a for-profit healthcare system more starkly than when a woman gives birth. Women have been having babies since the dawn of the species; they’ve been giving birth at home, aided by experienced practitioners such as midwives, for thousands of years. Yet in the past 100 years, the trend toward hospital birth has escalated, and not always with good results. For example, the rate of Caesarian sections in America is an astonishing one-in-three births. This is off the charts, especially when studies indicate there is no medical reason for this level of C-sections.

Despite the movement toward natural childbirth in the 60s and 70s, today women choosing to give birth at home assisted by a midwife are not supported by our healthcare system. Many healthcare professionals seem to feel threatened by midwifery, despite the fact that midwifes have been bringing babies in to the world for centuries. Insurance policies don’t cover midwife-assisted home birth, and the medical lobby seems to treat midwifery with outright hostility.

This is despite all of the evidence that shows non-hospital births are both less expensive and have better outcomes. The American Prospect looked at this issue earlier this month:
Midwives like Bartlett are often the only option for pregnant women who are underinsured, as many in her state are. She's seen a growth in her midwifery practice in recent years, and many of the women who come to her fall between the gap of the privately insured and those who qualify for Medicaid. These women choose to enlist Bartlett's services (a bargain at around $3,000) rather than pay out of pocket for a hospital birth (around $8,500) or even the high deductible for their insurance plan.

Bartlett and her clients aren't the only ones who see the cost benefits of midwifery. David Anderson, economics professor at Centre College in Kentucky, has run the numbers and says that midwifery care could save us billions of dollars annually, without affecting quality of care (maybe even improving it). Anderson posits that if we increase the percentage of women giving birth out of hospital by 10 percent (currently at only 1 percent nationally) we could save close to $9 billion per year. He points to the difference in baseline costs for out-of-hospital birth -- a difference of more than $6,000 when comparing the average cost of a home birth to an in-hospital one. Another main cost reducer, according to Anderson, is the significantly lower rate of C-sections for out-of-hospital births.

It's not just the costs that are lower, according to these advocates. The outcomes are better too, which in turn, further lowers cost by reducing additional care needed by sick babies and mothers. Anderson adds that if CPMs are allowed to practice in all 50 states, competition will drive down prices for maternity care, since more women will have access to a low-cost alternative to hospital births.

This is just one of the many things that frustrates me about our whole healthcare reform conversation. Today I saw Congressman Jim Cooper on CBS’ Face The Nation, and all I heard from him was how much he supported covering all Americans, the need to make health insurance more affordable and make health insurance more available and to offer Americans a variety of different insurance plans. This is his idea of reform. It’s all about insurance and it’s not about healthcare.

That’s not my idea of reform. Health insurance companies are part of the powerful medical industry lobby that is basically dictating to women what kind of care they can have and where and how they can deliver their babies, despite the fact that it’s cheaper and safer to do it another way!

That makes me wonder: what other medical procedures are cheaper, safer, more effective, less traumatic for patients, etc. which we are denied access to by our medical gatekeepers? (Acupuncture?)

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if this means we need to include some kind of health savings account component to cover things like home births and treatments not currently blessed by insurance companies or what. I just think if we’re talking about giving people choice, then choosing among a bunch of different insurance options isn’t really “choice” to me. I think our problems are bigger than just "choice." Our entire system needs to be overhauled.

If you’d like to learn more about the birth issue, a good place to start is the documentary’s trailer:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Keep Your Shirt Tucked In

If it works for schools maybe it will work for bars, too:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Can CNN Survive As Lou Dobbs Ups The Crazy?

After Lou Dobbs thoroughly embarrassed the “most trusted name in news,” which is how CNN still has the cojones to refer to itself, the network’s top brass has told Dobbs to cool it. It seems CNN president Jon Klein got the network's researchers to contact Hawaii state authorities and get answers to the question about Obama’s birth certificate (apparently in 2001 the state of Hawaii went paperless). In an e-mail Klein instructed Dobbs staffers to
be sure to cite this during your segment tonite. And then it seems this story is dead - because anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef.


At which point Dobbs promptly ignored Klein’s request to drop it, ignored the evidence the researchers provided, and went on to question why Obama hasn't presented every crackpot in America with a copy of his birth certificate.

Meanwhile, today the Southern Poverty Law Center called on CNN to take Dobbs off the air. The letter from the SPLC president to Jon Klein reads, in part:

As he has in several other instances, Mr. Dobbs, in taking up the birthers' claims, is adopting an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that originated on the radical racist right. As has reported, this particular conspiracy theory was first developed by an open anti-Semite and circulated by right-wing extremists who cannot accept the fact that a black man has been elected president of the United States. Among its adherents was neo-Nazi James von Brunn, the alleged murderer of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., this June. Von Brunn had helped spread the birthers' claims on the Internet and attacked the "dishonest & conspiratorial Media" for not taking them up.

This is not the first time Mr. Dobbs has pushed racist conspiracy theories or defamatory falsehoods about immigrants. We wrote you in 2007 to bring to your attention his utterly false claim that 7,000 new cases of leprosy had appeared in the United States in a recent three-year period, due at least in part to immigrants. (The real number, according to official statistics, was about 400. Mr. Dobbs took his spurious information from the late right-wing extremist, Madeleine Cosman.) In addition, Mr. Dobbs has reported as fact the so-called Aztlan conspiracy, which claims that undocumented Mexican immigrants are part of a plot to "reconquer" the American Southwest. He has suggested there is something to a related conspiracy theory that claims the governments of Mexico, the United States and Canada are secretly planning to merge into the "North American Union." He has falsely claimed that "illegal aliens" fill one third of American prison and jail cells. And Mr. Dobbs has routinely disparaged, on CNN's air, those who have had the integrity to point out the falsity of these and similar claims.

Respectable news organizations should not employ reporters willing to peddle racist conspiracy theories and false propaganda. It's time for CNN to remove Mr. Dobbs from the airwaves.

The SPLC has a point. Lou Dobbs and his ilk have mainstreamed extremist thought. It’s one thing to blather like an idiot on your own wingnutty radio show, but his position on CNN--“the most trusted name in news”--lends a gravitas and legitimacy to his extreme right-wing views. You know, if the most trusted name in news is going to repeat this BS, maybe there's something to it, eh?

It's not a matter of right vs left, it's a matter of fact vs fiction, with a poltiical motive behind it. That just sucks five ways to Thursday.

I’m sure this is why CNN has gone to so much effort to debunk these ludicrous lies, but when one of your own hosts is ignoring the obvious, you gotta wonder if CNN’s own credibility might not get sullied in all of this. Frankly, I haven’t trusted CNN in a long time, anyway. I wonder how much longer other folks will, too?

CNN first got itself into hot water when they hired Glenn Beck. It seems they've got another wackadoodle they need to hand over to Fox News before they lose all credibility. And hey, Jon Klein: ask Lou to take Nancy Grace with him.

(BTW, just wondering: does Vanderbilt’s Carol Swain still want to draft Lou Dobbs for president?)

Friday, July 24, 2009

More Like This, Please

Driving down 8th Avenue in Berry Hill today what to my wondering green eyes should appear? The beautiful view of a 25 KW solar array going up atop the Sonic Drive-In bays.

This is absolutely awesome! Clean, green energy, produced right here at home, creating jobs all across the work sector: from the guys doing the installation to the Lightwave Solar office staff to the factory workers making the panels in Memphis and Clarksville, to the R&D folks at our labs and universities figuring out how to make these systems more efficient. This is what the green economy is all about, folks.

I have no idea how the owner of this restaurant paid for a 25 KW array, but I would guess they availed themselves of one of the many low or no-interest loans, grants and other incentives available to businesses in the state (which are not available to residential homeowners, I might add).

Kudos to Sonic Drive-In for their support of the green economy. You know, if you look down 8th Avenue in Berry Hill, there’s lots of open roof space, unencumbered by tree tops or tall buildings. There’s really no reason why every single building on 8th Avenue/Franklin Pike doesn’t have a solar array on it. For that matter, there’s no reason why every residential rooftop with the proper exposure doesn’t have a solar array, either. None whatsoever, save the will and the financing.

It’s just a no-brainer. Sonic’s solar panels will begin generating clean, green energy immediately. It will take 25+ years before the first kilowatt is produced in one of Lamar Alexander’s suggested 100 nuclear power plants. And I haven’t seen too many oil wells in Tennessee lately. In fact, while we burn a lot of coal, and pay the price for it with sludge disasters like the one in Kingston, we aren't the coal production powerhouse we once were. According to the EIA, Tennessee coal mines employed fewer than 700 people in 2006.

Solar's the way to go for Tennessee.

Look What Inhofe & The GOP Did For Us

Here’s Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Wingnuttia, jumping aboard the “Waterloo” train:
Inhofe said if President Obama failed to get a Senate vote before the August recess, "I would say there’s no way in the world they’re going to get this done this year. And next year would not be any easier. But I just, frankly, for political reasons, I kind of like the idea of keeping this thing alive. Look what it did for us in 1994."

Hey, Sen. Inhofe: Southern Beale has a steaming cup of STFU with your name on it. Because back in January, American Progress did take a look at what it did for “us” when your side of the aisle put the kabosh on healthcare reform in 1994. And it hasn’t been good:

Since 1994, the cost per person of American health care has more than doubled, with an annual growth rate regularly more than twice that of inflation. Fueled by rising costs of prescription drugs, inefficient outpatient care, expensive and unnecessary medical procedures, and ballooning insurance premiums, these costs are a burden on state and federal governments, businesses, and families.

Per-person health care expenditures in the United States have risen 6.5 percent per year since 2000, and 5.5 percent per year on average since 1994. In contrast, consumer inflation has averaged just 2.6 percent per year.

Health care costs burden American employers, who are forced to cut back on providing coverage and benefits or suffer a competitive disadvantage against international companies who don't bear health costs. Premiums for employer-provided health care have doubled since 2000 (the earliest year the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey has on record). That year the average family premium was $6,800. By 2008, it had risen to $12,700. This premium growth eats away at wages and pressures firms to reduce coverage.

The share of American firms offering health benefits shrank to 60 percent today, from 66 percent in 1999. And the percentage of Americans covered through their employers, where coverage is of a much higher quality than in the individual market, was 59 percent in 2007, down from 64 percent in 1999. Without workplace health insurance, Americans must struggle to find coverage in the unregulated private market (where people with pre-existing conditions find it difficult or impossible to secure coverage), go on public assistance, or become uninsured.

This is your country on Republican bullshit. Can’t govern, can’t fix anything, just like to play political games and repeat talking points while healthcare costs spin out of control and people go without the medicine and care they need.

Thanks for nothing, assholes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Guns In Bars Bandwagon That Wasn't

Remember that whole spiel about how 40 states allow guns in bars and restaurants and so Tennessee should, too? The argument being, if it hasn’t been a problem in those 40 other states, why would it be a problem here? You know, time to jump on the bandwagon and all that?

Heh. Funny thing: according to a local attorney who has researched the applicable state laws, it turns out there aren’t anything close to 40 states allowing guns in bars and restaurants after all:
On Wednesday, The Lede spoke with David Randolph Smith, whose Nashville law firm is leading the fight to have Tennessee’s law declared unconstitutional. Mr. Smith says that his legal research team looked closely at the gun laws in every state, and found that there are just 14 states that issue permits allowing patrons to carry firearms in restaurants that serve alcohol.

Mr. Smith has posted the results of his legal team’s research on his Web site, beneath this statement: “The claim that ‘40′ states have ’similar laws’ to Tennessee’s new guns-in-bars law is false and misleading.” In fact, Mr. Smith writes, “because bars, saloons, nightclubs and restaurants with bar areas are notorious for fights, assaults and breaches of the peace, carrying loaded guns is expressly prohibited by law in bars, nightclubs or bar areas serving alcohol in 24 states [23 now that AZ changed its law].”

Heh. So, 14, not 40. Big difference.

I wonder where NewsChannel5 and the rest of our local media got that “40 states” information from, anyway? Information they were too lazy to verify? I can only imagine.

But in how many states does the law allow concealed weapons in bars? Actually, other than Tennessee, none:

No state, by statute or regulation, expressly allowed firearms to be brought into bars until the Tennessee legilsature passed Public Chapter 339, T.C.A. sec. 39-17-1305(c).

Tennessee law, unlike the law in the other 14 states that permitted carrying firearms into restaurants (but not bars) that served alcohol, does not distinguish between bars and restaurants.

All bars and clubs on Second Avenue & Broadway in Nashville and on Beale Street in Memphis, for example, are licensed as restaurants. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 57-4-102(27)(A).

Indeed, it appears that five of the 14 states allowing guns in restaurants serving alcohol specifically ban guns from a restaurant's bar area.

So, more states ban guns in bars than allow them. And the Tennessee legislature jumped on a phantom bandwagon, the media repeated false gun lobby talking points, and the gun nuts misrepresented their side of the debate.

No one could have anticipated any of that.

They’ve Got Nothing

Literally, when it comes to healthcare reform (and just about everything else), the Republican Party has no ideas. None. Zip. Nada.

And now, they’re admitting it. Roy Blunt, who heads the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group, says they won’t even offer their own bill:
Republicans who had promised last month to offer a healthcare reform alternative are now suggesting no such bill will be introduced.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, “Our bill is never going to get to the floor, so why confuse the focus? We clearly have principles; we could have language, but why start diverting attention from this really bad piece of work they’ve got to whatever we’re offering right now?”

Oh, clearly. Yes, the House Republicans could offer their own alternative to Democratic proposals, but why bother? What’s the point when they can play political games instead? Seriously, what do you think they were sent to Washington for, anyway? To craft legislation? Fix problems facing the country? C'mon! Be serious!

Unless, of course, House Republicans don’t have a healthcare alternative: never did, never will. These folks couldn’t govern their way out of a paper bag. All they know how to do is play politics. Tax cuts and banning abortion is all they’ve got. When it comes to actually fixing the dire problems America faces, they haven't got a clue, so they won’t even try. They’re gonna take their ball and go home, just like Sarah Palin.

Not just the party of no, but the party of no ideas.

Come on, House Republicans. If you've got something to say besides "NO!" then say it. Let's hear your suggestions on fixing healthcare in this country. We know you're going to be against whatever the Democrats are doing; what are you people for?

Anything? Anything at all?

This Week In Intolerance

Book burnings? Really? Sadly, when it comes to library books that don’t portray GLBT folks as demons, yes:
Ginny Maziarka, 49, said the books in the section of the library aimed at children aged 12 to 18 included homosexual and heterosexual content she thought was inappropriate for youths.

She and her husband also asked the library to obtain books about homosexuality that affirmed heterosexuality, such as titles written by "ex-gays," Maziarka said.

"All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That's not balance," she said.


Outside West Bend, the fight caught the attention of Robert Braun, who, with three other Milwaukee-area men, filed a claim against West Bend calling for one of the library's books to be publicly burned, along with financial damages.

The four plaintiffs -- who describe themselves as "elderly" in their complaint --- claim their "mental and emotional well-being was damaged by [the] book at the library."

The claim, unconnected to the Maziarkas, says the book "Baby Be-bop" -- a fictional piece about a homosexual teenager -- is "explicitly vulgar, racial and anti-Christian."

Braun, who says he is president of a Milwaukee group called the Christian Civil Liberties Union, said he singled out the book because it "goes way over the line" with offensive language and descriptions of sex acts.

So, just to recap: A Wisconsin mom wants to remove books about gays from the young adult section of her public library because they don’t portray gays as having some kind of disorder.

Meanwhile, some old farts who don’t even live in that town claim to have been so traumatized by one of the books in the library that they want it to be burned and they are suing for damages.

Let’s be even more clear: West Bend, where the library is located, is in Washington County, “an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee.”

Braun lives in West Allis, in Milwaukee County, which is just west of downtown Milwaukee. Not very close to West Bend, at all. I’m wondering if he couldn’t be emotionally damaged by some library books a little closer to home?

However, I did learn that West Allis is home to the International Clown Hall Of Fame. I think they have a new member to induct.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That Can’t Do Spirit


Nancy Pelosi gets the message!

Good for her. Figures when you need some "can-do" around the place you gotta look to a woman.


This is where I wonder what happened to the whole American can-do spirit, that “we can do it” attitude that Americans like to think we are famous for. Because right now, especially on the healthcare issue, all I’m hearing is a bunch of “nope, can’t be done” from Congress, and it's got some of us wondering if we've just gotten all soft and lazy.

And I have to say, it’s really distressing to hear this from those “Blue Dog” Democrats. I call these folks DINOs, not because they are “Democrats In Name Only” but because they are dinosaurs, fossils from a political landscape that hasn’t existed in this country in 10 years or more.

If the Blue Dogs didn’t learn the lessons of 2006 and 2008, let me remind them: Americans didn’t just vote for change. There has been a wave of populism sweeping the country, on both right and left. People are rebelling against the status quo, against the entrenched corporate and political power structure that they feel has held the reins for too long, with damn little to show for it. On the right, it’s brought us tea parties, Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. On the left, it sent Barack Obama to the White House. The point is: we're tired of sending people to Washington to see nothing happen. You've got a job to do, and you'd better get cracking.

In today’s WaPo, Harold Meyerson gets it right:
Centrist Democrats' opposition to health reform verges on the incoherent. A caucus (the Blue Dogs) formed ostensibly to promote balanced budgets now disapproves of the proposed taxes that would cover the expenses of the new programs. The congressional centrists say, commendably, that they want to squeeze more economies out of the system, but they oppose giving more power to an agency that would set the payment scales for physicians.


The Republican opposition to President Obama's push for health-care reform, on the other hand, makes clear political sense. If they can stop Obama on health care, as South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint recently noted, it "will be his Waterloo." Why Democrats of any ideology want to cripple their own president in his first year in office, and for seeking an objective that has been a stated goal of their party since the Truman administration, is a more mysterious matter.

Indeed it is. As I blogged yesterday, we’ve waited long enough for some kind of national healthcare policy in this country. I can get Republicans being the party of “no” where this is concerned, but Democrats? What the hell? Don’t tell me we can’t get it done. We’re America, we can do anything, right?

But this disturbing turn of events speaks to larger issues at play. Writes Meyerson:

But the big picture here, of which the resistance to reforming health care is just one element, is our growing inability to meet our national challenges.

Meyerson likens it to our inability to respond to Hurricane Katrina. Is the failed response to Katrina “the new normal in America,” he wonders?

I hope not, but I’m starting to wonder, too. I started worrying about this when I first heard criticism of President Obama for “trying to do too much,” as if our country isn’t in a deep mess on all fronts, as if we didn’t need to roll up our sleeves, loosen our ties, burn the midnight oil, etc. and get some shit done around here.

Bill Press makes a good point on the healthcare debate in Congress:

They’ve got it backwards. The goal should not be to get it done before leaving for a month’s vacation. The goal should to get it done, period. Before anybody even thinks about leaving for vacation.

And if it works out that Congress doesn’t get a month’s vacation this summer, or even a week’s vacation, so be it. Delivering universal healthcare legislation is more important.

Amen to that.

Hey Congress: I don’t give a shit about your August vacation. If you have to stay in Washington, D.C. through the dregs of August and give up your cushy golf vacations paid for by BlueCross/BlueShield, well boo fucking hoo.

There are some pressing issues in this country. You folks need to get to work. If you can’t work it out, then you shouldn’t have your job to begin with.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Report: Big Problems At TVA Coal Ash Sites

Can’t say we didn’t see this one coming, but at least it’s now official:
Consultants hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority report widespread problems with how the federal utility is running and maintaining its coal ash storage operations.

By the way, TVA is not just a "federal utility," it is a federally owned corporation. But I digress:

The report by McKenna Long and Aldridge of Atlanta follows the massive spill of more than 5 million cubic yards of coal ash December 22 at the Kingston Fossil Plant about 40 miles west of Knoxville.

The consultants said the "necessary systems, controls and culture were not in place" to properly manage the coal ash sites at TVA's 11 coal-fired power plants.

The report found TVA had no standard operating or maintenance procedures and failed to conduct annual training for engineers doing inspections. It said there was little or no internal
communication between the four TVA divisions responsible for ash retention.

The firm presented its findings to the TVA board Tuesday.

Hmm, with that in mind, I remind everyone that last February TVA shuffled its executive staff around, moving former coal operations chief Preston Swafford to head TVA’s nuclear operations.

Let’s hope Mr. Swafford manages TVA’s nuclear waste better than he did its coal ash.

I’ve Waited Long Enough, Thank You

Here's one that is not a joke: the latest talking point from the Republican Party is that we’re moving too fast on healthcare reform.

Unbelievable, I know.

We see it in a lot of places, from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell decrying “rush and spend Democrats,” to “centrist” Senators to, hilariously, Michael Steele cribbing from GOP strategist Alex Castellanos.

That just cracks me up. We’ve been talking about this issue since Bill Clinton was president and conservatives scuttled “Hillarycare.” That was back in 1993.

Sixteen years isn’t enough time for you folks? Let me take a wild guess: how about never? Does never work for you? Apparently Republicans are a giant FAIL when it comes to healthcare policy because the poor dears just can't figure this stuff out after a couple of decades. I mean, think about it: they had Congress and the White House for years, and healthcare reform was never important enough to warrant their attention, save a Big Pharma giveaway flawed Medicare prescription drug bill which left a giant donut hole that Obama had to plug. And now they’re telling us to slow down?

I'm starting to question their commitment to the issue. [snark]

Of course, this is just another political message they hope will stick. “Slow down, it’s too important to rush through.” Hilarious. The reality is, we’ve been talking about healthcare reform in every election for the past 15-20 years. Yes, I remember “Hillarycare.” I remember Al Gore urging support for the Patients’ Bill of Rights in his 2000 presidential campaign. I remember it being a big issue for Democratic presidential hopefuls in the 2004 campaign, while the media was trying to tell us we should care about “moral values” (and according to our glorious mainstream media, people forced to choose between healthcare and food is not a moral issue.) I remember John Edwards’ healthcare plan earning kudos from Paul Krugman during the last primary campaign.

Hell, does anyone remember Michael Dukakis’ universal healthcare bill? I think it was called “healthcare for all”:
Mr. Dukakis suffered a public setback in October when the State House of Representatives sent back to committee his proposal to provide health insurance for virtually everyone in the state. It had been billed by Mr. Dukakis and others in the state government as a potential model for the nation.

Anyone want to guess the date on that story? 1987. That was 22 years ago. To hear the Republicans talk, we should wait another 22 years before getting something done with healthcare. Anyone think we can wait 22 years?

How about the Treaty of Detroit, the 1950 agreement between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three car manufacturers:

Walter Reuther, the union’s captain, would have preferred that the government provide pensions and health care to all citizens. He urged the automakers to “go down to Washington and fight with us” for federal benefits.

But the automakers wanted no part of socialized care. They seemed not to notice, as a union expert wrote, that if Washington didn’t provide social insurance it would be “sought from employers across the collective bargaining table.”

Wow. That was nearly 60 years ago.

“Slow down” has to be the most dishonest GOP talking point since Dick Cheney simply stated there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. But fine, if that’s how you folks want to play it, let’s roll with it. If the GOP talking point is 60 years isn’t enough time to figure out a national healthcare policy, then clearly you people are idiots who cannot govern your way out of a paper bag.

I have just one thing to say to you folks: time to get out of the fucking way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Al Gore Is Still Fat

By now everyone has weighed in on Nate Silver’s challenge to global warming skeptics. So I guess it's my turn.

It just goes without saying that if there’s a week of unusually cool weather, the flat-earthers use this as proof that global warming doesn’t exist. Or, as our own Glen Dean likes to say,
You would have to be an idiot to actually believe that man has any effect on the climate.

One man, perhaps. But there are more than six billion of us right now. Personally, I think you have to be an idiot to actually believe that more than six billion human beings wouldn’t affect the climate.

Yes, it’s been a gorgeous weekend throughout pretty much the entire country. We’ve got our windows open and the A/C off in the house right now -- proof that Al Gore is fat, global warming is a hoax, and there’s a cabal of environmentalists with the gleam of one-world government in their eyes who have turned scientists around the world into their minions.

You know, as Glenn Greenwald Tweeted earlier today,

Many obituaries in my morning paper: proof that world population is decreasing


Nate Silver’s post got a lot of attention because he threw down the gauntlet, with real money involved (and as of my last look, no one has taken his bet--not even Sen. Inhofe, who has all that Big Oil money to play with.)

But the point of Silver’s post is that one cold weekend does not make for science. Folks like Hinderaker and Drudge who scream “Al Gore is fat!” every time the temperatures dip below normal are silent when we have early hot spells, like the one that hit Nashville this April. It was so hot during the Country Music Marathon this year that the women’s winner vomited several times after finishing the race, and one runner died.

But I’m not going to say that is proof of global warming’s existence any more than a cool July proves it isn’t real. For that I’m going to look at the changes in my garden over the past few years, the work of real scientists looking at global warming over the past 30 years, and some real number crunching from statisticians like Nate Silver.

And I'll repeat what I've said before, which is that even if you don't believe global warming is real, you cannot deny that:

•  air pollution is responsible for diseases like asthma;
• coal power destroys our environment and has resulted in disasters like what happened in Kingston, TN, last December;
• dependence on foreign oil has made our country vulnerable to the whims of unstable foreign regimes and forced us to compromise our moral authority as we do business with regimes like Saudi Arabia who practice intolerance.

With all that going for it, I can't imagine why anyone would stick to the old way of doing things. You know, there's a reason they call it fossil fuels. It's for dinosaurs.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Good Luck With That

Apparently some in the Republican Party (cough*cough*TEA BAGGERS”cough*cough*) think being obstructionist on healthcare reform is a political winner:
"I can almost guarantee you this thing won't pass before August, and if we can hold it back until we go home for a month's break in August," members of Congress will hear from "outraged" constituents, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said on the call, which was organized by the group Conservatives for Patients Rights.

"Senators and Congressmen will come back in September afraid to vote against the American people," DeMint predicted, adding that "this health care issue Is D-Day for freedom in America."

"If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him," he said.

It really is just all about politics with this crowd, isn’t it? Yes, I imagine Congress Critters will hear from angry constituents: angry because they put politics over the needs of the people, that they did nothing to reform a system that is hopelessly broken.

For a recap on Conservatives for Patients Rights, that is the anti-reform group formed by disgraced Columbia/HCA chairman Rick Scott, the company responsible for the largest healthcare fraud scandal in U.S. history. Scott left Columbia/HCA in tatters, with a golden parachute to the tune of $10 million. And the company handling the group’s PR? The same folks who handled the Swift Boat campaign.

So the clueless tea baggers are being played by their corporate overlords. No wonder we point our fingers and laugh at you.

Anyway, healthcare reform is a national necessity. The system we have now is permanently broken, everyone knows it. I don’t see how being obstructionist on reforming a broken system that only works for corporate crooks like Rick Scott and the Swift Boat smearmongers is going to be a winner for the Republican Party.

But, good luck with that.

Another Peace Sign

I'm telling ya, they're everywhere!

Lobby of 190 LaSalle Street, Chicago:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Not Welcoming Our Corporate Overlords

File this under irony: In the dead of night, Amazon snuck into people’s Kindle electronic readers and took back their copies of “1984” and “Animal Farm”:
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

Even worse, this is not the first time this has happened: the New York Times reports other Kindle deletions: Harry Potter books and Ayn Rand.

I’ve told Mr. Beale I want a Kindle reader for my birthday next year but now I’m rethinking the idea. I loved the idea of a device that can hold thousands of books, in one convenient package. But the books can’t be loaned, or donated to a charity, or left for someone else to read at the laundromat, or anything else you can do with a book. And with a real book, the publisher can’t sneak into my house and take it back because they didn’t like the store where I bought it.

There are some advantages to being a Luddite.

Amazon has given itself a black eye over this Orwell thing, so they’ve promised not to take back purchased copies ever again. Riiiight. Until they put some kind of switch on my Kindle that allows me to control the who, what, where, when and why of access to my device, I’m not going to believe them. Who’s to say Amazon won’t sneak into my Kindle and edit my books? Change the content? Decide to make some “corrections”?

We’ve arrived at a funny place in the world of intellectual property, copyright, and technology. Who really owns a work? If I buy a paper-bound book, it’s mine. I can write on it, tear out the pages, use it to line a bird cage, read it, loan it to a friend, do whatever. I can read it once, twice, three times. It’s mine and no publisher, book seller, or author can tell me I can’t. I’m not supposed to make money off of it, but people do all the time when they sell their books to used book stores. If I buy an electronic book, however, I can’t do any of these things.

Why is that? What’s the difference? Just because electronically they can control what buyers have purchased, that doesn’t mean they should. If I can loan a book to a friend when I buy the hard-bound copy, I should be able to loan an electronic copy. After all, my rights as a buyer don’t change whether the book I purchase is paperback, hardback, large type, or anything else.

Record companies will go after you for millions of dollars because you wanted to share the cool new songs you heard with some friends. But if I made a cassette tape of a new CD and gave it to a friend, no problem -- there’s a tax (or used to be) on blank tape sales that supposedly reimbursed record labels for their lost royalties when consumers taped recorded product.

Why couldn't they do the same thing with electronic files if they're so worred about "stealing"?

Nothing is going to make me want to stick to old technology more than some brain-dead corporation trying to control my behavior after I’ve bought their product. Or redefining what it means to "own" something, and deciding that no matter how much money we consumers shell out, we're really just "renting." Own means own, it means it's mine.

Corporations are going to have to get off the greed train because they're only hurting themselves in the end. I don't want part of any system where Amazon can come into my house in the middle of the night and take back the books I purchased.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I See Peace Signs

Historic wall sconce inside The Rookery, Chicago:

(For reference, read here.)

Today's Message

Your daily words of wisdom:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Karma’s A Bitch

Watch Southern Beale play the world’s tiniest violin for this right-wing broadcasting outfit which has fallen on hard times:
Sinclair Broadcast Group faces possible bankruptcy

The broadcaster, which is controlled by David Smith and his family and operates 58 television stations, says that if it cannot restructure its heavy debt load, it will have to file for Chapter 11.

By Joe Flint
July 15, 2009

Another big broadcaster may be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., which is controlled by David Smith and his family and operates 58 television stations, said that if it couldn't restructure its heavy debt load, it would have to file for bankruptcy protection.

The Baltimore-based company, which has about $1.3 billion of debt, is trying to negotiate terms on notes of $500 million that are coming due in the next 18 months.

Oh, poor Sinclair Broadcasting, the lying sacks of far-right shit who literally Swift Boated John Kerry two weeks before the 2004 presidential election, and tried to smear Barack Obama before the 2008 election. The same broadcast group which loved the troops so much, they were happy to cheer on the Iraq War, but wouldn’t allow its stations to air a “Nightline” episode honoring our fallen soldiers.

The same right-wing broadcast group that pushed Armstrong Williams’ pro-Bush propaganda on its stations (and viewers).

The same broadcasting group run by family-values guy David Smith, the same David Smith busted in a prostitution sting in 1996.

Awww. Karma’s a bitch, guys.

I’m sure there are plenty of good people who work for this piece of shit company. But I’m only human. And really, when your job requires you to flush your integrity down the toilet like this:

"You weren't reporting news," says the producer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You were reporting a political agenda that came down to you from the top of the food chain."

then it’s hard for me to muster a lot of sympathy. You're just asking for the karmic boot to kick you in the ass.

Does this make me a bad person?


C’est la guerre.

I know that schadenfreude is not becoming on a blogger. But this one hits home. Back in 2004 I joined a small group of activists who protested in front of Nashville’s Sinclair offices during the “Stolen Honor” affair. I waved a sign and chanted against a media conglomerate using its power to spread lies and swing a presidential election. Well, Sinclair got their second term of Bush, and the resulting economic meltdown. And so no, I don’t feel sorry for David Smith and his family and their dwindling fortune.

Good luck restructuring your debt, Mr. Smith. And next time, don't spend all your money on hookers and wingnut political propaganda.

Don't Look Back

Light blogging over the next few days as I take care of some stuff. I took this picture last year in Stockholm. It always amused me:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What A Difference A Few Months Makes

Sarah Palin was for cap and trade before she was against it. The money quote is at 5:07:

Overturning Tables

Yet another right-wing fundiegelical snake-oil salesman attempts the inevitable post-scandal “comeback”:
“This is not going to be your daddy’s Christian Coalition,” Reed said in an interview to describe his new venture, the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “It has to be younger, hipper, less strident, more inclusive and it has to harness the 21st century that will enable us to win in the future.”

Here’s a question: why are these right-wing conservative Christian groups always “coalitions”? Who are they coalescing with?

I visited the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s website and here’s what a found: a picture of a happy white family and this message:

We are advocating time-honored values, protecting the dignity of life and marriage, reducing taxes, and insuring [sic] fiscal responsibility in Washington.

Oh. So in other words, the same old shit, complete with grammatical error. So much for that “less strident” and “more inclusive” stuff.

There’s no coalition here, just a scandal plagued homophobe peddling the same crap we’ve already decided we don’t want. Hey Ralph, I’ve got a steaming cup of STFU and it’s got your name on it.

Here’s Reed again:

“You have to reinvent it,” Reed said. “It’s the political analog to the iPod and the iPhone. It would be cool. It would be transformative. It would transform our politics and bring younger people to our ranks. All of those are critical imperatives.”

You know you’re doing this religion thing wrong when:

• “faith” means you have to be a member of one particular political party;
• “faith” has anything to do with consumerism;
• you need your “faith” to be “cool.”.

If you’re describing your movement as “the new iPod” then you’re not talking about faith, but a product. And that’s just wrong.

Faith is not a product. It is not a political party. And it is not a trend that is “cool” or “uncool,” “in” or “out.”

Ralph Reed is a first-class huckster and charlatan. Anyone who gives him a dime has been duped.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guns In Bathrooms Are A Bad Idea, Too

Yet another idea why guns in restaurants are a bad idea. Sooner or later, nature calls:
TAMPA, Fla. -- Authorities said a bullet from a gun that was accidentally dropped injured a Tampa woman sitting in a bathroom stall. Police said the bullet hit 53-year-old Janifer Bliss in the lower left leg. She was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Bliss was sitting on the toilet in a hotel bathroom when a woman in the next stall accidentally let her handgun slip out of her waist holster. The weapon discharged when it hit the ground.

Police said the gun belonged to a 56-year-old woman who has a concealed weapons permit.

The case has been referred to the State Attorney's Office to determine if any charges will be filed.

Gosh, I thought CCW permit holders were always so responsible with their firearms. Guess not.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zelda The Wonder Dog!

She walks! She runs! She plays! Two weeks after surgery!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Feel Good Friday, Solar Power Edition

Guess whose solar panels got commissioned today?

Pfooey To Pfrance

Every time the subject of nuclear energy comes up, someone has to mention France.

France, if you listen to the hoopla, is a kind of holy grail of nuclear energy, a country that has “figured it all out” and does everything right where nuclear power is concerned. And no wonder: France sells electricity all around Europe, so of course they have marketed their energy as clean, green and cheap.

Except, it’s not. And they haven’t. First we have this December 2008 report, commissioned by the Green Party for the EU, which raised several issues, including some cooked books by the French government and contamination from the uranium processing plant at La Hague.

But if you don’t want to believe the Greens, please believe the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Last June they looked at the French nuclear hype and determined it was a lot of hot air:
In 2007, nuclear energy provided 78 percent of France's electricity, which corresponded to 39 percent of its commercial primary energy but only 18 percent of its final energy. Primary energy is the energy contained in the fuel when it enters the system, while final energy is what is left over for the consumer after processing, transformation, and distribution. In the case of large nuclear or coal-fired power plants, only about one-quarter of the primary energy reaches the consumer's home, office, or factory. In France, more than 70 percent of final energy is provided by oil, gas, and coal, of which one-half is oil alone, just as in many other countries. This year, the country will face an all-time record energy bill of more than $80 billion.
So much for the energy independence myth, as well as the climate change myth. France depends on foreign energy sources just like the rest of us.

Furthermore, France closed its last uranium mine in 2001. With 100% of its uranium imported, “energy independence” isn't just far fetched, it's flat-out wrong.

The mythic “low cost” of French nuclear production is also debunked:
For decades, the civilian program has profited from direct and indirect subsidies, in particular through cross-financing with the nuclear weapons program. Current estimates don't appropriately take into account eventual decommissioning and waste-management costs, which remain a concern and quite uncertain. (In addition to post-fission waste, 46 years of uranium mining has left 50 million tons of waste for eventual cleanup and remediation, the cost of which is unknown.) Official final disposal cost estimates for long-lived high- and intermediate-level fission wastes vary between $21 billion and $90 billion.

Heh. Just like here.

And then we have the fancy footwork, the hype and hoopla of the French nuclear miracle, which appears to be smoke and mirrors:

Last year, France exported 83 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and imported 27.5 billion kilowatt hours--obviously, a large net export. But the ambassador neglects to mention that France cheaply exports base-load power and imports expensive, essentially fossil fuel-based, peak-load power to use in its citizens' wasteful winter heating systems. Net power imports from Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power, averaged about 8 billion kilowatt hours over the last few years, and the emissions linked to these imports are attributed to the exporting country, not France. But the radioactive waste stemming from its exported nuclear-generated power--equivalent to the output of a dozen reactors--remains in the country.

France’s new nuclear projects are behind schedule and overbudget: for example, the Olkiluoto 3 in Finland, built by France’s Areva, is three years behind schedule and $2.4 billion over budget. That’s billion, with a B, folks.

On July 4, while Americans were grilling hot dogs and trying to figure out Sarah Palin’s latest meltdown, the Kruemmel nuclear reactor in Germany unexpectedly shut down for the second time in a week. It had just been fired up in June, after being shut down for two years after a fire. Swedish utility Vattenfal, which operates the plant, says it is is losing about $750,000 a day from the shutdown.

This isn’t cheap energy, folks. It's not independence, either. As for "clean," well, consider that leaks and other incidents happen with regularity. You don't hear about them because they aren't all of Chernobyl-level scope. But they happen and they pollute water and air and soil and cause problems.

And speaking of Chernobyl, today's irony award goes to Irish firm Greenfield, which is using the poisoned Chernobyl land to make biofuels.

Anyway, I have an idea why some folks want a resurgence in nuclear power. It’s highly centralized, and allows corporate or nationalized government interests to retain control.

The idea of something decentralized, like people putting solar panels on their roof or windmills in their backyard, threatens the centralized status quo. If people produced their own energy, maybe there wouldn't be support for resource wars like Iraq.

I dunno, but I don't see how nuclear power is any better than coal power. It's got all of the same problems and a few others too.

Today In Hate

Actually, it was yesterday, at Steve McNair's memorial. Two people with four signs each. I'd say the Phelps clan is spread a little thin these days:

I've said before, I don't understand why some enterprising journalist hasn't figured out whose bankrolling these assclowns, who seem to do nothing except travel the world looking for attention. I suspect the money trail will lead in some very surprising and interesting directions.

Anyone interested?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Message For Senator Alexander

Hey Lamar! Your call for 100 new nuclear power plants is stupid.

Says Lamar:
Why are we ignoring the cheap energy solution to global warming which is nuclear power?" Alexander asked a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), of which he is a member.

He said, "Over the next 20 years, if we really want to deal with global warming, we really only have one option and that is to double the number of nuclear power plants. There is no technological way to obtain a large amount of cheap, reliable, clean electricity other than nuclear power."

One keeps hearing how “cheap” nuclear energy is, which I find incredibly dishonest. If it were so cheap, there would be nuclear power plants all over the place. There are not. Lamar is doing some funny math.

There are a slew of government subsidies to the nuclear power industry, stuff that green energy producers (or any industry, for that matter) would give their eye-teeth to have. For example, we have the Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act , in which the government indemnifies the nuclear industry in the event of an accident. Boy, Big Pharma would kill for one of those. And we have the Dept. of Energy’s Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, in which the government pays for building and securing long term storage of nuclear waste. Man, the chemical industry is pea-green with envy over that one!

And by the way: what about all of that nuclear waste, Lamar? That stuff which is lethal for hundreds of years? That doesn’t sound so clean or cheap to me. Where are we going to put it all? At taxpayer expense, no less?

What about the pollution caused by uranium mines, Lamar? What, you never heard of the polluted well water in New Mexico and poisoned waters of Lake Ontario? Who pays for that?

What about the fact that so much nuclear fuel comes from Central Asia and Africa? So we’d be trading a Middle Eastern energy source for an African one? Trading being nice to Saudi Arabia to sucking up to Uzbekistan? Not sure that helps our energy security, buddy. They boil people alive there.

This is just so typical of our politicians today: spit out some bumper sticker nonsense they’ve dreamed up (“cheap, reliable, clean electricity!”) and don’t even bother to see if it’s true. Do you think uranium pellets grow on trees?


The Sierra Club’s Carl Pope has more about Lamar’s boneheaded idea:

It appears that what is envisaged is that the taxpayers actually pay for building these plants -- but not that the taxpayers would ever be repaid from the sales of electricity. No, the profits from this investment would flow to shareholders in big utility and nuclear companies. This is not even a bailout -- I guess you could call it a bail-forward. And it would be very expensive.

This is your typical wingnut welfare program. Get the government (that’s you and me, folks) to pay for the infrastructure, and make sure we keep on paying while wealthy investors reap the profits. While you’re at it, by all means make sure there are tax cuts for the wealthy to ensure that the true beneficiaries never repay the government (you and me) for our initial investment.

It’s a classic example of nationalize the costs, privatize the profits. Furthermore:

Even the Business Round Table, in its recent study calling for major policy initiatives in the climate arena, conceded that in the absence of much larger subsidies than are currently available to nuclear, the most we can realistically expect is to replace the existing fleet of nuclear power plants as they are retired -- nuclear simply is not going to be a bigger part of our energy future unless we just keep throwing more money at it.

So, even 100 new nuclear plants won't be enough to replace the dirty coal plants as Lamar envisions.

Don’t want.