Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh Canada! I Stand On Guard For Thee

One of the most arrogant pieces of ass-hattery coming from the right wing anti-healthcare reform crowd is the allegation that there have been no great medical innovations in countries Not America. It’s our innovation, sparked by the Glorious Free Hand Of The Market, you see, which saves lives.


Today Sen. Bob Corker took that particularly noxious “America! Fuck Yeah!” myth and brought it to new heights of arrogance with today’s WTF moment:
During a hearing of the Special Committee on Aging, the Tennessee Republican told Canada’s former Public Health Minister, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, that her country is “living off of us” because they set lower prices for health care and “all the innovation, all the technology breakthroughs just about take place in our country and we have to pay for it.”

“It is not really our country so much is the problem, it’s sort of the parasitic relationship that Canada, and France, and other countries have towards us,” Corker said. “…You benefit from us, and we pay for that. And I resent that, and I want to figure out a way to solve that.”

Excuse me? France and Canada are parasites on us? Because they’re just sucking off our technological breakthroughs? And you told this to the former Canadian public health minister?

Did she laugh in your face? Or did she show more manners than you did with your little outburst? Just wondering.

Sen. Corker, you have officially embarrassed me with your ignorance and your hubris. So let me give you a little schooling on some Canadian medical breakthroughs (mine is an abbreviated list, but the complete list is at the link):

• 1912 First surgical treatment of tuberculosis. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1922 First clinical use of insulin for diabetes in human patients. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1950 Introduction of lumpectomy for treatment of breast cancer. Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure designed to remove a discrete lump (usually a tumour, benign or otherwise) from an affected woman or man’s breast. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1951 First “cobalt bomb” in the world used to deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients. (Lawson Health Research Institute — London, Ontario)

• 1952 First use of a device that determines whether or not a patient’s thyroid is cancerous through the use of radioactive iodine. (Saskatoon Health Region — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

• 1958 World first surgical treatment on cerebral aneurysms. (Lawson Health Research Institute — London, Ontario)

Wow. Major innovations in cancer treatment in a country that did not invent the pink ribbon? I cannot believe it.

Want some more? Okie dokie:

• 1960 Implementation of genetic screening programs for hereditary metabolic diseases in newborns. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1961 Discovery of blood-forming stem cells enabling bone marrow transplants. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1983 Successful single lung transplant. Lung transplants extend life expectancy and enhance the quality of life for end-stage pulmonary patients. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1983 The Department of Nuclear Medicine becomes first to use a special imaging agent to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Called [18] F6-fluorodopa PET, the chemical was produced by Hamilton Health Sciences and is now used worldwide. (Hamilton Health Sciences/McMaster University – Hamilton, Ontario)

• 1988 World’s first successful liver/small bowel transplant is performed. (Lawson Health Research Institute — London, Ontario)

• 1993 Discovery of a novel gene associated with Lou-Gehrig’s disease. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1995 First physical map of the human genome created. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1996 Identification of a gene that causes colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Canadians. (Hospital for Sick Children — Toronto, Ontario)

I could go on ... and on ... and on ... Frankly, the recent medical breakthroughs are far too technical for me to understand fully, but do go to the link and check it out.

I’ll tackle the issue of France later. Right now, I’m too disgusted with our Republicans in Congress, and my own Senator in particular, and need to cool off.

Die Quickly

Today’s manufactured outrage destined to domninate the news cycle:

How very impolite of the gentleman from Florida to point out some inconvenient truths about the Republican Party’s approach to healthcare reform.

By all means let’s get our knickers in a twist over this and demand an apology while the gentlewoman from North Carolina says that the Democrats' healthcare reform plan will "cause seniors to be put to death by their government.” And the gentlewoman from Minnesota accuses President Obama of wanting to control the food supply and limit your caloric intake.

And the gentleman from South Carolina heckles the president during a speech to Congress. And the gentleman from Georgia fearmongers about “czars”.

How very unmannerly of Rep. Grayson! And while all of this manufactured outrage wages on, has anyone bothered to ask the Republicans their ideas to reform our broken healthcare system? Besides tax cuts, of course?


Ah well, then. Let’s drive this fauxtrage train for all the ratings glory we can because by all means the very last thing anyone in the media wants us to do is actually talk about healthcare reform.

Who’s Still Fighting For Single Payer?

I am.

You are.

The Republicans are fighting against it.

Whether you realize it or not, we all are fighting for it or against it.

Yesterday the public option was shot down, and the best argument the Republicans could come up with was that it was
in the words of Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, “a Trojan horse for a single-payer system” in which the government would eventually control most health care.

Or, in the words of Chuck Grassley (R-IA):

"It is a slow walk toward government control."

Got that? The Republican Party thinks we can’t have a public option because it will lead to single-payer.

This is what I’ve said all along! We are fighting single payer even when we aren’t fighting single payer!

Every argument against healthcare reform the Republicans have brought up has been an argument against single-payer. But we never got to have an actual debate about the merits of single-payer because it was never actually on the table!

I’m so angry at the Democrats right now I can barely contain myself. How could you screw this one up so badly? How could you lose control of the debate like this? How could you sell out healthcare reform?

How could you be such fuck-ups?

This has been the most ham-fisted public policy debate I’ve ever seen. I want a damned debate about single payer already. The Republicans are having it, so come on, Democrats. Join the conversation. Put it on the table already.

What are you afraid of? That we might actualy get it?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Healthcare Myth 237 Exposed

Physicians are not, it seems, fleeing Medicare, according to the GAO:
GAO found that Medicare beneficiaries experienced few problems accessing physician services during its period of study. Very small percentages of Medicare beneficiaries–less than 3 percent–reported major difficulties accessing physician services in 2007 and 2008. The proportion of beneficiaries who received physician services and the number of services per beneficiary served increased nationwide from April 2000 to April 2008. Indicators of physician willingness to serve Medicare beneficiaries and to accept Medicare fees as payments in full also rose from 2000 to 2008.

Here’s the entire report for your reading pleasure.

So, that’s how many right-wing healthcare myths debunked? Is anyone counting?

• There are no death panels (at least, not the government kind.)

• Canadians are not lining up at the U.S. border to obtain healthcare. In fact, it’s the other way around: tens of thousands of Americans flee the U.S. each year for affordable surgical procedures in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and India.

• British citizens do not, in fact, disparage their National Health Service, but if you lie about who you are and selectively edit some interview tapes it might look like they do.

• The USA does not, in fact, have the best healthcare in the world; indeed, we suck.

• America’s health insurance companies do, actually, need the government telling them what to do, since they’ve been unable to stop practices like pre-existing conditions on their own.

I’m sure there are more.

How Many More Civil Wars Must We Endure?

I find it absolutely hilarious to learn that I’ve been "pretending” to be a liberal all these years.

It also appears the Great Orange Satan has revoked my Liberal credentials and the checks from George Soros will no longer arrive in the mail.

Oh, drat.

You know, it’s really funny that someone named “Big Tent Democrat” has now decided that Jim Cooper and a handful of local bloggers aren’t liberal enough for the Democratic Party. The irony of it all.

It’s also funny that suddenly, in certain progressive circles, none of us want to see Cooper primaried and we all think he’s "just peachy.”

Actually, if anyone bothered to read the local blogs they so happily diss, they’d know that Aunt B, GoldnI and yours truly have all said we agree that primaries exist for a reason. Specifically, I said on Friday:
But fine, let’s primary Cooper, that’s how our system works. I have no problem with that at all. Let’s find our dream candidate, send him or her out there, and see if their message resonates with the constituents. Especially constituents in Belle Meade, Cheatham County, Wilson County. Places like that. Good luck.

So, to TalkLeft’s Big Tent Democrat who said

What are these "local experts" afraid of?

let me say: absolutely nothing. And if you’d read my blog you’d know that.

I also don’t know anyone who thinks Cooper is “just peachy.” Frankly I know few people anywhere who think their House representative is “just peachy.” We’ve all been critical of Cooper on our blogs. Again, you might know that if you’d bother to get to know the community before unleashing the attack dogs.

And therein lies the problem.

I really think a lot of the internet drama part of this saga has less to do with Jim Cooper and bloggers’ liberal-progressive bonafides and more to do with tone, tactics and cultural differences. I think what really set Kos and the rest off is being labeled “interlopers.” Well, sorry, but that’s how it feels. An out of state PAC has targeted our district for regime change and as soon as we voice some valid concerns we’re embroiled in a flame war? Maybe if I’d known you were coming I’d have had the chocolates and roses handy.

Seriously, let me tell you a little something about Tennessee: we don’t like being treated like a bunch of hicks from the sticks who don’t know what’s good for us. A friend who is a Nashville native observed of this whole Cooper mess:

Haven't these people learned by now that you don't FORCE Southerners to do anything?? How many more civil wars must we endure?! :-)

Here’s another thing about Tennessee: I’ve lived here for 23 years and I still hear, “Y’all aren’t from around here are you?”

That’s just how it is and maybe if anyone had bothered to do a little more groundwork than just a few telephone surveys you could have avoided some of this negativity and resentment. You know, taken a more “grassroots” vs “scorched earth” approach.

Look, you aren’t engendering any goodwill by dividing the community. I sure as hell don’t like it when the hall monitor for the progressive movement suddenly decides I need a note from home before I can express an opinion about who represents me in Washington. So Kos needs to stuff it because if your grand plan fails you get to go back to Berkeley and your ex-Black Panther House Rep and two Democratic Senators. I will be stuck here with my two Republican Senators, a Republican state legislature, and (worst case) a Republican congress critter. We've seen how the state has gone the past few years and it hasn't been leftward.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Where The Money Is Going

I just discovered this neat tool to track ARRA projects and grants. Just plug your zip code in and a map pops up showing Recovery Act projects in your neighborhood.


Since When Do We Defend Child Rapists?

Excuse me, but I don’t care how many years have elapsed since you raped a 13-year-old, and I don’t care how talented a director you are or how old you are or how tragic your personal story may be. Rape is rape. It’s still a felony. And convictions are still convictions. We are a nation of laws, and laws related to felonies are important. And if you go on the lam to skip out on your sentencing I have no problem with your ass being thrown in jail when the law catches up with you 30 years later.

So, I happen to think Anne Applebaum is full of shit when she writes:
There must be some deeper story here, because by any reckoning the decision was bizarre -- though not nearly as bizarre as the fact that a U.S. judge wants to keep pursuing this case after so many decades.

Um, no, not really.

Just because someone has been on the lam for 30 years, or out of the reach of the long arm of United States law, doesn’t mean the law itself is unimportant. That’s the beauty of our system: no matter how much time has elapsed, right and wrong don’t change. If you’re convicted of a felony, you will serve your sentence. Unless you are pardoned or your conviction is overturned. That’s how these things work.

If it didn’t work this way, every wealthy person in the country would skip out on their sentencing and hole up in some French chateau until the public outrage has faded into memory and everyone is like, “bygones!” I don’t think so.

Applebaum goes on with this insanity:

Here are some of the facts: Polanski's crime -- statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl -- was committed in 1977. The girl, now 45, has said more than once that she forgives him, that she can live with the memory, that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children.

That’s nice but this wasn’t a civil trial, it was a criminal trial. It was the People of the State of California v. Polanski, not Samantha Geimer. I lived in California in 1977. I was 15 years old. I was one of “the people.”

Plus, I’m not sure what this “new trial” thing is about. He’s already been tried and convicted. He used his wealth and connections to skip out on sentencing. Apparently, people who are Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and American Enterprise Institute fellows are okay with that. Frankly, I have a problem with it. Lady Justice wears a blindfold, remember?

Back to Anne:

There is evidence of judicial misconduct in the original trial. There is evidence that Polanski did not know her real age.

These are two important points. If proved, the latter would be considered during sentencing--the very part of the trial Polanski has evaded for 30 years. (However, the mere fact that Polanski required the victim's mother's permission to photograph her for French Vogue tells us he knew she was underage.) If there truly was judicial misconduct then appeal, baby, appeal.

Polanski, who panicked and fled the U.S. during that trial, has been pursued by this case for 30 years, during which time he has never returned to America, has never returned to the United Kingdom., has avoided many other countries, and has never been convicted of anything else.

Well, decisions have consequences. Sorry but I don’t feel sorry him on that count.

He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.

Oh, boo fucking hoo. You rape a 13 year old and you can't collect your Oscar 25 years later! Oh, the horror. Well, truly that must be punishment enough.

What I want to know is, when did it become okay for a 45 year old man to have sex with a 13 year old girl? When the perpetrator had a compelling backstory? Made a movie we liked?

Sorry, I'm not buying it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Let Me Tell You About An Exciting New Money-Making Opportunity

Somehow I got on the e-mail list for VisionAmerica, Rick Scarborough’s conservative Christian organization known for its “Take Back America” and “War On Christians” conferences. The subject line? “A.C.O.R.N. Stopped!”

Funny that some supposed Christians would be interested in a purely political story like ACORN. But whatever.

Like so many of these things, if you click on the link you are presented an opportunity to blast-fax the entire U.S. Senate, stating your opposition to your tax money going to ACORN. Oddly, it also says you “oppose the Jennings nomination”--WTF? I’m guessing this is a typo, that they’ve just recycled a previous blast fax e-mail opposing “safe schools czar” Kevin Jennings. Clearly they were in a hurry and why not?

They charge $29 to blast the Senate! And for $54 you can blast the Senate AND make a donation.

Again: WTF?

I get dozens of these things a week. No legitimate advocacy group demands a donation to blast-fax the U.S. Congress.

But the folks at VisionAmerica don’t see it that way. They see a politically-driven story like ACORN as a terrific money-making opportunity, and clearly they wanted to strike while ACORN was still all the rage on Fox and right-wing radio. Don’t wait, act now! You won’t want to miss this amazing chance to fleece a bunch of gullible Fox News watchers suckered in by the latest Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity wingnuttery!

They aren’t the only ones. TPM alerts us to this “Birthermercial”, an infomercial running around the country questioning President Obama’s legitimacy and hawking $30 bumper stickers plus this awesome opportunity:
For a $30 contribution, viewers also get a fax sent in their name to the 50 state attorneys general and Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that President Obama produce his real birth certificate.

Hilarious! I can’t imagine they’ll get too many offers (though those behind the group say they generated "something like 1500 to 2000 faxes" their first week. Let me be the first to call bullshit on that one.)

If there’s one thing I hate most about our political discourse these days it’s how both right and left use the daily uproar to raise funds. On Friday Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) got kudos from the left for her “your mama” retort to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ); less than 24 hours later I get a fundraising e-mail from the DSCC with Stabenow’s name attached and the subject line “Yesterday.”

While the left might not be quite as obvious about it as the wingnut right--I haven’t yet received an e-mail from a liberal organization charging me money to blast-fax Congress--they still make money off of the outrage du jour.

In America today, the populace is sharply divided (or at least, our media tells us we are). Manufactured stories, from demonizing ACORN to the latest wacko nonsense to emanate from Michelle Bachmann’s mouth, are quickly dissemninated across the mass media via Twitter and blogs, then further dissected on cable news and talk radio. When the public is thoroughly riled up, the fundraising e-mails go out. It’s a reprehensible exploitation of people’s very real fears and concerns.

In short, like everything else in this country, our political discourse has been reduced to just another money-making opportunity.

God help America. We’ve been infected with the money bug and it's destroying us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Vigorous Exchange

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, leaves Joe Scarborough speechless as he makes the point we've all been making: exactly what service do health insurance companies provide? How do they contribute to our healthcare system, other than skimming profits off the top for themselves? Originally created to spread risk, they've moved so far away from that model that now they operate solely as parasites on the healthcare system.

Scarborough's best answer seemed to be, "because we believe in private enterprise in this country." I'm sure that's a tremendous comfort to the family of Kimberly Young, a 22-year-old Ohio resident who put off going to the doctor because she didn't have insurance. She died of swine flu last week. But at least free enterprise lives.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dear Accountability Now


More from No Chaser and Aunt B. Yeah, I’d say the “Carpetbagger” thing might be apt.



So apparently the goal is to replace Cooper with a "Libertarian-minded Republican." [Note: I am hoping I have misunderstood this quote from CNN and they are referring to replacing conservative Republicans with "Libertarian"-minded ones--but I still fail to see how this "gets the corporatists out."] Somehow this will "get the corporatists out of there"?? Exactly how, I wonder? Libertarians are the very definition of corporatists.

Again: thank you very fucking much for trying to save me from my moderate Democratic Congressman. If I end up with a Republican representing me in the House it's going to get very ugly.


As a liberal, a blogger, and a resident of Tennessee’s 5th District, fuck you. This is below the belt.

I’ve already said that while I don’t agree with Cooper 100% of the time, I find it highly unlikely he will be replaced by a more progressive Congressman. We just aren’t that liberal in Nashville. I live here, unlike some people, so I feel like I know the district a little better than some people. People who don’t even live in the state, for example, armed with little more than a few surveys.

But fine, let’s primary Cooper, that’s how our system works. I have no problem with that at all. Let’s find our dream candidate, send him or her out there, and see if their message resonates with the constituents. Especially constituents in Belle Meade, Cheatham County, Wilson County. Places like that. Good luck.

And here’s something else I don’t have a problem with: vigorous debate, pushing Cooper in the right direction, making our voices heard on issues like healthcare. I’ve called Cooper’s office dozens of times to question his votes, and his staff have always had an explanation for every one of them. I’d say 99.9% of the time when he voted a way I didn’t want, it’s a fiscal matter (for example, on last year’s GI Bill, Cooper said it was “a classic example of something we’d love to do if it were paid for.”)

Cooper is a fiscal hawk. This is not news to those of us who live here. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the things people here like about him. To say he isn’t representing his constituents because of his fiscal position is wrong.

But here’s what I do have a problem with. Mud slinging from within. Ugly attacks from within. Internecine attacks this vicious are not productive. Challenge, yes. Line up the firing squad? No.

Mostly I don’t appreciate taking quotes out of context. Or only presenting part of a quote to misrepresent what my Congressman said (for example, the quote on the public option told only one-third of the story. Cooper supports the Healthy Americans Act which doesn’t have a public option, but in the next breath he said one could be added “that would be acceptable to most Tennesseans.”)

Save that shit for the other side of the aisle, please [/snark].

Seriously. If you’re going to sail in here on a liberal cloud to save me from my moderate Democratic Congressman, at least do me the courtesy of not treating me like some rube from the sticks. I think I’m pretty familiar with the guy. So don’t portray him as some right-wing bogeyman when he’s been my Congressman for the past seven years. You do that, and you're treating me like I haven't been paying attention.

That’s not just disrespectful to him, it’s disrespectful to me, as a resident of the district. Frankly, it’s pissed me off.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Montana Blogging

More pics from Montana. I think I have learned why they call it "Yellowstone"! And yes, a river runs through it ...

First two pics are from Yellowstone, third is from Quake Lake, a large body of water created, like our own Reelfoot Lake, by a massive earthquake.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Victim Of Right Wing Hate?

The FBI is looking into it:
The FBI is investigating whether anti-government sentiment led to the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the word 'fed" was scrawled on the dead man's chest.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment. An autopsy report is pending.

It will be interesting to see how this investigation unfolds. Suicide seems unlikely, and the fact that Sparkman’s body was found on 9/12, the day of the big Tea Party rally in D.C., is suspicious. But it could be a coincidence.

You Don’t Know Elaeagnus Like I Know Elaeagnus!

It’s almost fall and one of the things I love most about this time of year is that my Elaeagnus is in bloom.

Eleaegnus is one of my most favorite shrubs (it’s also known as Russian olive), because it’s evergreen, so it’s great for screening. It also has beautiful silvery-green leaves. But the best thing about it is its fragrant blossoms, and now is when it’s in bloom. Starting in late September the shrubs fill the air with the most wonderful aroma. Few things bloom in fall so this is quite a treat. Plus, unlike privet or some other flowering shrubs which lean toward the noxious, Elaeagnus is a little spicy. I just love it.

So imagine my shock when I learned that landscapers can no longer sell Elaeagnus. Apparently the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture has listed Elaeagnus as an “invasive” species and retail sale has been banned; landscapers must sell off all their existing stock, and wholesalers will be banned from selling it after next year. So excuse me while I run out and buy a big shrub to fill the giant hole in front of my house.


Okay, I’m back. Apparently the TN Dept. of Agriculture issued this list of banned non-native plants: privet is on the list, as are varieties of honeysuckle and mimosa.

I have no problem trying to control invasive, exotic plant species: look how kudzu has decimated the landscape down in Alabama. I just object to Elaeagnus being lumped into the “invasive” category.

I’ve had Elaeagnus for close to 10 years. The stuff is the antithesis of invasive. It grows tall, sure. But it doesn’t send out shoots like bamboo. It doesn’t propagate like some plants do. It stays put. You don’t need a freaking blow torch to keep it from taking over the yard as you do with honeysuckle or privet.

So I can’t imagine what the TDA was thinking by lumping my beloved Elaeagnus in with aggressive colonizers like privet or honeysuckle. I mean come on already!

In the meantime, my internet is down so I'm taking advantage of the free WiFi offered by our wonderful Nashville Public Library system. Don't know when I'll be back to regular blogging.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Profits of Doom

Harper’s links to this ProPublia story which is worth shining some light on:
Rep. Mike Ross — a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate — sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth. The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.

Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train-and-lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock. “You can buy half the town for $420,000,” said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.

But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.

Well, that’s certainly cozy, isn’t it? And totally predictable.

Right and left alike have been getting fat off the healthcare gravy train for years. Remember former King Pharmaceuticals CEO John Gregory pouring a river of money into Republican coffers?

(And by the way, how weird is it that two of the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud scandals in U.S. history involve Tennessee companies? Nashville's Columbia/HCA paid $840 million in fines and penalties for ripping off Medicare and Medicaid; Bristol, TN-based King Pharmaceuticals paid $124 million plus interest for defrauding various government agenices, including the VA. Support the troops!)

Disgusting. Frankly, I’m pissed off that we’re being told how the only thing the for-profit healthcare system needs is a little “competition” to fix its many ills. The problem is far worse than that. A neutered public option isn't going to do jack shit to solve the healthcare crisis in this country. The problem, as this rather wonky study in “Health Affairs” makes clear, is the prices, stupid. We're paying too much--more than any other industrialized country. We're getting less--less than any other industrialized country. We're being ripped off on a daily basis. Money flows out of our bank accounts and into the coffers of healthcare companies, with a little diverted off the side to buy off politicians and the national and state political parties. As the saying goes, where there’s shit, there’s always flies.

No wonder no one feels inclined to change the system. Adding some much-needed comedy to this tragedy are the farcical Tea Shouters, those deluded losers fighting to save a system that serves no one save the crooks and liars who stacked the deck against us to begin with. Feh.

Monday, September 21, 2009

They Just Can’t Help Themselves

Conservative political/media strategist/Red State co-founder Joshua Trevino, on Twitter just now:

Oh, that’s just lovely. Which makes this ringing endorsement at the Trevino Strategies’ website so much more ironic:
“Josh Trevino is one of the most important members of a rising generation of thoughtful conservatives. Josh's analysis is consistently clear headed and refreshingly objective. It is never tendentious but always effective in making the point. In reading Josh you always feel as if the last words that need to be said on any particular have been said. ...”


When Poor People Vote, Democrats Win

“Filmmaker” James O’Keefe, the guy who ambushed ACORN, has been asked why he went after the community organizing group.

He told the New York Times:
James O'Keefe, one of the two filmmakers, said he went after ACORN because it registers minorities likely to vote against Republicans.

Karl Rove must be so proud.

Here’s the entire O’Keefe quote from the Washington Post:

O'Keefe described himself as a progressive radical, not a conservative, he said he targeted ACORN for the same reasons that the political right does: its massive voter registration drives that turn out poor African Americans and Latinos against Republicans.

A “progressive radical, not a conservative”? Really? Umm, bullshit. In college he was the editor of Rutgers University’s conservative magazine and went after Planned Parenthood with the same “gotcha” tactics. Sorry, MSM: the guy is a Republican Party activist, not a “journalist.” He's certainly not a “progressive radical.” It would be nice if someone in our glorious media were to notice who and what O’Keefe is, instead of disguise his coup as some sort of journalistic endeavor.

But hey, who’s into labels, anyway?

Meanwhile, as the MSM covers this story they might want to remember the many cases of Republican voter registration criminality. From the memory hole:

SACRAMENTO — Dozens of newly minted Republican voters say they were duped into joining the party by a GOP contractor with a trail of fraud complaints stretching across the country.

Voters contacted by The Times said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed.

"I am not a Republican," insisted Karen Ashcraft, 47, a pet-clinic manager and former Democrat from Ventura who said she was duped by a signature gatherer into joining the GOP. "I certainly . . . won't sign anything in front of a grocery store ever again."

Yes, that would be the handiwork of Republican Marc Jacoby, who ultimately pled guilty to voter registration fraud. He got probation.

Closer to home we had Nathan Sproul’s Liberty Consultants, kicked out of Wal-Mart parking lots in Middle Tennessee:

Sproul’s Tempe, Ariz.-based Sproul & Associates was paid about $7.9 million by the RNC for consulting and voter registration drives in the 2004 election cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Former Sproul canvassers came forward in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Oregon to say they were told to register only Republicans and to walk away from people who said they intended to vote for Democrat John Kerry. Some said completed Democratic registration forms were thrown out or ripped up.

That didn’t stop the McCain-Palin camp from hiring them in 2008:

That Sproul would come under the employment umbrella of the McCain campaign -- the Republican National Committee has also separately paid Lincoln Strategy at least $37,000 for voter registration efforts this cycle -- is not terribly surprising. Sproul, who has donated nearly $30,000 to McCain's campaign, has been in the good graces of GOP officials for the past decade despite charges of ethical and potentially legal wrongdoing.

But let’s talk about ACORN some more!

Then we have this fraudulent exercise from 2002:

When voting began Nov. 5, McGee's plan worked like a charm. For two crucial hours, an Idaho telecommunications firm tied up Democratic and union phone lines, bringing their get-out-the-vote plans to a halt. The effort helped John E. Sununu (R) win his Senate seat by 51 to 47 percent, a 19,151-vote margin.
The Republican operatives behind that scam were convicted.

These are actual cases of fraud and voter suppression. Real laws were broken. And yet, Lincoln Strategy Group continues to operate while ACORN’s isolated misdeeds have been non-stop news fodder for days. Remind me, who rules their world?

We know why ACORN was taken down: O'Keefe bluntly admitted what liberals have been alleging for years. When poor people vote, Democrats win. And lord knows, we can't have that.

(h/t Attaturk).

Are You Rapture Ready?

Apparently some Christians say the rapture will happen today. According to this website, it’s going to be like a big huge wedding in heaven, though everyone left on earth will have a hard time of it.

Rapture date-setters have been pwned before, of course. Still, can’t hurt to look busy today.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flag Flap, Chinese Edition

Proving yet again that there’s nothing President Obama can do that won’t freak out the right wing nut jobs, I thought I'd call people's attention to this fauxtroversy about flying the Chinese flag to honor the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Apparently it has occupied the right wingers for the past two weeks, though I just heard about it today.

It started, as these things often do, with Drudge and rapidly ricocheted around the right wing nuttosphere. Here's fear-porn peddler Chuck Baldwin at News With Views:
Lest anyone doubt the communist leanings of President Barack Obama, look no further than to his decision to hoist the Red Chinese flag (for the first time in history) over the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, September 20.


Here’s the report from WingNut Daily:

The administration of President Barack Obama, whose official blogger while Obama was a candidate came under attack for hanging a Communist Party flag in his Harvard apartment, apparently has given permission to raise the emblem of Communist China over the south lawn of the White House.

The plan, reported by several English-language Chinese media outlets, has raised concern among those who are working to guard the United States from outside influences that could be threats.

According to the Global Times English-language edition, the national flag of the communist People's Republic of China on Sept. 20 will be raised for the first time on the White House's south lawn – a secured area seldom available for public events – in recognition of the Chinese anniversary.

ZOMG! The South Lawn is HALLOWED GROUND! Watered with the blood of PATRIOTS! There goes the Republic!!


This just proves what a big fat Commie Obama is!

The story has since been picked up by right wing news outlets all around the country; one columnist even wondered:

Where is Senator "Tail Gunner" Joe Mcarthy when you need him?

Where indeed?

Of course Houston, we have a problem. This would not, in fact, be the first time the Chinese flag was flown over the South Lawn ever! Indeed, the Chinese flag flew on the South Lawn and all over the White House when George W. Bush welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao in April 2006. The Associated Press took a lot of real purty pitchers from the welcoming ceremony. Lots of flags:

So, where were all these nut jobs when their beloved George W. Bush was flying Chinese flags (and even playing the Chinese national anthem) over the sacred White House grounds?


Adding even more insanity to this story is the fact that President Obama has not, in fact, ordered the Chinese flag to fly on the White House South Lawn tomorrow. The story was debunked by, of all people, Fox News:

The White House on Friday dismissed as inaccurate reports from China that the administration will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic by flying the Chinese flag on the South Lawn.

China Daily, citing other media reports, claimed the president of the Fujian Association of the United States had been granted permission to hoist the flag "in a ceremony in front of the President's residence."

A ceremony, indeed, will take place. But it won't happen on the White House grounds -- rather, on the Ellipse, on the other side of E Street from the presidential residence.

China Daily's report -- which said the flag would represent strong U.S.-Chinese relations and recognition of China's success in hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics -- set off howls of protest on the Internet and among conservative talk show hosts despite failing to receive confirmation from the White House.

Of course it set off howls of protest: even though Bush did it too (and probably other presidents as well).

What a bunch of hysterical phonies. These are the folks we're going to listen to on healthcare reform? I don't think so.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Making Strides

This morning I watched CNN jump to cover the “Values Voters” confab, interviewing Tony Perkins and treating this like the biggest event since last weekend’s Tea Party (which, contrary to Fox News, was covered quite thoroughly by the networks. But more on that later.)

MSNBC and Fox also sent reporters to the event, apparently disrupting those in attendance.

In fact, do a Google news search for “Values Voters” and you get coverage by all of the mainstream media outlets. In short, there’s plenty of media attention on this event. And I’m not saying there shouldn’t be but...

I wonder how many news outlets will cover this?
Yet as the numbers show, the religious right is increasingly being matched by a nascent “religious left.” Some 24 percent of the adult population, about 45 million Americans, shares the “traditional” religious mindset of conservative religious activists, but 18 percent, about 38 million adults, shares the “modernist” mindset that is characteristic of progressive religious activists.

As for the survey, “I don’t think this project would have occurred to anyone 10 years ago because I don’t think people took the idea of progressive religious activism seriously 10 years ago,” said E.J. Dionne, a liberal-leaning Catholic and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who was on a panel presenting the new study of religious activists, conducted by Public Religion Research and the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. Michael Cromartie of the conservative-leaning Ethics and Public Policy Center was also at the release in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. He noted that the report puts to rest the question of whether there is a “God gap” between Republicans and Democrats: “Clearly, from this data, it’s not only closing. It’s closed.”

When it comes to theological and social issues, the survey does show that the divide between the two camps remains vast. Conservatives are focused on two main issues— abortion and same-sex marriage — while liberals spread their concerns more widely and focus on pocketbook issues like poverty and health care and jobs. Faith versus works, one might say.

I find this very encouraging. Because, although the media hasn’t seemed to notice, the progressive Christian message is being heard. It’s Biblical and it makes sense: you can’t follow Prosperity Jesus or Rifle Jesus and not have at least a few of your cherished views challenged by Scripture.

There have been dozens of liberal Christian conferences, marches, summits, you name it. I don’t recall seeing any media attention of the scale the Values Voters get. Back in 2005 over 100 religious activists were arrested for protesting President Bush’s budget. The event did not go completely unnoticed by the media but it didn’t generate the non-stop coverage that conservative Christian groups routinely receive.

I wonder why that is?

In covering the treatment MSNBC received at the Values Voter summit, Josh Marshall opined:

Later Update: Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, the sponsoring organization, just went on stage and apologized to MSNBC for the incident. It was an entertaining moment. But there's something the whole turn of events illustrates. And that is that the event planners from FRC and the cable net folks are basically the same people. Each part of the same business, the same game. They know each other, understand each others rules, etc. It's the incensed attendees who are the ones who are sort of out of the loop. I'm not sure who that puts in a better or worse light. But that's what I mean by at least one of the culture clashes.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that observation. Cable news and right wing groups like the Family Research Council are part of the same game, each with its prescribed role, each comfortably in tune with the other. And that’s why it’s so difficult for a group like progressive faith voices to get attention. We’re not in the Rolodex. We aren’t on their radar, but maybe we don’t need to be. Maybe we don't want to be part of that game. It's corrupting, after all. And the message is getting out, regardless.

God works in mysterious ways.

And Amber Waves Of Grain

Okay, so it ain't grain. But it's close enough ....

Purple Mountain Majesties

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kindness & Tolerance

Go over to Thinktrain and read his post about what our Metro Council did last night. It's good news for a change! Kindness and tolerance seem to be winning in Nashville, and if we can do it, surely this rose can bloom everywhere.

I'm off for a few days and blogging may be sporadic--or not! Unsure of the internet availability where I'm going. Pray Mr. Beale doesn't kill any cats or dogs while I'm gone.

Let Them Eat Advil

In case you missed Billionaires For Wealthcare on Rachel Maddow, here it is:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Civil War

It seems back-to-back outbursts by Rep. Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, and Kanye West have given our news media pause. They wonder: is civility dead?
Individually, any of the events might have faded quickly into the global noise of Tweets, blogs and other digital gossip. But their back-to-back-to-back nature, as well as their high-profile forums, raise the question: Are we a nation of boors — or just keeping things real?

Oh, for crying out loud. Three incidents capture your attention in one week and it’s a national crisis. As if we aren’t assaulted with a lack of civility on a daily basis. As if all summer long we haven’t had people shouting over each other. As if it hasn’t been this way for years.

Have you folks not been paying attention?

Anyone remember back in 2004 when Vice President Dick Cheney told Senator Patrick Leahy to "go fuck yourself” on the Senate floor? Cheney was angry because Leahy had criticized war profiteering by Halliburton. When asked about it by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Cheney not only admitted it but defended it. Criticize corporate war profiteering, get an expletive hurled in your face as a result. We haven’t had a civil discourse in this country for a long time.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incident in Gulfport, Ms., in which a doctor spoiled Cheney’s post-Katrina photo op by yelling “go fuck yourself!” at him as the cameras rolled. He got arrested.

Anyone remember last July when Texas Republican Phil Gramm said we were a nation of whiners as the economy collapsed around us? Remember when John McCain referred to Obama as "that one" at a televised debate?

Closer to home, this morning Mr. Beale and I were nearly run over by a woman who couldn’t be bothered to brake for a two pedestrians with dogs crossing the street--at an intersection. She just plowed right on through, and when we hollered at her she never bothered to look our way. I guess where she was going was more important than the safety of people walking in a residential neighborhood.

Civil? We’re not civil anymore. We’re too self-absorbed to be civil.

Glenn Beck was right about one thing: On 9/12 I remember everyone being a little nicer to each other. We didn’t just donate blood by the gallon, we were nicer in other ways. Cars yielded, people stopped for pedestrians, we slowed down and looked at one another and talked to each other a little more. There was a little less huffing and puffing in the grocery store line. People had more patience for one another. A little more--dare I say it?--tolerance.

Not, as Glenn and the Tea Pot Army like to think, because everyone suddenly remembered they love America--something I guess they think we'd inexplicably forgotten until the World Trade Center fell. Not because we were all so overwhelmed with patriotism and love of country. But because everyone was shell-shocked.

We were shell-shocked because for the first time we realized we were vulnerable. And when you’re vulnerable, you’re a little less self-absorbed. You’re a little more aware that we’re all in this together. You’re a little nicer to your neighbors and fellow citizens.

Being vulnerable is a feeling easily forgotten, especially when you are told to go “live your lives.” We weren’t asked to sacrifice anything at all; we wanted to give, as evidenced by the lines at the Red Cross to donate blood. But we were told to go shopping instead. Kleinheider was 100% right when he said we squandered an opportunity.

So no, we aren’t civil. We haven’t been civil in a long time because it hasn't been asked of us. We're thinking about ourselves now. We’re self-absorbed and selfish. We’re like the lady protesting the public option in Max Blumenthal’s 9/12 video: she doesn’t have insurance but isn’t worried because “I have physicians in my family.”

OH, okay! Screw the public option, then. As long as you're okay, that's all that matters.

We’re supposed to be a Christian nation but we forgot that whole “love thy neighbor” stuff. We not only don’t care how someone without physicians in their family is supposed to afford healthcare, but woe be it to the person who speaks out on their behalf. They are, according to the 9/12ers, the “enemy within.”

Joe Conason wrote that Republican politicans have no empathy. I'm not really seeing much from the followers of Glenn Beck and the rest either. And you know what happens when you have no empathy? You lose your civility.

Monday, September 14, 2009

American Morans, Tea Party Edition

Too many American Morans to count on Saturday, judging by the pictures and video I've seen. But this one made me laugh:

A Picture Worth A Thousand E-Mails

Oh, dear. It seems tea baggers are a little red-faced today, after some outlets (like PowerLine) promoted this picture of D.C. crowds claiming it was from Saturday’s 9/12 rally.

PolitiFact called bullshit:
There's another big problem with the photograph: it doesn't include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth St. and Independence Ave. that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn't show the "tea party" crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Natural History Museum (the second building from the lower left of the National Mall). According to Randall Kremer, the museum's Director of Public Affairs, "The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built."

That makes the picture at least a decade old. (We'll update this item if we find out when exactly it was taken.)
Even the Freepers are now admitting that the photo was taken at a different event--they claim it was the “Promise Keepers” rally in the late ‘90s.

Wonkette has another idea:
HILARITY: Would-be teabaggers and and other easily duped dingbats are proudly emailing each other wonderful pictures of a million teabaggers crowding the National Mall, but these pictures are actually from the Million Man March of 1997, an event attended by, ahem, colored people.

Not only did the Million Man March actually attract a million people, it was led by wingnuts’ second-most-hated negro person, Louis Farrakhan, a real black Muslim.

Oh, my. Now that would be funny! Last spring right wing nut jobs like Debbie Schlussel tried to claim Obama had both organized and marched in the Million Man March. Which would be hilarious if it were true because apparently he did a lot better job of it than all the tea baggers with their Koch Industries money funneled through FreedomWorks.

Anyway, it really shouldn’t be too hard to figure out where this picture comes from, since the web has given us access to comprehensive photo archives going back a decade or more. Whether it’s the Promise Keepers rally in 1997, which drew 700,000 or the 1995 Million Man March which drew 850,000, it shouldn’t be too hard for someone to dig through the archive and find out.

My money is on Promise Keeper’s only because I’ve been Googling around and seen this photo on other Promise Keepers-related websites. But my heart’s with the Million Man March just for the schadenfreude.

Darwin v. Dobson? Really?

If you want to see the excellent Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly in “Creation,” a film about Charles Darwin, you might have to leave the country or wait for the DVD. The film has failed to find a U.S. distributor, says producer Jeremy Thomas, because distributors are afraid of the religious right:
"The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

That sucks, since I remember seeing previews for the film and it looked really cool.

Thomas believes U.S. distributors are cowed by conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family and the American Family Assn., and are afraid of controversy. The article points to comments on Christian entertainment websites about the film, notes that “Creation” opened the Toronto Film Festival and received positive reviews from The Hollywood Reporter, and concludes that U.S. film distributors are too chicken shit to take on the religious right.

I dunno, I’m gonna call bullshit on that one. For one thing, Icon Productions is distributing the film in the U.K. and Australia. That’s Mel Gibson’s production company; is he really that scared of James Dobson and Pat Robertson and the rest of the fundiegelicals who think he hung the moon since he smacked Jesus around for three hours in "The Passion Of The Christ"?

More to the point, since when has Hollywood ever cared what conservative Christian groups think--unless they are trying to enlist their support selling something, like the “Narnia” movies? They released Bill Maher’s “Religulous,” didn’t they? Oliver Stone’s “W”? Michael Moore’s films? They release all sorts of controversial stuff to American movie theaters, from sex- and violence-filled fare to more serious treatises on gays, AIDs, religion, you name it.

So I doubt any distributor gives a crap what Donald Wildmon or James Dobson have to say. Controversy is usually good to drum up a little publicity about a film. And maybe that’s what Jeremy Thomas is trying to do here: generate a little controversy to spark some interest in the U.S. media.

I’d definitely like to see the film, though. In the meantime, they have a really cool website. Below is a description of the film and the trailer. Hope U.S. distributors stop messing around and release the film here.

Creation was developed by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, and stars Bettany's real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin's deeply religious wife, Emma. It is based on the book, Annie's Box, by Darwin's great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, and portrays the naturalist as a family man tormented by the death in 1851 of Annie, his favourite child. She is played in the film by 10-year-old newcomer Martha West, the daughter of The Wire star Dominic West.

Profiles In Courage

A brave soul carried a "Public Option Now!" sign through Saturday's tea bag rally. Watching a crowd shout "no public option!" is surreal. I don't think they understand the irony of their words.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Healthcare Is A-Changing

Today's "no shit, Sherlock" moment comes courtesy of the New York Times, which informs us that the healthcare industry is talking out of both sides of its collective mouth:
WASHINGTON — The top lobbyists for every major sector of the health care industry publicly insist they are squarely behind the Obama administration’s health care reform. But as the debate gets down to the details, the lines dividing friend from foe are getting blurry.

Each industry group is also working quietly to scuttle or reshape some element of the administration’s proposals that might hurt profits — usually some measure aimed at cost control.

Yes, well, that's no surprise. Really, this whole thing is such a mess, botched by the White House and the Democrats who, while at least understanding the serious need for healthcare reform in this country (which is more than the Republicans did in their 15 years in power), have so weakened any hope of substantive change that they might as well have not bothered.

The thing people need to understand is, healthcare in this country is going to change, whether we do anything about it or not. Costs are going to keep going up: as the Times notes, the industry is doing its best to maintain that steady upward climb. Insurance costs are going to keep going up. Employers are having a hard enough time as it is right now providing insurance for their employees; that's why you have so many employers hiring independent contractors, or part-time workers, so they don't have to provide benefits.

This doesn't just affect the poor, this affects everyone, white collar and blue collar workers, hourly and salaried employees. I've been an independent contractor everywhere I've worked for the past 15 years. I paid for my own insurance until, thankfully, I married Mr. Beale. My sister wasn’t so lucky: she, like me, was an independent contractor and had to get loans from my dad when she needed medical care. She wasn’t able to get an insurance policy at all.

So, to you tea baggers rallying in D.C. today, I have this to say: if you are among those lucky enough to have employer-provided health insurance, good for you. You may like the plan you have now, but the reality is, it's going to change. I guarantee it.

So you can either have a hand in how that changes by telling the healthcare industry (and Congress) what you want, or you can let the healthcare industry do what's best for their profits and hope consumers end up okay in the bargain. Right now what I hear from the tea baggers is "no socialism" and "Obama is Hitler." And I think you folks need to be a little more specific than that.

Okay. To President Obama I have only to say: WTF? Today he said he supports the public option because

it will promote more competition and "no one would be forced to choose it."

That's all very well and good, but on Wednesday night I distinctly heard him say that the public option would only be available to low income Americans. Well, that's not really a public option then, is it? How will a public option available only to low income people promote competition? Insurance companies haven't exactly been breaking down the barn door to cover these folks as it is; that's why we have Medicaid and SCHIP.

A public option not available to everyone will do nothing to lower costs, it will simply allow the insurance companies to raise rates as high as they want on the rest of us because we will be forced to buy from them regardless, unless we are "low income." This is worse than no public option at all!

President Obama surely knows this, just as he knows that comparing a public health insurance option to public universities competing with private ones is lame, at best. For one thing, everyone can choose between public and private schools; public schools aren't just for "low income" students, and in fact some of our country's best universities are public, so many well-off students choose to enroll in them. For another thing, most private universities and colleges are non-profit, something NPR observed last week in this thorough piece on the topic. There's really no comparison between higher education and healthcare.

So, all of this has me more than a little bit discouraged. I'm getting lots of phone calls and e-mails asking me to sign this petition or attend that canvassing effort and I have to say, I'm a little leery about doing so because I don't like any of the proposals I'm hearing from Washington. I'm about ready to say "no" along with the tea baggers, not because I'm against socialism or like to draw Hitler mustaches on the president but for all of the reasons I've explained here. It's very possible that we've been offered is worse than doing nothing. As Rachel Maddow says, talk me down, peeps.

I feel like progressives were never really invited into the conversation. I think the Democrats in Congress and the White House thought we'd back any proposal, as long as it had a "D" behind it. That was wrong. I've said all along I don't want health insurance reform, I want healthcare reform. We're not getting it.

The insiders expected they could give us our marching orders and have us knock on doors and write letters to the editor and raise funds and do all the things we did to get President Obama elected because any change is better than what we've got. But I don't buy that. I think a bad change, one that basically gives a bailout to insurance companies, is going to leave us worse off.

Things are changing. They can change for the better, or they can change for the worse. I'd like to see them change for the better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Questions & Answers & Truth

Following Politico’s lead, asked several people who signed the “9/11 truth” petition used by Glenn Beck to oust Van Jones if they had any regrets and would they still sign it today.

Boy did they get some answers. I urge everyone to read all of the statements but this one really stood out:
Gray Brechin, historical geographer and visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Department of Geography:

Until recently, I thought that I (like Van Jones) live in a country with a First Amendment that permits freedom of speech, thought and petition without fear of reprisal. I had that pleasant illusion despite growing up in the dark shadow of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, of red scares, blacklists and witch hunts, of the John Birch Society (and worse), which the Old Guard of the Republican Party then considered zanies. The ideological descendants of those wackos have since taken over that party. I suspect that you did not grow up at that time.

Since when did Salon permit Glenn Beck and the almost equally loony WSJ editorial page to set the terms of discussion, calling those who want answers to so much that remains unexplained about 9/11 "truthers," and thus giving them equivalence with "birthers," "deathers" and "tea baggers"? Since when was Van Jones a "czar" rather than an advisor? Since when was he not entitled to his opinions, past or present? Was it when he was born black and inexcusably smart? Jones is the kind of visionary with whom Franklin Roosevelt surrounded himself but of which the Obama administration is almost entirely bereft, and now that administration has shamefully thrown him to the sharks.

Have you contacted the widows and other family members who lost loved ones on that terrible day and asked them if they recant wondering why, for example, New York City and the Pentagon -- the fucking Pentagon! -- were defenseless on that morning more than a month after the would-be president was informed that Osama bin Laden was determined to attack the United States? Have you asked them if they are as disloyal, or as nuts, as Van Jones for signing that petition? Have you an answer for that and other questions on that petition, which were never discussed by the mainstream media when it piled on Jones at Beck's behest?

Van Jones was not only flayed for once signing a petition but for jokingly calling Republicans "assholes." Why is that "extreme" speech when Glenn Beck freely advocates violent overthrow of the U.S. government, gives an exegesis of the Communist/Fascist messages that "progressive" John D. Rockefeller Jr. insidiously inserted in the art of Rockefeller Center, and fantasizes killing Michael Moore and the speaker of the House on air to millions? When will the men with butterfly nets take this man away so that he does not hurt others or himself, rather than journalists allow him to take them down into his rat-infested sewer with him?

I keep hoping that, like Joe McCarthy, Mr. Beck (and O'Reilly, Coulter, Malkin, "Savage," etc.) will go too far, but -- with the wreck of public education and its replacement by entertainment -- Americans have so lost any moral compass that "too far" no longer exists as long as one is to the right of Dick Cheney.

I would like to shake that man’s hand.

I don’t understand why there are two sets of rules, one for Republicans and one for Democrats. Conservatives laud Rep. Joe Wilson as a hero for calling the president of the United States a liar before both houses of Congress and the entire American public. They called Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson unpatriotic (and worse) and destroyed his wife’s career when he wrote a New York Times op-ed refuting President Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein tried to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger. The first Joe Wilson called the President a liar to his face about something that wasn't even a lie; the second Joe Wilson said the President “exaggerated the Iraqi threat” in an op-ed, which ran three months after our invasion of Iraq. Conservatives see one as a hero, one as a villain.

Rep. Wilson has been roundly, rightfully criticized, yet before our very eyes he is being turned into a Republican martyr. Even though he was wrong! I find this interesting.

I’m not blaming Republicans -- they will do what they will do. They are excellent at being the opposition party, terrible at actually governing, and it's natural they will seize an opportunity where they find one. But I do blame a media that seems to have lost its nose for news over shiny-sparkly time-fillers. They seem completely unable to distinguish real issues from the chatter on the fringe. There is no filter any longer; it’s all lumped into the same soup pot and I have to say, this soup does not taste good.

Feel Bad Friday, V. 2

We're #37! Awesome!

.... adding, having just read this post from dday at Digby's, I suspect our WHO ranking may have slipped this year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wave Of The Future

As more American auto manufacturing moves south of the border, this is indeed welcome news for stricken communities like Detroit:
WIXOM, Mich. (WXYZ) - Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are unveiling plans to redevelop the shuttered Wixom Assembly plant into a giant renewable energy park.

The ceremony will include officials from Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy. The new complex will be involved in building storage batteries, solar panels and wind turbines.

The companies have said they will buy and renovate the 320-acre site if state tax incentives and federal loans are approved. The state house approved the tax breaks last week. The Senate could pass them as early as today.

The new facility is expected to revitalize the area surrounding the plant, which was hit hard when Ford closed it in 2007. It is expected to employ at thousands of 'green' jobs.

More like this, please. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover!

China has positioned itself to capitalize on the Green Revolution:

Chinese factories already make a third of the world’s solar cells – six times more than America. Next year, China will become the largest market in the world for wind turbines – overtaking America. This fall, a Chinese firm will launch the world’s first mass-produced all-electric car of this century. And where are American utilities buying the latest generation of “clean coal” power stations? China.

You know, it’s bad enough that we get our cheap plastic Wal Mart crap from China. But the last thing we need to do is become dependent on China for our energy. That’s trading one bad apple for another.

The sun shines and the wind blows in America. We should be making the components to harness this green energy here at home, too.

He Lied!!!

Rep. Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar last night, but PolitiFact says it's Wilson who bent the truth:
We've been monitoring claims about health care reform and illegal immigrants for some time now. Most notably, a chain e-mail claimed that page 50 of the House bill gave free health care to illegal immigrants. That page didn't say that. Rather, it included a generic nondiscrimination clause that said insurers may not discriminate with regard to "personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services." So we rated the chain e-mail's claim Pants on Fire.

We read all 1,000-plus pages of the health care bill and were struck by the fact that it is largely silent on health care for illegal immigrants. Keep in mind that experts estimated there were 6.8 million uninsured illegal immigrants in the United States in 2007, out of a total of 11.9 million illegal immigrants. Right now, most states have laws on the books that require hospitals to treat severely ill people who arrive at the hospital, regardless of immigration status, and we didn't see anything that would change those laws, either.

Most illegal immigrants are also now excluded from Medicaid, the government-run health care for the poor. We didn't see anything that would change that.

One place where the bill does mention immigration status is for "affordability credits." These are tax credits for people of modest means need to buy health insurance. The credits would help them buy insurance on a national health insurance exchange. The bill specifically says that people in the United States illegally are not eligible for tax credits, on page 132, section 242.

Still, given all that, we have heard from people who said that other aspects of reform could benefit illegal immigrants.

One of the most detailed responses was from the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, called FAIR. You can read their statement on the matter on their Web site.

Primarily, they argue that illegal immigrants would be permitted to purchase insurance on the national health insurance exchange because the bill does not include a mechanism for verifying citizenship. So illegal immigrants would have the chance to purchase insurance in the public option, a government-run health care plan that would offer basic coverage at a low price.

So, FAIR objects that illegal immigrants might be able to purchase insurance. GIven that FAIR is identified as a hate group (I wrote about them when they were funding our English Only initiative), I imagine they object to the fact that illegal immigrants can purchase food and water, too.

Rep. Joe Wilson seems to be aligning himself with the Nativist bigots of the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party. People in South Carolina might want to take notice.

Oh and, Rep. Wilson: YOU lied.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Via Getty Images, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC, shouting "LIAR!" during President Obama's speech:

The South Carolina GOP is still keeping it classy! In addition to Gov. Mark Sanford's affair, there have been two other sex scandals in the news. No wonder Wilson is feeling crabby. His state party is imploding before his very eyes.


And we have an apology already:
“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.”

Why Does The Republican Party Hate America?

The Bush Administration-crafted Iraqi Constitution called for single-payer healthcare:
Article 31 reads:

"First: Every citizen has the right to health care. The State shall maintain public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and health institutions.

“Second: Individuals and entities have the right to build hospitals, clinics, or private health care centers under the supervision of the State, and this shall be regulated by law."

There are other health care guarantees, including special provisions for children, the elderly, and the handicapped elsewhere in the 43-page document.

Under force of arms, President Bush imposed his particular idea of democracy on a people not asking for it - perhaps a noble undertaking in one context and a criminal violation of international law in another. Bush's followers are proud of the Iraqi Constitution, a model for the world, they told us.

So, according to the American political right-wing, government-guaranteed health care is good for Iraqis, but not good for us. Not good for you. They decry even a limited public option for you, but gleefully imposed upon the Iraqis what they label here as "socialism," with much Democratic Party member support.

Writer Mark Dorlester calls this Republican hypocrisy. More importantly, I see it as an admission by those involved in crafting the Iraq Constitution that they agree with the principle of single-payer healthcare. They see it as good for citizens, good for building a stable democracy, right for a government to be involved in providing healthcare for its citizenry. They didn't see it as inherently evil or damaging to a developing democracy's government or economy.

But they don’t think it’s right for us. Right for Iraq, but not for us.

Why would that be? That would be a question to ask. If it's not going to turn into Fascism, Socialism, economy-destroying evil in a democracy as sensitive as Iraq's, why would it do so here?

Dorlester also points to the $864 billion we’ve spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The total is more than (or, in the worst case, equal to) the funding required to guarantee minimally decent health care here.

In other words, the most senior members of the Republican establishment - and some Democrats like Max Baucus (D-MT) - have gladly spent more taxpayer funds to ensure health care as a Constitutional right in Iraq than they are willing to spend to give you any level of guaranteed coverage.


It would seem that U. S. citizens might find out if their Representative and/or Senators have supported or voted to fund the war in Iraq. If so, do they support health care as a civil right for you?

If the answers to those questions are "yes" and "no," respectively, you might consider less hypocritical representation.

Interesting thought.

The Birther Conspiracy

The best conspiracy EVER! How could it possibly fail?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Times Change

It’s very, very interesting to me what things spark outrage in our country today. And it’s curious which of these outrages are considered news stories by the national media, which of these stories develop into full-blown cable news hissy fits, and which ones bring out the torch-and-pitchfork crowds.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Pentagon banned photos of flag-draped coffins returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, back in 2004 the Republican-controlled Senate defeated a Democratic bill which would have allowed the Pentagon to show pictures of flag-draped coffins. From the memory hole:
Some Republicans, including Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, complained that Democrats were trying to score election-year points with the effort. Mr. Grassley noted that the policy had been in place since the first Bush administration, in 1991. ''This policy has been in place for 13 years,'' he said. ''Nobody has raised a complaint about it until now.''

In April 2004, military contractor Tami Silico and her husband were fired from Maytag Aircraft after taking pictures of flag-draped coffins on their way home from Kuwait. I always wondered how that picture came to the media’s attention. Simple: it was given directly to the Seattle Times by Tami and her friend Amy Katz (I urge everyone to read Poynter’s piece on the entire photo affair).

Liberals were accused of exploiting dead soldiers for political gain, our patriotism and support of the troops was questioned, and it was a full-tilt hissy fit.

I have to wonder: if that photo had been sent to the Associated Press, would it have been published?

It should be noted that under the Obama Administration, the Pentagon has reversed that policy, provided the families of the fallen agree (Michelle Malkin called the change "selective transparency”.)

Here's another one: It was only a few years ago that conservatives were in full hissy-fit mode over Ted Koppel’s “The Fallen” episode of Nightline, in which Koppel read the names of all U.S. soliders killed in the line of duty in Iraq. There was mass hysteria from the right; even Sinclair Broadcasting refused to air it.

Does anyone remember that? It really wasn’t all that long ago.

So I’m just curious why no one seems to care that this week the Associated Press published a photo of a dying U.S. Marine in Afghanistan.

Over the objections of the soldier’s family.

If pictures of flag-draped coffins and reading the names of war dead while showing their pictures in full-dress uniform was so objectionable when Bush was president, why isn’t a picture of a bloodied and dying Marine sparking outrage in right-wing circles now that Obama is president?

Who decides these things? Is there some Office of National Outrage, some Right Wing Hissy Fit Board where they decide which story will become the prevailing narrative of the day and which will not?

This past week we were in full torch-and-pitchfork mode over President Obama’s speech to schoolkids, which struck me as wholly manufactured and really quite silly. The Associated Press, which never went out of its way to show readers the human cost of war when Bush was president, seemed to jump at the opportunity to display a rather gruesome photo of an actual dying soldier, over the family's objections:

"We understand Mr. Bernard's anguish. We believe this image is part of the history of this war. The story and photos are in themselves a respectful treatment and recognition of sacrifice," said AP senior managing editor John Daniszewski.

I'm curious where all of these photos were when we were being given rah-rah, yellow-ribbon-magnet, support-the-troops pep talks when Bush was president.

And I'm curious where all of the right wing outrage is about this particular image, when images far more benign were enough to spark protests, blackouts, boycotts, and firings.

It's all very curious to me.