Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:49 pm

Odds and ends for 1/12

War crime: An independent Dutch commission finds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and therefore the Netherlands’ support of same, “had no sound mandate in international law.” Somewhere, Dick Cheney’s shriveled testicles shrivel a little more.

The SEC mans up. Oops, no, wait, not really: The Securities & Exchange Commission asks the court for permission to file additional charges against Bank of America for failing to disclose Merrill Lynch losses to BofA shareholders before a takeover vote. And yet it also says no individual(s) can be held legally responsible for the royal hosing those shareholders received. All the deceit and fraud somehow just … happened, I guess. Yet one more reason why corporations, legally speaking, shouldn’t be people.

Pecora for the new millennium: A list of questions the banksters should be asked tomorrow by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (also called the “New Pecora Commission,” after the panel that looked into the causes of the Depression), but almost certainly won’t be.

New Jersey legislature approves medical marijuana, and the gov says he’ll sign the bill within the week. The effects on “Jersey Shore” remain to be seen.

And speaking of “Jersey Shore,” watch out, “Jersey Shore,” there’s a new drinking game in town: Fox News hires Sarah Palin.

Anything that annoys the Financial Services Roundtable is probably a good idea: Obama considers taxing banks that got TARP money. It should happen … which means I’ll believe it when I see it.

“I am not a hero.”: The hell she says. Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped hide Anne Frank’s family and other Jews from the Nazis and later preserved Anne’s diary, is dead at 100.

He was not necessarily a hero, but he was one bad dude: Old-time Coney Island strongman Joe Rollino, who celebrated his 103rd birthday by bending a quarter with his teeth, is dead at 104. But only because he got hit by a minivan.

To see, or not to see: The Supreme Court supposedly will decide tomorrow whether to allow 1) closed-circuit broadcasting of the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (the gay-marriage lawsuit) in other courthouses in California and/or 2) allow video to be posted to YouTube. Here’s some factual and legal background (more here); both writers think the Supremes, who don’t want their own proceedings broadcast, see this as a slippery slope. I bet they’re right.

Quote of the day, from commenter mjvpi at Firedoglake: “Health care reform is giving me Tourette’s syndrome.”

Another quote of the day, from washunate at The Seminal: “… the past three decades have witnessed the slow and steady transfer of the wealth generated by labor’s productivity into the hands of a few select families of already great wealth. If anything can capture an image of the consequences of the Reagan-Bush era, it’s gotta be 225 million Americans in 1979 buying more vehicles than 308 million Americans in 2009.” Yup. In absolute numbers, almost 33% more. Heckuva job, Georgie.

Monday, January 11, 2010 10:55 pm

Odds and ends for 1/11

U.S. v. terror: Conviction rate in civilian courts? 88%. Conviction rate in military tribunals? 15%. So someone explain to me again why Dick and Liz Cheney are still getting airtime?

Harry Reid v. Trent Lott: To elaborate a bit on a comment discussion Fred and I had in a previous thread: What Harry Reid said about Obama was grossly awkward and inept, but he said it in a context of praising Obama. What Lott said, on the other hand, was praising a segregationist. These two things are not logically, linguistically or morally equivalent.

Guantanamo v. the Constitution: Those party animals at McClatchy News Service have served up a pyrotechnic package of print (with a whole bunch o’ Web stuff, too, including source documents) in observance of the eighth anniversary of the incarceration of the first terrorism suspects at Gitmo. The series touches on subjects ranging from holding, and torturing, innocent people to the Taliban’s influence within the prison (yeah, you read that right).

Generation R(ecession) v. the economy: Newsweek’s Rana Foroohar notes some interesting characteristics of people who come of age in bad economic times. Unfortunately, notes Chris Lehmann at The Awl, she draws some of the wrong conclusions.

Afghans v. everybody else: Incredibly mixed findings in this ABC News poll from Afghanistan. They hate both us and the Taliban. They almost unanimously think their government is corrupt, but they actually support President Hamid Karzai more than they used to. And they’re about evenly divided over whether civilian deaths are more NATO’s fault or more the insurgents’ fault for mingling with civilians.

Matt Labash v. perspective women: In his feature “Ask Matt Labash” on Tucker Carlson’s new anti-Huffington Post, the Daily Caller, Matt Labash calls red-light cameras “legalized rape” and calls Rachel Maddow “the sexiest man alive.” Way to court those swing voters, guys.

Dylan Ratigan v. Geithner: The MSNBC reporter/anchor is starting to carve pieces out of SecTreas Tim Geithner’s hide, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy not named Bush, Cheney or Rove.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: Gay marriage on trial — literally: The lawsuit Perry v. Schwarzenegger went to trial today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. At issue is the constitutionality of Proposition 8, enacted last year by referendum to deny the right of marriage to couples of the same sex in Cali. Expected to last about 3 weeks — with the case likely to end up before the Supreme Court no matter who wins. Your all-purpose source for trial info is here, and if the opening arguments are any indication — which they may or may not be — gay-marriage proponents are headed for a big win.

The perfect v. the very good: Actually, the U.S. health-care debate is now more like the acceptable (if you drop the Stupak amendment) v. the bad, and the bad is winning.

Law enforcement v. the drug war: A lot of former cops, judges and prosecutors have endorsed legalizing marijuana in California, where a legislative committee is scheduled to vote on just that next week. Whether the full legislature passes the bill may be immaterial, though; an initiative to regulate and tax pot is on the November ballot and expected to pass.

Congresscritters v. reality: About six in 10 Americans say terrorists probably will find some way to strike us again. Unfortunately, that’s probably correct, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to some of the Congressional Republicans who are suggesting that 1) we should all be peeing in our pants over the guy who nearly set his crotch on fire and 2) that if you torture enough people and bomb enough civilians, all terror can be prevented.

Time v. knowledge: I am shocked, shocked to learn just how many Balloon Juice commenters did not know that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

It’s like Vegas: What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook. Forever.

There an app for your cheapo phone if you’re a student at UNC-Wilmington, where a couple of people set out to create useful apps for the 88% of us who can’t afford smartphones.

Shorter Jonathan Alter: Clap louder and the Democrats will be fine in 2010.

Best SEC comment letter EVER: (h/t Zero Hedge)

Thursday, January 7, 2010 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 1/7

Cleaning up: The EPA is tightening ozone standards. Their scientists decided unanimously in 2008 to do it, but their evil Bush overlords stymied them. As someone who lives in a region with chronic summertime ozone problems, I’m delighted. Elections have consequences, and one of them is fewer lung problems.

Shorter Obama: If Cheney wins, the terrorists win. Which, unlike some things he has said, is basically true.

Werewolf doctors.

Quote of the day, from Digby: “And it occurred to me that the teabaggers have ruined the Party’s most cherished claim — that Reagan defeated communism with his bare hands. After all, if we just elected a commie president of the United States, that doesn’t exactly hold up, does it?”

And it’s a short list, but I’m done. Peter Ackroyd’s “The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein” awaits on the night table, and those M&Ms aren’t going to eat themselves.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 2:13 am

Odds and ends for 12/31

Enough already: GMAC wants another $3-4 billion from the taxpayers. Just. Say. No.

Our arrogant national culture is letting our soldiers/marines die unnecessarily: “Indeed, off-the-shelf solutions [to military problems in Iraq and Afghanistan] were there for the asking within Coalition partner states, but no one asked.”

Some good news for a change:Q: Obama says America will go bankrupt if Congress doesn’t pass the health care bill. A: Well, it’s going to go bankrupt if they do pass the health care bill, too, but at least he’s thinking about it.” So we’ve got that going for us.

A question: If the guy accused of being the pants-on-fire would-be terrorist on Flight 253 is “cooperating” with investigators, as investigators say, then why are people calling for him to be tortured?

News flash: U.S. corporate governance sucks, at least at publicly held companies.

Another news flash: Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., send the president a letter asking him not to release six Guantanamo detainees to Yemen. Just one problem: too late. A big deal? Of course not. But imagine how this would have been played if three Democratic senators had done this with George W. Bush still in the White House.

The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein, unlike McCain, Graham and Lieberman, is NOT too late. Not that it helps: Indeed, he warned us a year ago that Obama’s choice of Mary Schapiro to run the SEC would suck. And it has come to pass as it was foretold.

Well, at least we’re going to have a national election contested on a clear issue: Newt Gingrich has been calling on Republican Congressional candidates in 2010 to pledge to repeal health-care reform (should it finally pass) if elected. Now the White House is double-dog-daring them to do it, too.

How to keep your recently deregulated, greedy, rapacious, out-of-control industry from being intelligently re-regulated: First, get the majority party to assign a bunch of politically vulnerable rookies, who will therefore be desperate for lots and lots of re-election campaign cash, to the committee that oversees you.

Worst financial footnote of the year: By the time this post sees the Interwebz, results should be posted.

Dennis Kucinich may see flying saucers, but he also sees some incredibly bad policy (if not actual crime) and is calling it out.

From the banksters’ own fingers: Some internal AIG e-mails are finally being made public. We need many, many more, and we need many, many people to go through them looking for evidence of crime.

Sigh. More Calvinball*. Better journalists, please.

Newt’s getting predictable.

Memo to Andrew Sullivan: There’s a difference between accountability and kabuki, and John Cole, being smarter than you, explains the difference. Pay attention; this will be on the exam.

*Term explained here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 11:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/29

Gettin’ back at ’em: Wall Street’s 10 Greatest Lies of 2009 and 10 Ways to Screw Over the Corporate Jackals Who’ve Been Screwing You. For informational purposes only; no endorsement implied. IANAL. Void where prohibited. Etc.

Waykewl pitchers: Time’s “The Year in Pictures 2009,” National Geographic’s “Top Ten Space Pictures of 2009.”

Denzel in the house: Denzel Washington came to the Davidson-Penn game last night to watch his son’s team lose to the Wildcats. (Malcolm Washington converted a 3-point play for the Quakers’ final points of the game.)

Connecting the dots: Fecund Stench does an excellent, if scary, job of it.

I’m sure the Right-Wing Noise Machine will apologize to the Dixie Chicks right after it excoriates Ted Nugent.

Following in the footsteps of the other death merchants: Like the tobacco industry before them, the health-care industry, not satisfied to mess things up at the national level, is now also messing things up at the state level.

Attention, deficit hawks: Despite what you may have learned in Right-Wing Math Class, a $900 billion health-care program that’s paid for is NOT as big a problem as a $9 trillion unfunded liability.

Chase and Citibank are dropping out of the FDIC 4K program. Uh, what does that mean, you ask? Basically, they’ve found a way to do more gambling with your money.

Two Panthers are going to the Pro Bowl, RB DeAngelo Williams and DE Julius Peppers. RB Jonathan Stewart’s final stats may outshine Williams’s. Peppers, on the other hand, is tied for 305th in the league in tackles through Week 16, with 39; ranks tenth overall, and sixth among defensive ends (fifth among DEs in the NFC), in sacks; tied for 177th in passes defended (eighth among DEs), with five. In his defense, he is tied for third in the league with five forced fumbles and is among only four DEs in the league who have returned an interception for a touchdown.

Carbon gap: All the blather about a carbon/environment/clean-energy bill is overshadowing an ominous fact: China is going to eat our lunch in this arena … if we let it.

Quote of the day, from Bruce Schneier: “Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” So let’s 1) stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on equipment and people that don’t do what they’re supposed to do and 2) stop making flying commercial any more of a miserable experience than it absolutely has to be. Thank you.

Another quote of the day, from Osama bin Laden, which we really ought to look at again before rushing off to start new wars in Yemen and Somalia: “All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”

John Dugan owes us trillions, and if he can’t pay, I say we have the Mafia (who pay sales taxes, if nothing else) break his legs.

Pat Buchanan: Still crazy.

Speaking of crazy: It’s time to stop giving Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., air time. He handles it worse than I handled Jell-O shots, which is pretty bad.

I wouldn’t call it a “fix,” but it’d definitely be an improvement: NYU online-journalism guru Jay Rosen suggests the Sunday talk shows start fact-checking their guests. Unlike Jay, however, I wouldn’t wait ’til Wednesday to post the corrections. That ought to be happening in real time, online and with live screen crawls.

Speaking of fixes, if we want to fix the terrorism problem, we have to start with the engineers. They’re dangerous, I tell you. Including my brother.

Mashup du jour: This is genius.

Attention, police: You can’t Taser people just because they don’t do what you want them to do anymore. Not that all that many of you were doing that to begin with, just as almost none of you hit people over the head with your batons just for the hell of it. But those few of you who have been doing this are now on legal notice that you need to stop.

Elections have consequences, and the biggest consequence of the 2008 election so far is that the people who worked hardest to elect Barack Obama president have been serially and collectively screwed.

Reasons to freak out: Number of Americans who’ve died this year for lack of health insurance: about 45,000. Number who’ve died from salmonella: about 600. Number who’ve died from terrorism, including all those at Fort Hood: 16. Let’s keep this in mind before we soil ourselves, shall we?

Parker Griffith didn’t just take a congressional seat with him, he also took some of the Alabama Democratic Party’s voter-registration data. His primary is June 1, so get your popcorn early.

And I’ll bet you thought the story of Orly Taitz and the birthers couldn’t get any weirder: BZZZT! Wrong!

OK, maybe the world really WILL end in 2012, because it sure can’t keep going like this: DougJ at Balloon Juice for the win: “Let’s be frank: at this point, there is no real difference between Michelle Malkin and the Washington Post editorial page, none between Marc Ambinder and Matt Drudge, none between the Republican Congressional delegation and RedState. We have Jim DeMint holding up the confirmation of the head of the TSA while simultaneously acting as the point man for Republican criticism of the TSA … and he’s getting a lot of traction in the very liberal media. Maybe there is no value in saying this over and over again, but our public dialog really, really sucks.”

And, finally, just because it’s cool and you deserve a reward for reading this far:

Monday, December 28, 2009 9:09 pm

Odds and ends for 12/27

Hmm, what else can we screw up in a way that screws poor people worst? Hey, I know! The estate tax!

John Fox can have another year if he wants: So say the Panthers, although they’re not talking any kind of contract extension with him now (he has a year left). I have mixed feelings about this, upon which I’ll elaborate in a separate post.

Utterly un-self-aware: Jonah Goldberg presumes to pass judgment on someone else’s competence.

Utterly un-self-aware, cont.: Before Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, they need to take a few history lessons, starting with the 9/11 commission report.

Related memo to Joe Lieberman, on the off-chance that he can read: How ’bout before we start a third war, let’s take a minute and figure out how this would-be airplane bomber got a visa? (Newsweek offers the strong beginning of an explanation.) Because the purview of the Senate Homeland Security Committee you chair does not extend to foreign policy or strategic (let alone tactical) military planning. You ass.

At least one legitimate criticism can be leveled at the Department of Homeland Security, and John Cole levels it.

One thing liberals applaud Obama on: Tightening restrictions not only on lobbying, but also on when and how ex-industry officials can go to work for the government, so that agencies aren’t “captured” by the companies they’re supposed to regulate. Watch that change get undone the second a Republican retakes the White House.

Which is fine, except that I haven’t heard them come up with an alternative solution to the problem: Blue Dogs Bayh, Landrieu and Conrad say cap ‘n’ trade is DOA. Relatedly, chemicals from power plants in their states are killing trees in the mountains of mine.

Your tax dollars at work: Despite the recent removal of caps on taxpayer assistance to Fannie and Freddie, which already totals $111 billion, they’re resuming foreclosures next week. You’re welcome, guys.

Not just no, but, hell, no: Not content to throw women’s rights under the health-care bus, the evangelistas are now trying to get the failed policy of abstinence-only sex education incorporated into health-care reform. Guys, we tried your flavor of Teh Stoopid once already and got a big jump in unwed pregnancy to show for it. Go. Away.

Tremors: The last time Iran got this shaky, the Shah was ousted. That may or may not mean the current regime will fall. But it almost certainly means blood in the streets, much of it likely innocent. Great.

Antiterrorism 101, which means most current and former government officials probably haven’t read it: Spencer Ackerman: “It’s never sufficient just to observe that a terrorist group has a presence in Country X. We have to ask ourselves: what are the conditions that allowed for said terrorist group to take root? If we don’t, we simply can’t devise an effective strategy against the terrorist group; and we come close to guaranteeing that we’ll flail and make the situation worse.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009 9:34 pm

Odds and ends for 12/26

Wheat from chaff, signal from noise, pick your phrase: Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., catches a lot of grief over a lot of subjects. Some of it, but only some, is undeserved. Zero Hedge offers a more-or-less complete, more-or-less accurate summary of the rest.

Welcome to today’s edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions: Today, Salon’s David Sirota asks, “Are we making the same mistakes with the banks that we did leading up to war in Iraq?” Answer: Yes. This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

Interesting take on democracy: Sarah Palin schedules a book-signing at a public arena in her hometown — and has security bar some past critics from entering, just like Bush 43 used to do at campaign events. Even McCain didn’t, to my recollection, do anything that stupid. Although, to Caribou Barbie, that would be a bug, not a feature.

When the SEC won’t do its job, you want a New York City DA who will kick ass and take names. The retiring Robert Morgenthau has done that admirably for 35 years. Unless the SEC tomorrow is affilicted by sudden attacks of initiative, ethics, competence and honor, his successor is going to have to do even better.

The tsunami of ’04: Digby recalls: “This was one of the most hideous catastrophes of a decade of hideous catastrophes. But the consensus is that they’ve managed to come back fairly smartly. I recall watching the footage on the days after Christmas back in 2004 and then seeing the global response and feeling that the post-9/11 paranoia might be starting to lift a little bit. Global cooperation was in, at least for a little while. US soldiers were deployed to help, not make war. It was horrible and life affirming at the same time. Nine months later came Katrina.”

Obama supports gay rights, except when he opposes them. The Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Managment is withholding benefits to dependents of gay federal employees in a part of the country, the 9th Circuit, more sensitive to gay rights than any other in the country. So far, two members of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — one a liberal Carter appointee, one a very conservative Reagan appointee — have called the administration out at the administrative level. If this turns into litigation, it seems almost inevitable that Obama, who once pledged to be a “fierce advocate” of gay rights, will lose and gays will win. For a lot of folks, including, on this issue, me, that would be sweeping a double-header.

Want to reduce the deficit? Hey, so do I. Here’s one way: Stop using private contractors.

Home, sweet home, even 80 years on: When people were losing their homes almost 80 years ago, the government didn’t throw a bunch of money at rich bankers. It actually made places for people to live, and it did it so well that whole communities that sprang from this project remain viable today. Traces of others remain, including one here in N.C., that offer insights perhaps useful even today.

ACORN caught red-handed doing … uh, well, nothing, actually. Nobody tell Andrew Breitbart, though; he’s having fun and it IS a holiday, after all.

Dogs, fleas: The 2010 Conservative Political Action Committee convention will be co-sponsored by the John Birch Society, which is not horribly unlike letting the Klan co-sponsor the Republican National Convention. Why do conservatives hate America?

Killing health-care reform: Jason Linkins argues that there is, in fact, a rational liberal case for doing so. See what you think.

“Later, I ran them down his back and made a Christmas Stegosaurus like the one Jesus rode“: TBogg has some Christmas fun with Beckham the bassett:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 11:21 pm

Odds and ends for 12/22

All that, plus the sense God gave a billy goat: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: anti-science and anti-gay, and therefore a viable GOP candidate for president in 2012.

Countdown: Scott Roeder, accused murderer of Dr. George Tiller, goes on trial Jan. 11, and he’s not going to be allowed to claim that it was legal to kill Tiller to protect innocent lives. Whoever shoots down an unarmed doctor in the middle of his church, without reason or provocation, should get the spike, period.

¡Brava, Ciudad de Mexico!: Mexico City legalizes gay marriage before New York City does. Of course, that’s because the New York State Senate is run by guys I would call bucketheads except that honest walruses everywhere would take exception.

Probably crap: That’s my assessment of Reuters’ claim that its article by Matthew Goldstein on hedge-fund trader Steven Cohen was killed on “journalistic grounds.” You don’t create an investigative team, put someone like Matthew Goldstein on it, assign it a story, nurse that story through the reporting and writing and editing, all the way through the lawyering, and THEN kill it on “journalistic grounds.” Yeah, sure, anything is possible, but by far the likeliest explanation is that something else is going on here that reflects quite poorly on Reuters.

When stupidity becomes a public-health issue: Anyone who would pay Michael Steele a dime to give a speech needs to be quarantined for the public’s good.

Revisionist history: Obama claims he never campaigned on the public option. Unfortunately for him, he did. I guess pointing this out makes me a hater. Oh, well, feel the hate, peeps.

Ten worst things about the 2000s, from Juan Cole. Hint: They all had to do with George Bush.

Three of the ten worst things about this week, captured by Digby in a single post.

The best argument I’ve seen for a public option: The retiring CEO of Cigna, Ed Hanway, is getting $73.2 million. And all he had to do for it was deny a little girl a liver transplant. Forget sick people; will no one think of the poor stockholders here? You can e-mail him your best wishes at H.Edward.Hanway@CIGNA.com. Seriously. I just tried it a few minutes ago, and it worked.*

Requiring people to buy private health insurance: constitutional or not?: Some bona-fide legal scholars have it out on that issue here.

This will be fun. This will be shooting fish in a barrel, with dynamite. But I repeat myself. Andrew Breitbart, who has a long history of not being able to find a fact with both hands and a flashlight, plans to start a media fact-checking Web site soon, thus providing conclusive evidence for my hypothesis that Andrew Breitbart is a liberal plot to make conservatives look stupid.

On the other hand, Digby hates America, or at least American pundits, although given the offense she identifies here, I have to say I hate them, too: “There seems to be an unfortunate requirement in American politics that when pundits and numbers crunchers read the tea leaves and determine to their satisfaction that the contest is over, those they’ve decided are going to lose are required to immediately capitulate, admit they were wrong and join in the celebration of the winner — even if the votes haven’t been cast or the cases haven’t been decided.”

Jiujitsu: Newt Gingrich has been urging Republicans to campaign next year on a pledge to repeal HCR in 2011 if it’s enacted. But Democrats are seeing that as a bad thing for Republicans and are urging their challengers for 2010 to get the GOP incumbents on the record about whether they intend to try to repeal HCR. Interesting.

I think it is time to conclude that the people who are running the SEC are not just incompetent but are actively hostile to the agency’s mission.

For the win: Balloon Juice is having a contest tonight: Name the ten worst Washington Post columnists of the past decade. As it happens, I stumbled my personal No. 1, Charles Krauthammer, on TV earlier tonight. Sick bastard was  complaining because we hadn’t gone to war against Iran already. That’s not just stupid, that’s Evil, the kind of Evil that deserves for its paralyzed ass to wake up in a foxhole surrounded by corpses with no weapon, no comrades in sight, no way to move and the enemy advancing with bayonets fixed. If Krauthammer wants blood that badly, let him drink his own.

Colbert, also for the win: “Folks, there are some things that everybody knows, but nobody says,” one being that the health-care industry is buying the legislation it wants. (Doubt me? Hey, you don’t have to believe me. Believe the stock market.)

Michele Bachmann hates Teh Soshulizm. Sort of: Unfortunately for Michele, evidence has been uncovered that actually she’s quite the welfare queen.

Quote of the day, from Attackerman: “After all, systemic dysfunction doesn’t come from nowhere, and it usually has a constituency.” I don’t know that I’d call that a rule of investigative reporting, but it’s definitely worth remembering.

*I bet you’re wondering what I wrote. Well, I’ll tell you what I wrote. It was this: “Dear Ed: Best wishes on your retirement. I hope it’s a long one. You’re going to need a long one to think up an argument that St. Peter will buy. Love, Lex.” Really.

Monday, December 21, 2009 10:40 pm

Odds and ends for 12/21

Let God sort ’em out: A new book makes both Bill Clinton and the FBI that went after him look bad.

Release the e-mails: There’s more to know about AIG before we let it off the taxpayers’ hook, and the taxpayers deserve to know it. (More interestting but depressing details here.)

Relatedly: How ’bout we claw back some of that taxpayer money that went through AIG to Goldman Sachs at 100 cents on the dollar, thankyouverymuch?? Goldman was pretty much the only bank in such dire straits at the time that didn’t end up settling for 10 to 13 cents on the dollar from AIG, and now it wants to take that tax money and pay it out in employee bonuses. Homey don’ play dat.

Another banking shock: What determines how suitable a bank is for a federal bailout? Size? Nature of its business? Try … wait for it … political ties to the Federal Reserve. Yup, and there’s gambling going on in this casino, too. So can we just audit the damn thing already?

Decade of (self-) deception: Farewell to the ’00s, in which we begged to be suckered and found no shortage of those eager to accommodate us, from “compassionate conservatism” and Enron to Goldman Sachs and Tiger Woods. One other parallel: None of the hucksters, besides maybe Ken Lay, has been held accountable.

Democrats throwing women under the bus. Again: Tbogg on Twitter, for the win: “Bart Stupak will not be happy until he has had a close personal relationship with more vaginas than Tiger Woods.”

Boulevard of broken dreams promises: Jon Walker walks us past the mileposts of broken Obama campaign promises that constitute the current Senate version of health-care reform.

He just can’t quit you: Jon Walker, who apparently has no commitments in life besides health care reform, offers 35 ways to fix the current Senate bill. I’d say it’s unlikely at best that more than one or two will happen, and quite possibly none of them will. But if nothing else, this is a good road map of the kind of crappy legislation that comes out of unified GOP opposition and an undemocratic Senate hidebound by the filibuster.

Speaking of the filibuster, here’s some interesting background on how its use has grown of late. Memo to the mainstream media: Guilt is not equitably distributable.

Ask and ye shall receive: LA Times blogger Andrew Malcolm wants a caption for this picture. OK, here’s mine: “Andrew Malcolm is such an idiot that I could grab his head and smash it into this table like this and the experience would actually make him smarter.”

Memo to Ceci Connolly: Defining being “smart” in Washington as “disagreeing with what two-thirds of the country wants” doesn’t make you look, well, smart.

Related: Time was, and not all that long ago, a David Broder column, whether you agreed with it or not, would be undergirded by some reporting. Now, not so much. (Besides which, on the substance, what appears to be surprising him is that Congressional Democrats are opposing something that Obama himself opposed. This is wrong, or surprising, or even news, how, exactly?)

John McCain fought Teh Stoopid and Teh Stoopid won: He goes on the teevee to claim, laughably, that Ted Kennedy wouldn’t have liked that health-care reform passed on a partisan vote. He crowns that particularly serving of Teh Stoopid topped with whipped Teh Stoopid with this maraschino Teh Stoopid: “There has never been a major reform accomplished in the history of this country that wasn’t bipartisan.” Uh, John, that’s because there has never before been a major reform that one party unanimously rejected purely on partisan grounds.

Top 10 reasons to kill the Senate health-care bill, from Firedoglake, with background links on each. I don’t know whether the bill should be killed, but I do know there are a lot of things about it I absolutely do not like. (One “bug,” starting the taxes before the benefits take effect, could be sold as a way of reducing the deficit. But I’m unsure of the exact math over the long haul, and whether you choose to look at that item as a bug or a feature, I don’t think it makes much difference in the big picture.)

How I would decide on whether or not to pass the health-care bill (Senate version), if I had a vote: Which saves more lives, passing it or killing it? And by killing it, I mean, “killing it,” not, “killing it and immediately passing some fantasy better version that in the real world may or may not ever happen within my lifetime.” Anyone with a documentable answer to this question is welcome to weigh in.

Conservative of the year: Human Events picks Dick Cheney, although, as more than one pundit has pointed out, the actual, substantial policy differences between Cheney and, say, Barack Obama on foreign-policy and civil-liberties issues are much less than meets the eye.

Kentucky legislator wants to prosecute mothers of alcohol- and drug-addicted newborns: Because treating addicts like criminals instead of people with health problems has done so much to reduce addiction over the years.

Gathering storm: The “shadow pool,” the nation’s pool of homes that haven’t yet gone on the market but are about to because of delinquency/foreclosure, has increased more than 50% in just one year, to about 1.7 million. A lot of those homes are or will be vacant, which spells trouble for their neighbors, too.

Some good news for a change: Obama signed the military appropriations bill, which is good because it contained Al Franken’s amendment barring contractors from forcing employees into arbitration when they get raped. Which, in turn, is good not only for those employees but also because it gives candidates who give a damn about rape victims, be they competing in the GOP primary or in the general election, a big ol’ hammer with which to hit the 40 current incumbent Republican senators over the head.

And more good news: The signed consolidated appropriations bill DIDN’T ban federal funding for needle-exchange programs, the first such bill since 1988. Now that a smidgen of common sense has crept into the War on Some Drugs, expect the end of the world before lunchtime tomorrow.

I don’t know who Drew Westen is, and I don’t know if he’s right. But I do know that his perceptions are remarkably similar to mine.

Thumbsucker: Long journalism pieces that raise lots of Big, Serious Questions — often without offering answers, sometimes because no answers can be found — are known in the journalism biz as “thumbsuckers.” In the era of dying print and shorter attention spans, thumbsuckers are a dying breed, in part because the form is attempted far more often than it is mastered. But here’s a good one, asking whether the GOP has any relevant ideas to contribute to discussion of some of the biggest issues that face us. (My short answer: Yes, but to find them you’ll have to listen to the party members who, right now, aren’t doing most of the talking the public hears.)

Quote of the day, by Jonathan Chait of The New Republic in the thumbsucker linked above: “If government intervention appears to be the answer, [Republicans] must change the question.”

Abortion and health-care reform

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 2:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

If I understand correctly — and I might not, or I might have at one point but then the bill changed — the version of the health-care bill now pending in the Senate says that you can’t use public money to pay for abortion. So if you’re getting any kind of federal subsidy on private health insurance, you have to set up a segregated account, paid for with your own money, for coverage of any abortion you or your dependent(s) might need.

This strikes me as legally/constitutionally problematic. I think it might be both a violation of the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment and a back-door way of circumventing Roe v. Wade. (I also think it creates a paper trail for the government on who has had, or thinks she might need to have, an abortion, which, from a legal standpoint, ought to be none of the government’s damn business where private insurance is concerned.) Which means it may become, intentionally or not, a vehicle for another Supreme Court challenge to Roe.

And with the current makeup of SCOTUS, I have no doubt that, all the rhetoric about “judicial restraint” notwithstanding, the conservative majority is even more eager to overturn Roe than they are to overturn the ban on corporate political contributions.

And since they basically ordered lawyers at gunpoint to bring them a vehicle for overturning that ban, I’m guessing that given the opportunity, they’d vote to overturn Roe without even hearing oral arguments if one of their number suggested that approach out loud. (I’ll bet at least three of them already have written their opinions.) It’s not like anyone could, or even would, do anything but yell.

Saturday, December 19, 2009 3:19 pm

Odds and ends for 12/19

The GOP’s 2010 narrative, courtesy of non-GOP Eli at Firedoglake: “Look, we were the ones who voted against giving Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars, who voted against that tool at the Fed who doesn’t care about your job, who voted against forcing you to spend your hard-earned money on junk insurance you can’t afford to use.  Obama and the Democrats are screwing you over to funnel money to corporate fatcats, and we’re trying to stop them.” I bet it works, too.

Global-warming conspiracy theoristsat the Pentagon.

The health of the commercial banking industry, as summarized by Peterr: If you’re the FDIC putting your budget together for 2010, “you don’t double your receivership budget if you think bank failures are slowing down.” Fun fact: The figure being doubled was itself almost doubled in mid-year 2009 from what it was set at at the beginning of the year, because of the growth in bank failures.

Glenn Beck, cracked: When I was a kid, Cracked was the less nuanced competitor to Mad magazine. But in the Internet age, Cracked has found its footing. Consider this unpacking of the Glenn Beck phenomenon, which includes this gem: “The difference between a Glenn Beck conspiracy and the coronation scene in Carrie is Carrie didn’t overreact as hysterically.”

Different standards: Can you imagine the media hissy fit if Democrats were to try to filibuster an Iraq-Afghanistan spending bill just to delay some other legislation that was part of the GOP agenda? But when Republicans do it to try to delay health-care legislation, it’s perfectly OK, or at least unremarkable.

Blech: I started off my Christmas break with sinuses stuffy AND running AND hurting, and a lot of chest congestion. I’ve hit the Neilmed bottle twice, and it has helped a little but not as much as I had hoped.  Rather than playing in the snow with Hooper and Victoria, which is what I wanted to do, I’ve spent most of the day in bed. On the bright side, the streets appear navigable, so I should be able to run to the store tomorrow for the appropriate junk food to consume during Panthers/Vikings.

Speaking of which, I am probably deriving far more amusement than I should from the thought that the teams will be playing tomorrow night on the frozen tundra of Bank of America Stadium because the Vikes are now an indoor team. But I’m not under any illusions about who’s going to win, just as I hope John Fox is not under any illusions that Jerry Richardson is going to keep him on.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:36 pm

Odds and ends for 12/17

All your drones are belong to us: A readily available, $26 piece of software has allowed Iraqi insurgents to intercept video from U.S. Predator drones. The government has known about this flaw since the weapons’ use in the Balkans in the 1990s but never did anything about it because it “assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it.” As Attackerman (h/t) comments, “Arrogance like this gets people killed.”

All our money are belong to the devil, so send us yours: Televangelist Rod Parsley’s Web site sets a Dec. 31 deadline for contributions and urges, “Will you help take back what the devil stole?” The ministry is in financial trouble primarily because it had to pay a $3.1 million judgment to the parents of a 2-year-old whom a teacher at the ministry severely beat.

Bill Gates sez, “Go ahead, make my day tax my estate!”: The Microsoft founder says we shouldn’t let the estate tax expire. I agree with him. Raise the cap, sure. Index for inflation, of course. But scrap? Nuh-uh.

Relatedly, if you have both money and heirs (Hi, Mom!), you might not sleep very well next year.

Wall Street is killing health care: That’s what taking your company public will do. (Previously.) Just ask the newspaper industry.

Odd couple: Sens. John McCain and Maria Cantwell have jointly introduced legislation to reimpose Glass-Steagall standards on banks. Comments HuffPo’s Jason Linkins: “Give McCain and Cantwell a big round of applause for their effort, because in Washington, this seemingly obvious response to the financial crisis is considered the domain of wild-eyed hippies (and Paul Volcker).”

Which raises a damn good question: Why, in Washington, has the obvious become the domain only of wild-eyed hippies and Paul Volcker, and not of the “serious” politicians/bureaucrats/journalists?

Worthwhile related point: Byron Dorgan warned us at the time that within 10 years we’d be sorry we repealed Glass-Steagall. BZZZT! Wrong! We were sorry within nine years.

Speaking of banksters, looks like Ben Bernanke is going to get reconfirmed. Which would be fine if, like a large majority of the American public, he gave the first damn about putting people back to work. But he doesn’t. Memo to Congressional Democrats: You can steal this issue from the Tea Party, or you can let the Tea Party steal your Congressional seats from you. Your call.

On the bright side, for Democrats and the jobless: A $154 billion economic-stimulus bill passed the House … without a single Republican vote. I’m a longtime deficit hawk, but part of the reason that I am is that I understand that there are times when only fiscal policy can jump-start the economy. So you have to balance the budget or run a surplus in good times to be in position to spend in bad times. And as I’ve said before, the biggest problem of the earlier stimulus package was that even at $787 billion, it was only about half as big as it needed to be (second biggest problem was it relied too heavily on tax cuts, not enough on direct spending).

Here are three more questions to be asked about health-care reform, based on public pledges Obama has made in the past. No one who wanted reform in any form or fashion is going to like the answers. Actually, this piece was so good that I’m going to deviate from standard Odds & Ends formatting and quote from it at some length:

I’ll be evaluating the bill according to three principles:

1. When this plan goes into effect, will it bring an end to the battles that health insurance consumers must wage to retain their coverage, or will the practice of rescission continue?

2. When this plan goes into effect, will it bring an end to the long-term, intractable debt that millions of hard-working Americans incur, simply because they get sick, get injured and grow old?

3. When this bill is signed into law, will Obama truly be in the position to say he’ll be the last president to “take up the cause,” or will it be obvious that we’ve only kicked the can down the road, and that more needs to be done?

In truth, the way I see things shaping up, I don’t believe that the eventual reform legislation will achieve any of these things. At the same time, I think that if it makes it to Obama’s desk, he’s going to sign it. But, pursuant to the cause of Not Kidding Ourselves, he’d better not call it a victory.

Sounds about right.

Is the Senate health-care bill comparable to the (successful) Dutch health-care system?: No, not really.

Republicans are crawling back toward sanity: Yesterday, Laura Ingraham was likening health-care reform to the Holocaust. Today, Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour is saying it’s only as bad as Jonestown. Whew. I was really afraid they were going off the deep end.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 12/16

Like Willie Sutton said, you rob banks because that’s where the money is: And if you want to cut the deficit, you also go where the money is:

Health-care reform: Nate Silver has 20 questions for people who want to kill the health-care bill, and Jon Walker has 20 answers. Go read this. Seriously, right now. I’ll wait. Because this might be the best combination of comprehensive and clear that you’ll find on whether or not the current Senate bill deserves to live. Kudos to both bloggers.

Glenn Greenwald says Obama is getting the health-care bill he really wanted. I find it hard to disagree.

But it isn’t the health-care bill WE wanted: 63% of Americans say they wanted Medicare expanded to cover 55- to 64-year-olds; only 33% disagree.

It isn’t the health-care bill doctors wanted, either: UC-San Francisco physicians explain, among other things, why the patents-forever provision is such as bad idea.

Indeed, health-care reform is JUST LIKE the Holocaust: Hey, if Laura Ingraham says it, it must be true, right?

Matthew Yglesias on Time magazine’s choice of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as Person of the Year, for the win: “[I]t demonstrates a very specific class skew — extraordinary intervention into the market place just long enough to fix the situation from the point of view of asset-owners while leaving wage-earners holding the bag. But the owners and managers and editors of Time Magazine and the companies that advertise in it probably don’t care so much about that.”

What could possibly go wrong?: Western military leaders are seeking additional support in Afghanistan from … wait for it … Russia.

But … but … but … Republicans believe global warming is a myth!: A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans to have visited a fortuneteller or to claim to have seen ghosts or talked to the dead. (Interestingly, whites, blacks and Hispanics all reported having seen ghosts at about the same rate.)

“One more such victory and we are ruined”: The Pentagon actually wins a Gitmo detainee’s habeas-corpus case … but comes out looking like dirt.

And the fun doesn’t stop with health care: John Cole of Balloon Juice observes, “The best thing about health care reform is that it is a primer for Banking and Financial Regulation. We get to look forward to watching the House bill get neutered down by the conservadems, the GOP will be aligned in unison with industry against, and then when the final bill is not up to Howard Dean’s standards, the progressives can sink it because it isn’t good enough, and noted liberals like Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden, and Russ Feingold will be labeled sellouts to the cause just like they were with health care. Also, I’m sure this will all be Rahm’s fault.”

John Cole was right: Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., indeed is getting ready to screw us over some more on bank bailouts. His 2010 re-election already is in serious jeopardy. Good.

Who lives, who dies?

Filed under: Sad,We're so screwed — Lex @ 1:12 am
Tags: ,

Under our current system, by every objective standard the worst in the industrialized world, roughly 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of lack of health insurance. Will the current bill, flawed though it might be, save enough of them to make it worth supporting?

I haven’t been watching the Senate debate on health-care reform tonight, so I may put a bunch of energy into this post only for it to be overtaken by events by the time I wake up in the morning. But I think Congress and we the people have arrived in the past day or so at a point we’re going to look back at 30 years from now and recognize for better or worse — quite likely worse — as historic.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who won re-election in his last race as an independent after getting beaten in the Democratic primary, has managed to strip out of the bill the things its most fervent backers wanted most, primarily a public option and, as a fallback from that, expansion of Medicare to include some (paying) people between the ages of 55 and 64. Keep in mind that as recently as September, Lieberman was publicly supporting the Medicare expansion.

As it now stands — and, again, I realize, this could change at any time — the bill gives the powers that be in the current health-care status quo a lot of goodies. And it doesn’t come anywhere close to achieving universal health-insurance coverage.

There are other specifics I’ll get into in a second, but right now, things boil down to this: Under our current system, by every objective standard the worst in the industrialized world, roughly 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of lack of health insurance. Will the current bill, flawed though it might be, save enough of them to make it worth supporting? Or, put another way, how many people does it need to save before all the goodies, both up front and over time, that private health insurers and pharmaceutical companies will be getting are justified?

I don’t think there’s a right answer. For damn sure, there’s no good answer.

* * *

Just how bad has Joe Lieberman crapped all over the whole debate on health-care reform? Bad enough that right now, I think it’s time he not only gets no health care, it’s time he gets intestinal cancer in a part of the world where morphine is as yet undiscovered. I mean, really, what kind of sociopath do you have to be to disregard those 45,000 annual deaths and singlehandedly chop up a bill to create something that:

  • Mandates that every American buy expensive insurance from private companies without the choice of a public option and lets the IRS fine you if you don’t
  • Severely taxes middle-class health care plans, rather than wealthy individuals
  • Increases insurance premiums about $1,000 a year
  • Increases health care costs
  • Continues to exempt health-insurance companies from antitrust laws, inhibiting competition
  • Provides a sweet deal for pharmaceutical manufacturers while denying the government the ability to negotiate for lower drug prices for Medicare, something Democrats actually promised three years ago.
  • Apparently won’t let the government import drugs from cheaper foreign sources. I’m told my own junior senator, Kay Hagan, was arguing tonight that this was a “safety” issue, which must come as a surprise to the dozens of other countries that do this every day.
  • Grants monopolies on new biologic drugs so they will never become generics
  • Offers NO public option
  • Offers NO Medicare expansion, even in return for payment, for 55- to 64-year-olds.
  • Limits insurance-company payouts, contrary to President Obama’s promise in September
  • Raises taxes in January while not beginning benefits until 2014.

It’s as if private insurers, Big Pharma and their water-carriers on Capitol Hill are trying to see how bad they can make the bill and still get “reform” supporters to vote for it. As I noted in an earlier post, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post has suggested (and there is some evidence for this view) that Joe Lieberman has done all this simply to piss off progressives. Well, congratulations, Joe — you’ve not only pissed off progressives, you’ve also pissed off me.

It’s also as if Republicans got together and created a bill that they wanted Democrats to run on in 2010 because they knew it would do little or no good while also pissing off people all across the political spectrum, from angry defenders of the status quo to people who wanted far, far more change than this bill can offer.

But it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who are doing this. Republicans, having pledged to oppose any Democratic bill unanimously and lacking the numbers to defeat a bill on their own, have become irrelevant to the debate. This is happening because of the seriously undemocratic structure and operating rules of the Senate and because of conscious choices on the part of Lieberman and other prominent Democrats who ought to know better and whose motives must therefore be called into question. And it’s happening with the approval, if not at the order, of Barack Obama, who has been lying pretty shamelessly about what the bill will and will not do.

* * *

In addition to screwing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Americans on the substance, this situation also creates an interesting political dilemma for Democrats. Enough progressive House Democrats have pledged to oppose any health-care reform that lacks a public option that anything that can get 60 votes in the Senate, needed to overcome a filibuster, will not pass the House if all those now on record as demanding a public option hold firm.

So it’s not just people who need health care who must choose between a crappy bill and no bill. It’s Congressional Democrats, a bunch of whom must run for re-election next year with whatever happens to this bill as the most important backdrop besides jobs and national security (two other areas where Democrats aren’t exactly shooting out the lights). What makes it really interesting is that if health-care reform is either seen as inadequate or fails entirely, the most vulnerable incumbents aren’t going to be the ones who pushed for far more sweeping changes. It’s going to be the Blue Dogs who are hewing close to Lieberman.

I don’t see 2010 being as bad for Democrats as 1994 was. But I bet the Republicans take back the Senate.

* * *

As you might imagine, there’s a significant split among people who’ve been following this issue over whether this bill is better than nothing. And generally speaking, the policy wonks argue that this bill, while bad, is better than nothing, while the political activists say this thing needs to be killed.

Blogger Jane Hamsher argues that it’s worse than nothing:

Instead [of reducing costs by allowing importation], the “bend” [a reference to the need to slow the growth of health-care costs, often called “bending the cost curve” — Lex] comes from taxing middle class insurance benefits, which makes them worse. According to the CSM report released last week:

In reaction to the tax, many employers would reduce the scope of their health benefits. The resulting reductions in covered services and/or increases in employee cost-sharing requirements would induce workers to use fewer services. Because plan benefit values would generally increase faster than the threshold amounts for defining high-cost plans (which are indexed by the CPI plus 1 percent), over time additional plans would become subject to the excise tax, prompting those employers to scale back coverage.

The cost curve gets “bent” by making the insurance you have through your employer worse. Remember Harry and Louise? They killed health care reform during the Clinton administration by making this claim. Well, now it’s actually going to be true.

Howard Dean, the physician and former governor and presidential candidate, also says this bill must be killed. Digby agrees, saying that the bottom line is that this bill isn’t going to save any lives:

Nobody’s “getting covered” here. After all, people are already “free” to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won’t make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn’t or didn’t want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people’s money against their will, saying it’s for their own good. …

What this huge electoral mandate and congressional majority have gotten us, then, is basically a deal with the insurance industry to accept 30 million coerced customers in exchange for ending their practice of failing to cover their customers when they get sick — unless they go beyond a “reasonable cap,” of course. (And profits go up!)

Emptywheel calls it “neo-feudalism”, and my only argument is that she’s being too kind. This is nothing more or less than using government as a mechanism to transfer wealth from the middle class to corporations just as feudal peasants had to pay to the nobles — and the peasants actually got a promise of protection in return, while these corporations, which supposedly will protect us from medical bankruptcy in return, aren’t even legally required to do that:

Consider a family of four making $66,150–a family at 300% of the poverty level and therefore, hypothetically, at least, “subsidized.” That family would be expected to pay $6482.70 (in today’s dollars) for premiums–or $540 a month. But that family could be required to pay $7973 out of pocket for copays and so on. So if that family had a significant– but not catastrophic — medical event, it would be asked to pay its insurer almost 22% of its income to cover health care. Several months ago, I showed why this was a recipe for continued medical bankruptcy (though the numbers have changed somewhat). But here’s another way to think about it. Senate Democrats are requiring middle class families to give the proceeds of over a month of their work to a private corporation — one allowed to make 15% or maybe even 25% profit on the proceeds of their labor.

It’s one thing to require a citizen to pay taxes — to pay into the commons. It’s another thing to require taxpayers to pay a private corporation, and to have up to 25% of that go to paying for luxuries like private jets and gyms for the company CEOs.

Forget whether this will actually make health care cheaper or more available. How is this even constitutional?

I’m no closer now to knowing what we ought to do, or even what I would do were I in the Senate, than I was when I started this piece almost three hours ago. I just know that after all this time and effort, tens of millions of Americans are still going to be uninsured, and tens of thousands will still die next year because of it. And the fact that tens of millions of other Americans think this is acceptable makes me tremble for my country.

Monday, December 14, 2009 10:02 pm

Odds and ends for 12/14

Kabuki: President Obama talked tough to the bankers today, but don’t be misled: If he 1) knew what he was doing and 2) were serious about it, a lot of the executives he’s talking to would have been jobless by now and the U.S. taxpayer would be substantially better off.

Heck of a job, Bushie: The Bush administration’s birth-control policies helped fuel a population boom in Africa, which also means a poverty boom. Nice.

Tony Blair: We were gonna remove Saddam, and if he didn’t have WMDs, then we’d come up with some other reason. No, that’s actually pretty much what he said. If we don’t put these people in prison, our grandchildren are going to be calling us “good Germans.”

Rumsfeld, 10 military officials skate on torture liability: The Supreme Court declined today to hear an appeal of an appeals-court ruling that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials are immune from civil claims of torture filed by four now-released Guantanamo prisoners from Britain. Even the normally reliable SCOTUSBlog hasn’t elaborated on this ruling, so I’m not sure what it means, but any time the word “immunity” appears close to Rumsfeld’s name, my gorge rises. (So, yeah, in case you’re wondering, I’ve spent the last five years throwing up in my mouth a little bit.)

“The bill is a hodgepodge. And it should be.”: Physician/journalist Atul Gawande, author of this groundbreaking article on why medical costs are rising so fast, says there’s actually a century-old historical precedent for measures in the health-care reform bill to improve efficiency, and a successful precedent at that: agriculture. It’s an unexpectedly optimistic piece. Check it out.

Burn in hell, Joe Lieberman: Ezra Klein says it best: “At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

“You have toyed with me for the last time!”: Fully a third of Democratic voters say they’ll be less likely to turn out in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option. Also, 81% say Joe Lieberman should be punished if he filibusters health-care reform. I think Lieberman should be punished in any event, just for being an ass.

Not so fast with that cover-up, there, mate: Also related to the Iraq invasion, six top physicians in Britain have launched legal action to have the purported suicide of government bioweapons expert Dr. David Kelly re-investigated. Kelly died in 2003, supposedly a suicide, just days after he was exposed as the source of a news report that a dossier of evidence regarding Iraq’s WMD program had been “sexed up” to justify invading Iraq. The physicians credibly claim that the investigation was, in technical terms, screwed six ways to Sunday.

Not so fast, the sequel: The Russian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittals of four suspects in the 2006 slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. All four were accused of being accomplices. The actual triggerman, who evidence in the trial said was paid $2 million, is believed to be still at large. (Earlier.)

What’s going on in southern Russia? In August, 20 people died in a suicide bombing, described in Russian news reports as the latest in a series of attacks in the republic of Ingushetia. Then early today in that same area, a large bomb on an above-ground natural-gas pipeline was defused. Insights, anyone?

Ho-ho-home: Authors Stephen and Tabitha King are paying $12,999* so that 150 members of the Maine National Guard, currently in training in Indiana before shipping out to Afghanistan in January, can come home for the holidays. Glad they’re getting to go home. Wish they didn’t have to go overseas.

*Because he thought $13,000 was an unlucky number. One of King’s personal assistants kicked in the remaining buck.

Sunday, December 13, 2009 10:34 pm

Gingrich, Democrats and health-care reform

Maybe I’m reading too much into Newt Gingrich’s approach to health care, but you take a look first and then tell me what you think:

Yesterday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stumped for Ethan Hastert, the son of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and candidate for Illinois’ 14th congressional district. Gingrich, of course, was the architect of the Republicans’ “Contract with America” in 1994 that helped the GOP regain the majority. Now, Gingrich is apparently rallying Republicans behind a new “contract” with Americans — a pledge to take away their health care. [Note that the framing here is the American Prospect’s, not mine — Lex]

Gingrich reiterated his call for all Republicans to commit to repealing any form of a health care bill that Democrats might pass before the 2010 elections:

GINGRICH: If the left manages to drive through a bill which is opposed by 65 percent of the country on health care, our commitment should be simple — when we get a majority, we’re repealing the whole thing. (applause)

And I want every Democrat who is about to sacrifice their seat for socialized medicine to understand: after you lose your seat, you’re going to lose the socialized medicine too. [Emphasis in original — Lex]

Watch it:

My big takeaway is this: Despite the fact that Obama won by roughly 9.5 million popular votes, despite the fact that Obama more than doubled McCain’s electoral-vote total, despite the fact that the Democrats took back control of Congress for the first time since 1994, and despite the fact that Obama and many Democratic congressional candidates campaigned in significant part on doing exactly what Congress is trying to do now, Gingrich appears to believe that their governance is illegitimate.

As I say, maybe I’m reading more into this than is actually there. But Republicans displayed pretty much the exact same attitude when Clinton was president, even conjuring up a BS impeachment, and at least in Clinton’s case they could argue that (because of Ross Perot’s ’92 candidacy) Clinton didn’t represent a majority of Americans. Critics of Obama and Democratic health-care reform have no such grounds for this kind of attitude. Makes me wonder: If they think Obama is illegitimate, what would a Democratic candidate have to do for them to consider him legitimate?

Two other thoughts …

First, the tone of that last graf of Gingrich’s is, well, creepy. It reminds me of what Princess Isabelle told the dying Edward Longshanks in “Braveheart”: “You see? Death comes to us all. But before it comes to you, know this: your blood dies with you. A child who is not of your line grows in my belly. Your son will not sit long on the throne. I swear it.”

Second, just as a gratuitous aside, one of the reasons Dennis Hastert is no longer in Congress is because he arranged for a new highway to come close to land he owned, thus greatly increasing the value of said land. In an older and sterner age, he’d have gone to prison for that. And I’m supposed to believe Dennis’s son Ethan is any great improvement, ethics-wise? It’s possible, I guess, but I’m sure as hell not betting any part of what remains of my assets on it.

Odds and ends for 12/13

Same as it ever was: The Obama Administration is held in contempt for obstructing justice in the same way the Bushbots used to do. The courts, once again, slap a wrist but take no real action to make it stop. Maybe I’m just grumpy, but if a government prosecutor had disobeyed so clear and direct an order in MY court, his butt would’ve been in jail before lunch.

These are not grown-ups: Ben Nelson is now trashing the same Medicare-expansion proposal he, as part of the 10-senator negotiating group, helped create. He does not belong within a mile of any public office, ever.

Quote of the day, from House Appropriations Chairman David Obey: “I am damn tired of a situation in which only military families are asked to pay any price whatsoever for this war.” Yeah, I grasp the potential ramifications of that statement. Let’s HAVE that discussion.

Co-quote of the day, from Jason Linkins, on this week’s killing of al-Qaeda’s No. 3 guy, which is about the fourth time since 2001 we’ve killed al-Qaeda’s No. 3 guy: “It’s like we’ve gotten very good at killing Spinal Tap’s drummer.”

Friday, December 11, 2009 6:21 pm

Odds and ends for 12/11

Memo to BoingBoing.net: Rick Warren has not “done the right thing.” Rick Warren has merely done the only thing that might stave off a PR disaster for himself and what he laughably passes off as a “ministry.” There’s a difference. “Doing the right thing” would have required Ranger Rick to immediately, loudly and repeatedly denounce state-sanctioned murder of gays (and imprisonment of their families/friends for not reporting them). Now study up; this will be on the final.

Why don’t we have a health-care bill yet? Here’s one reason.

Success! Because why in the world would we want to regulate the financial instrument that almost destroyed the global economy?

Aetna’s solution to Robert Steinback’s health-insurance needs: “Die, Mr. Steinback.” As the brother of two guys with Type 1 diabetes, I feel his pain, and I’m still waiting for someone to explain credibly to me why we don’t need at the least a national, robust public option, if not single-payer.

Not exactly giving us what we like: The Senate health-care proposal is less popular than the public option. How much less popular? Seventeen percentage points. That’s huge.

You want death panels? You can’t handle death panels!

And speaking of panels: Digby has a name for the panel Pete Peterson is proposing to figure out a way to balance the budget: the Bipartisan Committee To Destroy Social Security and Medicare So Wealthy People Don’t Ever Have To Pay Higher Taxes. Prolix but accurate.

Facts matter. So take that, Glenn Beck supporters.

The party of responsibility and accountability, which controls the S.C. legislature, has declined to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford.

Another way to get by without health insurance: Yitzhak Ganon just didn’t go see the doctor. For sixty-five years.

We’ve killed al-Qaeda’s No. 3 guy. Again.

The grownups of fact-checking take on “Climategate.” Their findings will surprise no one and enrage denialists.

Shorter Sarah Palin: “Correcting my (many) factual mistakes = making the issue something it’s not.”

Does Fox News want to make us laugh, or is it simply trying to bankrupt Rupert Murdoch?: Even by the rug-burn standards of online polling, this question is so loaded it is leaving big cracks in the digital asphalt.

Green? Shoot!: The number of people shifting to emergency unemployment insurance because their regular coverage had run out topped 379,000 last week, bringing the overall total to a record 4.2 million. At the current rate of increase, the number of people getting emergency payments will top the people getting regular payments (5.5 million) within a month.

Green? Shoot!, the sequel: Independent financial analyst David Rosenberg (via ZeroHedge) says that 1) because of contracting credit and asset deflation, we’re not in a recession, we’re in a depression; 2) the 20% deflation of household assets in the past 18 months — a loss of $12 trillion in value — is “a degree of trauma we have never seen before”, 3) … aw, hell, just go read the whole thing. It’s orders of magnitude more depressing than anything on CNBC, but also appears orders of magnitude more fact-based, unfortunately.

Green? Shoot! Reloaded: Paul Krugman offers some objective criteria by which we might determine exactly what constitutes “good news on the job front.”  Just remember, we’ve got to make up lost ground. A lot of lost ground.

Public pants-wetting: Why do Reps. Trent Franks, Steve King and Sue Myrick hate America?

In news that will surprise exactly zero parents, scientists now say 98% of children under the age of 10 are sociopaths.

And, finally, some good news (h/t: Fred), or, When the Germans say “Prost!”, they mean it: Beer could fight prostate cancer.

This one deserves its own post

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 6:20 pm
Tags: , ,

Matt Taibbi looks back at the 11-month mark in Obama’s presidency and finds that what we were promised ain’t what we got.

A lot of progressives are miffed that a lot of other progressives are unhappy with Obama. Uh, guys, we’ve already tried unwaving support of the president by the party that controlled Congress. That’s exactly what got us into the mess we’re in today.

My take is that any interest group that sees its ostensible champion wavering has not just a right but a duty to scream, early and often. I say that not just because that’s what I did, but because that’s what interest groups are supposed to do. Why? Because slippery slope isn’t always a fallacy and turning up the heat on the frog in the pot of water on the stove top is sometimes more than just a metaphor.

Taibbi’s piece is particularly timely now. Consider what Obama said just a few months ago:

Insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or lifetime, and we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses – because no one in America should go broke just because they get sick.

Now consider this:

A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates.

The legislation that originally passed the Senate health committee last summer would have banned such limits, but a tweak to that provision weakened it in the bill now moving toward a Senate vote.

As currently written, the Senate Democratic health care bill would permit insurance companies to place annual limits on the dollar value of medical care, as long as those limits are not “unreasonable.” The bill does not define what level of limits would be allowable, delegating that task to administration officials.

Adding to the puzzle, the new language was quietly tucked away in a clause in the bill still captioned “No lifetime or annual limits.”

Question: During the debate on health-care reform, why is it that only the progressives have to make any concessions?

Answer: Because Obama and the party he leads believe, despite a couple of decades of experience to the contrary, that they’ll do better politically by hacking off progressives than by hacking off moderates.

Perhaps they’re right. But if they keep it up, what I think they’re going to learn is that 2010 isn’t 1992.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 9:16 pm

Odds and ends for 12/10

Unintentional political zinger of the year: Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., asked whether he would filibuster the health-care bill because of the failure of his anti-abortion amendment, answered, “I have no Plan B.”

Do scientists get tattoos? Why, yes. Yes, they do.

Obama goes all in on torture: He’s asking that a lawsuit against Bush lawyer John Yoo be dismissed. Whom Would Obama Waterboard? Guess we’ll see soon enough.

He wins the Internet: A friend’s Facebook status today: “was just accosted by an angry elf. So I cut the brake line on his sleigh.”

Monday, December 7, 2009 9:57 pm

Odds and ends for 12/7

It’s not a game, but somebody forgot to tell the Labor Department:

The real Climategate. ‘Nuff said.

Remembering Mark Pittman: This guy was the real deal.

And if we follow this line of logic to its painfully obvious conclusion, we learn …: Warren Buffett thinks federally subsidizing a competitor of his Business Wire would be bad. How long before he concludes the same thing about subsidizing another of his key investments, Goldman Sachs?

Fire ’em. And lock ’em up: Someone at the FDIC is passing inside information. Mary Schapiro needs to be fired, beaten and driven across the landscape like a mangy bison.

Clarity: This is bizarre, in a good way — Zero Hedge and Google have formed a partnership to, among other things, translate government financial info into plain English.

Your flawed premise. Let me show you it: Two (out of the more than 6,000) members of the Academy of Motion Picture Whozawhatsis call for Al Gore’s Oscar to be rescinded in light of the hacked e-mails about global warming. Which would be fine except that Al Gore never got an Oscar. The Oscar went to the director of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Who was not Al Gore.

Opaque is the new transparent: A government meeting on open records and transparency is closed to the media and public. Write your own punchline.

Bummer: Obama rules out drugs, hookers as economic stimuli. Dang.

Someone remind me again who the terrorists are?: AIG execs threaten to walk out en masse if they don’t get their bonuses. Door. Ass. Quoth Digby: “This could be Obama’s equivalent of Reagan and the air traffic controllers if he wants it to be.” Precisely.

Well, yeah, if, by “narrow, ideological interest group” you mean “three-fourths of voters”: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., says only a few politically motivated people want a public option for health insurance.

How did I miss this?: Slate had a “Write Like Sarah Palin” contest. On the down side, to be competitive I’d’ve had to drink at least a case in one sitting.

Silenced: Former Guantanamo prosecutor Morris Davis, who once resigned rather than run what he thought was a rigged system of justice at Guantanamo, has been fired from the Library of Congress for continuing to criticize the military-commission system publicly and calling former AG Mike Mukasey out for the pants-wetting anti-American baby he is. The ACLU has taken Davis’s case. Good.

Blessings: Former Fox “News” host Eric Burns counts his: “I have several. Among them is that I do not have to face the ethical problem of sharing an employer with Glenn Beck.”

Quote of the day: From Balloon Juice’s John Cole, on “bipartisan” health-care reform: “You know, as much as our national political chattering classes are enamored with the baby Jesus, I find it amazing that none of them ever managed to hear the story of King Solomon. … every Senator apparently [is] eager to rush home to show off their half of the bloody baby.”

Quote of the day runner-up: From Doc at First Draft, on the Dallas Morning News’ plan to have its news editors reporting to advertising execs: “You can say that there’s a line that’s drawn and that we don’t cross it. That’s all fine and good, but when you keep moving the line the way the DMN has now, you are never sure if you’ll cross the line or the line will cross you.”

Uh, dude?: Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., nominated his girlfriend to be a U.S. attorney. That’s not good, but as Marcy points out, Baucus is responsible for an even bigger screwing than that.

So, Bowl Championship Series, how’s that Jenna Jameson-led abstinence campaign going?: Former Bush White House spokesliar Ari Fleischer compares the current college-football bowl system, now despised by a miniscule 85% of Americans, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as an irreplaceable tradition.

Inevitable headline: Doh!: Cartoon character C. Montgomery Burns outpolls Rudy Giuliani in NYC mayoral race.

Friday, December 4, 2009 9:40 pm

Odds and ends for 12/4

Hmm, roasted or fried? Um, I mean, we come in peace: Kara Swisher renders Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Wall Street Journal op-ed into plain English.

Is your boss stealing from you? Could well be.

Good news/very bad news: In the week ending Nov. 28, first-time unemployment claims fell from 462,000 the previous week to 457,000. The very bad news: Emergency claims by people whose unemployment benefits have run out rose by 265,000. In one week. The total was more than 3.8 million, compared with 777,000 a year ago.

Will wonders never cease?: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., does one worthwhile thing in his miserable, misanthropic life and carves Ben Bernanke a new orifice. Fellow tool Jim DeMint, R-S.C., actually asks helpful questions.

Yes, apparently wonders will cease: Sarah Palin, birther.

And then wonders that already have happened will un-happen: Sarah Palin Goes Rogue Fail.

Shorter Mitt Romney economic plan: “More money for me and my friends!”

You’re worried about health care and the deficit? Fine: Let’s talk about that: Republicans and some “centrist” Democrats say they worry about what health-care reform will do to the deficit. They need to worry more about what will happen to the deficit if health-care reform doesn’t pass. (But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Bush 43’s head of Medicare.)

Pwn3d!: Sens. Tom “Sanctimonious” Coburn and David “Diapers” Vitter introduce what they intend to be a poison-pill amendment to health-care reform that would require members of Congress to enroll in the public option … only to be swarmed by Democrats who think that’s a great idea and sign on as co-sponsors. Hee.

Quote of the day, from commenter “paradoctor” at Hullabaloo, on the douchiness of Senate Republicans: “To them, corporations are people and women are an abstraction.”

Nature strikes back: Asian carp are invading fresh waters of the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes. Bye-bye, trout. And apparently you shouldn’t use a motorboat to go fishing for them because the sound of the motor just pisses them off. (h/t: Nance)

New Internet meme: “There’s far too much detail here for this to be a fabrication.”

And he’d have lived forever if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their dog: Aaron Schroeder, composer of hundreds of pop hits ranging from “It’s Now or Never” and “Good Luck Charm” to the theme from the TV cartoon “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” is dead at 83.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 9:15 pm

Odds and ends for 12/3

With friends like these: Iraqi lawyer helps U.S., gets tortured by Iraqis for his trouble and now is suing U.S. for $200MM for trying to murder him.

With friends like these, cont.: Someone else unhappy with U.S. conduct in Iraq — the head of Blackwater (now Xe), Erik Prince.

Women’s rights: I wouldn’t say I expect to enjoy reading this book, but I’m looking forward to it. Nick Kristoff can be an insufferable ass sometimes, but on this issue he is doing God’s work and has been for a long time. (h/t: Janice)

Reality check: Who are we, Zbigniew Brzezinski asks, to criticize Afghanistan about government corruption? “Americans, of course, hate hypocrisy,” the LA Times’ Andrew Malcolm observes, “by everyone else.”

Elizabeth Warren for president: “America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security.”

The Republicans have a plan for health-care reform: Prevent it by any means necessary.

They also have a plan for fixing the deficit: killing Social Security and Medicare. Actually, that’s backward. It’s not that they want to kill SocSec/Medicare to fix the deficit. It’s that they’re making a big deal about fixing the deficit (now; not so much when it was Bush’s deficit) because that’s a plausible excuse for what they really want to do, which is pulling the New Deal and Great Society up out of our culture by the roots. Unfortunately, they lack the intellectual integrity to say so forthrightly. When they did say so forthrightly, about Social Security, in 2005, they got their heads handed to them.

Call this bluff: The banksters at Royal Bank of Scotland, which got the world’s largest bailout, say they’ll quit if they don’t get their bonuses. Don’t let the door hit you in the bum as you leave, tools.

Dylan Ratigan FTW: Reject Bernanke. He started the damn fire.

Shorter Jonathan Weil: FDIC, man up. Banks, pay up. Amen.

Jason Linkins points out a bit of a discrepancy in criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal date: Critics suggest that setting a start date for withdrawals will just embolden terrorists to wait until we leave. This ignores the fact that even while we’ve been threatening “to go hard, forever,” the average yearly number of global jihadi terror attacks  has increased 607% since we invaded Iraq. Oops.

Relatedly: George Will takes a couple of cheap shots at Obama, and embraces the flawed slippery-slope argument in the item above, and mistakenly believes that Afghanistan is winnable anymore, but he also believes the right thing for most of the right reasons: This will not end well.

To all the first-time voters who supported Obama because you thought he’d get us out of George Bush’s ill-conceived wars: Here’s to the loss of your political virginity.

Lou Dobbs’ presidential aspirations = FAIL: Anti-immigrant group pulls support. Bwa!

Sunday, November 29, 2009 9:36 pm

Odds and ends for 11/29

  • Policy misprescription: Switzerland has voted to ban construction of minarets. No good can come of this. In terms of confusing symptom with illness, it’s sort of like a doctor voting to ban coughing. And the Swiss are going to catch it both from the civil-libertarian community and from Muslims and their friends. There’s a real and growing problem here, but this ain’t the way you fix it.
  • I’ve got your stigma right here, pal: The National Review’s John J. Miller may be the world’s stupidest person with a keyboard.
  • Kinda hard to blame the guy who wasn’t in the room: I’m eagerly awaiting an explanation of how Dubai’s economic problems are the liberals’ fault.
  • Born in the ’50s: Somebody’s got a blacklist.
  • Economics 101: Some deficits are worse than others.
  • Memo to Obama: Keep on screwing your base over and see how you like Congressional Republicans with subpoena power.
  • Screwing the pooch: Gen. Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld let Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora in 2001, a Senate report says. I think this is news only insofar as Franks has been claiming he didn’t even know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora, but facts matter.
  • Not that it will make a lot of difference to the fact-averse, but MIT economists say Obama’s health-care plan actually will save money. Memo to Mitch McConnell: Bite me.
  • Memo to pundits: Having a clear position on issues does not automatically equate to having a beneficial position on those issues. WashPost’s David Broder and now Newsweek’s Jon Meacham somehow achieved their exalted status without having learned this.
  • Shocker: Lobbyists are lobbying to be able to keep on lobbying.
  • Shorter Devin’s Advocate: The movie version of Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” must be directed by David Cronenburg. (I heartily concur.) (NSFW) (h/t: Mel)

Friday, November 27, 2009 5:12 pm

Odds and ends for 11/27

  • Down in the desert: Dubai, whose potential sovereign-debt default is in today’s news, is messed up, economically and in other ways. Zero Hedge’s Marla Singer, who has spent time there, offers a pretty readable summary. Key takeaway: Dubai’s travails say a lot less about the pitfalls of capitalism than meets the eye.
  • Housing-market update: I’m not smart enough to know what to do about this, but more U.S. homes are in delinquency or foreclosure than are for sale.
  • The “deadbeat stimulus”: At least $160 billion a year.
  • Tim F. observes how the health-care reform bill is being set up to fail.
  • Martyrs: The people trying desperately to help Sarah Palin run her life are getting no help at all from the boss. I’m shocked.
  • The Obama-Bush Administration: The Obama Justice Department’s arguments against exoneration for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman are being prepared by the very same people involved in the original frame-up — the one in which Karl Rove was involved up to his eyeballs. So spare me all this talk about how much better things are in government now that Obama has replaced Bush.
  • So if we fire all the execs who ran the banking system into the ground, the banking system will crash and burn? Well, pardon me for agreeing with a former public official who barebacked a whore, but I’m thinking we should test that hypothesis.
  • Apologies are fine, but the Roman Catholic Church needs to take some of the time it’s spending on apologies and spend it on turning the guilty over to police. Also? Any institution with this kind of problem needs to get itself fixed before presuming to comment upon moral issues.
  • Relatedly, not only does a 2007 court filing by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, last seen denying communion to Rep. Patrick Kennedy because Kennedy won’t oppose abortion, admit the existence of more than twice as many accused priests as the diocese had admitted just three years earlier, it also cites that high number (~125) as a reason why court-ordered disclosure of documents would be excessively “burdensome.” Awwwww …
  • Unproductive speculation: If anyone has any ideas about how to end it other than by taxing financial transactions — an idea devised in 1972 by a Nobel winner, by the way — I’m all ears. But it needs to end.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 10:21 pm

Odds and ends for 11/24

  • Memo to college football’s Bowl Championship Series: Hiring Ari Fleischer to improve your image is like hiring Jenna Jameson to be the spokesbabe for abstinence.
  • Just a few questions for the global-warming deniers who claim the recent hacked scientist e-mails prove global warming is a hoax: “Which studies were compromised, how? Be specific. Cite papers and data sets. What is the evidence? Where is it? What work is affected? How? Show me the evidence that says so. This supposed scandal involves perhaps a half dozen people; how does it affect the work of the 3,000+ others whose work makes up climate science? How does it affect the work that was done before the alleged culprits graduated from university? The work from before they were born? Of the 30,000(ish) studies that make up climate science, which ones are undone? Where is the evidence? Be specific … show us exactly how and why?”
  • BONUS: Newtongate: the final nail in the coffin of Renaissance and Enlightenment ‘thinking’
  • And relatedly: “The number of Americans who believe global warming is occurring has declined to its lowest since 1997, though at 72 percent, it’s still a broad majority. The drop has steepened in the last year-and-a-half — almost exclusively among conservatives and Republicans.” And this Republican invites you deniers to just go right on fooling yourselves.
  • Did I see that right in the paper this morning — that Detroit’s 80,000-or-so-seat Silverdome was sold for $583,000? Yup. I saw that right. Wow. There are more expensive houses within two miles of mine. The thing cost $55.7 million ($222.7 million in 2008 dollars) to build back in the 1970s. I don’t think Detroit real estate can go much lower.
  • Robert Reich, in a nutshell, on what’s wrong with health-care reform without a real public option: “Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to … our private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the rest of us.”
  • Your stupid: Let me show you it: A Democratic Senate aide suggests that people who favor a public option are being “stupid” by criticizing Democratic senators who don’t. With support for a public option at 72%, BuggyQ at First Draft explains who’s really being stupid.
  • Your stupid: Let me show you it, The Sequel: Ezra Klein points out a basic flaw in the argument that the health-care reform bill will increase the deficit so we shouldn’t pass it: “I’m confused by the budget hawks who that take the line: ‘This bill needs to cut the deficit, and I don’t believe Democrats will cut the deficit, but since the actual provisions of the bill unambiguously cut the deficit, then I guess Congress won’t stick to it.’ People who want to cut the deficit should support this bill, and support its implementation. The alternative is no bill that cuts the deficit, and thus no hope of cutting the deficit.(Emphasis added for the C students out there.)
  • Asked and answered; or, Your stupid: Let me show you it, Reloaded: Michele Bachmann, the batsh*t insane congresscritter from Minnesota, asked the other day why Democrats didn’t support her. Because she seemed genuinely puzzled, the kids at TPM put together a photo essay.
  • Strange: I don’t know what’s stranger — that Lincoln, Nebraska, is the second-strangest city in the country or that Nawlins didn’t even make the top 75. (Raleigh was #34, not all that far behind LA at #28; Florida was the strangest state, which will surprise no one who has ever read Carl Hiaasen; and N.C. came in 48th out of the 50 states plus D.C.)
  • Stranger: If Santa got drunk and started Twittering, the results might look like this.
  • I’ve got your newspaper war right here. (Photo NSFW) As my friend Jon Lowder, who tipped me to this, said, “Somehow I don’t see this kind of action breaking out in the heated battle between the N&R and the W-S Journal, but we can dream.”

In fact, I think that’s what I’m going to go do right now. I may or may not blog again anytime soon this weekend, so if I don’t, Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Inaction has a cost — in lives and money

But don’t take my word for it. Take The New England Journal of Medicine’s:

There is clear evidence that the way we pay for health care stimulates cost growth. A “no” vote in Congress will leave these policies undisturbed. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under existing approaches to payment, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will exceed $10 trillion over the next decade. In 2017 — the year the Medicare trust fund is expected to be exhausted — the CBO estimates that Medicare and Medicaid will drain $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

Adults who can’t get coverage through work, are too young for Medicare, and don’t qualify for Medicaid have only one option — individual health insurance. Consumer Reports describes the individual insurance market as a “nightmare” for consumers: “more costly than the equivalent job-based coverage, and for those in less-than-perfect health, unaffordable at best and unavailable at worst. Moreover, the lack of effective consumer protections in most states allows insurers to sell affordable plans whose skimpy coverage can leave people who get very sick with the added burden of ruinous medical debt.”5 In recent years, several states have attempted to reform the individual health insurance market, with little success.

Coverage matters. On average, uninsured Americans get about half the preventive services and medical care that insured Americans receive. Studies have shown that uninsured people with cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and other conditions are more likely to have poor health and to die prematurely than similar people with coverage. Existing safety-net services are insufficient to overcome the gap between those who have health insurance and those who do not.

The economic consequences of a lack of insurance are equally grim. If even one family member lacks coverage, the entire family is exposed to the financial burden of severe illness or injury. In 2009, 20% of uninsured adults used up all or most of their savings paying medical bills.

When many people lack insurance, everyone’s access to care is compromised.

For better or worse, we basically have two choices left right now: The current health-care reform bill, or something almost identical to it; and doing nothing. There’s no third plan out there, no Republican alternative; the only big questions left are will the bill have a public option and will it restrict women’s right to obtain an abortion.

And doing nothing will take more lives and cost more money than enacting the plan we’ve got. That’s not me talking, that’s the docs. And it really is that simple.

Monday, November 23, 2009 9:56 pm

Odds and ends for 11/23

  • Critics of the health-care reform bills complain that the government will start paying for it years before people actually begin to receive services. And that’s a valid complaint. But if it all started together, wouldn’t they be complaining about that, too, because that would represent a failure to get the money in place first?
  • House Appropriations Chairman David Obey warns the president that if the U.S. wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, he won’t approve funding (which could be $40B) without a “war surtax” to pay for it. Obey absolutely opposes sending more troops, so that’s what this is really about for him, but the fact is, we shouldn’t be paying for wars off budget, as we have been doing.
  • There’s a huge bloc of voters out there for the grabbing for any politician willing to champion consumers’ rights and fight stuff like this.
  • A couple of months old but still noteworthy: Almost 1 in 4 U.S. households has suffered a layoff during the current recession; 44% have either lost a job or had their wages or hours cut; 53% of those polled (including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats) call unemployment the nation’s top problem; 51% said this year’s stimulus bill was the right thing to do and 81% said Obama has not done enough to help the economy.
  • How did I miss this — and when did Muammar el-Qaddafi go to work for The Onion? (h/t: Jill)
  • Some people just flat shouldn’t be allowed to be cops. Joe Apaio is definitely one of them.
  • Yet more on how the Fed, and Tim Geithner in particular, screwed up its handling of AIG. If it seems like I’m harping on this subject, it’s because I think it contains important lessons that I’m terrified we’re not going to learn.
  • Sewage? You’re drinking it, and there’s almost a 1-in-10 chance it made you sick last year.
  • Congresswoman and raving lunatic Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says she can’t understand “why the Democratic Party would be opposed to me.” The appropriate question is why any sentient life form would not be opposed to her.
  • And, finally, advice for journalists, from Athenae at First Draft: “Mourning the death of hard news? Go do some.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009 10:27 am

Dysfunctional

I’m not a huge fan of Washington Post writer Dana Milbank, but this piece of his on Saturday’s health-care reform debate and vote captures just how incredibly messed up the U.S. Senate is. “World’s greatest deliberative body,” my butt.

I guess my favorite part is where he gets Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu to claim that the additional $300 million in Medicaid funding for her state was “not the reason” for her “aye” vote. She had to say that, because if she didn’t, she’d be publicly admitting to taking a bribe. Fact is, I’m not sure how the arrangement doesn’t constitute bribery regardless of what she says.

That said, the vote never should have been this close in the first place. The arguments for this measure, flawed as it is, are compelling when it’s compared with the status quo and the nonexistent “alternatives” offered by the Republicans.

Monday, November 16, 2009 1:09 am

Yet another reason why the Stupak amendment and its backers must be slapped around

I blogged a little while ago about the inanity of the Stupak Amendment, a mind-numblingly stupid and unconstitutional rule pushed hard by, among others, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But other than Catholic reflexive opposition to abortion, I completely overlooked another significant motive for the bishops’ behavior, one that definitely bears discussion:

The scale of the church’s involvement in the rapidly growing $2.5 trillion dollar American health care industry is staggering.

What the Stupak-Pitts amendment does for the Catholic health care system is omit a competitive advantage secular and other religiously-affiliated hospitals without doctrinal restrictions can use to simultaneously market their services to both the expected influx of newly insured patients and the outpatient medical professionals who will treat them.

By restricting insurance coverage of women’s reproductive health care, the competitive barriers faced by Catholic institutions will be eliminated …

First rule of investigative journalism, kids: follow the money.

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