News Roundup for 7/31/09

Angry mob from 'Simpsons' movie
Typical town hall meeting

-Headline of the day-
"Town halls gone wild."

Democratic congress members going back to their districts are finding that their listening sessions and town hall meetings are being dominated by angry wingnuts. According to the report, "On the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control."

That congressman is New York Democrat Rep. Tim Bishop. "I had felt they would be pointless," Bishop told Politico. "There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation." Bishop's decision to end the town halls "came on the heels of a June 22 event he held in Setauket," when the wingnuts got so nasty that "police were called in to escort the 59-year-old Democrat -- who has held more than 100 town hall meetings since he was elected in 2002 -- to his car safely."

While dems seem to be bearing the brunt of the nutbag assault on reasoned discussion, Republicans are feeling a little battered as well. Birthers and teabaggers are dominating their meetings too. And it's probably hurting the Republicans more than the Democrats.

"It's a risk that [Republicans] align themselves with such a small minority in the party," said Brian Smoot, who served as political director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the past election cycle. "They risk alienating moderates."

Risk it? Dude, that ship has sailed. New polling shows that 28% of Republicans think Obama's an illegal alien and another 30% think that 28% might have a valid point. When almost 60% of your party's voters are demonstrably squirrelly, I think attracting middle-of-the-road types isn't really all that realistic.

But hey, if you guys want to turn every event you show up at into a circus freak show, you go right ahead. That big smoking hole in your clown shoe's from your own gun. Just try not to actually kill anyone, OK? (Politico)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, got a big problem you need to solve? Well, if you're a kid, you're pretty much screwed, but if you're an adult then there's "Beerplomacy!"

Click for animation

Seriously though... I love you man... Hey, is your sister seeing anyone?... *hic*... cuz she's hot...

You gonna eat those nachos?... (MarkFiore.com)

-The fake people demographic-
Last month, freshman Rep. Tom Perriello -- a Democrat in a red-leaning district -- was faced with a tough decision; would he vote for the climate bill then moving through congress? According to the report, "As he was weighing the issue, he got a letter from a non-profit group in his district that focuses on issues of importance to Hispanics. The letter urged Perriello to oppose the bill because it could raise low-income members' utility bills. 'Many of our members are on tight budgets and the sizes of their monthly utility bills are important expense items,' it read in part."

Turns out, the letter didn't come from the non-profit it said it did, it came from the DC lobbying firm Bonner and Associates. "They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization," said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville's Hispanic community. "It's this type of activity that undermines Americans' faith in democracy."

Since discovering this forgery, Perriello has turned up five more fake letters. These were supposedly from the local NAACP.

In 1994, the Washington Post reported that "if you’ve got the money and need some 'regular people' to flog your issue, Bonner will find them for you."

Or just pull them out of their ass, I guess.

Bonner says it fired the employee responsible, but the firm has a long history of dirty tricks. They also won't say who hired them to lobby Perriello. "Something tells us Periello wasn't the only wavering Democrat who got that fake letter," writes Zachary Roth. "And there's more to this story that's going to get shaken loose sooner or later..." On the bright side, the trick didn't work. Rep. Tom voted for the bill.

If you're wondering why this isn't totally illegal, welcome to the club. Seriously, WTF? If the NAACP and Creciendo Juntos doesn't at least sue the pants off Bonner and Associates, then they're just not thinking straight. I mean, Bonner's just plain stealing whatever influence they have with Perriello and ripping off their membership's dues.

Really? That's not illegal? (Talking Points Memo)

Obama Wants to Kill Your Grandma

In an interview with TIME's Karen Tumulty published Wednesday, President Obama expressed a certain amount of bewilderment on the issue of health care reform. The case for reform is so damned obvious, so why is it such a tough sell?

Barack ObamaAnd I will say that this has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life, trying to describe in clear, simple terms how important it is that we reform this system. The case is so clear to me. And when I sit with our policy advisors — we had somebody here sitting right there this morning who is a medical expert, worked at McKinsey for a while, he's now working on our health care team — and he just ran through: We pay 77 percent more on prescription drugs, we're paying $6,000 more per individual on health care than any other industrialized nation; here's all the failures in the delivery system that account for it. It's not just because we are somehow more obese or more unhealthy. It turns out actually we're a little bit healthier than most of these other countries because our smoking rates are lower and we're younger. So we should actually be paying less than they are.

And when you just start hearing the litany of facts, what you say to yourself is this shouldn't be such a hard case to make, because the American consumer is really not getting a good deal.

People are getting screwed -- in many cases, literally to death -- by the current system, people know they're getting screwed, yet this isn't the slam dunk it should be. As I pointed out yesterday, the people are with Obama on the broad strokes -- the elements of his plan are easily the most popular. Even considering early mistakes in managing the reform project, Obama should be leading the debate.

I've often said that democracy works because most people are smart. Given a choice between two options, people will almost always make the right choice. But this is only true if everyone's information is correct. If enough people misunderstand an issue, they'll make the wrong choice because they're operating on bad information. If the map you hand out is wrong, the only people who'll show up for your barbecue are the ones who already know where you live.

And no one is better at screwing up the maps than the Republican party. Invading Iraq, for example, was popular because they managed to convince everyone (with the help of an amazingly compliant media) that Saddam Hussein had a death ray and was itching to use it. We were misled into war.

Think back to the presidential campaign. For McCain/Palin, the issues weren't the economy or the war, the issues were whether Barack Obama was a terrorist, a black radical, or both. And they managed to convince a lot of dopes to vote based on these made-up issues -- not enough to win, but still an alarming percentage. This anti-information campaign is still being waged by the birthers. Once mistaken, there seems to be a significant number of Americans who will refuse to be corrected.

And so, when the chips are down, we can count on Republicans to lie -- baldly and shamelessly. It's just what they do. Throughout this debate, Republicans have lied about it, with the biggest lie so far being that Barack Obama wants to control health care costs by killing off the elderly.

At issue is a provision in one of the health care reform bills that provides coverage for meeting with a doctor to discuss end of life care. Once every five years, you'd basically be allowed to either write or update a living will with the help of your doctor, who would be paid with health insurance money for their time.

This provision prompted N. Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx to warn that the bill would allow the government to kill people. Foxx claimed that the Republican plan -- which at this point doesn't actually exist -- will "bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."

The GOP's fantasy plan won't execute senior citizens. Good to know. It's not much of a sales pitch -- "This car isn't designed to kill you" -- but of course that's not the point. Like the McCain/Palin campaign, they're finding that they have no case to make for themselves, so the make the case against Obama. Who cares if it's true?

Proving that there's no lie so shameful and awful that a Republican would be embarrassed to repeat it, Foxx's lie is being repeated over and over. "This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia," house minority leader John Boehner agreed. Of course, right wing media has grabbed this and run with it. If this lie doesn't work, then they'll start saying that Barack Obama will personally come to your house and shoot you.

What should be an easy case to make is being undermined by ridiculous lies. If Barack Obama -- and the rest of us, for that matter -- wants to find solice here, it's in the absurdity of the lie. The more desperate the situation, the more desperate and wild are the lies. Republicans know this battle is hurting them just as much as it's hurting Obama -- polls confirm that. Where Obama has some room to fall, the GOP does not. At this point, their only hope is to make Obama's failure more spectacular than their own and they're willing to lie to you to see that things pan out that way.


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News Roundup for 7/30/09

Sarah Palin
Clear Channel says no

-Headline of the day-
"Syndicating Sarah Palin, Part 2: The Next Rush Limbaugh?"

Turns out the answer is probably not. "My own sources say much what they said when asked about a TV show for Palin: Don't think so," writes Paige Albiniak for Broadcasting & Cable. "While you might assume Palin would be a better fit for conservative radio than the less partisan world of syndicated broadcast TV, my sources say the country's biggest radio conglomerate, Clear Channel, has already passed on her."

The problem? No one thinks she can handle a three hour show. They're probably afraid she'll quit halfway through, so she can go finish the show in other ways. Tina Dupuy at FishbowlLA took a moment to explain the problem with Radio Sarah.

"Yeah, radio would have been a great fit for Palin," she writes. "You couldn't see her but you could hear her. She's a looker people, not a talker. We recommend silent films maybe or miming. Something where abnegating is an asset -- like a nicotine patch spokesperson."

In related news, FOX put out a poll on what Sarah should do now that she's not the Governor of Santa's Village. The winner? Homemaker at 32%, compared with president at 6%. That's not surprising, since the poll also shows that 51% have a negative opinion of her.

So, if you're holding your breath waiting for Sarah Palin's Wingnut Radio Rodeo, you should probably start breathing again. It doesn't look like that's going to happen.

Ditto for "President Moose-O-Lini." (Broadcasting & Cable)

-A little too honest-
New York Daily News wanted to find out whether Rudy Giuliani was running for Governor of New York in 2010. "The only way I could get elected governor is the way I got elected mayor -- things have to be so bad... I got elected mayor, I believe, on the theory of -- it can't get worse," Rudy said. "So if it gets to that point, maybe I'll decide."

So, what it'll take to get Giuliani in the governor's mansion is a widespread belief that things couldn't possibly get any worse if people elected him. Wow, it's really amazing that he wasn't the GOP nominee in 2008, isn't it? (Political Wire)

-Bonus HotD-
"Pete Session's blimp flies into a storm."

Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions doesn't like earmarks. If earmarks were a person, Sessions would commit a hate crime. He hates them that much. According to his website, earmarks are "a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people."

So it's a little hard to square his embrace of one of the screwiest earmarks out there. According to the report, "[I]n 2008, Sessions himself steered a $1.6 million earmark for dirigible research to an Illinois company whose president acknowledges having no experience in government contracting, let alone in building blimps." It's hard to see what sort of "research" we need to do into blimps -- I mean, they're pretty simple, aren't they? Maybe $1.6 mil handed to Jim G. Ferguson & Associates for "research" was to figure out how the hell you build a blimp. I don't know.

But the super-shocking part of all of this is the fact that Jim Ferguson and his associates gave money to Session's campaign!

I know. It's so surprising. "FEC records show that Ferguson contributed $5,000 to Sessions’s leadership PAC in October 2007," we're told. "Overall, Ferguson and his father have given $18,500 to GOP lawmakers over the past six years."

Did I mention that Sessions runs the house campaign arm of the Republican party? That makes the $18,500 for GOP candidates smell a little corruptiony. The whole thing gets progressively crazier and more complicated, involving a trigger-happy Sessions aide -- Adrian Plesha -- at one point. He got paid $446,000 for lobbying for Ferguson. Plesha also created a fake Democratic committee to attack a Democratic rep in a re-election campaign. Seriously, the guy's a douche. Imagine Karl Rove, except having served 18 months' probation and 120 hours of community service for a weapons charge and 3 years probation, 160 hours of community service, and having paid a $5,000 fine for lying to elections officials. A wonderful public servant -- unless you consider that Plesha's almost a parody of what people think is wrong with the Republican party.

The whole thing gives me a headache. This was a lot funnier when I started and it was just about freakin' blimps... (Politico)

Looking for the Health Care Silver Lining

Obama's down in the polls on health care. This is the big news coming out of the health care debate. MSNBC's headline on the subject -- "Poll: Obama loses ground on health care" -- is typical. The lede is even more gloom-and-doom.

Despite his public-relations blitz over the past two weeks to promote his plans to reform the nation's health-care system -- including holding two town halls on Wednesday -- President Barack Obama has lost ground on this issue with the American public, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Pluralities now say that the president’s health care plan is a bad idea, and that it will result in the quality of their care getting worse. What’s more, just four in 10 approve of his handling on the issue.

The poll also finds that Obama's overall job-approval rating has dropped to 53 percent. And it shows a public that has grown increasingly concerned about the federal government's spending as the administration defends its $787 billion economic stimulus and supports a $1 trillion-plus health-care bill.

Clearly, just six months into his first term, Barack Obama's is a failed presidency. We've got three and a half years of lame-duckitude to look forward to, as Caretaker-in-Chief Obama keeps the chair warm for the next president. And he had so much promise too...

Of course, if you keep reading, you find that things might not be quite that awful for the president. We're told that the "good news for Obama, however, is that he remains the most popular politician in country, and Democrats continue to lead Republicans in the handling of several key issues, although the GOP has gained ground from a year ago." Things are so bad that Obama is now the most popular politician in America. You can go ahead and feel sorry for him now.

For the record, I'm among those who disapprove of President Obama's handling of health care reform. Obviously, this doesn't mean I don't support the effort, just that I think he's now having to deal with earlier mistakes. Obama, hoping to avoid the stumbles of the Clinton administration, took a "if you love something, set it free" approach and left the specifics up to congress. Anyone who's been watching the current Democratic leadership in both chambers for the past few years should've been able to predict that this was a bad plan. Pelosi and Reid (especially Reid) could get lost in a blind alley -- with a map. It was a really bad idea.

Polling on health care reform itself is a little unreliable. You can't really ask about specifics, since deals are still being hammered out and nothing is set in stone. There isn't actually a bill to talk about, so asking about specific aspects of "the plan" means asking about specifics of a hypothetical plan.

Still, the idea of reform in general seems extremely popular. Despite the fearmongering of the right on the issue, a new TIME poll finds that "enthusiasm for the prospect of reform remains high." 69% thinks it's either "very" or "somewhat" important that major health care reform be passed this year. Only 28% believe it's not important. "In a separate question," TIME reports, "more Americans said it would be better to pass 'major reform' to health care (55%) rather than 'minor adjustments' (43%)."

Support for a public option is 56%. 63% want universal coverage. 57% support raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for the plan. 80% support "a bill that required insurance companies to offer coverage to anyone who applies, even those with pre-existing medical conditions." And all of those figures come despite the fact that most Americans think that reform wouldn't help them personally; 62% think it'll be more expensive, 65% believe it'll be more complicated, and 56% believe it'll limit your choice of doctors. So health care reform opponents are having some success in their messaging -- no one's proposing any of that -- but that success doesn't matter. The current system is so royally effed up that the success of the fearmongering is irrelevant. People want change.

And, like the MSNBC/WSJ poll, we find that the big losers are still in the opposition to Obama.

Obama also retains significantly more credibility with the public than with his Republican foes when it comes to tackling the problem. Asked who they trust to develop new health-care legislation, 47% of respondents said Obama, compared with 32% who said Republicans in Congress. At the same time, Obama received less approval for his handling of health care than for his handling of foreign affairs and the economy. Americans were split evenly, 46% to 46%, when asked if they approved or disapproved of Obama's handling of health care. By contrast, 58% of the same respondents said they approved his foreign affairs management, while 51% approved of his job on the economy.

None of which is to say that the decline in Obama's poll numbers isn't significant. It's just that they've gone from "Oh my God, we just elected the first black president! Yay!" to "You know, I think this guy's a pretty good president." And it's clear that the people are with him on health care reform, even if they're not all that happy with the way he's handling it.

If Obama wants to get health care reform back on track, he's got to step in and take control here. He needs to lump the Blue Dogs in with the Republicans, by making them both opponents of real reform. And, make no mistake, they are. If the Blue Dogs and the Republicans have their way, we'll have health insurance reform, not health care reform. Very little will change and even less of that change will be for the better.

I think it's pretty clear that we'll come out of this with something and, no matter what we wind up with, the Obama White House will declare victory. But there's still a way to get real reform and there's no good reason why we shouldn't pursue it.


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News Roundup for 7/29/09

Bill-O talks straight on healthcare
FOX's top actuary

-Headline of the day-
"O'Reilly's Fuzzy Canadian Health Care Math."

Some smart-alecky Canadian wrote FOX"s Bil O'Reilly an email asking, "Has anyone noted that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?" This didn't go over very well with Blowhard Bill. Here's some commie arguing that America doesn't have the best health care in the world and that it's better to live longer under a socialist nightmare that's just like Hitler's Germany!

Bill schooled him and no two ways about it. "That's what we expected to hear," he answered. "Because we have ten times as many people as you do. That translates to ten times as many accidents, crimes... down the line."

See, it just goes to figure that if you have ten times as many people, each one of those people will die -- on average -- ten times. That's gonna knock your life expectancy down a bit. It's just simple math.

If you disagree, you're a pinhead. (video clip at TPMTV)

-More fun with FOX News-
Here's a fun game, what's wrong with this picture?

Map with Iraq marked 'Egypt'

Maybe my globe's screwed up, but I don't think Iraq is spelled E-G-Y-P-T. But what do I know? I'm not a middle east expert like the wizbang geniuses at FOX News. Who can read that crazy backwards Arab writing anyway? For all we know, "Iraq" translates to "Kentucky."

You know, I'm starting to think you do have to prove you're an idiot to work at FOX News. (Media Matters, via Right Wing Watch)

-How can we miss you when you won't go away?-
Insiders say that one of the many careers Sarah Palin is looking into is one in broadcast. According to the report, "sources say Palin representatives have been quietly testing the waters to see how much interest radio syndicators have for her." With a soothing, melodious voice that reminds you of a beltsander on a chalkboard and the language skills of Tarzan, it's hard to imagine that people aren't eager to sign her right up.

Think about it, she's got all the intellectual depth of a Bill O'Reilly, the firm grasp of reality of a Glenn Beck, and the relentless dedication to truth of both a Rush Limbaugh and a Sean Hannity. She's a natural. It's better than another option she's considering; authoring a book of baby names.

Maybe she can get William Shatner to translate the whole show into English for us. (Inside Radio, via Atlantic)

A Dose of Their Own Wingnut Medicine

Birther billboardYeah, yeah, yeah.Two birther posts in two days. It may seem a little like overkill, but I've got to admit I find this all fascinating. What's especially entertaining about it is watching the conservative establishment realize what kind of nuts they have in their base. The bullheaded, willful ignorance of your average wingnut has always been something the right has counted on. From family planning to gays to economics to evolution to global warming, the right has relied on the base to be positively unbudgeable. They won't give an inch, no matter how absurd and ridiculous their position is proven to be. They're like a rock, both in their unchanging nature and their intellect. The Republican party has relied on persistently gullible fools for years and now it's finally caught up with them.

We can see this in establishment conservatives begging the nuts to knock it off. This whole Obama birth certificate thing is killing them.

Hey guys, welcome to my world. You've let these nuts run loose, making asses of themselves on just about every issue there is, while applauding them for their ignorance. Yeah, they sure do stick to their guns, don't they? As long as they were out there repeating your lies, you were cool with it. But now that they've come up with lies of their own... well, that's a different story, isn't it? And you're finally learning just how relentlessly annoying these intellectual lightweights of yours can be.

First to give a shot at straightening out the nuts is the editorial board of the Reaganaut flagship, National Review:

Pres. Barack Obama has a birthday coming up, a week from Tuesday. We hope he takes the day off -- or even the whole week, the briefest of respites from his busy schedule of truncating our liberties while exhausting both the public coffers and our patience. The president’s birthday comes to mind because we recently spent some time looking at a photograph of his birth certificate, being held by Joe Miller of Factcheck.org, who took the time to examine it. President Obama was born on August 4, 1961, at 7:24 p.m, in Honolulu County, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. The serial number on his birth certificate is 010641. Baby Barack’s birth was not heralded, as some of his partisans have suggested, by a star in the east, but it was heralded by the Honolulu Star, as well as the Honolulu Advertiser, each of which published birth announcements for young Mr. Obama.

Wow. So you just lay out the facts, huh? Good luck with that. It's not like no one's ever tried that with evolution or global warming or homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice." Trust me, the facts don't matter and this isn't going to work. We've collected one hundred years worth of evidence for evolution, yet there's a big museum outside Cincinnati with displays of dinosaurs with saddles on them. We're watching sea ice recede and you've got people convinced the earth is actually cooling. It's a little late for the right to start expecting their base to give a damn about the facts. And it's a little surprising that you think the facts will make any difference at all. We already tried that, geniuses.

Next up is Bill Pascoe for CQ Politics:

As one of the GOP operatives whose job it was to defeat Barack Obama in a campaign for federal office (there have only been three GOP campaigns run against him, and I've been involved with two of them), I can attest to the fact that nowhere in our opposition research did we find any reason to believe that the man was not a natural born citizen of the United States.

He points out that one of the lead birthers, Alan Keyes, once ran against Obama in an Illinois Senate race and never brought all this birth certificate crap up. And, unlike NR's editorial board, Pascoe's not above begging. "Seriously," he says. "Is this anything but a gift to the Democrats?"

"Reasonable and responsible conservatives... are stuck," Pascoe writes. "We are being lumped in with irresponsible and unreasonable conspiracy theorists."

Now why would people do that? It's so unfair. Just because you guys have jumped on every anti-fact bandwagon since Goldwater lost -- from denying tobacco was bad for you to denying that there was a problem with having a hole in the ozone layer -- people are lumping you in with the kooks who refuse to concede the facts on this issue. How terribly, terribly unjust.

After training these people to charge ahead, facts be damned, for decade after decade, the right is finally forced to deal with the monster they've created -- a stupid, lumbering, stubborn idiot of a problem that's finally come back to bite them in the ass. Throw all the facts you want at them, throw any argument you like. Nothing will work, because decades of intellectual inbreeding have made them immune to logic and reason. I wish the right luck, because if they figure out how to deal with them, we'll see how it's done.

But I'm not holding my breath. So far, they're trying everything we've tried for years -- facts, logic, the written record of history, the weight of the evidence, etc. That's not going to work.

So there you go Dr. Frankenstein. It's your turn to fight with your monster. Don't expect me to feel sorry for you.


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News Roundup for 7/28/09

Glenn Beck
Disagrees with Glenn Beck

-Headline of the day-
"After saying Obama has 'hatred for white people,' Beck claims, 'I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people.'"

The voices in Glenn's head are having on-air arguments now. I'm not saying that Glenn Beck's crazier than a square mile of snakes, I'm just saying that he's crazier than 27,878,400 square feet of snakes. (Think Progress, with video)

-Speaking of people who hate white people-
Sonia Sotomayor's nomination moves out of committee on a 13-6 vote. Widely expected to take control of the Supreme Court and use judicial activism to make it illegal to be white, Sotomayor now moves on to a vote by the full senate, after which she's almost certain to be seated.

"Based on her record as a judge and her statements, I am not able to support her nomination," says totally not racist Sen. Jeff Sessions. "In speech after speech, year after year, Judge Sotomayor set forth a fully formed judicial philosophy that conflicts with American philosophy of blind justice to the law." Personally, I don't think that justice is supposed to be blind to the law, so whatever Jeff is trying to say here, I don't think it's what he said.

Twitter poet Chuck Grassley had other reasons for voting against her. "This radical empathy standard stands in stark opposition to what most of us understand to be the proper role of the judiciary," he said.

"Radical empathy?" I'm becoming more and more convinced that Chuck sets his alarm early enough so that there's no danger of him ever waking up sober. Then it's rye for breakfast.

So there you go. Republicans have failed to save America from the Wise Latina Menace. Brush up on your crazy Mexican-people-language, Gringo. You're going to need it. (Politico)

-Yeah, that's it-
"We got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns. It's the southerners. They get on TV and go errrr, errrrr."
-Ohio GOP Sen. George Voinovich on why Republicans aren't doing well with voters.

That's right, people are turned off by Republicans because they've got a southern accent, not because of the crazy-assed things they say in those southern accents. What the Republican party should do is dump all their resources into hiring speech therapists to do an Eliza Doolittle job on southern GOPers.

Really, it's their only hope. (Political Wire)

When Chumps Attack!

You get the feeling that it's not the original headline. WorldNetDaily's "Shocker! Most Americans know of Obama eligibility questions" really doesn't seem like much of a shocker. The non-flabbergasting revelation comes from a poll the wingnut site ran last month. They found that, despite a "near media blackout on coverage," people know about the birthers. The earth failed to shatter.

Not content to spend money on a poll that didn't generate a lot of news, WND spun other results into something more newsworthy -- if false:

It may be the issue few in the media dare address, but a new scientific public opinion survey of a cross-section of Americans shows they are not only aware of questions about Barack Obama's constitutional eligibility for office, but almost half are either "troubled" by the questions or believe he should release all relevant documents including his long-form birth certificate.


"Our polling shows that the questions surrounding Barack Obama's eligibility to serve as president clearly strike a nerve across America, probably because it is a problem that everybody understands," said pollster Fritz Wenzel. "Every American citizen has a birth certificate, and once in a while we all have to produce them to get a drivers license or gain entrance to school. Everyone understands the simple rules – if you don't produce it, you don't get in. And while Obama did get in to the White House, nearly half the country's adults –- 49 percent –- are troubled by this issue and still want him to produce his official long-form birth certificate."

Except they aren't. Not if you read WND's own polling data correctly. At his War Room blog at Salon, Alex Koppelman dug through the data and found that a whopping 8% -- to be exact, 7.8% -- actually said they were "troubled" by the issue. WND gets their 49% figure by including those who say that Obama should release all the documents the birthers want. So they get their number by including 41% who never said they were "troubled" -- who knows, maybe they want the documents released (not knowing those documents don't actually exist -- not for Obama nor anyone else) because they want the birthers to finally shut up.

And this demonstrates the problem with the birther phenomenom -- they don't really feel all that bound by fact. There's a certain percentage of the population who seems to think they get to choose what's truth, that reality will bend to their will if they just wish hard enough. Any trivial little detail is enough to throw every accepted truth out the window. If you want to experience this yourself, try to educate a creationist. It cannot be done. They protect their ignorance with everything they have. So, if only 8% share their views, they'll choose to believe that 49% are with them. And they'll find some way to make that true. They lie to themselves and they believe it.

Of course, it's a free country and with that comes the freedom to be just as ignorant as you want to be. If believing that Barack Obama's an illegal alien is what blows your dress up, then knock yourself out. If believing half of America is as crazy as you are makes you happy then, by all means, make yourself crazy. But don't be extremely surprised when reality intrudes into your carefully constructed delusion and slaps you upside your fool head.

Which is what's happening right now. Republicans have learned that, since gullible cranks tend to believe what they want to believe, it's good politics to pretend to be on their side. You saw it with the religious right for decades; Republicans make noise about their issues at election time, then get right to work on tax cuts, gutting environmental regulations. and giving corporate handouts once they get elected. As a result, after years of electing supposedly "pro-life" politicians, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. The nuts never seem to realize that all these ultra-pious and righteous politicians they keep voting for rarely get around to being ultra-pious or righteous once they're in office.

And the same is now true of the birthers. A Politico piece out yesterday showed that many Republicans aren't willing to say they're with them and not willing to say they're against them. If the GOP is playing the birthers, they're also afraid of them. 8% may not seem like much until you start thinking about the math. That 8% is almost entirely Republican and Republicans only make up about a fifth of the population. So, by quick and dirty calculation, birthers may make up as much as 30% of the GOP.


From the Politico article:

...GOP Rep. Mike Castle learned the hard way back home in Delaware this month, there’s no easy way to deal with the small but vocal crowd of right-wing activists who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

At a town hall meeting in Georgetown, a woman demanded to know why Castle and his colleagues were “ignoring” questions about Obama’s birth certificate -- questions that have been put to rest repeatedly by state officials in Hawaii, where the birth certificate and all other credible evidence show that Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961.

When Castle countered that Obama is, in fact, “a citizen of the United States,” the crowd erupted in boos, the woman seized control of the gathering and led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The video went viral; by Sunday, it had been viewed on YouTube more than half a million times.

And birthers say members should expect more of the same in the coming weeks.

Like the religious right, birthers are totally cool with ineffectiveness. But come right out and say you aren't going to deal with their wingnut fantasy and things go south in a big hurry.

Which makes this news good fun for Democrats:

[Talking Points Memo:]

The House resolution to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood -- which included language recognizing the state as President Obama's birthplace, in a none-too-subtle jab at the Birthers -- passed this evening by a 378-0 vote.

Among the Yes votes: Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), the lead sponsor of the infamous "Birther Bill" to require presidential candidates to present their birth certificates, and who had previously said he wouldn't "swear on a stack of Bibles" that Obama is a natural-born American citizen. Several other co-sponsors of the Birther Bill also voted yes: Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Dan Burton (R-IN), John Culberson (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), and Ted Poe (R-TX).

Now all these people will go back to their districts for the summer recess. Not a single Republican house member was willing to go on the historical record as being against stating plainly that Obama is Hawaiian. They'll attend fundraisers and hold town halls and they'll have to answer to angry kooks who'll want to know why they voted to say that Obama was born in Hawaii. In short, more videos like Mike Castle's embarrassment are on the way. Some of them may even face primary challenges from birther candidates. Others will try to play both sides of the field, slip up, say something insufficiently noncommittal, and wind up in a Democratic opponent's campaign ad.

Some people are putting a lot of time and effort into debunking the birthers. Maybe they should and maybe they shouldn't bother. The birthers themselves are never going to be converted to realism and they aren't converting anyone to fantasy. Meanwhile, the GOP strategy of playing cranks for chumps is finally backfiring.

It's hard for me to argue that this is a bad thing.


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News Roundup for 7/27/09

Limbaugh looking like a pompous ass
Siding with the terr'ists now

-Headline of the day-

Yay! Now that it's a little too late, the spokesperson for the drug-addled talk radio idiot demographic comes out against torture. It's bad, bad, bad and it leads to tyranny and dictatorship and probably the metric system.

"[T]here are people in this country, who are Americans, and have the same view of totalitarianism that all the worst regimes in the world have had. They just are a minority -- or have been a minority," Limbaugh told his audience. "And they have to be stealth to get anywhere, because who's gonna vote for torture? Who's gonna vote for tyranny? Who's gonna vote for dictatorship? But we did. We did, and you see it slowly encroaching. And if they could move faster on this, they would."

Yeah, he's not talking about Bush, he's talking about Obama who, we must remember, is just like Hitler.

"Keep in mind, when Limbaugh says we 'did' vote for torture and dictatorship, he's referring to Obama's election, not Bush's. 'Who's going vote for torture?' Well, as I recall, Limbaugh did, twice," writes Steve Benen. "It's almost comical. Bush created a torture policy; Obama ended the torture policy. So, naturally, Limbaugh tells his audience that Obama supporters 'voted for torture.'"

Confused yet? That just means you don't have the Zen mindset it takes to be a proper wingnut. What was true yesterday isn't true today and vice-versa. You need to be able to reinvent everything you believe with all your batshit-crazy little heart every couple of seconds or so. Truth is what the talk radio blowhard says it is and this material plane is just a realm of illusion. Wingnut enlightenment means being able to believe anything at all -- including that you've always believed in something you didn't.

I'm not exactly clear on how you pull that off. Ask Rush. I'm guessing that all the Oxycodone helps. (Political Animal, with clip)

-Citizen Sarah-
Yesterday was Sarah Palin's last day in office and, in her farewell speech, she departed with a quiet dignity and grace befitting...

Pffft! Nah, just kidding. She went on a wingnut bender of a speech, attacking Hollywood and the media. I almost got through that first sentence with a straight face, too. A couple of gems:

-Some straight talk for some -- just some -- in the media... You represent what could and should be a respected, honest profession that could and should be a cornerstone of our democracy. Democracy depends on you. That is why our troops are willing to die for you. So how about in honor of the American soldier, ya' quit makin’ things up?

-Alaskans need to really stick together... Stiffen your spine to do what's right for Alaska when the pressure mounts because you’re going to see anti-hunting, anti-second amendment circuses from Hollywood… They use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets, they use Alaska as a fundraising tool for their anti-second amendment causes. Stand strong and remind them (that) patriots will protect our individual guaranteed right to bear arms. And by the way, Hollywood needs to know: We eat, therefore we hunt.

So CNN has to stop killing soldiers by lying to us about... hell, I don't know. It'd help if she said. And we need to remember that Hollywood starlets want Alaskans to starve, because there aren't any grocery stores up there.

I don't know. This seems to make sense to someone. But the most important part to remember is that if you don't understand why Sarah Palin is quitting, then you just don't understand why Sarah Palin is quitting.

"Some still are choosing not to hear why I made the decision to chart a new course to advance the state. And it should be so obvious to you," she said. "It is because I love Alaska this much... that I feel that it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one's last year in office... With this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you for what is right and for truth, and I have never felt you need a title to do that."

OK. So you had to quit because there's some law that prevents the governor of Alaska from fighting for Alaska, provided it's the last year of said governor's term. Seems to me that's a screwy setup, but what do I know?

Sarah Palin, giving new meaning to the phrase, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." (Anchorage Daily News)

-Crazy stuff wingnuts believe-
Q: Is the ACLU suing to have cross-shaped headstones removed from military cemeteries?

A: No. And they aren't suing to "end prayer from the military," either. Then again, if you're not an idiot, you already know that -- mostly because the whole idea's freakin' insane. (Annenberg Fact Check)

Climate Creationism

I've come to believe that many Republicans see the old Fritz Lang movie Metropolis not as a cautionary tale, but as a model for a perfect society. In that movie, most of humanity works constantly underground, while the privileged few enjoy the fruits of their labor. Set in the future, Metropolis depicts a world were the vast majority of the world's population exists solely to support that elite above ground. Those people live lives of luxury and excess, for the most part unaware that all these workers even exist. The mass of humanity is only a support system for these privileged, a world of de facto slaves whose existence is justified only by their ability to serve those few.

We see this in the economic policies they advocate. During the Bush administration, the top 1% of wage earners showed big gains, while the rest of us didn't do so well.

[San Francisco Chronicle:]

The rich-poor gap also widened with the nation's top one percent now collecting 23 percent of total income, the biggest disparity since 1928, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One side statistic supplied by the IRS: there are now 47,000 Americans worth $20 million or more, an all-time high.

From top to bottom, these are punishing numbers: a nation of great wealth with yawning economic disparities. At the least, Congress should try again to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which was extended only through March of 2009, after President Bush vetoed enlarging it.

Those numbers are from the Census Bureau from 2008. The next set of numbers will be released in August. The stupidity of these economic policies --and the resulting market crash -- might have leveled the playing field a little, but probably not enough to make much of a dent. We decided a long time ago that we'd make it almost completely impossible for the wealthy to go broke. While the poor must be punished for their economic mistakes and take responsibility for their place in the world, the rich are protected from their foolishness, because their place in the world is a matter of entitlement. We have socialism in reverse, where all the losses are public and the profits are private.

But this can't be the only explanation for the economic policies the right endorses. Sure, the wealthy can buy their way out of a lot of things, but dying isn't one of them. The "money above all" thinking seems to include obviously self-destructive environmental and military policies. These people have children who -- you've got to imagine -- they hope will enjoy the same privileged position in our society that they do. After all, they leave them staggering amounts of money when they die. If only the privileged can afford health care, what do they care? But if no one can afford to live, then what would be the point?

New images declassified by the Obama White House shows that the previous administration had proof that their policies were destructive -- and covered that knowledge up.

Graphic images that reveal the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic have been released by the US military. The photographs, taken by spy satellites over the past decade, confirm that in recent years vast areas in high latitudes have lost their ice cover in summer months.

The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanise Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released - includes views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. One, taken in July 2006, shows sea ice still nestling close to the shore. A second image shows that by the following July the coastal waters were entirely ice-free.

Here's the Barrow summer ice sheet in '06:

Summer ice sheet in '06

And here's the same summer ice sheet in '07:

Summer ice gone in '07

There isn't a Barrow summer ice sheet just a year later.

While saying that the science on global warming was kind of shaky, the Bush administration sat on thousands of images like these. These were classified by the administration, but there are clearly no state secrets, no security concerns, here. The only thing these show is that the Republican party and the Bush administration were wrong. And the fact that they classified them shows they knew it -- it's the only "secret" these could possibly protect. Never mind that they merely verify what everyone already knows.

Now don't get me wrong; there's obviously one helluva lot of money to be made in the destroying the world business. But, in the end, who collects? As I've said, these people have legacies and they obviously want their children to be as privileged as they are. But extinction benefits no one. There's no pay off. Destroying the world climate may make you a few bucks in the short term, but it's a really lousy long term business plan.

Here we come to a second aspect of conservative thought -- religious nuttery. History shows us that craziness is no impediment to power. This is especially true in the case of inherited wealth. You can be goofy as you want to be and your wealth and privilege protects you from the consequences.

If you take the position that the Bible is literally true, then you wind up with a very skewed view of reality. This is the mindset that gives us creationism and this is part of the mindset that denies global warming -- at least, the catastrophic consequences of it, anyway. Because when we take the Bible literally, we don't just get a distorted view of the past, but also of the future. Where prophecy is concerned, God ends the world, not man. If you take this as fact, it becomes logically certain that humanity can't destroy the world. Absolutely nothing we do can kill off humanity, because the Book of Revelations already tells us how the world ends and the terms "climate change" or "global warming" aren't in there. It's angels and trumpets and sealed vessels and stuff.

Like creationism, the "fact" that global warming can't possibly kill us all becomes an article of faith. No evidence can change that, no matter how convincing. So the evidence that global warming is currently and drastically underway must be kept secret -- it'll only confuse us.

The "only God can destroy the world" argument has been made. In March, Republican Rep. John Shimkus cited the flood narrative as evidence that global warming is no threat; "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

...the earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood... I appreciate having panelists here who are men of faith, and we can get into the theological discourse of that position, but I do believe God's word is infallible, unchanging, perfect...

Melting ice caps? Pffft! Can't do a thing. God promised that everything would cycle on perfectly until the end of time -- which, by the way, God ends, not man. It's just logic, people.

So what are the odds that we're going to change some biblical literalist's mind on this? Not good. While the evangelical movement is becoming more green, most of the people in power are not. It would be incorrect to say that these people have made up their minds on this issue. It's more accurate to say that their minds have been made up for them -- by people who not only never had to worry about a changing climate, but probably never stopped to wonder what climate even was, any more than they gave light or gravity a lot of thought.

We've got to stop listening to these nuts. I don't care how powerful they are or how successful -- they're squirrellier than a walnut grove. Some wizard pretended to tell the future centuries ago and that's good enough for them. That's who you want deciding the future of the planet, someone who thinks the future is already carved in stone? Someone who believes that a talking snake and a magic apple are historical fact, not metaphor?

Doesn't really describe someone with a good handle on the nature of reality, does it?


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News Roundup for 7/24/09

Old junker with boxes duct-taped to roof
Palin family moves out of the AK Governor's Mansion

-Headline of the day-
"Palin Favorability Rating Dips As She Nears Exit, Poll Finds."

Sunday is Governor Sarah's last day as Governor Sarah. After that, she'll be just Sarah, private citizen and average right wing nutjob. It seems like only yesterday that she was winking at the camera and smiling and sparkling and calling Barack Obama a terr'ist and making a complete ass of herself in interviews with Katie Couric. How time marches on.

We'll always remember Sarah as she was, which is unfortunate for her. Because "as she was" is as an amazingly unprepared lightweight with more opinion than knowledge, a kneejerk reactionary who might as well have been Rush Limbaugh in a spectacular gazillion-dollar designer outfit. As a result, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that only 40% of Americans view her favorably. And we're pretty sure she's a dumby, too.

The report tells us that "57 percent of Americans say she does not understand complex issues" and that even Republicans are trending in this direction, as "nearly four in 10... now say she does not understand complex issues."

"I don't think that she is cut out to be on the national stage," said a McCain-Palin voter who's had more time to think about things. "I look at her education and her background and the way she carries herself and her [resignation] speech, and when you have someone who's out there saying 'You betcha' about 50 times, I don't think that's the person we want to have negotiating with other countries."

The poll also shows her as Republicans' third choice for 2012, behind Mike Huckabee and Mittens Romney. She's still beating Newt Gingrich, but no one other than Newt thinks he has a shot in hell anyway.

Enjoy your obscurity, Sarah. I know I will. (Washington Post)

-If you like pina coladas...-
...then the Republican party is for you! If you like to govern, then not so much.

According to the report, "Yesterday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) took the unusual step of requesting the House clerk to read aloud a 55-page motion to recommit, a process that took over 40 minutes." Having effectively shut down the House of Representatives for the better part of an hour, Republicans left to meet some big-dollar donors at a party held by the chamber's orangest member, minority leader John Boehner. No word on how much money "Boehner's Beach Party" raised, but I'm sure it was worth shutting down the US government for.

For his part, the world's tallest Oompa-Loompa says it wasn't about tipping back cocktails with the deep pockets, it was a protest against Democrats for something or other -- say, socialism... yeah, that's it, socialism -- and that it just happened to fall during the 6:00 start time listed on the invites to the party. See, otherwise, it'd show just how seriously the GOP took their jobs -- which wouldn't be very.

Monday, Republicans plan to shut down the house so they can all go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in protest of... Oh, let's say feminism... (Think Progress)

-No, not that John Adams-
This John Adams -- Ohio Republican John Adams -- is a dickweed. Adams is introducing a bill into the Ohio legislature that would make it a crime to get an abortion without the biological-father's consent. There's nothing to worry about here, since this exact sort of legislation has already been ruled unconstitutional. Even if it passes and is signed by the governor, it'll never be enforceable. It's just your typical doomed "red meat for the nutbars" bill, introduced to raise money for re-election. It's designed to go nowhere -- that's the whole point.

Still, you've got to wonder what he's thinking of, since the bill requires consent in every case. In fact, according to the report, "Adams told the [Daily Reporter newspaper] that, in cases when the mother does not know the identity of the father, the abortion would be prohibited." So, if you've been raped and the guy hasn't been caught yet, you're shit outta luck. Worse, if he has been caught, the rapist gets veto power over your abortion. Ditto for a child-molester.

What a worthless SOB this guy is, huh? As long as we're introducing legislation that's blatantly unconstitutional, I suggest someone introduce a bill allowing any woman to smack John Adams, Republican of Sidney, in the head with any heavy, blunt object within arm's reach on any day ending with a Y.

His consent would not be required. (Crooks and Liars)


News Roundup for 7/23/09

Obama laughing
Domestic enemy, shown laughing at American Christians

-Headline of the day-
"Domestic 'enemies' worry GOP hopeful."

No surprise there; if you don't crap your pants over terr'ists at least twice a day, you aren't a good Republican. But it isn't terr'ists who have Arkansas US Senate candidate Conrad Reynolds, it's them damn socialists -- like that Obama fella.

"When I joined the military I took an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic," Reynolds said. "I never thought it would be domestic, but in today's world I do believe we have enemies here. It's time for people to stand up. It's time for us to speak out."

"We need to change if we want to stop the way America is going toward socialism," he told a group of Young Republicans. "We need someone to stand up to Barack Obama and his policies. We must protect our culture, our Christian identity."

Yeah... Turns out that "Christian Identity" isn't really the best choice of words. That's the name of one of them there domestic terr'ist groups. At the same time, Reynolds seems to suggest that he doesn't think Obama's a Christian. Using the name of a violent racist movement at the same time that you're suggesting that the first black president isn't really a Christian might be described by the picky as "boneheaded."

Here's the fun part, though. According to the report, "After his speech, Reynolds said before an interview that he would be careful with his answers."

Man, that ship has sailed... (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, are Mommy and Daddy keeping you up all night with their worrying and fighting? Don't worry, it's not about you, it's about your health insurance...

Dr. Decline: Hold Tight
Click for animation

Remember, your parents love you very much... The insurance industry, not so much. (MarkFiore.com)

-The poet speaks-
Sen. Chuck Grassley has taken a break from writing stream-of-consciousness Twitter poems. Surprisingly, when he's not trying to cram a freakin' essay into 140 characters, he seems to actually speak English fairly well. Even more surprisingly, he shows evidence of higher reasoning.

In a conference call with Iowa reporters, Grassley said that the Republican political strategy of obstructing health care reform was dumb and he proved it. According to the report, "He referred to a poll showing voters would assign blame 30 percent to the health industry, 22 to Republicans, 11 percent to Democrats and only 4 percent to Obama."

Yeah, that's what you call "math" and it doesn't really look good for the GOP. If they sink reform, Obama will walk away smelling like a rose, while Republicans will smell like the rotten vegetables that will be thrown at them.

"So it seems to me that we have a responsibility to the Republican Party not to be seen as destroying or at least not talking about things that people believe are wrong with the present health-care system," Chuck said.

Of course, the rest of the party is out there on the Island of Wishful Thinking, while the Twitter-poet resides in reality.

Ironic. (Think Progress)

Just Circuses, No Bread

Circus elephantThere's an old political cliche about "bread and circuses." When things were rough for Rome, the emperor would throw a big party with bread and circuses, to pump up what we'd now call his "approval ratings" and distract everyone from just how much everything sucked. It's become a shorthand for political distraction to refer to "bread and circuses" whenever a politician or party makes a lot of noise, but offers no substance. "We need X," you might say, "and he gives us bread and circuses."

It's tempting to apply that old term to the Republican party, but these days it's become inapt. Not that they aren't all about distracting you from how much trouble you're in, it's just that they're ideologically opposed to giving away bread. That's a government handout and that's bad -- so all you're going to get from them are circuses. Mostly clowns, actually.

The big issue in Washington these days is health care reform. The US health care system is failing so badly that 1 in 6 American adults are uninsured. So no high wire or trapeze acts in the GOP's circuses. Someone might be injured and no one can afford that.

First up from the GOP Clown College is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, whose concern about the plight of uninsured Americans is as deep as his love for gays and atheists -- i.e., about as deep as a coat of paint. The breadth of DeMint's act runs the gamut from A to B -- when it gets that far -- with the primary purpose of government being to ensure that there's some reference to God written on every square inch of blank wall in America. Other than that, he really doesn't seem to be about anything. He's just a clown in the GOP circus and his act is to keep pounding away at religious wedge issues with a comically oversized wooden mallet.

It's when he wanders off his script and tries to ad-lib that DeMint runs into trouble, as he did recently by wading into the issue of health care reform in a conference call with "tea party" organizers.


"I can almost guarantee you this thing won't pass before August, and if we can hold it back until we go home for a month's break in August," members of Congress will hear from "outraged" constituents, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said on the call, which was organized by the group Conservatives for Patients Rights.

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

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

So, basically, opposing health care reform is pretty much all about hurting Barack Obama politically. DeMint's mastery of history is on display here, since Bill Clinton lost this same battle at the same point in his presidency and he served two terms -- as well as surviving a BS impeachment attempt. But I guess there's a reason you never see the word "smart" applied to Sen. Jim DeMint. When he drops his "Christians are being oppressed!" act, he's completely lost.

But that's just one Senator, not the entire Republican party. Surely someone out there has some plan to deal with the health insurance problem facing Americans. Not only are 1 in 6 adult Americans uninsured, but the cost of health care is rising at twice the rate of inflation. At that rate, that 1 in 6 will become 2 in 6, then 3 in 6, in a big hurry. Why buy insurance when it'll break you? Isn't not going broke the purpose of the whole thing? Republicans must have some sort of alternative plan, right?

You already know the answer to that. When it comes to health care reform, Republicans have traditionally had one idea -- health savings accounts. But Americans aren't having much luck putting money away now, so it's not very likely that they'll be up to the idea of having to squirrel away even more. They're going to have to wait until the economy improves to push that bad idea.

So their alternative plan is the status quo -- i.e., nothing. What we've got now, what's failing so spectacularly, is the Republican plan. It's not what they're proposing, but it's what they're advocating by default. Without offering any alternatives, Republicans are basically the defenders of the current system.

And they aren't offering any alternatives.

[The Hill:]

While they may lack significant power in the nation’s capital, there is less onus on Republicans to offer specific proposals to fix the ailing economy. Instead, their focus is on message.

Republicans who had promised last month to offer a healthcare reform alternative are now suggesting no such bill will be introduced.

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

Bonus fun, Blunt the Clown is chairman of something called the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group -- which, apparently, isn't offering any health care solutions. And Greg Sargent points us to extra-bonus fun:

That's a pretty stark admission that Republicans won't introduce their own bill solely because they think it's better politics to keep the focus on the Democrats.

It gets better. Head over to the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group’s Web site, and you'll find prominent video of Blunt vowing the GOP is "drafting our own legislation."

Oh well, why bother? Drafting legislation's a lot of work and, as Republicans are proving now, it's just so easy for the other party to tear apart your proposal if you actually have one. Much safer just to do all the tearing and none of the having. As Homer Simpson once said, "Trying is just the first step in failing." If you never even try, you can't possibly fail.

So I guess the Republican plan for health care reform is all around you. If you want to take a look at it, open that big booklet they gave you when you signed up for the health insurance you've got now -- assuming you have insurance. With a big black magic marker, write "Brought to you by the Republican party" somewhere inside there and there you go, the Republican's alternative health care reform proposal.


You know, the circuses are fun, but can we get some bread over here?


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News Roundup for 7/22/09

Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina
Pffft! You call that an emergency?

-Headline of the day-
"Blackburn: 'We're not going to cry "emergency" every time we have a Katrina.'"

In what is always a highly competitive field, the dumbest statement of the day may have been made by TN Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn. At issue was "paygo" -- the proposition that congress has to come up with money to pay for new spending (or tax cuts) before it goes up for a vote. Blackburn argued that if we have to have paygo, which borrow-and-spend Republicans positively hate, we're going to have to have some sort of enforcement. See, emergency spending is exempt from paygo rules -- for obvious reasons -- so we need to make sure that every piddlin' little thing doesn't get blown up into some sort of a phony-baloney "emergency."

"Let's agree that we’re going to have PAYGO enforcement," she said. "That we're not going to cry 'emergency' every time we have a Katrina, every time we have a Tsunami, every time we have a need for extra spending, that we don't go call for a special appropriation that allows us to circumvent the PAYGO rules."

If a Katrina or a tsunami is an emergency-in-quotes-only, what the hell qualifies as a bona fide emergency? Can you imagine if Blackburn ran her local 911? "Oh, your house is on fire? Cry me a river, Baby-Pants! Call back when it's being attacked by werewolves or sucked into a Black Hole..."

Remember "compassionate conservatism?" Yeah, there's a reason they don't talk about that anymore... (Think Progress, with video)

-Bonus HotD-
"Concealed-weapons amendment shot down."

Ha ha! Get it?

Anyway, the Senate voted against an amendment to a military spending bill that would've allowed concealed carry across state lines. Now America is doomed to become a anarchic, crime-ridden hell -- think of something out of a Mad Max movie.

How bad is this for the nation? Consider that my own state of Wisconsin doesn't allow concealed carry at all (we also don't have capital punishment) and we rank 42nd out of 51 (stats include DC) in terms of violent crime per capita.

You want that? (The Hill)

-On a related note...-
The vote just makes it that much easier for Barack Obama to kill your grandma.

And he totally wants to, according to the fringe right. Probably because he's a secret Muslim terr'ist from Kenya.

Is there any conspiracy theory too crazy for a wingnut to fall for? It's an open question. When one comes up, I'll let you know. But it hasn't happened yet. (Doug Ross)

The World Will Not End on Friday - Again

Asteroid impacting EarthThere's a McClatchy article out there that's raised a few objections from liberal commentators. Both Media Matters for America and Crooks and Liars have objected to "On Friday, lowest wage workers get a raise," which ignores the opinions of liberal economists in favor of conservative ones. The federal minimum wage increases from $6.55 an hour to $7.25. Conservatives argue that this will bring America to her knees.

"[S]ome economists worry that the wage increase is coming at the worst possible time and will only make the recession-battered job market tougher for the very workers it's intended to help," McClatchy reports. And, while it's absolutely true that "some economists" say this, it's also true that other economists say pretty much the opposite. Media Matters points us to a piece from National Public Radio that reports that progressive economists think this is a great time to raise the minimum wage:

But liberal economists say this summer is the perfect time for a wage hike: It will put more money into the pockets of people who need it most. Fatter paychecks will stimulate spending and help the economy, they say. Kai Filion, a policy analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning research group, says this wage hike will generate $5.5 billion in consumer spending over the next 12 months.

But the bigger problem here isn't that McClatchy's only looking at one argument. The bigger problem -- one shared by the entire media -- is that no one's looking at the history of that argument. Every time someone suggests raising the minimum wage, the right goes nuts. It'll destroy the economy, crash employment numbers, and drive companies out of business. To listen to the right, raising the minimum wage is an economic nuclear bomb.

And these are arguments that the right makes every time, without fail. "If we do not balance a minimum-wage increase with economic relief for the small businesses, we will stifle job creation and shut the employment door on the very individuals we are trying to help," said Wyoming Rep. Mike Enzi of an effort to raise the federal minimum in 2006.

This has been going on since there was a federal minimum wage. Since 1938 -- when the minimum was set at $0.25 an hour -- the federal minimum has been raised 24 times, with Friday's raise being the 25th. Oddly, these weren't followed by 24 economic disasters as employment plummeted and businesses shuttered.

Given that track record, isn't the real headline here "Conservatives Always Wrong About Minimum Wage?" The same arguments come up every time and, every time, the predictions fail to come true. The problem with McClatchy's article isn't that it ignores liberal economists, it's that it pretends that conservative economists are worth a damn on this issue.

And it's not just McClatchy that makes this mistake every time, it's the entire media. In any interview of a conservative on minimum wage, the one question that's almost always missing is "Isn't that exactly what you said the last time?"

In fact, McClatchy may be doing us a favor, since the issue generally slips off the radar once the debate is won or lost. No one talks about the minimum wage once it happens -- not with wall-to-wall coverage and talking head panels, anyway -- they only report on the fight over raising it. As a result, the predictions are allowed to fall down the memory hole, forgotten by a media with the attention span of a goldfish. If we'd follow the entire process, not just the initial stage, we'd be a lot better informed in the future. If we were reminded of the failed gloom-and-doom predictions, it'd be a lot harder for Republicans to recycle them the next time around. We've got a 24-hour news cycle, you'd think we could jam some consumer-side economic news in between Celebrity News Item A and Celebrity News Item B.

As it is, Republicans are already getting away with making conflicting arguments about the economy. The current GOP line is that the stimulus has failed. If the minimum wage, which adds $5.5 billion to people's pockets, is such a tremendous hit on the economy, how is it that a $787 billion stimulus package can have no effect at all? Someone explain that one to me, because that doesn't make any damned sense.

When the federal minimum goes up this Friday, a lot of people are going to get a raise. The economy won't crash and American small business won't become extinct. And those facts won't be news, because "House Not on Fire" isn't a headline. But "Conservatives Maintain Perfect Record of Being Wrong About Minimum Wage" should be. Seems to me that's kind of newsworthy and it seems to me that that's the story being ignored here.

Why are these people allowed to get away with being completely wrong so consistently? That should be Friday's question of the day.


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News Roundup for 7/21/09

Butcher shop scene
"Here y'go, kid. That'll be $1.2 million"

-Headline of the day-
"Hamming It Up."

Or, as I think of it, "Reason not to waste your time with Drudge Report #4,307."

See, DR ran the headline, "2 Pounds of Frozen Ham in Stimulus Bill Cost $1,191,200" and right wing blogs, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of "too bad to be true," went nuts with the story. Of course, it turns out that Matthew Dumbfuckington Drudge got the story all wrong, mistaking seven-hundred-sixty thousand pounds of ham for two pounds -- because 760,000 and 2 are such similar figures. The actual figure works out to a somewhat less insane cost of a buck and a half a pound, which -- for those regular Drudge readers out there -- is less than $1.19 million. The story was linked and twittered and twootled by the gullible masses of wingnut idiots.

And it's looking like the gullible masses of wingnut idiots are who the GOP later decided to appeal to with the story -- with the accent on "gullible" and "idiots." The Hill reports, "Republicans sent blast e-mails of screenshots from the Drudge Report, highlighting the contracts as wasteful spending." It got so out of hand that the USDA had to send out a statement setting the record straight.

Now it may be that the RNC are themselves gullible idiots and that they fell for Drudge's hackwork just like all the other gullible idiots did. On the other hand, it may be that they knew the story was false, but sent the emails anyway because they knew they'd be sent to gullible idiots. As is so often the case when you're talking about Republicans, the only two explanations are that they're liars or that they're stupid -- and one doesn't rule out the other.

"Sure, I realize right-wing bloggers think the Obama administration is some kind of reckless spending machine, so they're inclined to believe the worst," asks Steve Benen. "But $1.19 million on just two pounds of ham? That didn't strike conservatives as implausible? Maybe something that warrants a closer look before publication?"

Dude, where have you been? These are people who were convinced that Saddam Hussein had a freakin' deathray and that Sarah Palin's a genius. "Implausible" isn't in their dictionary. (Political Animal)

-The Treasury of Bobbie Jindal-
Louisiana Gov. Bobbie Jindal made a big deal of opposing the stimulus early this year. People don't need no federal money, because federal money is the problem, not the solution... or some bullshit like that, anyway. Jindal even wrote a recent op-ed for Politico where he called the stimulus a big fat failure that smells like burnt eggs sprinkled with warm blue cheese.

Don't remember what Jindal looks like? That's him toward the middle, impersonating Ed McMahon.

Jindal with big foamcore check

You're already way ahead of me, aren't you? According to the report, "[L]ess than 24 hours before Jindal published his op-ed, Jindal traveled to Anacoco, Louisiana to present a jumbo-sized check to residents of Vernon Parish. The funds included hundreds of thousands of dollars directly from the Recovery Act -- at least $157,848 in Community Block Grant money authorized by the Recovery Act and $138,611 for Byrne/JAG job training programs created by the Recovery Act."

That's not the good part though. "Rather than credit the federal government or the Recovery Act he opposed, Jindal printed his own name on the corner of the massive check," we're told. That's right, all that money came from the Official Treasury of Bobbie Jindal, which is funded with magic beans or by catching leprechauns or something. (Think Progress)

-Straight marriages are destroying marriage!-
If the name -- American Society in the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property -- doesn't tip you off that this is a wingnut group, nothing will. The group (oddly abbreviated as American TFP) is fighting to save your marriage from whatever the hell it is that same-sex marriage is supposed to do to it.

American TFP has started a campaign in Maine to fight the Homosexual Menace currently oppressing that state. But that's not the only way Mainers are being oppressed, they're being oppressed by straight marriages too. "The group says gay marriage is harmful to society because children do not have a mother and father," the report tells us. "They also claim that marriages performed at City Hall, without God present, are not really marriages."

You hear that you pagan Justice of the Peace marriage destroyers out there? American TFP is on to you. In related news, God -- who's supposed to be everywhere -- "is not present" at City Hall. So, if you owe the Almighty some money or He wants you to help Him move, that's where you're going to want to hang out. (Right Wing Watch)

Bloggers to the Health Care Reform Rescue

Bat signalLast night I, like many other bloggers, got my marching orders from the Obama White House. The liberal-blogger Bat Signal was sent across the internet in the form of a quote from an Obama conference call with bloggers -- health care reform is in peril and only the internets can save it.

"It is important just to keep the pressure on members of Congress because what happens is there is a default position of inertia here in Washington," Obama told prominent lefty bloggers in an invitation-only conference call. "And pushing against that, making sure that people feel that the desperation that ordinary families are feeling all across the country, every single day, when they are worrying about whether they can pay their premiums or not... People have to feel that in a visceral way. And you guys can help deliver that better than just about anybody."

Oui, mon capitan! Je get bloggin' right pronto!

Of course, there might have been a way to keep reform on track without calling on friendly new media to get the word out. President Obama, trying to avoid the mistakes that killed Clinton's attempt at health care reform, took a more hands-off approach to the issue by leaving the details up to congress. Imperial edicts handed down from the executive branch killed Clinton's plan, the thinking went, so letting congress take the reigns would make it easier to work out some sort of decent compromise.

But this strategy assumed the existence of something that wasn't actually there; Democratic congressional leadership that's worth a damn. This is especially true in the Senate, where Harry Reid seems in constant search of fences to sit on. Senate leadership would have to come from someplace else, because Reid's positively phobic of anything that doesn't have nearly unanimous support. And that leadership came from Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who may have almost literally been the absolute worst person in the world for the job.

It's become clear that Baucus has no interest in reforming health care in any meaningful way. His first step in moving reform forward was to rule out any Canadian-style single-payer plan. At initial hearings and meetings, advocates of a single-payer plan weren't invited to testify, to speak, or -- God forbid -- make their case in any way. At one point, 13 doctors, nurses and activists were arrested while trying to get some sort of attention from Baucus' Senate Finance Committee.

"Is Senator Baucus open to your ideas?," Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked on C-SPAN.

"To a single-payer idea?" Sanders answered. "No. Not in a million years."

It's tempting at this point to just call Max Baucus an idiot. His reasoning -- at least, it's the way he explained his position -- was that there was no hope of ever passing a single-payer plan, so why knock yourself out? We should just cut to the chase and push for the possible. Bothering the Senate with this harebrained scheme was just a waste of time.

That argument would have some merit, if Republicans were interested in anything other than the status quo. But, since the GOP's position is that the current insurance system provides "the best health care in the world," that's really not the case. If the item at the top of the left's wishlist is single-payer, the item at the top of the right's is no reform at all. Clearly, Democrats would wind up with some sort of compromise and Baucus had forced them into a position with no fall back. Had he signaled that single-payer was the preferred system, the public option would've been the fall back. Bonus, single-payer would've been a lot closer to a possibility. Not a realistic possibility, but one hell of a lot more possible than it is when you rule it out entirely.

For his part, Baucus concedes this was a mistake.

[New York Times, via Matthew Yglesias:]

He conceded that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system, or a "single-payer plan," not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama's proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.

Feel free to shout, "Well duh!" as loud as you like.

"...Framing effects are important in politics," wrote Yglesias. "The public-private competition is supposed to be a compromise between the pristine vision of single-payer and the desire of private insurers not to be put out of business. It creates a situation in which insurers are challenged to prove that single-payer advocates are wrong, rather than simply assert it. But with no single-payer plan in the mix, this gets lost, and the compromise becomes the leftmost anchor of the debate. A single-payer plan couldn't possibly have passed, but I think having hearings on single-payer and having one committee draft a serious single-payer bill that gets a serious CBO score would have been a useful exercise. In particular, it would have focused the mind on the costs involved in rejecting this option."

All but the least realistic Republicans would've been left hugging the public option like a lifesaver. So, is this all the result of lousy leadership and incompetent political strategizing? Yes. But is this all the result of only lousy leadership and incompetent political strategizing?

Clearly not.

[Washington Post:]

As liberal protesters marched outside, Sen. Max Baucus sat down inside a San Francisco mansion for a dinner of chicken cordon bleu and a discussion of landmark health-care legislation under consideration by his Senate Finance Committee.

At the table on May 26 were about 20 donors willing to fork over $10,000 or more to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, including executives of major insurance companies, hospitals and other health-care firms.

"Most people there had an agenda; they wanted the ear of a senator, and they got it," said Aaron Roland, a San Francisco health-care activist who paid half price to attend the gathering. "Money gets you in the door. The only thing the other side can do is march around and protest outside."

As his committee has taken center stage in the battle over health-care reform, Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) has emerged as a leading recipient of Senate campaign contributions from the hospitals, insurers and other medical interest groups hoping to shape the legislation to their advantage. Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus's political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began holding hearings and making preparations for this year's reform debate.

"Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the senator's often extravagant fundraising events in recent months," the report tells us. "During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes 'Camp Baucus,' a 'trip for the whole family' that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities."

As I said earlier, it's tempting to call Baucus an idiot. He may or may not be, but he isn't just an idiot and incompetence isn't the only explanation for his actions as chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus has toned it down a bit -- he's stopped taking money from health care PACS -- but he's still taking cash from lobbyists and executives. Baucus ruled out single-payer from the git-go because that's what he was paid to do. It would've put all but niche-market private insurance out of business.

But, as I said at the beginning, Barack Obama shares some of the blame here. This isn't the same congress that Clinton had to deal with. Passing this off to Pelosi and Reid was practically a guarantee of suck. Better and earlier leadership could've changed things and he wouldn't have had to send out an SOS to the liberal blogosphere.

We could've been pretending to settle for a public option right now, instead of fighting for it.


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