News Roundup for 9/30/09

Republican healthcare plan

-Headline of the day-
"Rep. Grayson on GOP plan: If you get sick, 'die quickly.'"

Democratic Representative Alan Grayson of Florida has the Republican plan for healthcare reform all figured out -- not that you have to be a political genius to do that. In a floor speech to the House of Representatives, Grayson told that august body, "It's my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America. It's a very simple plan."

In fact, it's a three point plan, as he demonstrated with big foamcore flashcards. Step 1: "Don't get sick." Step 2: "And if you do get sick..." Step 3: "DIE QUICKLY." Ok, so that's really a two point plan, but you've got to allow for a little drama.

Republicans didn't take that very well and are all up and arms and demanding an apology. I doubt they're going to get one, since Grayson has, in the past, "apologized" to Rush Limbaugh by saying, "I'm sorry that Limbaugh is one sorry excuse for a human being."

"It's fully appropriate that the gentleman return to the floor and apologize," said GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn,

Still, it doesn't matter much whether or not Grayson's take is true (it is), since Republican's "death panel" talk from this summer renders all complaints hypocritical. If they get to say that Obama wants to kill your grandma, dems get to say that Republicans want to kill you.

If you don't like it, my GOP friends, then don't make up horseshit the next time around -- that way, you'll have some moral high ground from which to express your outrage. But this time around, you get to sit down and shut the fuck up.

I'm talking to you, Marsha Blackburn. (Raw Story, with video)

-It's censorship!-
What's this country coming to when you can't even advocate for a violent military coup to rid the country of the commie menace that invaded the White House through a technicality called "an election?"

Ask NewsMax's John L. Perry, he knows. He wrote a column for the right wing news site where he argued that there "There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the 'Obama problem.'" Don't worry though, this won't be some sort of banana republic sort of thing, since this is America and we do things right. "If a military coup does occur here," wrote Perry, "it will be civilized."

Whew! Well that's good... I was worried they'd start using the wrong fork for the salads and stuff. Or worse, put their elbows on the dinner table.

"Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation," he swoons. "Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making."

So we have to dump the Constitution (newsflash: there's no "legal military coup" clause, bloodless or not) in order to save the Constitution from radical commies like Obama and his czars. Then we can get back to wiretapping citizzens without warrants and torturing people -- like the founders intended. It is necessary.

"Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for 'fundamental change' toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America," he wrote. "A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible."

Turns out that a lot of people found Perry's column just a tiny bit... Oh, what's the word?... Insane. As a result, Newsmax pulled it. But these are the interwebs, so you can set your webputer's browser here for a PDF version of all the lunatic fun.

Teabags forever! w00t! (Media Matters)

-Bonus HotD-
"VIDEO FLASHBACK: GOP Lawmakers Repeatedly Said Americans Would 'Die' Under Democratic Health Plans."

In response to Republican's hypocritical complaints about Rep. Grayson's assessment of their healthcare plan, Think Progress has put together a few quotes from GOPers accusing dems of serial murder:

– "Last week Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America's seniors: Drop dead." [Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), 7/21/09]

– “They're going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line. Places like Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe. People die when they're in line." [Rep. Steve King (R-IA), 7/15/09]

– "[The Republican plan will] make sure we 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." [Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), 7/28/09]

– "That’s exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Britain today... and a lot of people are going to die." [Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), 7/10/09]

– "One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine!... I would hate to think that among five women, one of 'em is gonna die because we go to socialized care." [Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), 7/15/09]

You know, another way you Republicans could avoid this sort of criticism would be to come up with something like a plan. As I said, you get to sit down and shut the fuck up now, guys. (Think Progress, with -- not surprisingly -- video)

Public Option Update

After months of foot-dragging, obstructionism, and a snipe-hunt for Republican votes, it's finally official; there will be no public option in the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare reform bill. It was defeated. Twice.

O! Woe be unto the supporters of government-run healthcare, let their lamentations begin, for there are now only four other bills passed by five House and Senate committees that include some form of a public option. 80% of all healthcare legislation now includes the option, with the sole exception being this one -- which is by no stretch of the imagination the final bill. Clearly, we are doomed.

First, Jay Rockefeller's amendment was defeated 15-8. Then Chuck Schumer's less liberal version went down 13-10. "To come up only two votes shy in the Finance Committee, the most difficult terrain for this proposal in the whole Congress, makes us increasingly optimistic that we can pass a bill with a good public option in the end," Schumer said afterward. "We had more votes at the end of the day than we did at the beginning, and many members who aren't yet for a public option are still approaching us to seek out areas of agreement."

Finance is "the most difficult terrain for this proposal in the whole Congress" because it has the largest number of conservative Democrats. Once out of the committee, a government option becomes much more popular.

"[I've] polled senators, and the vast majority of Democrats -- maybe approaching 50 -- support a public option," Sen. Tom Harkin said yesterday. "So why shouldn't we have a public option? We have the votes." Twist a few arms, bang out a deal or two, and there you go -- 51.

Harkin believes that, while a Republican filibuster is almost inevitable, Democrats have 60 votes to invoke cloture -- i.e., to end the filibuster -- even if they won't have 60 votes to pass the bill. This might be putting a little too much faith in people like Sen. Joe Lieberman, but we'll see. In any case, the Senate could go to budget reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure designed to avoid partisan gridlock, and rule out the filibuster entirely. In budget reconciliation, a simple majority is required to pass a bill.

So the public option is not dead. In fact, it'd be ridiculous to say so. Blogger Chris Bowers has the whip count for a final bill with Schumer's version of the public option and sees passage:

[Sen. Tom] Carper votes in favor of Schumer public option. With Carper, Byrd and Bill Nelson, we don't even need Tester, Pryor, Begich or Baucus. 51 votes now secured for Schumer public option on Senate floor. If this public option is in the bill sent to the floor, and if that bill passes cloture, then public option will pass into law.

Unfortunately, this all means that all hopes rest on the inadequate shoulders of Harry Reid. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Senate Majority leader was ready to dump the public option. The article, which relied on anonymous Senate aides, reported that Reid would drop the option to appease Republican swing vote Olympia Snowe (whose vote, remember, two different whip counts show is most likely irrelevant) and an unnamed group of "Centrist Democrats."

But Reid's office was quick to shoot down the story. According to Greg Sargent, "Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau strongly disputed the story, saying there had been no decision and indeed that the process wouldn't permit for a decision to have been made already."

"It would be wildly speculative of me to say that has been predetermined," Mollineau said. So that's the good news. The bad news was that Mollineau suggested Reid was taking a "wait and see" attitude -- as in, "wait and see how the Finance Committee's vote goes." Beyond that, Mollineau repeated what's apparently his favorite phrase.

"It would be wildly speculative of me to say what is going to be in that bill," he said. "Right now, we don’t know... We’ll have a better idea by the end of the week." So I guess it would be wildly speculative of me to say whether or not Harry Reid will pick a side any time soon. Unless there's near-unanimity for a bill -- any bill -- Harry seems to be lost as to what to do.

The good thing about Reid's fence-straddling is that it's all just a matter of tipping him over. He's going to fall on one side or the other eventually and, since he seems constitutionally incapable of making up his own mind, it's just a case of who wants it more.


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News Roundup for 9/29/09

Mail truck pulls up in driveway
Oh boy, here comes your incredibly disappointing cheescake calendar!

-Headline of the day-
"Get 'Em While They're Hot - 2010."

The right wing anti-abortion Clare Luce Booth Policy Institute has come out with their 2010 hot conservative women calendar. Hubba-hubba! If you go to their website, you can watch a "behind the scenes" video of the calendar shoots, too!

OK, I'll admit I didn't see the video, but judging from the portraits, I can tell you what this "behind the scenes" action looks like. First, you take a minivan full of prominent female crazies to Walmart, where some guy in a smock takes an exposure for each. Then you take the resulting prints back to the office, scan them, run them through Photoshop to drain almost all the color out of them and add a border you've scanned from a tablecloth you got at the Dollar Store, then print them up and staple them together.

Et viola, art.

And, hoo-boy, there's a babe for every wingnut's kink. If you like batshit-crazy babes, there's Shelly Bachmann:

Michele Bachmann

If your tastes run more toward the brainless, there's the female version of Joe the Plumber, Carrie the Beauty Pageant Lady:

Carrie Prejean

And finally, if you like both batshit-crazy and brainless -- in ladies three days older than the invention of matter -- there's longtime wingnut favorite Phyllis Schlafly:

Phylis Schlafly

Hey, hey, hey... Keep it in your pants, fellas. (Right Wing Watch)

-Lies, damned lies, and [Republican] statistics-
During the markup of healthcare legislation, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) didn't like data that showed American healthcare sucks. Specifically, he balked at the numbers because they include deaths from auto accidents and gun violence. This was unfair, he argued, since these were "cultural factors" unique to the United States -- the only nation on Earth that has guns and cars.

"When you take into account cultural factors -- the fact that we drive cars a lot more than any other country; we are much more mobile," he said. "If you take out accidental deaths due to car accidents, and you take out gun deaths -- because we like our guns in the United States and there are a lot more gun deaths in the United States -- you take out those two things, you adjust those, and we actually better in terms of survival rates."

OK, so we like cars and guns, so those shouldn't count. We also like cheese and red meat and eggs, which means heart disease figures should be out too. Ditto for skiing accidents, alcohol-related deaths, and smoking, because those are a blast too. Take all those out, then US healthcare is freakin' awesome.

The weird thing is that he said it with a straight face, which must've been a real challenge. If the effort would've killed him, I think we could count that one. It couldn't have been any fun. (Think Progress)

-Chuck Grassley Twitters again!-
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the Senate's Stream of Consciousness Twitter Poet Laureate, has a message for those of you that make fun of the way he spells:

"Those of u who abhor the use of shorthand 'skool' for'school' ought to try to Tweet a message in 140bytes," he twittlepates. "Pls complain to Twitter."

It's not "skool" that's bothering me, Chuck. It's spelling "characters" B-Y-T-E-S. I don't think that's Twitter's fault.

In related news, Sen. Grassley demands that you get off his lawn. (Wonkette)

The Healthcare Debate Refocused

Over at The Altantic's business blog, writer Derek Thompson asks, "Is Today the Public Option's Last Chance?" See, members of the Senate Finance Committee are expected to force an up or down vote on a government-run health insurance option -- and that vote may not turn out well for backers.

But is it "do or die" time for a public option? Probably not. There are several bills in both chambers of congress and only one doesn't include a public option. Max Baucus' Finance Committee bill is the black sheep here. There are four other bills -- three in the House and one in the Senate -- meaning that 80% of all healthcare legislation includes the option. If the Finance Committee votes down a public option, it will most definitely not be dead. A lot of people will try to pretend that it is, but you won't be able to accuse those people of being too forthright.

It strikes me that it's too easy to get bogged down in whip counts and horse-trading. Coverage of the healthcare debate is becoming like the coverage of an election; it's about the horserace, not the issues. I suppose it's easier to do things this way, since you have hard numbers -- i.e., inarguable facts -- to deal with. You can count those who've come out in support of the public option, those who've said they'd vote against it, you can poll the public and have them rate the president, congress, the two parties on a scale of one to ten, but the numbers aren't the story, because they aren't the issue. We're missing the forest for the trees. Yes, the process is important, but don't we need to understand the issue to appreciate the debate?

Here's the issue; the American system of healthcare delivery isn't really what you'd call a "system." An actual system would work -- even if it worked poorly -- but for many Americans, this "system" doesn't exist at all. The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) tells us that "62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Of those who filed for bankruptcy, nearly 80 percent had health insurance." They also report that "employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have raised at four times the rate of inflation and wage increases during last decade." Even for the insured, health insurance and healthcare have become just too expensive.

For the uninsured, things are worse.

[ABC-13, Texas:]

It's an epidemic here in Texas and Harris County -- people without health insurance. On Saturday, the uninsured lined up to get their needs met.

More than 2,000 people came to Reliant Center to see doctors for free. Many of the people we talked to can't afford health insurance, especially in the rough economy. Some say it shows the need for health care reform.

Doctors, nurses and volunteers arrived at around 7am to see patients in what is believed to be the largest free clinic ever held in the United States. The National Association of Free Clinics said it decided to hold this event in Houston because this is where it felt the need is the greatest.

"We had no idea the overwhelming response we would have, the cries for help from the city of Houston and the state of Texas," said Dr. Mehmet Oz, a doctor working at the clinic. "This is the largest health mobilization in Houston since Katrina. So a national disaster which brought out this kind of response is now paralleled by a national disaster, because this is just an average day in Houston, and there are thousands of people who need help."

That's the issue; a national disaster happening every goddam day. Ask yourself, is this really the best we can do? Other industrialized nations don't have these problems, so why is healthcare in America nearly identical to that of a third world nation?

Need a closer look?

[St. Petersburg Times:]

After her husband leaves for work and her daughters board their school buses, Monique Zimmerman-Stein feels her way down the cluttered hall into the kitchen, trying not to trip over the cats. She struggles to rinse the dishes, to mop the sticky floor. She tries to picture what her girls must look like now that they're 10 and 13. She hasn't been able to see their faces in two years. Her days are long and dark and quiet. Except for the phone. It rings six, 12, 20 times a day. The callers are bill collectors for hospitals, surgery centers, doctors and specialists, all demanding money the family doesn't have.

Zimmerman-Stein and her husband, Gary Stein, have Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance through Stein's job at the Hillsborough County Health Department. They pay $90 a week for coverage. But the insurance isn't nearly enough.

"I know I won't ever see again. I'm not even asking for that," Zimmerman-Stein said. "I just don't think we should have to deal with constantly being harassed."

"She and her two youngest daughters have Stickler's syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes joints to dissolve and retinas to detach," we're told. "Zimmerman-Stein lost her right eye at 16 and now sees only enough light through her left eye to tell night from day. She and her children are constantly in and out of doctors' offices." At this point, they have no idea how much they owe -- maybe $20,000, maybe $200,000. They stopped opening bills months ago... What would be the point?

And this situation -- and so may similar situations nationwide -- isn't going to fix itself. in fact, it will get worse. "The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that job-based health insurance could increase 100 percent over the next decade," NCHC reports. "Employer-based family insurance costs for a family of four will reach nearly $25,000 per year by 2018 absent health care reform." So, not only won't you be able to afford healthcare without insurance, but you won't be able to afford insurance. The highly technical term for this situation is "damned if you do and damned if you don't."

So the issue, at it's most basic, is whether this is good enough. If you think this is just the best way to go about this whole healthcare delivery business, then you're either ignorant of the facts or a just plain lousy human being. People's lives are ruined or ended, people's dreams are being crushed, families are being destroyed. And people are suffering. Needlessly.

If this really is what you want, then it won't disappear from the planet if the US reforms its system. You'll still be able to get this same level of efficiency in places like Mexico or Somalia.

But if you believe that this isn't the best way to do this, that this is unsustainable, that this is plainly unjust, then that belief is in itself the issue; that this can't go on any longer. That this isn't what Americans deserve. That this isn't the best we can do.


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News Roundup for 9/28/09

Texican medical book

-Headline of the day-
"Thousands of Texans Attend 'Largest Free Clinic Ever Held In The United States' To Get Health Care."

Hey, why screw with the healthcare system when you can get free care now, right? If we get that commie Obamacare stuff, them Texicans are gonna secede!

Of course, if their big secession idea gets rolling, they'd better hope they don't get into a shooting war, because they're in no shape for one. According to the report, local station ABC-13 reported, "More than 2,000 people came to Reliant Center to see doctors for free. Many of the people we talked to can't afford health insurance, especially in the rough economy. Some say it shows the need for health care reform."

"My foot was turned upside down," said one patient. "I really don't have the money to keep going to doctors and doctors."

Another, a diabetic, said he'd "been without insurance for six months."

"We can’t afford medicine," said nine year-old Kempton Robinson.

"We had no idea the overwhelming response we would have, the cries for help from the city of Houston and the state of Texas..." says Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of the organizers of the clinic. "This is the largest health mobilization in Houston since Katrina. So a national disaster which brought out this kind of response is now paralleled by a national disaster, because this is just an average day in Houston, and there are thousands of people who need help."

Of course, these are all just slackers who aren't pulling their weight. In the glorious Texican Republic, they'll probably cross the border and become illegal aliens. And then Texas will finally belong to the people God meant it to belong to -- rich assholes who'd rather watch people suffer than pay a dime in taxes.

Have fun swabbing your own toilets, Mr. Texican CEO. And Gov. Perry's going to have to mow his own damned lawn.

See. all the people who aren't rich are going to take off and live someplace where everyone's not freakin' crazy. (Think Progress)

-And while we're on the subject...-
...turns out a lot of those patients at the free clinic were probably the result of the Texican edumacation.

According to the report, "Texas currently has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and 'the highest rate of repeat teen births.' It also leads the nation in the amount of government money it spends on abstinence-only education." Texas kids are also experiencing rising rates of fun new experiences like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV/AIDS.

So some school districts are saying screw it, this abstinence crap isn't working. Warnings that abandoning the programs will make Jesus sad aren't swaying heathen America-destroyers, like lead teacher for health and physical education at the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, Whitney Self.

"We mainly did it because of our pregnancy rate," Self said. "We don't think abstinence-only is working."

Yeah, probably not. It sure doesn't seem to be anyway. Maybe Texas should try to secede from reality.

Because the federal government doesn't seem to be their problem. (Think Progress)

-Breathe, damn you!-
Global warming? Pffft! Try global not-warming.

Turns out that the nation's oil and coal-producers have stumbled across a little bit of a crisis -- and they'll be buying ads to let you know all about it.

According to the report, "In a 'smoking is good for you' twist on reality, the ads actually call for higher levels of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas driving global warming. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-funded libertarian think tank, released similar ads last year."

See, the real problem isn't that there's too much CO2 out there, the problem is that there isn't enough. We need more carbon dioxide or all the plants will die and we'll all starve and then you'll be sorry. You want that? Well, do you, commie?

How can we get more CO2 into the air, thereby saving the planet from mass extinction? Burn shit. Burn coal and petroleum and that can of sewing machine oil you forgot about in your pantry. Then go buy some more. Burn it, then buy it, then burn it, then buy it... lather, rinse, repeat.

I mean, it's not like coal and petroleum producers would have any reason to get you to do this... (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Another Republican Revolution?

Republicans are going to take over. It's inevitable. People aren't happy with congress and this means that, since Democrats are in control of both chambers, we're in for a big, big change. It's a lead pipe cinch. A sure bet. No contest. The republican base is excited, the Democratic base is disappointed. The pendulum has begun to swing.

At least, that seems to be what a lot of people think. Democrats better watch out, a lot of pundits are saying, because 2010 could be 1994 all over again. You wait and see. Republicans, with their tea bags and Hitler mustaches are on the march!

Of course, you know what I think of the analytic and prognosticative powers of the punditry -- for the most part, they don't exist. Still, you get stories like this, from Reuters:

When Republicans see signs that Americans are having doubts about President Barack Obama's healthcare proposals and economic policies, they see opportunity as they plot strategy for 2010 elections.

Cuffed around in the 2006 and 2008 elections by Obama's Democrats, the Republican Party is looking for a way out of the political wilderness and many in the party think Obama himself may hold the key.

While Obama is not up for re-election until 2012, the congressional elections in November 2010 are likely to be seen as a referendum on his leadership.

Some Republicans even feel safe saying things that are demonstrably untrue. "We're a party that doesn't believe in spending money we don't have," says former Massachusetts Governor and 2008 also-ran Mitt Romney. "And Republicans that can show that they have been fiscally conservative will stand in stark contrast to the extraordinary deficits and forecasts of even greater deficits that are coming from the Democrats."

I guess we're supposed to forget that those "extraordinary deficits" come from George W. Bush and that these "fiscally conservative" Republicans were all for spending money hand over fist just months ago. This proves only one thing; Republicans have a very low opinion of your intelligence.

But how true is this "coming GOP storm" story? Not very. People point to the drop in Obama's poll numbers as proof that everything's going south for dems, but the truth is that the President's numbers have only fallen to the point they were in November -- when he won handily -- and seem to have either leveled off there or are improving slightly. So we can write that argument off.

And, as Obama's numbers fell, we didn't see Republican numbers rise. In fact, as congress' numbers fell, so did congressional Republicans. Gallup polling shows that at no point this year have Republican approval numbers been as high as Democrats. As of September 17th, Democrats scored a lousy 36% approval, while Republicans got a lousier 27%.

And, even among self-identified Republican voters, the party is unpopular:

Gallup graph
Click for fullsized graph

67% of Democratic voters approve of Democratic congress critters. Only 39% of Republicans have that kind of love for their congressional party members. If you think that's bad, let me confirm it for you; that's bad. That motivated base? They aren't so motivated right now. "[T]o all of my fellow politicos who claim that Dems are in for historic defeats next year," writes Justin Gardner of the centrist blog Donklephant, "you might want to pay less attention to the Tea Partiers and more attention to the swing voters."

One person who has personal experience with Republican takeovers has come to the same conclusion. On NBC's Meet The Press this weekend, Bill Clinton was asked if a second Republican Revolution was coming.

"There’s no way they can make it that bad," he said. "No. 1, the country is more diverse and more interested in positive action. No. 2, they’ve [the American public] seen this movie before, because they had eight years under President [George W.] Bush when the Republicans finally had the whole government, and they know the results were bad. And -- No. 3 -- the Democrats haven’t taken on the gun lobby like I did, and they took 15 of our members out. So I don’t think -- it’ll be, whatever happens, it’ll be manageable for the president."

Still, things could always turn around for the GOP. But at this point in time, there's no reason to believe things will -- the evidence just isn't there. What they've got is speculation, which isn't worth squat. As Democratic numbers go down, so do Republican numbers. And, if the healthcare debate is resolved before November of 2010 -- no matter how good or bad the final bill is -- Obama and Democrats will probably get a substantial bump. Meanwhile, Republicans will be dealt a substantial defeat.

Unless Republicans can come up with something to stand for within the next thirteen or fourteen months, they're going to have themselves a little trouble going anywhere. Right now, they don't stand for anything at all, other than the idea that Democrats are always wrong. They say they want to lead us, but they're a little sketchy on where they want to go. The "Party of No" label is both factual and earned.

While it's conceivable -- at least for those with a lot of imagination -- that Republicans could take back the Senate, there's no way they're getting the House of Representatives. And even the Senate is probably a bit of a stretch; the most realistic (not to mention likely) hope is that they can break the Democrat's theoretically "filibuster-proof" 60-seat majority. Given how well that magic number of 60 is working for Democrats now, I'd call that a mostly symbolic victory.

The way things stand right now, I don't see any Republican takeover in the next election. In fact, I don't see Democrats as being in any real trouble at all. As long as the national mood is "Democrats suck, but Republicans suck more," it's Republicans who are in trouble here. And that's where they've been stuck for the last two election cycles.

I don't see that changing in any substantial way.


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News Roundup for 9/25/09

Moammar Khadafy
Libyan dictator, Col. Harpo Khadafy

-Headline of the day-
"Translator collapsed during Khadafy's rambling diatribe."

How bad was Col. Happypants' address to the UN General Assembly? It literal burned out a translator. Allotted fifteen minutes for his address, Khadafy rambled on for 90 minutes in incoherent nuttiness. The translator threw a rod about 75 minutes in.

"I just can’t take it any more!" the translator shouted into a hot mic -- in Arabic -- and had to be replaced by a fresher translator. The problem? Too much crazy.

"He’s not exactly the most lucid speaker," one interpreter said. ""It’s not just that what he’s saying is illogical, but the way he’s saying it is bizarre. However, I think I could have made him sound a lot better." See, it was Col. Happypants' own personal interpreter who broke down. He supplied his own "because he would be speaking a special dialect only they would understand."

Apparently not.

The translator was given the day off, but then it's back to dealing with the insane and unfocused ramblings of Col. Happypants.

"Ten minutes with Khadafy earns you a lot of annual leave," said another translator. (New York Post)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids! Ever wonder what would've happened if we'd dealt with Nazis the way we're dealing with global warming? Find out with the cartoon "Worldwide Domination!"

Worldwide Domination
Click for animation

So what would've happened? Wir wären alle sprechen Deutsch -- that's what. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Poll: Three-Fourths Of Republicans Say Congressional GOPers Haven’t Explained Their Health Care Plans."

Yeah, turns out it's pretty hard to explain something you don't actually have. According to the report, "Dems today have been jumping on the fact that the new CBS/New York Times poll finds that an astonishing 76% of respondents say Republicans in Congress haven’t clearly explained their plans to reform the health care system." But it's in the crosstabs -- where things are broken down by demographics -- that things get fun.

When you do that, you see that 73% of Republicans think congressional GOPers have some explaining to do. Not helping any is the fact that it's been exactly 100 days since Republicans promised to come up with an alternative plan.

Of course they haven't, which is the whole problem. I think most people would say that President Obama hasn't done a good job of explaining his plan to build a snowfort on the moon -- mostly because President Obama doesn't actually have a plan to build a snowfort on the moon. See, that's why he hasn't said word one about it. Likewise Republicans and healthcare reform.

Even GOP voters are noticing that little fact. (Plum Line)

Getting a Public Option

Today's a big day for the public option in the Senate. According to ABC News' Jonathan Karl, it's "high noon," only without Gary Cooper.

I am told that Senators Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller will force a roll-call vote tomorrow morning in the Senate Finance Committee on two amendments that would create a government-run insurance program – a top priority for liberal Democrats that was left out of the bill drafted by Finance Chairman Max Baucus.

The amendments are not likely to pass because they will be opposed by all Republicans, and at least four Democrats on the committee are cool to the idea of a public option (Lincoln, Carper, Conrad, Bill Nelson), but Schumer has been trying to negotiate with those Democrats to craft a version of the public option they could support.

"If the amendments fail," Karl writes, "it would appear the public option is all but dead in the Senate (although liberals will try to resurrect it when the full Senate takes up the bill)."

Whether Schumer can succeed here is questionable at best. There was a time when the US Senate was known as the place where cooler heads prevail, but lately it seems to have become the place where good ideas come to die. Still, dead in committee is not dead, as Karl points out. It can always be restored by the full Senate.

It's in the House of Representatives that the interesting things are happening and may give us a peek at what will happen in the Senate.

In the people's house, things seem to be going pretty damned well. If Nancy Pelosi had shown this kind of leadership when Bush was in office, I might be selling t-shirts with Bush's, Cheney's, and Rove's mugshots on them. If there was ever a time to decide to become excellent, I guess now is a close second to then. On the public option, she's been rock solid.

Yesterday, the news came out that Speaker Pelosi shot down the idea of a public option "trigger" -- the idea that a government-run insurance program would kick in automatically if other reforms don't work. This is a pretty dumb idea, in that it creates a superfluous step. If you need a trigger, it shows that you have no confidence in the other reforms. It's like having a spare for a car whose tires are never supposed to go flat. In the end, all it does is buy insurance lobbyists time to undo or weaken reforms before the deadline comes up.

"I don't even want to talk about a trigger," she said at a press conference yesterday, adding that the "attitude" of House Democrats is that "a trigger is an excuse for not doing anything." I concluded that she knew the vote count and knew she had the votes to get it out of her chamber easily. Over at Huffington Post, reporter Ryan Grim proved my guess correct.

Blocking a public health insurance option is a relatively low priority for conservative Blue Dog Democrats, according to an ongoing survey of its members. The fading House opposition could clear the way for the public option to move through the chamber.

The Blue Dogs have been surveying their membership over the last several days; coalition co-chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has been collecting the responses. She listed the four top priorities that have emerged: Keeping the cost under $900 billion, not moving at a faster pace than the Senate, getting a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and addressing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates.

So, the Huffington Post asked, the public option is not a top priority?

"Right, the group is somewhat split," she said.

I'm a little lost on why it's of earth-shattering importance that the House not move "at a faster pace than the Senate." You're done when you're done, there's no reason to stretch things out needlessly -- unless, of course, you want to delay things and buy lobbyists and reform opponents (i.e., Republicans) time. There is no logical reason to worry about how fast you're able to accomplish something -- at least, not a constructive reason.

Still, the public option will come out of the House. That seems to be a near-certainty. If it dies in the Senate Finance Committee (which I'm just hearing has not voted for the public option and won't until Tuesday), there's still the full Senate.

And if it dies in the Senate, there's still the conference committee. Until an actual bill is sent to the White House, a public option is still alive and well.

If the Blue Dogs in the House represent an accurate sample of the Blue Dogs as a whole, then opposition to the public option is weak. If Pelosi sends fighters, not negotiators, to the conference committee, we'll likely get what we want. The Blue Dogs, who are the real speedbumps to reform (Republicans have rendered themselves irrelevant) are the ones with the shaky knees this time around. It sounds like few are willing to go down with the ship.

If you haven't written or called your Senator on this issue yet, now would be an excellent time. If you already have, now would be an excellent time to do it again. Fence-sitters can be pushed, those who are solid on the public option can be encouraged, and those who are against it can be rattled.

If we try hard enough, we can get what we want.


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News Roundup for 9/24/09

Glenn Beck in dictator's uniform
And he seems like such a nice fella, too...

-Headline of the day-
"Fox News commentator Glenn Beck throws a frog in boiling water (maybe)."

Right away, you knew things weren't going to go very well.

"You know the old saying ... if you put a frog into boiling water, he's gonna jump right out because he's scalding hot, but if you place the frog in lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, the frog won't realize what's happening and die," Glenn said to the audience of his FOX News show, Pretty Hats You Can Make From Tin Foil. "Let me get the frogs."

What ensued was as stupid as it was horrifying.

"Okay... All right ... So you have the little frogs. You have the little frogs here," he said. "Barack Obama has galvanized the country because of the sheer size of the bills he's proposed, and the number of the bills, the urgency he's been placing on the bills, he's forced us to think and get involved." I guess this "urgency" was supposed to be the boiling water. Or something. Really Glenn, leave the symbolism to the film students. You suck at this stuff.

According to the report, "That was the wind-up. The pitch -- quite literally, Beck threw a small item that his audience was left to assume was a live animal into a pot topped by rising steam -- was apparently not quite what he had in mind. When no tiny object leaped from the water (the dramatic effect one would assume he was trying to achieve), Beck gazed curiously at the rising steam before turning once more to the camera."

"OK, forget the frog," he said. "OK, I... I swear I thought they jumped right out, but they don't."

Was it a real, actual frog? Who knows? It's also a little unclear what the hell the point of all this Grand Guignol stuff involving boiling frogs was. I guess it proves that frogs are terr'ist Muslim communists -- like Hitler.

"Apparently someone taught Glenn Beck a metaphor, and already, there has been one known death," writes Wonkette.

What could I possibly add after that? (LA Times)

-Summer's over, folks-
From Wiley Miller's awesome single-panel comic, Non Sequitur -- make sure you see the whole thing:

detail from comic panel
Click to see entire comic

We have a saying here in Wisconsin; "Summer's over, back to normal"... OK, I have that saying. Still, it's back to normal.

Now shut up and go home, windbag. (GoComics.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bush Officials Objected To Awarding Medal To J.K. Rowling Because Harry Potter Books Promote Witchcraft."

I wasn't even aware that JK Rowling, a British author, got this nation's highest civilian honor -- The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Shows what I know, huh?

So I guess she did. She was made a bona fide American hero because she wrote books that sold a gazillion copies that got turned into movies that made a bazillion dollars that later were released as DVDs that sold a godzillion copies. It was such a cultural phenomenon that when she ended the series, the world economy collapsed and we all wound up living under overpasses.

Anyway, witchcraft is bad and probably satanic, so some Bushie's freaked out and thought this was just the worst thing ever. But she cast a spell on Bush and got the shiny gold medal anyway. Top that, prayer warriors!

Turns out that you can go ahead and kill hundreds of thousands of people for no good reason, but you can't give a medal to a lady who writes about wizards, because that'll make the little baby Jesus cry.

I just don't get this whole Christianity thing at all... (Think Progress)


News Roundup for 9/23/09

Beggar on the street
GOP healthcare plan

-Headline of the day-
"Cantor's support for healthcare options."

Turns out that the #2 Republican in the House of Representatives is totally for options in healthcare. At least, such options as already exist. At a forum this week, Eric Cantor heard from a constituent who brought up her friend's situation. The friend had been doing great, until she lost her job and, with it, her insurance. Now uninsured, she found out that she had stomach tumors and needed immediate surgery -- without health coverage, this sort of presents a problem.

Cantor was quick with a response; her friend should check out "existing government programs" and, if those didn't work, she ought to give "charitable organizations" a shot. "No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed."

OK, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. I think it's English -- it looks like it anyway -- but it sounds like a collection market-tested words all jammed together with no concern for whether the final product works or not. As a result, it's pretty gibberish-ish.

"That's worded rather awkwardly," writes an overly-generous Steve Benen, "but it's a sentiment I can agree with. Americans who need care should have 'options.' There should be 'government programs' to provide coverage to those who don't have it."

Yeah, but there's not. And there isn't because guys like Cantor keep shooting the whole idea down as "socialism." If government protects you against crime, that's policing; if it protects you from invaders or terrorists, that's defense; if it protects you from fire, that's a fire department; if it protects you from illness, that's pure Godless Communism.

Better dead than red, right? Get a job, slacker. Until then, check your local homeless shelter or something. (Political Animal, with video)

-Mark Sanford hates to break it to ya...-
...but he's pretty sure he's not going to be president. After having a big international affair with Evita Peron, lying to cover it up, disappearing for days on end, and misusing state funds to do it all, he's pretty sure that ship has sailed.

"I think if anything is off the table, it's that I'm not running for president," he says. "It's 100 percent believable now."

Yeah, I kind of think so...

Still, his brush with reality was pretty short-lived, as he told the Greenville News that "he has no plans to resign, will fight any attempt at impeachment and believes he may have the best chance next year at pushing for government restructuring."

Yeah, good luck with that. (Political Wire)

-Bonus HotD-
"Lawmakers regrouping to seek bipartisan healthcare deal."

Oh for fuck's sake... Turns out that GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (NE), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Ron Wyden (OR) think that healthcare reform absolutely has to be bipartisan. Why? Who knows?

Newsflash; voters don't care whether a bill is bipartisan or not. They just want it to work. And, in case Nelson, McCaskill, Landrieu, and Wyden (Lieberman doesn't count) haven't been paying attention, let me clue them in; Republicans aren't interested in healthcare reform. They're interested in stopping healthcare reform. Ask Max Baucus, I think he's finally figured that out. At least Chuck Grassley's not in this new group.

But fuck me, how many slow-learners do the Democrats have? (The Hill)

Defunding the Military-Industrial Complex

ACORN logoLast week, I wrote a post on the ACORN scandal and the legislative rush to defund that organization over the revelation that some of their employees seem more than a little incompetent. By now, you probably already know the story, so I'll give you the short version -- two kids in "Pimp and prostitute" Halloween costumes managed to find some really dumb ACORN workers who gave them advice on getting government funding and hiding income for a brothel that was to be staffed by human trafficking. No crime was committed, other than by the costumed crusaders in recording people without their permission, but it was still pretty indefensible. The employees were fired, ACORN is investigating, and that should be the end of it.

But, of course, it's not. Right wing media in general and Glenn Beck in particular have decided that ACORN is trying to destroy America through communism. See, the right never let's anything go. During the '08 campaign, Republicans accused ACORN of registering voters illegally, as part of their voter registration drives. As proof, they pointed to a few registration forms filled out under false names. In some cases, temps hired by ACORN filled out the forms themselves, in others, people filled them out as a prank (signing up as "Mickey Mouse," for example). None of these forms got past the verifiers at the various state registration boards, proving that the system works. In any case, there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud and the number of forms found didn't add up to enough votes to throw an election for coroner, let alone national elections. It was a tempest in a teapot by a losing party desperate to smear their opponents as corrupt. ACORN was evil, so Democrats were evil. And, since the right wing never lets go of anything, ACORN remained evil, despite all evidence to the contrary.

So much for the short version. Anyway, in that post last week, I agreed with Glenn Greenwald, who asked why ACORN was being singled when other organizations that receive federal money are demonstrably more corrupt. "[I]f ACORN takes $3.5 million this year to help poor people -- and misuses a fraction of that money -- they're done," I wrote. "The poor are getting more help than they deserve anyway. But if Wall Street needs billions after blowing their nut on corruption, greed, stupidity, and bonuses rewarding incompetence, then we get out the federal checkbook and ask them how many they need. If Blackwater rapes and murders in Iraq, if KBR electrocutes soldiers and poisons personnel with rotten food, that's forgivable -- because they aren't poor. See, only poor people are a drain on the taxpayer. The wealthy deserve their wealth -- even if the only thing saving them from bankruptcy or prison is taxpayer money. They worked hard for that federal money, harder than you have. They deserve your money more."

And it's here that the law of unintended consequences sets in, in the form of House Resolution 3571, AKA the "Defund ACORN Act."

See, that bill is -- albeit accidentally -- kind of good. Not completely good (and we'll get to that in a moment), but a damned good start. Huffington Post's Ryan Grim explains:

Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

Specifically, the bill cuts off funding for "Any organization that has been indicted for a violation under any Federal or State law governing the financing of a campaign for election for public office or any law governing the administration of an election for public office, including a law relating to voter registration," "Any organization that had its State corporate charter terminated due to its failure to comply with Federal or State lobbying disclosure requirements," "Any organization that has filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency," "Any organization that... employs any applicable individual, in a permanent or temporary capacity... has under contract or retains any applicable individual... has any applicable individual acting on the organization’s behalf or with the express or apparent authority of the organization."

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) "asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to sift through its database to find which contractors might be caught in the ACORN net," Grim writes. And it turns out that there's a lot of them.

"Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman both popped up quickly," Grim reports, "with 20 fraud cases between them, and the longer list is a Who's Who of weapons manufacturers and defense contractors." Which of course, brings us back to the original question -- why is this all about ACORN, when there are contractors out there who are much, much worse?

Washington Monthly's Steve Benen is one who finds this an interesting puzzle to ponder over. "The next question, of course, is why ACORN's problems with voter-registration materials are extremely important, while Lockheed Martin's and Northrop Grumman's bad habits are not only considered uninteresting -- to conservatives, to lawmakers, to news outlets -- but largely verboten as a topic of conversation," he writes.

The answer is spelled M-O-N-E-Y. Lawmakers get that sweet defense contractor cash, so they aren't all that likely to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Ditto for the media. Ask yourself this; when was the last time you saw a commercial for Lockheed Martin on CNN and thought to yourself, "I'm going to run out and buy a jet?" Defense contractors buy ads for two reasons; good PR and to influence the media. Discussing corruption by contractors is "largely verboten" because they paid for all the microphones.

And now the problem with the bill. At least one representative points out that there's no way it's constitutional, because it mentions ACORN specifically.

[The Public Record:]

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, denounced a Republican amendment adopted by the House of Representatives Thursday to deny all federal funds to the advocacy group the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as blatantly unconstitutional and a threat to unpopular organizations everywhere.

Nadler said the Republican initiative, the Defund ACORN Act, introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, singles out a specific organization by name for exclusion from participating in any federal program, in direct violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against Bills of Attainder. The amendment was attached to a student loan bill.

The short definition of a Bill of Attainder is that it's a law passed to punish a person or an organization specifically. As such, it's unconstitutional since it's a de facto finding of guilt by a body that's not part of the judicial branch; i.e., it defies the separation of powers. A more complete and accurate definition is here, but mine is good enough for a basic understanding of the issue.

The section naming ACORN "is in blatant violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against Bills of Attainder," Nadler explains. "Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial, and that’s what this amendment does. Whatever one may think of an organization, the Constitution’s clear ban on Bills of Attainder is there for the protection of all of our liberties." If a Bill of Attainder were constitutional, congress could vote to put you -- specifically -- to death, simply because they decided they didn't like you. So you can see the problem.

Still, it's possible that the bill would stand up to a legal challenge in that it's not entirely unconstitutional. The rest of the bill is, when all is said and done, fine. It may be that only the section that mentions ACORN will be struck down, while the rest of the bill survives. After all, there's no reason to mention ACORN, since the group would be covered under the definitions section regardless.

Whether or not any of this means that corrupt defense contractors will be caught up in this net is another question. If the amendment is struck down as unconstitutional, the congress may go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to get it to apply to ACORN, but not Blackwater. It's not extremely clear how this could be done, but never underestimate the creativity of an ideologue.

If, however, that doesn't happen and this becomes enforceable law, then good government groups will have a powerful new tool to chase down corrupt corporations.

Don't rule it out, but don't hold your breath, either.


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News Roundup for 9/22/09

Cheney with a shotgun
GWB's missile defense system

-Headline of the day-
"The Missile Debate in Maps."

Last week, President Obama advanced his plan to destroy America by leaving Poland and the Czech Republic defenseless against Iranian missiles. See, everyone knows that without Poland and the CR, we're all doomed. It's the doorway to Idaho. Good patriotic Americans were outraged.

According to the BBC, here's what the scrapped plan, proposed by George W. Bush, would've covered:

Map of Bush's plan

Here's what his new plan would cover:

Map of Obama's plan

Ok sure, Obama's plan is technically better, but that's not the point. And even the smaller coverage area in the first map is bullshit, because that missile system doesn't actually work -- because it's just Dick Cheney standing in a field with a shotgun -- but that's not the point either. The point is that Barack HUSSEIN Obama pulled a weapons system because he's a communist Muslim terr'ist -- like Hitler. That his idea would actually cover more area, while doing crazy stuff like working, is irrelevant...

Mostly because that fact is not at all terrifying. (Crooks and Liars)

-[Obvious] quote of the day-
"I think it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election."
--Barack Obama to David Letterman, on why he doesn't think opposition to him is being driven mainly by racism.

See, he won, after all. While I think he's probably right (about the racism, I mean. I know he was black before), his math is a little goofy -- he didn't win unanimously. So that's not really proof of anything.

Still, it'd be wrong to say that the main motivation for the wingnuts with their tea parties and 9/12 rallies is racism. The truth is that it's stupidity. (CBS News, with video)

-Bonus HotD-
"Washington Times Teams Up With the Heritage Foundation to Save the Conservative Movement."

Yeah, that's what they need; fresh faces. These are the two organizations that were almost certain that George W. Bush was a living god, so that ought to work out well.

I mean, it's not like these guys were responsible for screwing everything up in the first place...

So what's the big plan? A website.

How ambitious. (Right Wing Watch)

'Solving' the Healthcare Puzzle the Easy Way

Rubik's cube with all sides the same colorAt this point, it's pretty clear that Republicans are irrelevant to the healthcare reform effort. Of all the Republicans in the house and senate, efforts are being made to work with only one -- Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. Not that they're needed to bring efforts to a near-standstill. The more conservative Blue Dog Democrats are doing a fine job of that themselves.

Still, Republicans need to appear to be doing something, despite the fact that they're not. The position that the current system is unsustainable and needs to be changed is the consensus position, yet Republicans -- in their secret heart of hearts -- are the primary defenders of the status quo. That might be by default or that might be by design. In practice, the distinction is meaningless since the outcome would be the same -- nothing happens. Relatively toothless, the GOP can't stop reform, but they can slow it down and give the Blue Dogs a chance to do their dirty work for them by demanding that the final bill be as industry-friendly and consumer-exploitative as possible.

To that end, they've been spending a lot of their time wasting everyone else's time. Even now, the delaying tactics continue. We've been waiting for a final bill from the Senate Finance Committee to move forward. This is Max Baucus's seriously awful bill. But it's not seriously awful enough, apparently, so Think Progress reports that GOP committee members are offering BS amendments to further delay progress.

In all, members have offered 534 amendments to Baucus's bill. Given the deeply flawed nature of the draft, it shouldn't surprise anyone that a lot of these amendments come from dems seeking to patch holes. According to TP, these include "provisions re-instating the public insurance option, striking the network of consumer-driven cooperatives, expanding Medicare to Americans aged 54 to 65, and improving affordability standards."

It's the Republican amendments that are crazy or off-topic. The poster-child for these baloney amendments is Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's "Hatch F7" amendment [PDF], which would "add transition relief for the excise tax on high cost insurance plans for any State with a name the begins with the letter 'U'."

No, really.

Ensign 409 calls for "Transparency in Czars," Hatch 511 "Prohibits authorized or appropriated federal funds under the Mark from being distributed to or used by ACORN," Roberts 144 was introduced "To ensure that if people like the hometown hospital they have, they can keep it."

This is all delaying the inevitable. A bill will come out of that committee and the final legislation sent to the president will look nothing like Baucus's nightmare of a bill. Step by step, this is moving forward -- the GOP is just making sure each step includes a lot of footdragging. As they have been all along.

After President Obama's address to a joint session of congress, the big news was that Rep. Joe Wilson called the president a liar. But many observers wondered what those papers were that Republicans kept waving around. Turns out it was the Republican answer to an argument Obama never made.

[Byron York:]

Rep. Tom Price, the Georgia Republican who heads the House GOP Study Committee, came to President Obama's Sept. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress itching to make a point. Price, who also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon, has often heard the president accuse Republicans of criticizing Democratic healthcare proposals while having no plans of their own. He expected Obama to do the same Wednesday night.

"We knew the president would at some point say something like, 'And the other side has no ideas,"' Price says. So Price and his Republican colleagues brought with them copies of the more than 30 healthcare-reform bills they have proposed in the House this year.

Obama didn't directly accuse Republicans of not having a plan. But he did say he would welcome "serious" healthcare proposals. "My door is always open," Obama said.

That's when Price held up the sheaf of papers he was carrying -- a copy of HR 3400, the Empowering Patients First Act, which Price and the Republican Study Committee proposed in July. Other GOP lawmakers held up their own bills. Some raised a list of all the healthcare bills -- there are more than 30 -- proposed by members of the Study Committee.

Ha! In your face, Obama! No one can say they don't have any ideas, because they have a whole bunch of them. Of course, not a single one of these has the support of the party. If you want to say there isn't a Republican bill, you can go ahead and do that. It's still true enough. None of these proposals is the official party proposal -- mostly because there isn't one. These are just a bunch of timewasters proposed by GOPers to slow the process down.

At a forum hosted by Virginia's Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eric Cantor -- House Republican whip -- and Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott discussed healthcare reform and Cantor made a startling admission that nearly everyone missed; Republicans have jack.

[The Hill:]

Richmond resident Ben Ragsdale demanded to know how Republicans were going to expand access to healthcare if they have only a four-page list of bullet-points as their plan.

“What is your substantive proposal to meet these real everyday problems that people have? Where’s the beef?” Ragsdale asked, triggering applause from the crowd.

The telegenic GOP lawmaker said Republicans and Democrats agree on 80 percent of fixing the nation’s healthcare system, but could not show the crowd a detailed plan that has been endorsed by House Republicans.

Cantor earlier this year said House Republican leaders would release an alternative healthcare plan, but have not done so yet. House Republicans have introduced several different health bills, as opposed to one concrete alternative.

More than 30 bills and they can't bang out some plausible alternative. Why? A couple of reasons; first and foremost, they don't want to. Homer Simpson once said that trying is just the first step in failing. If the GOP puts out a bill, they also put out a target. It's much safer just to say, "We've got lots of ideas," without getting too concrete about what those ideas actually are. If you actually do something, you run the risk of having someone look at it. They learned that lesson when they put out a "budget alternative" with no actual numbers in it. If you don't have anything, you don't put out anything -- you just wave a random collection of proposals around.

Second is that they don't need to. They seem to like things fine the way they are, but they know you don't. So they need to look like they're doing something, while they're actually doing nothing.


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News Roundup for 9/21/09

Playboy magazine cover
Totally gay...

-Headline of the day-
"Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) Chief of Staff: 'All Pornography Is Homosexual Pornography.'"

No, that's not a misstatement. It's what you call a "damned lie." See, at the big Value Voters Summit, Coburn chief of staff Michael Schwartz came up with a great way to get the kids to stop looking at pictures of naked ladies on the internets -- tell them it'll turn you gay, guaranteed.

Speaking about a friend who'd run a hospice for gay men with AIDS, Schwartz said, "One of the things he said to me, that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark... he said 'All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.'" Why "turning your sexual drive inwards" makes you gay is different question -- one I guess we're not supposed to think about.

According to the report, there "were murmurs and gasps from the crowd" after the statement -- assumedly from people turning to each other and saying, "Look, I'm as crazy as the next wingnut, but that's just stupid." Then Mike explained the reasoning.

"Now, think about that," he said. "And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he's going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I'm pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That's the last thing he wants! You know, that's a good comment, it’s a good point, and it's a good thing to teach young people."

See, it's like when people started telling kids that if you masturbate, you'll go blind. That's why no one masturbates anymore, because lying about things sexual is always a great educational strategy. If you tell kids that looking a pictures of boobs will make them gay, then they won't want to look at boobs. And, if they're already gay, they're damned anyway, so screw 'em -- plus, they're aren't looking at chemically-inflated ladies anyway. So I guess that's not a problem. Besides, convincing boys that getting a hardon from looking at a girl's naked body makes them a big freakin' pervert can't possibly have unhealthy consequences.

So, mixing complete falsehoods with homophobia, fear, and confusion is a parenting tool for these people. Makes you wonder what kind of "values" these voters are supposed to have. No wonder they're all nuts -- their parents brought them up the same way. It's a vicious cycle. (Washington Independent)

The host of FOX News' Straitjacket Rants with Glenn Beck is extremely worried about federal spending and bailouts. It makes him crazy to think of all the money we're spending in our weak-Keynesian attempt to set the economy straight. It's insane and he's set up tea parties and a 9/12 rally so people could get out on the street and say that Obama's a socialist, like Hitler, because of them. In fact, the bailouts are the purest evil, like ACORN.

Of course, it's Obama's bailouts that are a big problem. When the giant foamcore check had George W. Bush's signature on it, he was more understanding.

"But these are anything but normal times. I thought about it an awful lot this weekend, and while it takes everything in me to say this, I think the bailout is the right thing do," he said in September of 2008, while still working for CNN. "The 'REAL STORY' is the $700 billion that you're hearing about now is not only, I believe, necessary, it is also not nearly enough, and all of the weasels in Washington know it."

Not only was it the right thing to do, but Bush should've spent more. Why? Because he's not a socialist, like Obama. Or something.

You really can't expect Glenn to be consistent. Non-crazy people are consistent. Glenn Beck isn't non-crazy people. (Think Progress)

-There's more to the interwebs than just naked ladies-
There's also Viagra. And uncomfortable truths on those crazy webthingies all the kids use.

According to the report, "Donald Rumsfeld had to be talked out of editing his own entry on Wikipedia, which he referred to as 'Wika-wakka.' He was a Drudge Report reader and used to watch YouTube clips that made fun of his press conference performances."

Not super-surprised he read Drudge. I would also be less than shocked if it turned out that Rummie that it was Gospel. You really wish he'd have edited his Wikipedia entry, though -- it would've become headlines about five minutes after he published the changes. And the YouTube thing? I think the people who put those together are thrilled to learn that Rummie himself used to dial them up on his webputer and fume.

No word on whether he used to google himself up any of those boob photos, but if it turns out he did, I'll let you know. Naked boobs are so gay... (Think Progress)


News Roundup for 9/18/09

O'Reilly shouting
Bill O'Reilly, shown disagreeing with Bill O'Reilly

-Headline of the day-
"O'Reilly Backs a Public Option?"

On his FOX News show, Blowhard Bill declared the public health insurance option dead...

Then he suggested that they ought to replace it with something like a public option. Speaking with Nina Owcharenko, a Heritage Foundation hack, Bill said, "The public option now is done. We discussed this, it's not going to happen. But you say that this little marketplace that they're going to set up, whereby the federal government would subsidize insurance for some Americans, that is, in your opinion, a public option?"

Yeah, Owcharenko said, it'd be a "massive new federal regulation" and pure godless communism.

"But you know, I want that, Ms. Owcharenko," he replied. "I want that. I want, not for personally for me, but for working Americans, to have a option, that if they don't like their health insurance, if it's too expensive, they can't afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks."

Of course, that's the very definition of the public option that Bill just declared rightfully dead. It's also exactly what he's been railing against as "socialism."

You know, I might trust these TV pundits more if one of them would actually said something that showed they knew what the hell they were talking about -- ever. Don't worry wingnuts, the old Bill will be back soon enough, when he finally realizes that a good idea is rampant Marxism. Then he'll go back to hating it.

This is FOX News, after all. If Bill isn't willing to step up to the plate, Glenn Beck can go ahead and take over the bullshitting for him. Empty-headed commentary isn't very hard to come by; all these guys are eminently replaceable. When the researchers at FOX R&D finally come up with a slogan-spouting robot, they're both out of a job. (Political Animal)

-Striking a blow for freedom-
Now that the radical communist community organizer group ACORN has been exposed destroying America, Louisiana Gov. Bobbie Jindal has decided he's had enough -- no more state funding for ACORN. That'll show 'em!

The problem? According to the Times-Picayune, this isn't going to accomplish much. "According to the state's Division of Administration," the paper reports, "no state agencies have existing contracts with ACORN."

I guess it's the principle of the thing. Otherwise, it'd just be grandstanding for cheap political points.

And we know he wouldn't do that. (Talking Points Memo)

-Strap in...-
The good news is that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat won't remain vacant for long. Gov. Patrick has an interim replacement. The other good news is that this temp senator is a very qualified appointment, who "is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, and has written extensively on medicine for The New Yorker." He's also "a former Rhodes Scholar, a MacArthur Fellow, and unquestionably one of the nation's leading health policy experts."

The bad news is that his name is Dr. Atul Gawande -- which means he's probably a terr'ist or a Muslim or something -- he's certainly not a real American. Double-bad, according to the report, "On the day he would step foot in the Senate, Dr. Gawande would be the most knowledgeable health policy expert in the chamber, an incredible resource for his fellow Senate colleagues, and a champion for reform."

If all hell breaks loose among the wingnuts, don't say I didn't warn you. (Think Progress)

Hating the Poor for Their Poverty

One of the many reasons that I'm not a Republican is because of their totally irrational attitude toward poverty and the poor. An example that always pops into my mind is one you've probably never heard of. It was a while ago and pretty damned local, so there's no reason why you should know it. In 1998, Republican Nancy Mistele was running for Wisconsin State Senate against Democrat Jon Erpenbach. She slipped up and said something that didn't really fly and I suppose the only reason I always think of it is that it seemed to me that it would've flown pretty much anywhere else.

[Capital Times, September 10, 1998:

Rich people work harder and, therefore, deserve a bigger tax cut, Republican state Senate candidate Nancy Mistele declared today.

''If you put time into it, and you put the effort forth, you can earn a decent living,'' Mistele said during a Capitol press conference.

''And to the extent that government can come in and then... distribute my money to people who choose not to work as hard, and choose not to run a couple of companies, who choose an 8 to 5 (workday) when I do a 7 to 11, I think it's absolutely wrong'' to give them any tax cut advantage, she said.

Of course, it didn't take long for dockworkers and hard-hats, firefighters and police, farmers and ranchers to point out that they had doubts that white-collar Nancy worked harder than they did. I guess it sticks in my head because it doesn't seem to be all that controversial a statement -- at least, not if it were expressed on the national stage. But here, it was immediately recognized as a deeply flawed argument and Nancy lost. The idea that wealthy people work harder than the working poor is ridiculous on its face. Yet, in many other districts, this statement would've been greeted by wild applause -- even from the working poor in the audience. It's Sarah Palin's argument, it's Newt Gingrich's argument, it's George W. Bush's argument; plenty of people out there just love it, as obviously untrue as it is. For them, rich people are automatically good and poor people are automatically bad. It's simple logic; if the wealthy deserve their wealth, then it stands to reason that the poor deserve their poverty. Capitalism creates winners and losers, one can't exist without the other, yet the losers in this crap shoot are to blame for their losses.

O'Keefe and Giles in 'disguise'We see this in the current ACORN scandal. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- an organization representing poor neighborhoods -- is currently under fire for giving advice to what were supposedly bad people. Two young conservatives staged a sting where, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, they got ACORN workers to offer them advice in setting up a bordello. There's no way these two should've enjoyed any success in this sting, since their disguises were so ridiculous as to be offensive. CBS News described them as being "dressed in 'pimp' and 'prostitute' costumes that looked like they had been picked up on the cheap for a Halloween party."

The two, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, neglect to mention how many offices they had to visit to find people so gullible that they'd fall for this minstrel show. CBS notes that "In Philadelphia... ACORN workers called the police." And they don't show any actual crimes. In fact, in at least one jurisdiction, it's O'Keefe and Giles who'd committed a crime by secretly recording people without their consent. Still, there's no defending the fools the two finally found and, as a result, ACORN is a sure bet to lose their federal funding. Their only hope is if Obama vetoes the legislation -- which just isn't going to happen.

Of course, all this begs a question that Salon's Glenn Greenwald is more than happy to ask; what makes ACORN so special?

ACORN has received a grand total of $53 million in federal funds over the last 15 years -- an average of $3.5 million per year. Meanwhile, not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars of public funds have been, in the last year alone, transferred to or otherwise used for the benefit of Wall Street. Billions of dollars in American taxpayer money vanished into thin air, eaten by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, led by Halliburton subsidiary KBR. All of those corporate interests employ armies of lobbyists and bottomless donor activities that ensure they dominate our legislative and regulatory processes, and to be extra certain, the revolving door between industry and government is more prolific than ever, with key corporate officials constantly ending up occupying the government positions with the most influence over those industries.

Exactly as one would expect, the prime beneficiaries of all of that pillaging continue to grow. The banks that almost brought the world economy to collapse but then received massive public largesse because they were "too big to fail" are now bigger than ever; as
The Washington Post delicately put it: "The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance." Everything involving the government turns out well for these "behemoths" because they own and control the U.S. Government. Just this week, The Post detailed how the government and Wall St. are now so intertwined that banking executives are spending vast resources to increase their presence in Washington...

Of course, Washington stopped operating under the assumption that poverty was everyone's problem long ago. The United States, its government, and the vast majority of its people are merely a support system for incredibly wealthy people. So if ACORN takes $3.5 million this year to help poor people -- and misuses a fraction of that money -- they're done. The poor are getting more help than they deserve anyway. But if Wall Street needs billions after blowing their nut on corruption, greed, stupidity, and bonuses rewarding incompetence, then we get out the federal checkbook and ask them how many they need. If Blackwater rapes and murders in Iraq, if KBR electrocutes soldiers and poisons personnel with rotten food, that's forgivable -- because they aren't poor. See, only poor people are a drain on the taxpayer. The wealthy deserve their wealth -- even if the only thing saving them from bankruptcy or prison is taxpayer money. They worked hard for that federal money, harder than you have. They deserve your money more.

If we want to see a scandal involving real pimps and prostitutes, real abuse and crime and fraud, we need to go back to 1998 again and a little place called the Marianas Islands, AKA Saipan. In 1998, then-Rep. Tom DeLay told business owners on the islands, "You are a shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system."

Those business owners were running sweatshops. Girls from other countries were lured to the islands with promises of good-paying jobs and found themselves trapped in virtual slavery. They were locked up in barracks at night. If they missed any work, they were fired. You'd think this would mean freedom, but it actually meant even worse bondage:

[Former Marianas worker Carmencita Abad:]

My answer is, Mr. DeLay, I am that person. I am an example of an individual who can prove that the accounts of sweatshop labor and forced prostitution are not just allegations but true accounts of working conditions in the Marianas Islands when Mr. DeLay traveled there and turned a blind eye to our misery.


I used to live in a squalid barracks -- thin roofs, thin walls, concrete floors and people slept in bunk beds with 14 people sharing one restroom -- no hot water, no air conditioning.


Women were fired for being pregnant. And to keep her job, any pregnant woman would either go to an illegal abortionist or try to induce miscarriage by drinking herbal potions or falling down on purpose. Women who are fired from work have no way to support themselves aside from the sex trade. There’s no way to feed yourself aside from that.

But, of course, these people were poor -- meaning they didn't work as hard as the owners DeLay called "shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party." They were lazy and just trying to find an angle to soak the system. The business owners, responsible for near-slavery, mandatory abortions, and a thriving sex trade, were fine hard-working people. The Marianas, being a US commonwealth, was able to put out garments with a "Made in the USA" label, so they were the job- and wealth-creators... The finest people to stride the earth. And Tom DeLay? He resigned in disgrace -- over an issue only marginally connected to the nightmare in Saipan. Now he's a contestant on Dancing With the Stars -- as a star. For all the evil DeLay aided, he was rewarded with celebrity, minor though it may be. We're supposed to judge him not for his part in this massive human rights abuse, but for his tango. None of the abuses in the Marianas would've been possible without DeLay and the government funding he and other Republicans secured for Saipan, but it was a golf outing that finally brought him down.

And, of course, that's because Tom DeLay is the opposite of impoverished. He's got bucks, which means he's a fine man. When someone like Tom gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, it's a "regrettable lapse of judgment." When someone at ACORN misunderstands what their job description, it's like 9/11 all over again.

How can we fix this? We can start by shooting down the ridiculous notion that the wealthy work harder than you do. That'd be a nice place to start.


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