News Roundup for 10/30/09

Begone, ye accursed eaters of souls!

-Headline of the day-
"The Danger of Celebrating Halloween."

Think Halloween is a harmless holiday with costumes and candy and jack-o-lanterns and stuff like that? The you're going to hell, you fool. Halloween is Satan's night and he's a'gonna gitcha if you aren't careful!

So says Kimberly Daniels, "a sought-after conference speaker and preacher" and founder of Kimberly Daniels Ministries International. In an article warning good Christians to leave that Halloween shit alone, Kimberly sets the record straight. "It is dedicated to darkness and is an accursed season. During Halloween, time-released curses are always loosed," she says. "A time-released curse is a period that has been set aside to release demonic activity and to ensnare souls in great measure." So, if something bad happens to you at any time in the next year, it's probably because you handed out fun-sized Snicker bars to kids dressed up like superheroes. Why does handing out candy curse you? Because "most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches."

Other stuff you should watch out for:

Sex with demons
Orgies between animals and humans
Animal and human sacrifices
Sacrificing babies to shed innocent blood
Rape and molestation of adults, children and babies
Revel nights
Conjuring of demons and casting of spells
Release of "time-released" curses against the innocent and the ignorant

Laugh all you want, but you'll be singing a different song when crazed Satanists are jamming cursed Almond Joys up your butt! And you thought the worst that could happen was having the tree out front TPed by teenagers.

So tomorrow night, hide out in your basement with a crucifix, a Bible, and a shotgun. It's really your only hope for salvation. (Charisma Magazine, via Air America)

-This House bill is big-
Politico gets right to the heart of the matter in covering the House healthcare reform bill that Nancy Pelosi rolled out yesterday. "It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story," writes Jonathan Allen. "The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word."

What's in it? Who knows? The point is that it's really big -- in fact, it's about as big as a bill that would create a whole new healthcare system might be. How long would it take to read the bill? The sharp reporter asked bill-reading experts and they say "it could take a week." He also says it has words and phrases in it, like "family," "health insurance coverage," "exchange-eligible individual," and "Indian." It's super-important that you know the word "Indian" is in the bill, because that there's good journalism.

We even find out how much it weighs; according to a GOP aide Allen asked, a "print-out of the bill weighs more than 19 pounds and stands nearly nine inches tall."


So what's in it? Apparently the answer for Allen is "Hell if I know." What's important is that it's an actual object with length and width and depth and weight and it's really fucking big. If you want to know what it's actually all about, then go to some other bigtime political-insider newsite, Bucky. Interns are for getting coffee, not reading through bills and making notes about their contents.

When it comes to reporting the actual dimensions of a piece of legislation, Politico's right there for you. If you want useful information, however, you're shit outta luck. (Politico)

-Bonus HotD-
"Fox News Poll Finds More Support Fox News Against White House."

Also finds most believe Barack Obama is a secret illegal alien Muslim terr'ist, that the Post Office is communism, and that Glenn Beck is a great example of a rational human being. (Plum Line)

The Opposite of Progress is the [Republican] Congress

Dead End signAn item in The Onion has been making the rounds in lefty circles. "Obama's Declaration Of Swine Flu Emergency Prompts Pro-Swine-Flu Republican Response" has the GOP taking the H1N1 advocate position, because the president is against it. "Thousands of Americans -- hardworking ordinary Americans like you and me -- already have H1N1," RNC chairman Michael Steele says. "Now Obama wants to take that away from us. Ask yourself: Do you want the federal government making these kinds of health care decisions for you and your family." Bobby Jindal urges Louisianans to stop washing their hands and Rush Limbaugh "made a point of dying of the virus during his show on Wednesday."

The reason that liberals are sharing this one paragraph "News in Brief" spoof is that it's really not that far outside the realm of possibility. As I've said more times than it's possible to link to here, the GOP has become a party of kneejerk reactionaries, whose first and often only impulse is to oppose anything that Democrats think might be a good idea. I often put it this way; Republicans' only principle is that Democrats are always wrong. Other than that, they don't really stand for much anymore. Look at the healthcare debate. Democrats want a public option, but the GOP was against that. So they floated the idea of co-ops instead of a public option and Republicans were against that too. A trigger? Nope. Opt-out? Nope. By default, the party took the position of defending an unsustainable healthcare "system" rapidly heading straight for a cliff. As stubborn and unbudgeable as the symbol of the other party, they planted their butts in the road like jackasses and refused to move forward, backward, left, or right. As a result, congressional Republicans are enjoying the lowest approval ratings in at least a decade. It may be that its the old habit of escalating a failing strategy that's driving them to continue this campaign of contrariness or may just be that they have no idea what else to do, but we've gotten to the point where The Onion's satire is only barely satirical.

Harry Reid takes a lot of lumps on this blog, but when he nails it, it deserves repeating. In a floor speech to the Senate, Reid addressed GOP obstructionism yesterday (note to avoid confusion, Reid refers to "Madame President" because he has to hand over the gavel to make a floor speech. He's referring to the Senate's President pro tempore):

M. President, perhaps those watching and listening think this [60 votes needed to pass everything] is how the Senate always operates. It is not. Allow me to put these delays in context:

The Senate has confirmed 366 of President Obama’s nominees. How does this compare historically? At this point in President Bush’s first term, 421 of his nominees were already at their desks. At this point in President Clinton’s first term, 379 nominees were on the job. And 480 of President Reagan’s nominees were confirmed. But Senate Republicans have only allowed President Obama 366.

In fact, in the first four months of the Bush Administration, when the Senate was controlled by the president’s party and we were in the minority, there wasn’t a single filibuster of a Bush nominee. Not one.

But in the first four months of the Obama Administration, Republicans filibustered eight of his nominees. That means that President Obama faced twice as many filibusters of his nominees in his first four months as President Bush faced in his first four years.

Imagine what would've happened if Bush faced this. Republicans would've been on FOX clawing their eyes out over it. It would be the worst thing ever. Limbaugh would've blub-blub-blubbed into his gold-plated microphone until his head exploded. Bill O'Reilly could've been identified as the man with the perpetually red face. Sean Hannity... Well, I don't know if it's possible for Hannity to be more hyperbolic and insane, but I'd be willing to bet he'd have given it a good try.

We got an idea of how this was going to go right off the bat, when Obama said that Guantanamo would close. Republicans freaked out that Obama would even consider putting terrorists in American prisons. Terrorists are magic, the argument seemed to go, and no prison could possibly hold them -- unless it was made out of chainlink dog kennels from Home Depot and put in Cuba. Then there's no way they could escape. Democrats joined in on this idiocy and Harry Reid (yeah, we're done saying nice things about Harry for now) accused Obama of wanting "terrorists to be released in the United States."

Yay for bipartisanship!

Luckily, there are things that are just too stupid for even Democrats like Reid to join in on. And Sen. Al Franken found one. Franken introduced an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations barring the hiring of contractors who force employees to keep rape charges out of court through arbitration. The legislation was in reaction to the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang-raped by fellow Halliburton/KBR employees, locked in a storage container, and told that if she ever told anyone about it, she'd lose her job.

Republicans argued against the amendment, saying it was just some sort of political witchhunt against Halliburton. But the truth is that, since a Democrat introduced it, they had to be against it. No matter how just or common sense it is. Having voted to cut off federal contracts with ACORN over bad tax advice the organization gave, they were now arguing that the federal government had no right to fire contractors. In their defense, not every Republican voted against this measure -- just most of them. Once the smoke had cleared, 30 Republicans had voted against allowing rape victims to have their day in court.

In response to GOP obstructionism, Ezra Klein writes, "The country really would be a better place if Democrats had let Bill Frist invoke the nuclear option and begin the project of blowing up the filibuster." His tongue's in his cheek (I think), but this strikes me as exactly wrong. When you're in the majority, the filibuster is the worst thing ever. But when you're in the minority, it's a different story. What we need are people doing what Harry Reid did (we're back to saying nice things about Harry again). Republicans are doing this sort of thing every goddam day and someone needs to point it out every time they do it. Republicans have become nihilist, with no core principles other than regaining the majority. Democrats need to point that out every time they talk to a reporter or face a news camera. They need to keep saying it and keep saying it and keep saying it until the media finally picks up on the message. This is what Republicans do to get their crazy-assed conspiracy theories in the headlines -- Democrats should do the same to get the truth in the headlines. "Republicans are blocking everything" should come in a close second to "good morning" in every Democrat's daily vocabulary.

Government can't work this way.


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News Roundup for 10/29/09

Roland Corning
Be Prepared

-Headline of the day-
"South Carolina state attorney caught with stripper in graveyard."

Just in time for Halloween.

According to the report, "A deputy assistant attorney general who said he was on his lunch break when an officer found him with a stripper and sex toys in his sport utility vehicle has been fired... Roland Corning, 66, a former state legislator, was in a secluded part of a downtown cemetery when an officer spotted him Monday, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act."

Cops found him and a nice young lady from the Platinum Plus Gentleman's Club in the cemetery and they gave "conflicting stories" about what they were doing there.

OK, so Roland's banging strippers in the local cemetery. That's weird, but so what? The funny comes when Officer Michael Wines took a gander inside Corning's truck. "searched the SUV, where he found a Viagra pill and several sex toys, items Corning said he always kept with him, 'just in case'..." AP reports.

Just in case of what, exactly? I guess you never know when you'll need a dildo or a vibrator or whatever it was, but is that really a good reason to keep one handy? Whatever...

Corning -- a former Republican legislator -- finds himself out of a job. Maybe he can get a gig as a spokesman for Acme Cemetery Dildos or something. What's up with South Carolina Republicans anyway? (Associated Press)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, here's a message from the credit card companies on credit reform!

Credit Card Reform
Click for animation

In related news, the sun came up this morning and that's gonna harm your credit... (MarkFiore.com)

-Net Neutrality visual aid-
Does the issue of net neutrality make your eyes glaze over? Does talk about webputers and facetubes and news aggravators and bandspace put you in a coma?

Well, help is here. Run around on your favorite webtweetles for a little bit. That's the intertubes with net neutrality.

Here's your favorite netlinks without net neutrality:

ISP menu with prices

Any questions? (DVICE, via TommyTelephone)

It May Be Reconciliation -- Or We're Liebermanned

The House version of healthcare reform is being unveiled as I write. Apparently, it doesn't contain a "robust" public option. They're still rolling it out, so there aren't any links available at this very moment, but something will probably come out before I'm finished. As far as the public option goes, the Chicago Tribune explains:

According to senior lawmakers and aides familiar with the legislation, it will not dictate what the plan can pay hospitals, doctors and other providers, a goal that many liberal Democrats had hoped for as a means to control costs.

"People are coming to realize it's going to be very tough to get to that point,'' acknowledged House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Instead, much as commercial insurers do now, the federal government under the House plan would have to negotiate rates with providers, a concession that Pelosi and her lieutenants are making to conservative Democrats wary of the "public option."

It seems like a relatively minor concession to me, but one that will make the bill more expensive. The bigger problem is that this -- like the Senate version -- would seem to provide very little competition. It won't be available to the majority of Americans under either bill, so the "option" part is pretty much BS. When all is said and done, we'll have expanded coverage and ended the problem of "pre-existing conditions," but we'll have done very little to change what we laughably call a "healthcare system." You want choice, you want competition? Well, you're outta luck. Now shut up and eat your modified status quo.

Still, you can't fix something that doesn't exist. If the version of the public option that we get is far from perfect, we can go back and visit it again later. As always, it's not the best idea that makes it out of the sausage factory. Comprised and brokered to death, it's the ghost of the good idea, laden down with the chains of some real crap. The good news is that the House delivered a public option and we can fix it. The bad news is that the House delivered a public option and we'll have to fix.

And there's still the Senate, bearing it's own chains in the form of the unfortunate Joe Lieberman and his threat to join a Republican filibuster. I suggest you take your favorite curse word and replace it with "Lieberman." Because, without even this weak public "option," any healthcare reform bill is going to be one Liebermanned up piece of Lieberman.

While the House is probably going to get all the news today, it's still the Senate we should have our eyes on. While a Senate public option isn't strictly necessary, it makes a public option in the final bill more likely by universes of magnitude. There's still the conference committee, where the House and Senate bills will be merged, but -- quite frankly -- if the Senate bill doesn't contain a public option, I don't hold out a lot of hope that wiser heads will prevail in the conference committee.

It hasn't been talked about for a while, but the Senate could still go with budget reconciliation rules. These limit debate and rule out a filibuster. Harry Reid perked up a few optimists when he said it was a possibility, but his office was quick to burst that bubble.

[Greg Sargent, Plum Line:]

Senator Harry Reid set off a bit of a stir by saying this yesterday about the possibility of doing health care through the Dem-only reconciliation process: “Sure, it’s always an option.”

But Reid spokesman Jim Manley says his boss was only repeating what he’s said for months, and adds that it’s not seriously being considered. “It’s always been an option, but the only thing we are focused on right now is trying to get 60 votes for the strongest bill possible,” he emails me.

I guess we have different definitions of "the strongest bill possible." I'd go with something that, if signed into law, actually stood a chance in hell of actually doing something. In Washington, the work it takes to pass a bill often overshadows the need for the bill. In this case, "the strongest bill possible" means the bill that will get a cloture vote -- it doesn't have a damned thing to do with effectiveness.

Others have brought up reconciliation as well.


Evan Bayh (D-IN) said on CBS’s Washington Unplugged said that if fifty senators were dead set on getting a real public option they could always do that by using reconciliation. Reconciliation measures can’t be filibustered, so a bill brought up through reconciliation would only need a simple majority to pass (50 votes plus the VP).

Evan Bayh said, “If the people [who] want the public option in its fullest form are just adamant about that they can always just get that with fifty votes.”

Don't get too excited about Evan Bayh, though. He may just be daring leadership to try it. He's being coy on a public option and the best you could say is that he seems agnostic about it.

On the other hand, Sen. Chuck Schumer explained the reluctance to go to reconciliation -- it's kind of a headache. "I think the broad preference is not to do reconciliation, and if we can stay unified on the major procedural votes and get 60 on those we won't need reconciliation," he says. "Reconciliation is always a last resort because it's complicated.... so the preference has always been to go forward without it, and again, if we can stay unified on the procedural votes, we'll accomplish that. "

Lieberman's announcement sort of throws a monkeywrench into that unification on procedural votes, so that reasoning may be out the window. Lieberman's Liebermanhead move may have forced reconciliation back into the conversation. Is this optimism on my part? I don't do optimism. It's realism. I'm just recognizing that the best possible outcome is a possible outcome.

Because, if the public option isn't in the final bill that goes to the president's desk, I'm taking it as a loss. We'll have gone through months of a Lieberman-storm of stupidity and lies and wound up with a bill that's only substantial effect will be to make pre-existing conditions illegal, while requiring everyone to buy health insurance. Everything else that's wrong with the American healthcare system will go unaddressed and we won't even have a mechanism to tweak to improve it when it becomes clear that the bill we passed accomplished Jack-Lieberman.

If it comes to a choice between reconciliation or crap, I choose reconciliation. If we don't get something approximating a public option, then we'll be just as Liebermanned after the bill is signed as we are now.


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News Roundup for 10/28/09

Man holds sign reading, 'I ama a moron'
Gordon Klingenschmitt

-Headline of the day-
"Chaplain Violates Obama's 'Hate Crimes' Law by Quoting Bible?"

Guess what the answer to that is?


President Obama signed hate crimes legislation into law today, which is the worst thing he's done since yesterday.In response, rightwing loonie tune Gordon Klingenschmitt -- who's a lot of fun -- says that Christianity is now done for. In a press release, Klingenschmitt said this would make it illegal to quote the Bible!

Not all the time, just sometimes. "In other words, A) pastors may quote the Bible publicly if their 'intention' is the free exercise of religion or speech, but B) pastors may not quote the Bible publicly if their 'intention' is to conspire with listeners to commit an act of violence. This begs the question, if the pastor never announces whether the unspoken "intention" of his heart is A or B, how can any prosecutor, judge, or jury know whether the pastor's secret thoughts intended A) free exercise or B) conspiracy?"

You know what's weird? Prosecutors do that now. If you say something like "I don't like gay people, let's go beat one up," that's pretty clear. If you say something like, "I don't like gay people, let's go beat one up because the Bible says...", that's pretty much the same thing.

Of course, Klingenschmitt may have a little problem understanding that, because he's a proven moron. He doesn't seem to understand how publicly praying for someone to die might encourage some righteous Lamb of God go out and make said someone die.

You really wonder how these frootloops manage to get through the day without decapitating themselves with a potato peeler, don't you? How can you possibly be this dumb and still manage to survive longer than an hour or two?

Maybe it's divine intervention. (Christian Newswire)

-More news from races you don't give a crap about-
Remember the all-important Virginia Governor's race that's a referendum on Obama for the entire nation? The one where, if the Democrat loses (which he will), means Barack Obama will have to resign in disgrace and go back to Kenya or Indonesia or wherever? Well, that's not the only race that you don't care about that you should care about.

NY-23 is the most important thing since the invention of oxygen. Why, even I mentioned it today!

See, there are three candidates in this race; some commie liberal Democrat guy, some commie liberal Republican lady, and a REAL TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT WHO'S ENDORSED BY SARAH PALIN! This race is so super-important because this one's a referendum on whether the Republican party gets to keep existing. The GOP wants Dede Scozzafava, who's a communist or something, while teabaggers want Douglas Hoffman, who's Ronald Reagan reincarnated as a middle aged accountant. And then there's that Democrat guy -- Bill Hoople or Bob Owens or Bill Owens or something like that. Who even knows?

Anyway, if Scozzafava wins, then that means Sarah Palin will have to go back to the North Pole with her teabagging elves and Christmas will be ruined. If Hoffman wins, then the Republican Party has to throw Michael Steele off a cliff and make Sarah Palin the Pope. The stakes couldn't be higher!

So how's the race look so far?

Scozzafava 29%
Hoffman 23%
Owens 33%

America is clearly doomed... (Raw Story)

-Bonus HotD-
"The Republican Brand in Ruins: 75% of Americans Dislike Republicans; Over 70% Think Palin’s Not Qualified to be President."

The problem with headlines like this is that there's no reason to write the story -- you already know the whole thing. The only thing you can do is try to encapsulate if further, with something "POLLS: GOP FUCKED."

Tea bags forever! w00t! (Firedoglake)

Remind Me Again Why Lieberman's Worth the Headache

Prisoner in guillotineEvery time the Republican Party gets into trouble, they seem to devolve into a mob from the French Terror, dragging a guillotine through the streets looking for ideologically impure Republicans. This shouldn't really surprise anyone; these are people wo are quick to war and see anything short of recklessness as a sign of weakness. If you aren't ready to fight at the drop of a hat -- regardless of how pointless and self-destructive that fight may be -- is a coward who hates America. So off they go, dragging their giant onion slicer behind them, looking for RINOs to punish for their aristocratic RINOness.

We see this in a New York congressional election. The Republican party likes Dede Scozzafava, a pro-choice moderate, for NY-23. The RINO hunters see Scozzafava as ideologically impure, so they're backing teabagger Doug Hoffman, who's sufficiently insane. As a result, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Mr. Hoffman has siphoned so much support from Ms. Scozzafava that their Democratic rival has vaulted into the lead..."

It's the electoral version of "better dead than red"; better to lose an election than to vote in an impure Republican. Better dead than RINO. I've been critical of this thinking and, while I haven't held off from being too critical of moderate and conservative Democrats, I haven't started dragging my own guillotine around. One of the many drawbacks to a two-party system is that there is no middle. When Democrats are up in numbers, as they are now, those moderates wind up in the Democratic Party. When the GOP is up, it's the other way around. American political parties are coalition parties by necessity and, when you've got a lot of members, it means your coalition is more diverse; i.e., you're going to wind up with a lot of members who can be accused of not being "real Democrats" or "real Republicans." Thinking you can do something about this (short of reforming elections to make third parties more feasible) is like complaining about winter -- it feels good, but there's really nothing anyone can do about it.

I bring all this up to put all my cards on the table. Where I go from here is practically inviting charges of hypocrisy -- Joe Lieberman has got to go.

If you've been in a coma or trapped in a coal mine for a little bit, you may not know that Lieberman has thrown a monkeywrench into healthcare reform by threatening to join Republicans in a filibuster unless a public option is stripped from the bill. Lieberman was always the one who made the Democrat's supposedly "filibuster-proof" 60 seat majority a little squishy. Having campaigned for John McCain, Lieberman's support of Obama's Democratic Party has always been mostly theoretical. If it weren't for that 60 seat majority, there would be no point in giving a crap about Joe Lieberman either way. And now he's shown that Democrats don't have that 60, so screw him.

Over at FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver runs through the possible motivations for Lieberman's big "screw you" move. Re-election? Nope, the people of Connecticut want a public option and polls show he'd lose to a well-funded Democrat. More power? Hardly. As I've already pointed out, if he can't deliver 60, then he stands to lose power by being kicked out of the Democratic caucus. When you break it down, it doesn't seem like a rational move and Silver contends that this is because it's not.

What Joe Lieberman wants, in all probability, is attention. He wants Harry Reid to have to stand up and say things like: "I don't have anyone that I've worked harder with, have more respect for, in the Senate than Joe Lieberman." He wants face time on Meet the Press. He wants to make liberals feel some pain -- especially those who tried to get Ned Lamont elected in his place. He wants everyone to know how maverick-y he is.

In other words, Joe Lieberman -- sole member of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party -- is all about Joe Lieberman. He watched Chuck Grassley become the center of attention, then Olympia Snowe, and figured it was his turn. You've seen this kid on the playground; "Mom! Mom! Look at me! Mom! Look at me! Mom! Mo-om, look at me! Mom! Mom!" Only the mother loves that kid and I'm not Joe Lieberman's mom.

Of course, if Lieberman wises up and drops his filibuster threat, Democrats will probably keep him around. After all, that'll be the price of his vote. After all the smoke clears, all he'll have gotten was a lot of attention. But Harry Reid ought to stand on Lieberman's neck and tell him to get in line or get the hell out, making it clear that this is the last of his nine (actually fifteen) lives. We get an up or down vote on healthcare reform, he gets to keep his committee, and he gets to shut the hell up from now on. Take or leave it and if it's leave it, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. As a Prima Donna, Lieberman has made himself more trouble than he was ever worth. You're number 60, Joe -- no more than that -- and if you can't even be that then you're nothing. There hasn't been a lot of talk about budget reconciliation lately, but Lieberman's 60th vote isn't strictly necessary.

Will this hurt Democrats the same way that RINO hunting hurts Republicans? Hardly. A Republican would lose a Connecticut Senate election to a cinderblock. Throwing Lieberman out would probably kill any chance of re-election -- assuming Lieberman's not on an attention-whore bender because he secretly plans to retire anyway.

If Joe wants attention more than he wants to serve America, give him center stage with the guillotine. I can't think of one good reason not to.


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News Roundup for 10/27/09

Uncle Pennybags, mascot for the game 'Monopoly'
Likes Lieberman more than Reid

-Headline of the day-
"Insurance Stocks Plunged As Reid Announced Public Option, Spiked After Lieberman Vowed To Filibuster It."

Pretty self-explanitory; Reid says a bill will go forward with a public option and the insurance company stocks tank. Joementum gets all pissy about it and says he'll back a filibusters and those same stocks skyrocket.

And your financial well-being? Well, no one tracks that. For the media, Wall St. and the economy are the same thing. I'll tell you this much, your stock just crashed. If you're wondering why you're so uncomfortable when you sit down right now, it's because Joe Lieberman (CT for Lieberman Party-CT) just screwed you royally.

And he didn't even buy you dinner first. (Think Progress)

-When is a referendum not a referendum?-
When it's the Virginia Governor's race.

See, the media have been pushing the Virginia gubernatorial race as a "referendum" on President Obama, mostly because it's the first election of this year and that's the only way to get people in the other 49 states to give a crap about it one way or another. Elections people care about mean sweet ratings $$$, while state-level elections mean yawns. So the push is on to make the Virginia race an state-level election people care about. As a result, talking heads are saying that if the Democrat Creigh Deeds loses, then that means everyone hates Obama and we're looking at a failed presidency. The stakes couldn't be higher!

Anyhoo, Deeds is getting his ass handed to him and that means that Barack Obama is going to have to resign in disgrace -- because, remember, that means we all hate in a unanimous way.

The problem with this reasoning? It's bullshit. It turns out that when you ask Virginians why they're voting the way they are, they say it's because Deeds sucks. And that it has nothing to do with Obama. A poll by the Washington Post shows:

-Seventy percent of likely voters say Obama is “not a factor” in their choice. Only 15% say opposition to Obama is a factor, while 14%, say support for him is a factor.

-Seventy one percent say it makes “no difference” if the governor is from the same political party as the president. More people say it’s good to have a governor from the same party, 16%-13%.

-Obama’s approval rating in Virginia is 54%, in line with many national polls.

But never mind the facts, watch this race! Watch it! Watch it! It's the most important race ever!

That is, until all the rest of them. (Plum Line)

-Bonus HotD-
"Dallas cops fine drivers for 'not speaking English.'"

That's going to kind of hurt tourism a little bit, don't you think?

According to the report, "Red-faced Dallas police chief David Kunkle has apologised to the local Hispanic community after it was revealed that his officers had fined 38 drivers for the novel offence of having an inadequate command of the English language." Astonishingly, it turns out that's not actually a law. But that didn't stop the department from collecting fines.

"Any citations that were paid, we're going to reimburse the people who paid the citation," Kunkle said.

Seriously, if "having an inadequate command of the English language" were a crime, then former Texas Governor George W. Bush would be serial offender. I'm guessing that a lot of those cops would be as well.

Oh well, I guess it just wouldn't be Texas without all the institutional racism. (The Register, via Vet)

Scalia's Big Shovel

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia shovels a huge load of bullshit in a public appearance.

[East Valley Tribune, Arizona:]

ScaliaOne of the most conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday his more liberal colleagues are trying to manufacture new constitutional rights that were never intended by the drafters.

"The fight is about the Supreme Court inventing new rights nobody ever thought existed,'' Justice Antonin Scalia said in an appearance at the University of Arizona College of Law.

"Right to abortion?'' he asked. "Come on. Nobody thought it violated anything in the Constitution for 200 years. It was criminal.''

The same, said Scalia, is true of homosexual sodomy. Yet the nation's high court has struck down state laws banning both.

"They may be bad ideas,'' Scalia said. "But don't tell me it’s unconstitutional.''

Scalia's really far outside traditional judicial thinking here. First off, rights aren't granted -- by the founders or the courts or anyone else -- rights are recognized. Second, the Constitution's 9th amendment reads:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

To translate this into plain language, "Just because we wrote a Bill of Rights, don't think these are the only rights people have. There are others we haven't recognized here." In arguing against the idea of extra-constitutional rights, Scalia ignores the Constitution.

Third, there was no law against abortion when the nation was founded. Contrary to his assertion, the founders didn't think abortion was "criminal."

Speaking at the same event, Justice Stephen Breyer told the audience that by Scalia's view, the founding document "won't be a Constitution anyone will be able to live under."

Breyer's right. And Scalia's either an ignorant putz or a lying wingnut. Either way, he's provably wrong.

Giving Up a Legislative Snipe Hunt

For healthcare reform, yesterday turned out to be a game-changer. Senate majority leader Harry Reid either found or borrowed a backbone, made a decision, and moved forward with a reform bill that includes the public option. Of course, as public options go this actually isn't one. It's a public health insurance plan, sure, but you can't actually choose it unless you're uninsured -- so the "option" part is a bit of false advertising. So much for competition. If you're willing to go glass-half-full, then take the news this way; that which exists can be improved -- you can't come back later and fix a "public option" that doesn't actually exist -- and this isn't the bill. The Senate bill will still need to be combined with a House bill. This whole thing's still a work in progress.

Olympia SnoweAs compromises go, this wouldn't be the worst. Opt-out is definitely better than opt-in. Had this been the other way around -- assuming it'd be a legislative process -- then each state would need to pass a law the governor would either sign or veto in order to get in. Winning two chambers and a veto override in many states would impossible chore, leaving too many states out of the system. The way the Senate bill has it, all those roadblocks stand in the way of states opting out. Only the states with the most lunatic political atmosphere -- i.e., Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama, etc. -- would be able to pull that off.

And let's not even talk about the idiocy that is the "trigger." For her part, Republican Senator Olympia Snowe is "disappointed" with Reid's bill and stands by the idea of the trigger.

If you need any evidence that Snowe has taken over the speedbump role that Chuck Grassley had previously played, there you go. The trigger makes no sense at all, no one (other than Olympia) actually seems to like the idea, and her complaints seem to serve no other purpose than to offer an alternative. This allows Republicans and Blue Dogs to claim the debate isn't over.

Speaking of Republicans, the response from that party's Senate leadership was predictable. Minority leader Mitch McConnell reacted by falling very short of the truth. "[W]olly aside from the debate over whether the government gets into the insurance business, the core of the proposal is a bill that the American public clearly does not like, and doesn’t support," McConnell said. "While final details of this bill are still unknown, here’s what we do know: It will be a thousand-page, trillion-dollar bill that raises premiums, raises taxes and slashes Medicare for our seniors to create new government spending programs. That’s not reform."

The problem here is that the American public clearly likes a public option. In fact, given a choice between a bipartisan bill without an option and a Democrat-only bill that includes one, a majority chooses the latter. Republican leadership has no business claiming to speak for the American public, seeing how the American public would rather see them shut out. Mitch is speaking from deep within his own pants -- which is nothing new. On this issue at least, the American public doesn't give a crap about the Republican party.

And that attitude most likely extends to Olympia Snowe. Her vote is valued by some because they think they can use it to claim a "bipartisan" bill. If one vote from another party makes a bill bipartisan, than this is bipartisan without Snowe. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, is an Independent. He'll vote for the bill and you got your bipartisanship right there. It's just as logically legit as saying Snowe's single vote would constitute bipartisanship. If one vote is your yardstick, why the snipe hunt? We've got one vote from another party right now.

But I suppose it's too much to ask that American politics make any damned sense at all.


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News Roundup for 10/26/09

Whitten in front of 'Whitten Inn'
Pictured, l.to r.; Asshole's hotel sign, asshole

-Headline of the day-
"Hotel owner tells 'Spanish' employees to change their names and 'speak only English.'"

Taos, NM, hotel owner Larry Whitten is clearly the most enlightened man on matters of race since Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who refuses to grant marriage licenses to interracial couples. Well, maybe not; where Bardwell pretends his racism isn't personal, but a concern about other people's racism, it seems that Whitten's is rooted in paranoia and other forms of craziness.

AP reports that the first time he showed up to his hotel, "Whitten met with the employees. He says he immediately noticed that they were hostile to his management style and worried they might start talking about him in Spanish."

"Because of that, I asked the people in my presence to speak only English because I do not understand Spanish," Whitten says. Because people only say bad things about you when you're around.

Then he took things further. According to the report, "Then Whitten told some employees he was changing their Spanish first names. Whitten says it’s a routine practice at his hotels to change first names of employees who work the front desk phones or deal directly with guests if their names are difficult to understand or pronounce."

How hard to pronounce? One guy stuck with the tongue-twister "Marcos" was fired because he refused to answer to "Mark" or -- confusingly -- "Bill." Like Bardwell, Whitten denies he's a racist.

"It has nothing to do with racism," he says. "I'm not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don't know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything."

There's some evidence to support his claim that he's not racist. Unfortunately, that evidence suggests he's just an all-around asshole. Think Progress reports that he "further angered the local community when he referred to people in the town as 'mountain people' and 'potheads who escaped society' during interviews with the press."

Of course, this only proves he's not just racist. I don't know if there are moves to boycott his hotel (it's hard to imagine there isn't), but that seems unnecessary to me; this guy is just such an incredible prick that I can't imagine anyone having contact with him ever wanting to go back.

Good luck with your hotel, Lorenzo. I hope you enjoy all the success you deserve. (Think Progress, with video)

-Speaking of racism-
When you need good old-fashioned blatant racism, you can always count on Republican voters.

From the Republican Party's little corner of Facebook:

Racist image

You may not be able to make out the caption, but it reads, "Miscegenation is a CRIME against American Values. Repeal Loving v. Virginia." Loving v. Virginia being the Supreme Court case that struck down laws barring the marriage of people of different races.

Other fun images include John Kerry with a shotgun to his head and a photo of Mother Teresa feeding a child captioned, "Enabling scab-eating mouth breathers will do them no good. How do we expect them to take care of themselves?"

All of these were on the party's Facebook Fan page and no one thought that maybe it'd be a good idea to take them down.

To be fair, there's damned good evidence that these are the work of a troll pretending to be a GOP fan. But the fact that these stayed up for so long is kind of a problem for the party regardless. Either way -- sincere or troll -- the GOP is way too comfortable with having dicks put racist and hateful crap up on their page.

Not that anyone can tell the difference between a real Republican and a troll pretending to be a Republican anymore. Read through the comments on a wingnut site sometime... It's all so over-the-top it's self-parody. (Raw Story)

-Bonus HotD-
"Statisticians reject global cooling."

One of the big global warming denier claims dies the death it deserves. According to the report, "In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time."

"If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect," said John Grego, a statistics professor from the University of South Carolina. If you don't cherry-pick, the numbers show the opposite -- global warming.

"The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record," says NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. "Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming."

So, for those of you keeper score; global cooling = bullshit, global warming = not bullshit. Don't expect this to convince your rightwing Aunt Eunice or that dick on that online forum you go to, though -- those guys take the denial as a matter of faith. No amount of evidence could possibly sway them. They're like creationists that way -- bullheaded and ignorant.

They'd rather be politically correct in wingnut ideology than right. I wouldn't waste my time. (Associated Press)
It was a big weekend for the public option. Unfortunately, most of the work seemed to be behind the scenes, away from the cable news cameras. Words you'll never hear reported -- either on TV or online -- are "we have no idea what's going on." So the news cycle was dominated by speculation, leaks, and misinformation. Helpful it was not.

We found out that the White House was working to kill anything other than the "trigger" option, which in the short version is just pretending your including a public option. And then we found out they weren't. If you're dialing up this blog to find out what's going on with the public option and healthcare reform, I've got the skinny -- no one knows.

Be very wary of reports from unnamed "sources," because these sources are almost certainly putting out information and messaging they want repeated. When reading news or watching TV, think of "our sources say" as being synonymous with "rumor has it." It really may not mean much and, even in the best of circumstances, may only represent a step in the process, not the end of the process.

Still, there is some news that comes straight from the horse's mouth that give us some idea what the hell's going on in DC. For example, the new Charles Grassley seems to be Olympia Snowe. Healthcare reform is, after all, a big job and we can't rush things too much. "Well, Christmas might be too soon," Sen. Snowe said in an interview this weekend. "Well, you know, there's always that possibility. I know that's not what the president prefers."

So maybe next year. No big rush. Sure, a lack of health insurance kills about 123 people every day, but who cares about them? The important thing is that we don't rush through this like some sort of a crisis or something.

Lending some credibility to the trigger rumors was an New York Times piece on how well the public option was supposedly doing in Washington. In that piece, the paper quoted John McCain all but conceding defeat. "I think the Democrats have the votes, and in the House, Blue Dogs bark but never bite," McCain is quoted from an interview on Face the Nation. "So I don’t think they have a problem over in the House side. In the Senate I think the Democrats are very aware that they don’t want a repeat of the Clinton failure in 1994. So I think it’s very likely they will get something through. But it’s not clear to me what it is."

It's later in the piece that the trigger comes up:

In the Senate, Mr. Reid is considering several alternatives to his proposal for a national public insurance plan. Under one alternative, the public plan would be established, or triggered, only in states that failed to meet certain goals for insurance coverage.

Now that co-ops are a dead issue, the trigger wins the prize for Worst Compromise. And it's still on the table.

"To me that would be a very serious gap and it would be a very strong reason not to support it," said Russ Feingold, also on Face the Nation. "We need a public option. We need something that would cause some control over the abuses that have occurred in the insurance industry."

"[A trigger is] just an invitation for the insurance industry to manipulate the situation for a couple of years just so they can avoid the trigger and so they can convince members of Congress to delay it again," Feingold added. "We need to do something now."

"Feingold did not say (nor was he asked) if he would participate in a filibuster of a bill that included triggers instead of an opt-out public plan," Sam Stein writes. "And that seems likely to be the major question mark going forward. While conservative Democrats may be comfortable allowing the broader effort to pass health care reform fail over their objections to the public plan, it's not clear if their progressive counterparts will make that leap."

And, unlike the snail's pace that Olympia Snowe seems to believe is necessary, some Democrats are realizing that something has to happen now:


Democrats are pushing Senate leaders and the White House to speed up key benefits in the health reform bill to 2010, eager to give the party something to show taxpayers for their $900 billion investment in an election year.

The most significant changes to the health care system wouldn’t kick in until 2013 —- two election cycles away. With Republicans expected to make next year a referendum on health care reform, Democrats are quietly lobbying to push up the effective dates on popular programs, so they'll have something to run on in the congressional midterm elections.

Democrats are anxious to mix the good with the bad since some of the pain would be phased in early, including more than $100 billion in industry fees that critics say could be passed on to consumers.

OK, so the motivation here is mostly political. I always say that if someone wants to do the right thing for the wrong reason, you really shouldn't stop them. "Democratic strategists expect the 2010 election to present a stark contrast between the parties, particularly if the health care bill receives minimal Republicans support," Politico reports. "The front-load strategy could help blunt GOP attacks on the bill as a toxic mix of higher taxes, rising premiums and cuts to Medicare."

The danger again is the trigger. If Democrats are motivated by scoring points for 2010, then they can pass even a weak bill with questionable improvements over the current non-system and call it a victory. If success is defined as "a bill," rather than "a good bill," we could all wind up being screwed.


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News Roundup for 10/23/09

Peter Graves in 'Mission Impossible'
Dubya's last act as president

-Headline of the day-
"Bush: I regret standing in front of the 'Mission Impossible' banner."

According to the report, "President Bush was in Canada yesterday to speak at a luncheon of the Montreal Board of Trade. Approximately 300 protesters gathered outside the venue, blowing plastic horns, throwing shoes, and burning the former president in effigy." In other words, they made him feel right at home.

Anyway, speaking at the luncheon, the former-president said he had a few regrets from his years as the Decider. "I am confident that I made decisions based on principle, that I made calls as best I could, and I did not sell my soul," he said. Good thing, too. He'd already sold it as Governor of Texas, so there'd be a little fraud in trying to sell it again.

The post tells us, "Bush also said that he regretted appearing in front of a 'Mission Impossible' sign in 2003 during an address about the Iraq war." That actually would've been more accurate than the "Mission Accomplished" banner he actually did speak in front of.

I think he may be back on the sauce. Everyone needs a hobby. (Think Progress)

-In case you're wondering-
I came across this handy flowchart to help you figure out what religion you should (or shouldn't) follow:


Hope you find it helpful. (PochoBlog)

-Bonus HotD-
"Roger Ailes Says He Will Not Run In 2012 Race."

Turns out that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes isn't going to run for president. This is news because crazy people wanted him to. His reasons (besides the obvious "no chance in hell" odds)? He's too rich to be president and people need an insane cable news network.

"This country needs fair and balanced news more now than ever before, so I’m going to decline a run for the presidency," he said. "Besides, I can’t take the pay cut."

Now we may never know how good a job Sean Hannity would do as press secretary -- or Glenn Beck as Secretary of State. Hell, we'd be at war with Switzerland by lunch on the first day. (Politico)

Democrats Join the Pro-Rape Campaign

I was going to go in a different direction with this post. Over at the Huffington Post, Danielle Ivory reported wednesday that many women are finding that being raped makes them uninsurable. The problem? They may or may not have HIV, making AIDS -- despite the fact that they may not actually have the disease, a pre-existing condition.

This brought to mind an amendment to the defense appropriations bill introduced by Sen. Al Franken. That amendment addressed a problem with overseas contractors abusing the process of arbitration to avoid being sued for employee-on-employee rape.Think Progress explains the background:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Franken's amendment bars the government from contracting with companies who use arbitration to keep rape victims out of court. It's pretty common sense; if ACORN can get fired from government work for giving bad tax advice, then Halliburton/KBR should probably get fired for covering up a rape and committing false imprisonment. In fact, Halliburton/KBR is getting off easy here, since all they have to do to keep working for the federal government is tweak their employee contracts. A list of senators who thought this was he worst thing ever and voted against the amendment.

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

All Republicans. It looked like the GOP's kneejerk obstructionism had finally become absurd. Late night talk shows lampooned the 30 who voted against it, blogs attacked the vote, and a satirical website -- RepublicansForRape.org -- was born. In public relations, this situation is known as a "crap storm" and the 30 were left wondering why they ever thought this was a good idea. Interviewing Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney, Todd Kelly, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow introduced the segment this way:

In Idaho, the Lewiston Morning Tribune called out its two senators in an editorial titled, "Senators Crapo and Risch Cast an Inexplicable Vote."

In Mississippi,
The Clarion Ledger editorialized, quote, "Senators Cochran and Wicker voted to protect corporations, not victims, and they should own up to that."

An opinion piece in the
Osawatomie Graphic was titled simply, "Kansas Senators are Disappointing." In Tennessee, a Crossville Chronicle writer asked, "Whose Side are Our Senators On?"

Athens Banner Herald in Georgia headlined a letter quote, "Georgia Senators Embarrass State." And in Louisiana, a Shreveport Times writer asks, quote, "What exactly is Sen. David Vitter problem with women?"

Originally, the vote was defended by saying the Franken amendment was just a political attack on Halliburton/KBR, to punish them for their close connection to Dick Cheney. But the amendment was just so common sense and obviously just that this defense didn't hold up. Finally, the right wing Heritage Foundation dusted off an old Republican bugaboo and used that as an excuse -- contractors are now completely defenseless against "frivolous lawsuits" involving allegations of gang rape. Of course, this is idiocy. A corporation is only going to arbitrate away a case that would stand up in court. No one's going to make up a complicated rape story to sue over, they'll manage to get their foot run over by a truck or something. The amendment doesn't bar arbitration in all cases, just cases "related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention."

Here's where things start to get stupid.

[Sam Stein, Huffington Post:]

An amendment that would prevent the government from working with contractors who denied victims of assault the right to bring their case to court is in danger of being watered down or stripped entirely from a larger defense appropriations bill.

Multiple sources have told the Huffington Post that Sen. Dan Inouye, a longtime Democrat from Hawaii, is considering removing or altering the provision, which was offered by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and passed by the Senate several weeks ago.

As usual, the biggest obstacle to Democratic common sense legislation are Democrats lacking common sense. Stein reports that Inouye's office "has been lobbied by defense contractors adamant that the language of the Franken amendment would leave them overly exposed to lawsuits and at constant risk of having contracts dry up. The Senate is considering taking out a provision known as the Title VII claim, which (if removed) would allow victims of assault or rape to bring suit against the individual perpetrator but not the contractor who employed him or her."

Worse, the amendment is opposed by the Defense Department -- an executive department -- meaning that the Obama White House is (either whole or in part) against it.

I was going to tie the "rape as a pre-existing condition" story to the contractor rape amendment and point out just how the Republican party has jumped the shark. But the truth is that, in both cases, Democrats are on that ski jump too. It'll be a lot easier to make fun of Republicans when Democrats stop being ridiculous boobs as well.

"[I]f this amendment had been in place when Jamie went to Iraq, her rape most likely never would have happened," Jones' attorney Kelly told Rachel Maddow. "What needed to happen is that companies like Halliburton need to have rules in place that forced their employees to obey those rules that needed to have oversight."

But that's not what's important here. What's important is that defense contractors keep on the Democrats' good side and that lobbyists are never, ever made unhappy.


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News Roundup for 10/22/09

Sock puppet

Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy

-Headline of the day-
"After Twitter shuts down GOP accounts impersonating Dems, party complains of 'free speech' infringements."

It turns out that Republican party ops in Connecticut created 33 accounts that they twittlepated from as Democrats. There are two terms for this; "sock puppets" or "CT Sen. Joe Liebermans."

Turns out that's against Twitter's terms of service, which bars impersonation "intended to mislead, confuse or deceive others." It's a good thing the service makes the distinction of impersonation or GOPers wouldn't be able to twittlateat all -- all they do is "mislead, confuse or deceive others."

Anyway, the state GOP thought this was the worst thing ever and said that Twitter was being run by secret Muslim terr'ist socialist bent on destroying America with gay marriages... or something like that anyway.Calling it "unfortunate" that their sock puppet campaign was shot down, state Republican Chairman Chris Healy said, "I'm not quite sure what the issue is, other than that the Democrats were successful in stopping free speech."

This is the biggest setback to a campaign of political idiocy since the Nevada GOP was barred from calling Democratic voters, claiming to be from the Sewage Department, and telling them the department had had just about enough shit out of them. Clearly, the First Amendment is dead. (Think Progress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids! You've heard about "Balloon Boy," but what about "Balloon Bank?"

Balloon Bank!
Click for animation

Up, up, and away! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"McCain Voters Experienced Drop in Testosterone."

Or, as Wonkette puts it, "McCain Loss Killed Numerous Boners On Election Night."

It's scientific and everything.(Political Wire)

Medicare Part E

If you asked me what the definition of a "public option" in health insurance would be, I'd have to stick with the obvious; it'd be "public" as in "government-run or -sponsored" and an "option" as in "you can choose it if you want to." Anything else is not a public option. The news is that the House, under Speaker Pelosi, is working on a "robust" public option that will actually come in cheaper than any Senate bill -- specifically the Senate Finance Committee bill which, let's face it, is eminently improvable.

But with the definition of "public option" so clear and simple, what's with the qualifier "robust?" It seems to me that it either is or it isn't. A "weak" public option is simply not a public option at all. Calling anything that falls outside that definition a "public option" would seem to be a plain lie. Co-ops, which thankfully seem pretty dead as an idea, would be an option you could choose, but they wouldn't be public. Likewise, the "option" part of the definition is out if there aren't insurance exchanges where you can choose a public plan. If, as some are saying, a "public option" should only be available to people who aren't covered by private insurance, then we're not really talking about an "option" here, are we? That'd be what you call your "false advertising."

So, in this case, "robust" and "actual" seem to be synonyms. In a world without weasel words, a positive qualifier wouldn't be necessary. But we don't live in that world. We live in an opposite reality. Honesty isn't valued here, while obfuscation is. In this world that we live in, language matters.

Which makes a possible move by House Democrats a little more important than most people seem to think it is.

[The Hill:]

Say hello to “Medicare Part E” — as in, “Medicare for Everyone.”

House Democrats are looking at re-branding the public health insurance option as Medicare, an established government healthcare program that is better known than the public option.

The strategy could benefit Democrats struggling to bridge the gap between liberals in their party, who want the public option, and centrists, who are worried it would drive private insurers out of business.

While much of the public is foggy on what a public option actually is, people understand Medicare. It also would place the new public option within the rubric of a familiar system rather than something new and unknown.

It's been pointed out that, since the public option has done well in polling throughout this debate, rebranding it is unnecessary. But in a world that seems to accept a "public option" that's not public or not an option, I'm inclined to disagree.

If you need an example of the damage that weasel words can do if you allow people just a little wiggle room, consider this exchange between Sen. All Franken and Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a flack for the right wing Hudson Institute. Keep in mind, this is Senate testimony:

FRANKEN: I think we disagree on whether health care reform, the health care reform that we’re talking about in Congress now should pass. You said that the way we’re going will increase bankruptcies. I want to ask you, how many medical bankruptcies because of medical crises were there last year in Switzerland?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: I don’t have that number in front of me, but I can find out and get back to you.

FRANKEN: I can tell you how many it was. It’s zero. Do you know how many medical bankruptcies there were last year in France?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: I don’t have that number, but I can get back to you if I like.

FRANKEN: Yeah, the number is zero. Do you know how many were in Germany?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: From the trend of your questions, I’m assuming the number is zero. But I don’t know the precise number and would have to get back to you.

FRANKEN: Well, you’re very good. Very fast. The point is, I think we need to go in that direction, not the opposite direction. Thank you.

People actually believe Furchtgott-Roth's BS and they believe it because she leaves out important information. "That number" could be ten, one hundred, one million, etc. In fact, the word "number" almost never brings to mind zero -- you visualize some vague quantity. She kept going to that exit because she's trained herself not to pin herself down with unfortunate facts. She's not lying (at least, not in any way you can prove), but it'd be a mistake to call that testimony honest. Factual and honest are not the same thing.

If we call a public option "Medicare for Everyone," people are going to get the crazy idea that it ought to be something like Medicare, only for everyone. And that'd make it a lot harder to take some piece of crap compromise and call it a "public option."


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News Roundup for 10/20/09

Jim DeMint
Sen. Jim DeMint, shown denying he's Jewish

-Headline of the day-
"S.C. GOP chair won't ask leaders to resign after penny-pinching 'Jew' comments."

An op-ed by South Carolinan Republican leaders got off on the wrong foot when the authors used an antisemitic slur as a metaphor. You've got to give them credit for some restraint though, as they waited until the second sentence to get all Nazi on the editorial board of The Times and Democrat.

Recently your newspaper published a letter from state Rep. Bakari Sellers attacking U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and his opposition to congressional earmarks.

There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation's pennies and trying to preserve our country's wealth and our economy's viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.

You see the problem here, right?

Apparently Edwin O. Merwin Jr., Chairman of the Bamberg County Republican Party and James S. Ulmer Jr., Chairman of the Orangeburg County Republican Party, did not. Still, the Juniors aren't going to face any sort of consequences.

"It was an offensive and inappropriate comment that Jim and Edwin have rightly apologized for. These kinds of stereotypes are absolutely unacceptable," said SC GOP chair Karen Floyd. "It goes without saying that some people will continue trying to exploit this mistake for political gain, but as far as we're concerned, their apology ends the matter."

I wouldn't count on it, lady. What with your corn liquor and your hound dogs and your banjos and your lack of book-learnin', you might not understand how stereotypes make people feel. Stick that in your corncob pipe and smoke it. (Raw Story)

-Redistributing the wealth-
With talk of an "opt-out" for a public option, where states with a majority of lunatics can opt-out of a government healthcare plan, financial writer Brett Arends dares to ask what should be an obvious question -- who would this help the most?

Turns out, the answer is blue states. "If Blue and Red America want to pursue separate policies, why shouldn't they?" he writes. "The unspoken secret of American politics is that Blue America would be far better off, economically and otherwise, going it alone. Blue America has a huge amount to gain and almost nothing to lose from undoing Lincoln's Folly -- a.k.a. the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression -- and leaving the South and other red states to their own devices."

Arends took a gander at tax data and federal spending over the years and found another not very well-kept secret -- red states get more than they pay. "Look at the numbers. New Jersey got back just 61 cents for every dollar it paid in federal taxes. Connecticut: 69 cents. Illinois: 75 cents. New York: 79 cents. Massachusetts: 82 cents. In other words, being a member of the union is costing these states billions in lost money," he writes. "Meanwhile Mississippi gets back $2 in federal spending for every dollar it pays in federal taxes. Alaska: $1.84. Louisiana: $1.78. North Dakota gets $1.68, Alabama $1.66, Tennessee $1.27, Idaho $1.21 and Arizona $1.19."

What can we do about these lazy welfare states? Let them secede. The right's been making noise about it and maybe it's time to call the bluff. Hell, I'd favor an ultimatum -- either you guys start paying your fair share or we'll evict you.

I mean, here we are -- fine, upstanding, working Americans -- and we're all supporting lazy, shiftless welfare queens. What the hell? We didn't have a revolution so Mississippi could get a free ride!

Start paying your fair share, red states, or we'll put your stuff out by the curb. (MarketWatch, via reddit)

-Bonus HotD-
"Harry Reid: 'We're Leaning Towards Talking About A Public Option.'"

If the stars are right and the weather's good and the wind's at our backs and we get up early enough and the fish are biting and their bursitis doesn't act up and the grass doesn't need mowing... then, maybe...

For the love of God Harry, take a freakin' position! (Plum Line)

Teabaggers Not Racist?

Worth cogitatin' on...

[Chris Good, Atlantic Politics Channel:]

Democracy Corps, in its 18-page report on "The Very Separate World Of Conservative Republicans," based on focus groups with conservative Americans and released today, outlines many beliefs and psychological facets central to the conservative Republican mind--and racism isn't one of them.

The study breaks down the contemporary conservative anti-Obama drive into several pillars--Obama's alleged deception and hidden agenda, the fast pace with which he's pushing that agenda, his desire to drive government to the brink of failure and exert governmental control over everything, and his alleged ultimate goal of socialism and an end to liberties. But, when given the opportunity to discuss race, even the older, white, non-college-educated Americans (who, the firm says, "score highest on scales measuring racial prejudice") didn't raise it as an issue. Rather, they brought up the media's consumption with race as a motivator of anti-Obama sentiment, and the notion that they can't criticize Obama on his merits because they'll be labeled racist.

In other words, if you ask them if they're racist, they say no. "This does not mean, conclusively, that racism is absent from anti-Obama politics. Asserting that's the case means taking up a patently false assumption about racism: that it's always overt. Democracy Corps' report seems to walk that line, even if it doesn't cross it," Good writes. "Racism is about complex systems of recognition, categorization, and association. If you ask someone what they think about Obama, and they don't say, 'I dislike him because he's black,' it's not quite safe to check the 'not racist' box and move on. Quiet conclusions are often made--and they can be just as racist as the ones spoken aloud."

I haven't been one of those who've argued "it's all about race." While simple logic requires that all the white racists be anti-Obama, it's intellectually lazy to say that this means that all the anti-Obama nuttiness is because of racism. Still, it's just as wrong to rule out racism entirely or to paste a "not racist" label on the group with the most racists.

I think another argument can be made for racists who don't believe they're racist. The case of Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple, demonstrates this pretty well. I have yet to read a statement from Bardwell defending himself that isn't blatantly racist, yet he continues to assert he isn't racist -- even as he continues to make bigoted arguments. Case in point:

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," says Keith Bardwell of in Tangipahoa Parish. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

The fact that he's defining racism incorrectly and doesn't identify himself as racist doesn't mean he's not a racist -- clearly, he is. Just because he doesn't like that label doesn't mean it doesn't apply to him. Likewise, there are probably a lot of anti-Obama people who are racist, but don't see themselves that way.

Poll: Public Option Preferred Over Bipartisanship

It's getting a little tiring writing this over and over, but a new poll shows that a majority of Americans want a public option. This time, a Washington Post-ABC News Poll shows support for the public option, only this one comes with a couple of twists -- respondents preferred a strong public option to a weak one and preferred a partisan public option over a bipartisan bill without one.

On the public option, respondents were asked, "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?" 57% supported it and 40% opposed. When the public option was weakened -- "What if this government-sponsored plan was run by state governments and was available only to people who did not have a choice of affordable private insurance? In that case would you support or oppose this idea?" -- it got a whole lot less popular. 45% supported and 49% opposed.

And on the bipartisanship question, I think people are starting to get it. Yes, bipartisanship is nice, but not if you have to sacrifice results:

Which of these would you prefer –- (a plan that includes some form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance, but is approved without support from Republicans in Congress); or

(a plan that is approved with support from Republicans in Congress, but does not include any form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance)?

The bill without GOP support pulls a bare majority of 51%, but the bipartisan bill is much less popular with only 37% supporting bipartisanship at all costs.

Part of the GOP's problem here comes in the demographic questions toward the end of the poll -- only 20% of respondents identified themselves as Republican. Which also explains why Republicans rate pretty low on the issue of trust.

Poll respondents are evenly divided when asked whether they have confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country's future, but just 19 percent express confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do so. Even among Republicans, only 40 percent express confidence in the GOP congressional leadership to make good choices.

The paper points out that the percentage identifying as Republican is "the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983." This kind of blows a hole in the hypothesis that Republicans are in for a big year in 2010.

The wide gap in partisan leanings and the lack of confidence in the GOP carries into early assessments of the November 2010 midterm elections: Fifty-one percent say they would back the Democratic candidate in their congressional district if the elections were held now, while 39 percent would vote for the Republican. Independents split 45 percent for the Democrat, 41 percent for the Republican.

And, on the issue of healthcare, Republicans have rendered themselves completely irrelevant by offering absolutely zero of substance. The GOP has become a party of protesters and, as a result, are completely negative. Had they come out with even a lousy competing plan, they'd probably be in a better position right now. And it's a little late to introduce one now, with the train finally pulling up to the station.

It's not all sunshine for Democrats, though. While Obama has a pretty healthy rating of 57%, the approval of his leadership on healthcare reform is the only issue where he doesn't have the majority percentage -- he scores 48%. And, asked if they opposed or supported healthcare reform as it seems to be now, 45% supported it and 48% opposed. Here's hoping that's a hangover from the seriously awful Baucus Senate Finance Committee bill, which was the last piece of reform legislation to get any press. On all the details, the public is supportive of the most progressive reform proposals.

The public will soon get the taste of the Baucus bill out of their mouths, with the final House and Senate versions being banged out. Not only is one guaranteed to have a public option, but the plan is to make it cheaper than a bill without one.

[Talking Points Memo:]

The House health care bill is getting cheaper, but Democrats aren't boasting just yet. Because when they ultimately break silence the hope is to present conservative Democrats in both chambers with a bill that will walk the walk of fiscal responsibility -- including a public option, which is projected to save the government billions.


The Senate Finance Committee bill clocks in at about $829 billion in new spending--an extremely low number for a project so ambitious -- and it has the added bonus, in a legislature that fetishizes fiscal responsibility, of being a deficit reducer. But even if the House can't get it's final health care package below that mark, it may still be able to make quite a splash when official CBO numbers are released in the weeks ahead. The ideal scenario is a House bill that's cheaper in absolute terms than the
final Senate bill, without gutting subsidies. But at the very least the House bill will cover more people than the Senate bill, at a comparable price, providing the government more bang for its health care buck.

At this point, it looks like a bill with a public option is a pretty good bet.


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News Roundup for 10/19/09

US Chamber logo
A bunch of tree-huggin' hippies

-Headline of the day-
"Whoops! Reuters Acknowledges That Hoax Story On Climate Change Could Have Moved Financial Markets."

Whoops indeed...

And Reuters wasn't the only news outlet that fell for the hoax. Politico reports that the Washington Post and the New York Times also fell for a fake press release from the US Chamber of Commerce saying they'd pulled a 180 on their position on global warming.

"We believe that strong climate legislation is the best way to ensure American innovation, create jobs, and make sure the US and the world are on track to reduce global carbon emissions, and provide for the needs of the American business community for generations to come," the false statement reads.

However, it turned out that sanity hadn't broken out at the nation's top business lobby -- they still think this "global warming" stuff is a bunch of hooey. For their part, Reuters was sorry.

"Reuters has an obligation to its clients to publish news and information that could move financial markets, and this story had the potential to do that," they said in a real release (at least, I think it's a real release. Who knows anymore?).

"The Yes Men, a left-leaning activist group that often impersonates officials from organizations they oppose, took responsibility for the hoax," reports Politico. "Andy Bichlbaum -- an alias the activist uses for Yes Men demonstrations -- told Politico that his group is targeting the Chamber for what he considers 'retrograde' positions on climate change." Apparently, the Yes Men joined up with "AVAAZ Action Factory, an activist group, and BeyondTalk.net, an environmental website" to pull off the hoax.

AVAAZ's website posted a notice saying they'd "make this the worst Monday ever for the anti-climate PR machine at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce." Maybe not the worst, but certainly a bad one. For his part, Bichlbaum says he's only hoaxing a hoaxer. "Clearly, there is a question of who is hoaxing who," Bichlbaum said. "I think the Chamber is hoaxing the American public at this point."

He's got a point. The idea that climate change is a hoax -- the Chamber's position -- is in itself a hoax. It's confusing, but I guess that's the point.

Look at it this way, that Balloon Boy thing turned out to be a hoax, right? What would've happened if everyone had fallen for it?

That's right, nothing.

Yet everyone's all freaked out about it. The US Chamber of Commerce is also pulling a hoax and, if enough people fall for this one, it'll affect everyone. And not in a good way. And not many are all freaked out about it.

When you put it that way, maybe now would be a good time for everyone to stop giving a shit about Balloon Boy, dontcha think? (Plum Line, Politico, Talking Points Memo)

-Speaking of hoaxes-
The Lost World Museum in the small town of Phoenix, New York will display a stuffed chupacabra in an attempt to prove that evolution is all wrong. See, scientists don't believe in the Mexican monster and, if you've got one, that proves scientists are wrong about everything.

At least, that's what creationist museum owner John Adolfi is calling "logic" these days. So, does Adolfi actually have a monster known only to folklore?

What do you think?

According to the report, "Adolfi's chupacabra was found thousands of miles away in Blanco, Texas, in August. A local man presented the dead animal (half jokingly) as a chupacabra to a taxidermist named Jerry Ayer. It had been attacking chickens a few days earlier, and succumbed to poison left as bait. The canid creature weighed about 80 pounds and resembled a coyote or dog. But its front legs were a few inches longer than most coyotes', and it was mostly hairless except for around the feet and along its backbone." The best bets on what this is are "either a hairless Mexican dog breed called Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo for short), or a mangy coyote."

I have to admit, I'm still stuck on how exactly this is supposed to prove evolution wrong. If -- and I know I'm really going out on a limb here -- this thing isn't really a Mexican goatsucking monster, wouldn't that prove creationism wrong by the same reasoning?

I think John Adolfi may have just accidentally destroyed Christianity forever. (LiveScience.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"One of Steele's 'rules' that immigrants need to follow to 'get into the country': 'Have some apple pie.'"

At this point, I'm not wondering if there's something wrong with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele anymore. The only question -- to me at least -- is whether it's Everclear or Angel Dust. (Think Progress)