Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wild Wild West

By Capt. Fogg

If you see someone standing on your front lawn taking pictures of your house, and you stick your head out the door to ask what the hell he's doing, maybe you'd better find out if he's a Republican first.

Robert Lutes, a resident of Boise, Idaho suburb, Meridian, probably wishes he had done that. Asking the man on the lawn to tell him what it was about, his question was answered with a .357 magnum revolver pointed at him by the Republican Party chairman of Boise County, Charles McAffee, a "tea party" activist. No, it wasn't high noon, it was just before dinner time.

There is a controversy, of course, about whether Lutes was engaged in heated discussion or argument about his delinquent mortgage payments before McCaffee drew on him, but McCaffee, working for a collection agency used by Wells Fargo, says he pulled the gun on the unarmed homeowner to "de-escalate" the conflict. No, really.

I am unable to establish Idaho's policy on such use of a concealed weapon, but I know that in Florida it is illegal to display or "brandish" even a legally carried gun to gain advantage in or "de-escalate" a dispute or argument. Since McAffee was arrested for aggravated assault, I would assume a similarity in the laws. Again, I don't know if Idaho is a "castle doctrine" state, but I suspect it is, and under that philosophy Lutes would have been justified in shooting a Republican Party county chairman and tax protester like any other armed home invader.

The more civilized part of my nature is glad he didn't, but the little demon on my shoulder sort of wishes the idiot Mr. Teabags had been dealt a little bit of old-fashioned Republican justice.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Money meet mouth

By Creature

Do you believe that the public option must be included in any healthcare reform package? Do you believe that without it reform simply becomes a mandate to fill insurance company pockets with tax payer gold? Do you believe the president needs a push and the House progressives who are drawing a line need support? I do. And so does Jane Hamsher and thousands of progressives across the land. If you haven't given yet, you should. Do it for the sake of saving the public option or do it to say you're hip with the Kool Kidz. I don't care why, let's just keep the ball rolling.

Donate, donate, donate here.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Mike Huckabee

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mike Huckabee, "a longtime Christian Zionist," on a trip to Israel. You know, you just know, that that's a recipe for some serious crazy. And he didn't disappoint. Take this, for example, as told to CBN:

One of the things I find most interesting is that generally Evangelicals are so much more supportive of Israel than the American Jewish community.

There's great division within the American Jewish Community about the level of support for Israel. I think they all support Israel, want to see it succeed. But you'll find people all over the board about whether they think ii ought to have... absolute control over its border and whether they should give up land for peace and just how many countries can oversee Jerusalem at one time.

I don't find that kind of dichotomy generally within the Evangelical community. It's pretty adamant: There ought to be one city. It ought to be a Jewish state. And it ought to be secure. So maybe one of the hard things is to convince some of our Jewish friends that Evangelicals are the best friends they've got — because I think generally, that's the case.

Shame on American Jews for not being an ideological, political, and theocratical monolith! How dare there be any differences of opinion among them! How dare they be a diverse, dynamic community! How dare they be like Israel itself!

Why can't they be more... Christian... evangelically speaking?

And, come on, are we really to believe that Huckabee and his fundamentalist friends care so much about Israel and the Jews? I mean, it wouldn't have anything to do with that whole Rapture nonsense, would it? (As in, Israel needs to be in the hands of the Jews -- and must be, according to prophecy -- prior to the Second Coming. It's all about Jesus, you see, not the Jews, and it's what "premillennial dispensationalism" is all about. Israel is just an actor, so to speak, in the premillenial historical narrative of the Christian Zionists and their fundamentalist friends. It's a cog, a stage, a necessary precursor. This is why Huckabee and "the Evangelical community" support Israel. This is why they promote and encourage endless war in the region, notably between Israel and the Palestinians. If some Jews/Israelis find themselves on the side of these Christian Zionists, it's only because they share a common political cause -- although certainly not for the same reasons.


For more on Christian Zionism, see here.

For more on Huckabee's views on Israel and the Palestinians, see the AJC's Jay Bookman.

For more on Huckabee's "alternate reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict," see Shmuel Rosner at TNR: "

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Reaction in review (August 21, 2009

By Carol Gee

A week's reactions that deserve a second look.

Lots of comments this week:


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "History, according to Texas Republicans" -- The heavily right wing Texas State Board of Education textbook review committee is doing a wholesale revisionist "number" on "approved" textbooks, leaving Michael (and me) irate.

By Creature: "Kyle confirms no GOP votes for healthcare reform" -- Creature boils it down with this pungent plea,"The olive branch has been offered, so now can we please leave the GOP behind?"

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Huge majority of Americans support 'choice' of public option" -- Citing The Huffington Post, Michael effectively argues that how questions are worded can affect the outcome of public opinion polls, and that media legitimizes Republican propaganda.


By Mustang Bobby: "A conservative argues for marriage equality" -- Bobby reports that former U.S. Solicitor General, Ted Olson is arguing against California's ban on same-sex marriage; Bobby points out that, "the idea of marriage equality is right in line with the conservative ideas of limited government and the rights of the people to make their own decisions."

By Paul E. Barber (Special guest post): "My brain and the Ontario health-care system" -- In this wonderfully personal and myth-debunking piece, Michael's friend and colleague tells the story of how effectively his benign brain tumor was treated with no rationing and no unnecessary wait time within Canada's system. (7 comments)


By (O)CT(O)PUS: "Health-care reform: Matters of life and death from an alternate universe" -- Our Contributor has written a must read post, complete with a video, a personal vignette about a friend's victimization by her insurance company, a description of the alternate universe now driving the debate, current comparative statistics, and evidence of who's getting rich and who's going bankrupt. (3 comments)

By Capt. Fogg: "Bully for Teddy" -- This is a great post by the good Captain, who draws important parallels between the reformer days of Teddy Roosevelt and today's economic and violence-threatening perils of greed, lack of regulation and toting guns.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "On health-care reform, it's time for Democrats to do it by themselves" -- Michael explains in completely clear terms that Republicans will not be up for any compromise, and that Democrats "need to pull together, ignore Republican obstructionism, and do what's right for America."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Robert Novak (1931-2009)" -- Michael's tribute to this "independent thinking" conservative with a "towering intellect" is another of his very fine obits well worth reading.

By Capt Fogg: "Georgia on my mind" -- Regarding Phil Gingery's gun rights advocacy, Fogg's great writing speaks for itself: "Perhaps he's only hoping that being surrounded by a hostile ad hoc militia will force Democrats to listen to their ravings about death panels, re-education camps, rationing of medical care, free medical care to illegal aliens, galloping Marxism, slippery slopes, the president's citizenship, and the loss of precious bodily fluids, but really -- don't we already have Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for that?" (5 comments)

By Creature: "More town-hall madness, assault rifles" -- Creature has a wonderfully ironic way, with this succinct post, of letting us know that this really is MADNESS.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "It's called the free market. And it's turned on Glenn Beck" -- Michael's report, on a successfully organized campaign to get advertisers to leave their sponsorships of Glenn Beck's show, generated a very spirited debate ( 22 comments) between people at the opposite poles of politics.

By Capt. Fogg: "The Public option is not dead -- maybe" -- Fogg argues persuasively that the question of the viability of passing something with a public option depends on one's level of disillusionment with Congress, wondering ". . . how many letters, calls, hookers, and e-mails it takes to equal the power of corporate contributions, junkets, and three-martini lunches." See also, "The Public Option."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The Death of the 'public option': What's really going on?" -- Michael's great post is a dialog with himself, an on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand debate over what might really be going on with President Obama and his administration's expressed views on a "public option." (7 comments)


By Michael J. W. Stickings: "Chasing rabbits" -- This post is a good analysis of the current political stakes in the health-care reform struggle, concluding with this reality,"Democrats are in the majority with a large majority, and they need to act like it."

(Cross-posted at Behind the Links.)

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History, according to Texas Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings


So irate am I, let me quote the TP post in full:

The Texas State Board of Education review committee is preparing to vote on a draft of proposed standards for history textbooks. Noting that the draft has "nothing about liberals," the Houston Chronicle reported:

The first draft for proposed standards in United States History Studies Since Reconstruction says students should be expected "to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority." [...] Others have proposed adding talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.

The 15-member committee, stacked with 10 Republicans, is expected to vote along party lines. Earlier this year, a panel of right-wing "experts" produced a report urging the committee to remove biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen F. Austin, and César Chávez, and instead add history about the "motivational role the Bible and the Christian faith played in the settling of the original colonies."

So, let's recap:

-- George Washington? OUT.

-- Newt Gingrich? IN.

-- Abraham Lincoln? OUT.

-- Phyllis Schlafly? IN.

-- Liberalism? OUT.

-- Christian fundamentalism? IN.

This, apparently, is the way Texas Republicans want it. It's amazing how much Republicans resemble Bolsheviks and other totalitarian revisionists of the last century, isn't it?

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One toke over the line

By Capt. Fogg

Porque no tiene,
Porque le falta,
Marijuana que fumar.

I wonder how long we'll be able to keep the US/Mexico border under control with the number of crossings sure to increase by a factor of a hundred at any moment now. I have a feeling millions of Americans will be on their way south now that Mexico has decriminalized heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamines and marijuana.

Andale! Arriba!

Raw Story reported this morning that small amounts of these drugs would now be tolerated:

Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico's corruption-prone police from shaking down casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.

It won't do much to hurt tourism either. It remains to be seen whether they will see the same influx of foreign stoners that the Netherlands has had to deal with and the same problems with petty crime, but it is an indication that Mexico, at least, is tired of doing the same thing that's been making the situation worse and worse for nearly a century and trying to do something that won't feed the plague of violence and corruption.

The new law sets out maximum "personal use" amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities no longer face criminal prosecution,

said Mexican attorney general Bernardo Espino del Castillo. Thanks Bernie and see y'all

South of the border.
Down Mexico way.

*Disclaimer -- The above post does not necessarily reflect the views of Capt. Fogg or anyone in particular and is intended to be a farcical and sophomoric attempt to get some laughs -- and you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Kyl confirms no GOP votes for healthcare reform

By Creature

So while the whiney, delusion Gang of sellouts Six in the Senate looks for a pair of scissors to craft a bill more to the GOP's liking, the man in charge of counting votes, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, still says: no-go. So, tell me, again, why the does president insists on keeping up this bipartisan facade?

I realize there is a whole lot of politics going on here, but, really, enough. The olive branch has been offered, so now can we please leave the GOP behind? I'd bet, if the president drew a forceful line in the sand, if he told the GOP to fuck off, if he leaves the politics of bipartisanship behind, the country would react positively to these moves, and healthcare reform would become a reality.

But, I'm just part of the "left of the left," so what do I know?

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Huge majority of Americans support "choice" of public option

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Good news, from HuffPo:

More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to have a "choice" between a government-run health care insurance option and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.

A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June.

But the numbers tell another story, as well.

Earlier in the week, after pollsters for NBC dropped the word "choice" from their question on a public option, they found that only 43 percent of the public were in favor of "creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies."

Opponents of the president's agenda jumped on the findings as evidence that backing for the public option was dropping. Proponents responded by arguing that NBC's tinkering with the language of the question (which it had also done in its July survey) had contributed to the drop in favorability for a public plan.

SurveyUSA's poll, which was commissioned by the progressive group, a proponent of the public plan, gives credence to those critiques. While arguments about what type of language best describe the public option persist --"choice" is considered a trigger word that everyone naturally supports -- it seems clear that the framing of the provision goes a long way toward determining its popularity.

The right will jump all over this poll, and these numbers, given that it was conducted by However, "SurveyUSA used the same exact words that NBC/Wall Street Journal had used when conducting its June 2009 survey. That one that found 76 percent approval for the public option."

In other words, contrary to what Republicans would have us believe, there is overwhelming support for a public option in any health-care reform bill. No, Americans don't want a single-payer system like the one we have here in Canada -- or at least don't think they do (it's not like most Americans are in a position to make an informed judgement, not least because of Republican propaganda and media negligence/malfeasance -- but, then, such a system isn't on offer here.

That point must be stressed: Obama and the Democrats want choice. A public option would be another choice, one that would provide insurance to the uninsured and an alternative to those with inadequate coverage. It's that simple.

Now if only the White House and its allies in Congress would get the message out more effectively. And if only the media would stop providing a platform for, and legitimating, Republican propaganda.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

A conservative argues for marriage equality

By Mustang Bobby

Theodore Olson made the case for Bush in Bush v. Gore and served as Solicitor General for the George W. Bush administration. So you would think that he would be a strong advocate for keeping marriage defined as that being between one man and one woman.

You would be wrong.

“For conservatives who don’t like what I’m doing, it’s, ‘If he just had someone in his family we’d forgive him,’ ” Mr. Olson said. “For liberals it’s such a freakish thing that it’s, ‘He must have someone in his family, otherwise a conservative couldn’t possibly have these views.’ It’s frustrating that people won’t take it on face value.”

While Mr. Olson came to the case by a serendipitous route that began late last year with Rob Reiner, a Hollywood director widely known for his Democratic activism, he said his support of same-sex marriage stemmed from longstanding personal and legal conviction. He sees nothing inconsistent with that stance and his devotion to conservative legal causes: The same antipathy toward government discrimination, he said, inspired him to take up another cause that many on the right applauded — a lengthy campaign to dismantle affirmative action programs.

A hearing in the marriage case, filed on behalf of two gay couples, is scheduled for Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco. Practicing his opening argument recently, Mr. Olson declared that California’s ban is “utterly without justification” and stigmatizes gay men and lesbians as “second-class and unworthy.”

“This case,” he said afterward, “could involve the rights and happiness and equal treatment of millions of people.”

Actually, the idea of marriage equality is right in line with the conservative ideas of limited government and the rights of the people to make their own decisions.

And I like the idea of someone standing up for happiness. You don't often think of that aspect of life when you think about laws and the government -- even though it's mentioned in the Declaration of Independence -- but when it comes down to it, keeping people happy is probably one of the basic goals and duties of a civil society. And given the tone of "discourse" in recent months, we could use a little happiness in our lives, especially some of the more obstreperous conservatives who, to quote Alice Roosevelt Longworth, all seem to have been weaned on a pickle.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Threat level orange

By Capt. Fogg

Well it certainly won't be a surprise to anyone who thought the Bush administration was using Tom Ridge's color coded threat levels to keep his poll ratings up every time they needed a boost - like right before an election. even though he was quoted in 2004 as saying

"We don’t do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."

Ridge's new book contains at least one bombshell of a revelation according to MSNBC's Chris Matthews - yes indeed Ridge was pressured to raise the level days before the 2004 election even though there was no threat. He refused.

In rather dry and understated language he explains that he now had proof that the main concern of the administration was politics and not national security and this was the moment he decided he had to get out.

The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again is due to be released September first. That should give the Republicans enough time to launch a smear campaign.

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My brain and the Ontario health-care system

Special guest post by Paul E. Barber

Ed. note: The following was written by a friend and colleague of mine here in Toronto. It is a response to the various right-wing attacks on Canada's, including Ontario's, health-care system -- one in which there is a real "public option," one in which basic government-funded coverage is universal. Supplementary private coverage can be provided through one's employment or otherwise acquired in the market, but there isn't a two- or multi-tier system that divides us based on how much money we have. There is choice -- I selected my family doctor, for example -- but we all go to the same hospitals. At the very least, there is health care for all. And excellent health care, as Paul explains in this very personal piece. I encourage you to read it in full. -- MJWS


You may have seen the stories about the television ad with first person testimony from a woman who claims she had a brain tumour and was unhappy about her care in the Ontario health-care system, part of the ongoing assault on "Obamacare." Five years ago, I actually had a brain tumour and dealt with the Ontario health-care system. The truth about our system is much different than the misinformation spewing forth over the Internet and the airwaves. This is my story.

I am not the type of person who would be described as a hypochondriac. I am more likely to dismiss aches and pains as of no consequence. Thus when I developed some peculiar head and neck symptoms in early 2004, I did not pay much attention to them at first.

Even when I called for an appointment with my GP in March, I was asked by the receptionist if it was urgent and I said no. The GP said he was puzzled by my condition and referred me to a neurologist. I saw him in early April. His assessment included some physical tests, all of which I passed with flying colours. This is perhaps not surprising, as throughout this period I was regularly
Scottish country dancing, a physically and mentally demanding form of exercise that no doubt kept me in decent shape.

I did have some blood pressure abnormality. The neurologist concluded, not inappropriately, that I should see a cardiologist and said he would recommend that my GP refer me. Shortly thereafter, I had an appointment for early May.

A week or so later, we were invited by close friends to a delightful Saturday evening dinner. I didn't think I had drunk too much wine, but my wife was driving, so it didn't matter. When I woke up the next morning -- it was Sunday, April 17 -- and felt quite sick with a headache – I thought I had a hangover.

However, unlike all previous hangovers, this one did not disappear by Sunday afternoon – I remained very ill and in bed. By the afternoon of Wednesday, April 21, we finally concluded, after consulting my GP on the phone, that I should seek emergency treatment the next day if I showed no improvement.

Late that night, unable to sleep because of a splitting headache, I got up to take some strong headache medication. The last thing I remember was reaching up to the cabinet containing the pills. My wife then heard a crash as I hit the floor. I had collapsed and gone into a convulsion.

This is the point where we discovered just how fast and effective our health system could be. The complaints you hear directed at Canada's health system about waiting times for treatment are simply without foundation. As you will see from what happened next, my experience says quite the opposite.

The next thing I recall I was being carried downstairs by some fire fighters who responded to the 911 call and had made it to our house ahead of the ambulance. I was taken immediately in the ambulance to the Mount Sinai Hospital emergency. I drifted in and out of consciousness and don't remember much from that period, but a CAT scan done in the wee hours of Thursday, April 22 revealed a large mass in my brain.

A few hours later, I was admitted to the Toronto Western Hospital neurology ward (which has an
international reputation for excellence). I had a brain tumour and needed surgery. The doctors were optimistic that what they didn't get with surgery could be dealt with by chemotherapy and radiation. They assumed I had brain cancer, but they said it would be a few weeks after surgery before tests could determine the exact nature of the tumour. The medical staff could scarcely believe that I had actually been at work the previous Friday.

Hooked up to an IV and rehydrated, I began to feel a little better. However, I discovered that I had lost considerable sensation on my right side. I could not hold a cup of water without dropping it, a very distressing discovery.

Early the next morning, Friday, April 23, I had an MRI. This marvellous machine provided a precise three dimensional portrait of the tumour. That evening, my neurosurgeon,
Dr. Taufik Valiante, came by the hospital room to discuss my case. He felt I needed surgery in the near future, although not necessarily right away (he thought I might have to wait a week). However, he cheerfully went off to check on the availability of the space and personnel needed to do the surgery, and found we could do it the next day.

Just 60 hours or so after my collapse, on Saturday, April 24, , I underwent five and a half hours of surgery to remove a large brain tumour. The surgery left a large scar running across the top of my head, now just barely visible through my thinning hair. Twinges in my right hand and stiffness in my lower right leg are the only long-term consequences of my experience. I have an MRI every couple of years (I just had one) to check that the tumour has not returned.

Despite the extensive nature of the surgery, it was performed so skillfully that I felt able to leave the hospital and go home the following Tuesday – April 27. And the next day, Dr. Valiante called with the news that the tumour was benign, a slow-growing
pilocytic astrocytoma, generally thought of as a brain tumour one sees in children. I would not need any further treatment. In less than a week, the system had me on the road to full recovery. My wife recalls this period as a blur of unfolding events.

By the way, I did see the cardiologist a week or two later while still recovering from surgery. She did a few tests and pronounced me fine.

As you can see from my story, the delays encountered in my care were entirely of my own making, not wait times in the health-care system. Once it kicked into gear, I received incredibly fast, world-class health care. Apart from my initial ride in the ambulance and my hospital phone, the only other cost to me was the rental of the hospital TV set. A couple of days after the surgery, I remember watching a Toronto Blue Jays - Minnesota Twins game, featuring a first-rate performance by then Blue Jays starter Ted Lilly. Full value for my money spent on the TV and full value for my tax dollars that pay for our health-care system.

Our experience with Canada's health care system has been first-rate. This includes the cancer care my wife is currently receiving, which has included a sophisticated procedure whereby she successfully received a transplant of her own stem cells at the wonderful
Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. She did not have to wait for that complex operation either: it was performed upon completion of the essential preliminary treatment.

On another occasion, my son dislocated his shoulder playing a pick-up game of ice hockey. He called me at work to help him get to the hospital. When we entered emergency, the triage nurse gave Alex a quick inspection and then instantly whisked him away for treatment. Once again, no waiting.

I think our experience with health care is comparable to that of most Canadians. Our system may not be perfect, but we are more than happy with how it has treated us, and,
like other Canadians, we would not trade it for the American system.

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Majority of Americans now against the Afghan War

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to a new WaPo-ABC poll, a majority of Americans (51%) now opposes the war in Afghanistan. As expected, the divide is largely partisan, with most Republicans continuing to support the war -- and, interestingly, supporting Obama's handling of the war so far. On the other side, Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the war -- including, of course, a possible troop increase, one of the key elements of Obama's Afghan policy. And why has this happened? It's not as if the war has gone all that badly. No, it hasn't gone exceptionally well either, but it isn't Iraq. I would argue that one of the key reasons is that, simply, the war now seems pointless. What is the war for? What would constitute victory? When could the troops come home? Those questions just don't seem to have any satisfactory answers anymore, if they ever did, and it may well be too late even for Obama to answer them to the satisfaction of the American people outside of the hawkish right. There is still a role for the U.S. military to play in the region, I would argue, but the Afghan War as it is currently being conducted -- and probably also as it would be conducted with a sizeable troop increase -- is largely indefensible.

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Splitting the healthcare bill

By Creature

If it works, great. But to think the Republicans are going to go along with the non-controversial aspects of it is the stuff ponies are made of. I wish the Democrats all the best.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Health-care reform: Matters of life and death from an alternate universe


Last weekend, the healthcare controversy came to my door when friends from South Florida arrived for a visit. Years ago, they were former neighbors. We shared a backyard retention pond that had grown into a wildlife preserve. Each morning, I recall, my neighbor threw birdseed to the resident ducks and moorhens. She had a name for every critter. “My buddies,” she called them.

My former neighbors and now dear friends had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Her cancer is treatable and manageable, but she suffers20from fatigue and takes mega doses of Percocet and morphine to relieve pain. Last week, she and her husband checked into a Marriot Inn near the clinic for days of blood tests, X-Rays, MRIs, and consultations.

Since I live within two hours of Jacksonville, I invited them to stay for a weekend. On Saturday, we treated ourselves to a boat ride, dined on fennel and endive salad, baked grouper, and homemade hazelnut cake. On Sunday, we talked, watched sailboats lumber past my balcony, watched billowy cotton ball clouds turn red against a setting sun.

On Monday morning, just before their return trip to Jacksonville for more diagnostics, the hospital called their cell phone: Their insurance carrier had not “pre-authorized” the tests.

For my friends and millions of families like them, this is our current healthcare system: Arbitrary decisions made, not by medical doctors, but by insurance carriers that force them to chose between timely treatment or bankruptcy, living or dying.

To read conservative commentary is to enter a Universe of reverse polarity where private health insurers are the angels, and the devil by default is government. You read dire predictions about “Death Panels” run by bureaucrats who will eat your baby or kill your grandmother; but you will hear nothing about the Death Panels of private insurers who would kill my friend or bankrupt her family … and pocket their insurance premiums with a crocodile smile.

One can understand misplaced outrage with some justification. All of us, liberal and conservative alike, were rightfully angry about the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street and the outrageous bonuses paid to crooks and scoundrels at taxpayer expense. Yet, our rightwing friends ignore an inconvenient truth: The same greed and corruption that almost ruined Wall Street are ruining our healthcare system. Here is a snapshot of our current situation:

In 2008, total US healthcare spending reached $2.4 trillion, representing 17% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 2017, healthcare spending will climb to 20% GDP.

How does our current healthcare system compare with other countries? At 17% GDP, we spend far more than Switzerland 10.9%, Germany 10.7%, Canada 9.7%, and France 9.5%.

Since 1999, health insurance premium costs have risen 120%. In contrast, cumulative inflation rose 44%, and cumulative wage growth rose 29%. When adjusted for inflation and runaway healthcare costs, real wages have fallen.

Has the most expensive healthcare system in the world reduced infant mortality? Not according to the
2009 World Factbook, published by our own CIA. The USA ranks below 45 nations: USA 6.26, Cuba 5.82, European Union 5.72, Canada 5.04, Switzerland 4.18, Germany 3.99, and France 3.33, as examples.

Bankruptcies: In 2007, medical bills accounted for 62.1% of personal insolvencies, an increase of 50% in six years.

In short, the most expensive healthcare system in the world is not making us healthy, wealthy, or wise. To maximize earnings, private insurers ‘cherry pick’ the most profitable subscribers, reject high-risk applicants, eliminate those with “pre-existing” conditions, limit benefits, drop customers, and charge higher premiums. One inevitable consequence of a profit-driven system is a large pool of “medically uninsurable” applicants who are denied access to affordable, quality healthcare.

Another consequence are high premium costs that partition our people into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ An estimated 47 million people lack healthcare coverage, and medical debts will drive a million people each year into bankruptcy. In an anti-Universe, there are those who proclaim: “The U.S. has the best damn healthcare system in the world.” The real Universe knows otherwise (

When the Bush/Cheney administration proposed a prescription drug plan for seniors, Big Pharma won concessions that barred Medicare from negotiating lower prices or importing drugs from cheaper markets. Today, seniors pay 60% more for drugs than veterans because the Veterans Administration has the right to negotiate discounts whereas Medicare does not.

Private insurers, demanding an opportunity to compete with Medicare on “a level playing field,” won $177 billion in subsidies payable over 10 years. When one pays money but gets nothing in return, the more apt term is ‘extortion.’

Shortly after the prescription drug plan became law, 15 congressional and administration officials resigned to take multi-million dollar a year jobs with the drug lobby. Thus, crony capitalism perpetuates a feeding frenzy whose purpose is to
privatize profits and socialize risks … turning subscribers and taxpayers into chum.

South of the border, Mexican drug cartels wage bloody turf wars for control over territory and profits. In an anti-Universe north of the border, healthcare cartels wage turf wars in Washington for control over profits and monopolies. In the real world, one plus one equals two. In the anti-Universe of K Street, healthcare cartels script this message: One plus one equals socialism, government-run Death Panels, euthanasia, dead babies and dead grandmothers, service rationing, even shortages of toilet paper.

How do you move the debate from the real world into the shadowy anti-Universe of astroturfing and public hysteria?

Easy! Hire a K Street public relations firm such as
Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, whose client list includes: AETNA, CIGNA, Ann Coulter, the Heritage Foundation, and the Republican National Co mmittee. Hire Jack Bonner and Associates to spread false rumors with forged letters. Hire Dick Armey, former Republican House Majority Leader, to organize protests and create the illusion of spontaneous public uprisings.

In a year of deep recession, job losses, home foreclosures, and massive bailouts at taxpayer expense, one can always capitalize on the passions of an angry citizenry fed up with chicanery and corruption … and the all-too-human tendency to seek scapegoats for ritual sacrifice. Those who disrupt town hall meetings are angry, but their anger is misplaced because little do they know that those who incite them do not have their best interests in mind.

Manipulating public opinion is easy when you are the CEO of a corporation with lots of money and lobbyists and politicians in your pocket ... and you can always find a willing mob of malcontents and misfits ready to do your bidding.

In three weeks, my friends from South Florida will return for another visit. Again, we will reminisce about the adorable critters of our fabled pond. Again, we will share a splendid meal, watch a DVD or two, or take a stroll on the beach and splash in the surf. How much time do we have left to enjoy a few precious moments?

Meanwhile the stories of my friends from South Florida and the plight of millions of people in their situation remain untold; their voices drowned beneath the chirps and scrapings of late summer cicadas. Real people in the real world have no lobbyist, no advocate to argue their case, influence the debate, or quell the angry mobs … and that is how America’s healthcare cartels win every time.

(Cross-posted at
The Swash Zone.)

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Bully for Teddy

By Capt. Fogg

It's a funny thing, the conservative American mind. Talk about quotidian things, work, the weather, and they can be charming, witty, and companionable, and seem intelligent, but stay away from politics if you don't want to have to discard many friendships. Beneath the mask can lie a morass of anger and ignorance as deep and foetid as hell itself.

I've very often had people express nostalgic longing for a president like Teddy Roosevelt -- a hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, soldier, adventurer ,and writer of books, a man not afraid to conquer and not likely to apologize for it. A conservative's conservative. Someone who stood square-jawed and well-armed astride the American horizon in a time of unlimited freedom, opportunity, and prosperity, when the lower orders knew their place. Thus are the dreams.

Of course, Teddy was often denounced as a Communist agitator. Today, his opinions would have the Sarah Palins and Joe who isn't a Plumbers flapping in a frenzy like decapitated chickens. He espoused a graduated income tax and more government regulation of financial markets. He advocated more government social programs such as housing for immigrants. Of course, there were no Nazis then to be falsely associated with American progressivism and no way to compare him to Hitler, as today he inevitably would be.

Roosevelt's time had seen the effects of economic booms, panics, and busts in rapid and relentless quick step. Economic inequality was growing, monopolies were tightening their grip on free markets, and massive accumulations of private wealth were threatening democracy. His vision didn't include doing nothing or faith in the power of doing nothing or blind trust of the altruism of the very, very wealthy.

Those who oppose reform will do well to remember that ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism,

said Roosevelt in a famous 1910 speech calling for a "New Nationalism." One wonders what bizarre grotesqueries of accusation would emerge had it been given today. Would people be carrying weapons to his speeches, would he be called a tyrant, would there be hysteria over the way he was "dismantling freedom"? Would they question his citizenship, his patriotism, and accuse him of murder? It's hard to tell, but surely Barack Obama has suffered worse for less radical statements.

Of course, Teddy had to remind his audience after he said,

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration,

that he was quoting Abraham Lincoln ,because he was regularly being called a totalitarian himself, as well as a Communist. Perhaps such things never change, but the perception of an America that's sliding irretrievably down a slope toward the antithetical perdition of Communism and Fascism because sentiments such as those of Lincoln and Roosevelt are essentially "far-left" and "liberal" and we're being assured of it daily by mindless maggots with megaphones.

It seems that the Niebelungs of negativity have been crying wolf for a very long time, but look at how well the average man lives today compared to how he lived a hundred years ago, when poverty consumed most of us and faith-based laws restricted huge numbers to certain neighborhoods, certain jobs, certain levels of education, and certain expectations of justice in an essentially Hobbesian society.

Somehow, I cannot believe that a hundred years of progress toward more liberal goals have made us justifiably disgruntled. We live longer, better, cleaner, and healthier, and have far more freedom to alter our circumstances for the better. The slope has not been slippery, the slope never existed. Progressive income taxation has not stifled entrepreneurship, which has thrived even in times of over 80% top brackets, and in fact it seems to dampen economic cycles. It seems the only wolves that have shown up were wearing conservative clothing and warning us of wolves.

Isn't a new nationalism what we need today? The old kind and the old attitude and the old maxims and the old and vicious, dishonest, and hate-filled rhetoric has never done us any good and have now brought us to the brink.
(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Smell the methane

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I haven't blogged much recently about global warming, but that's only because my attention has been elsewhere. I still consider it the most pressing crisis of our time. Yes, absolutely, health care is a crisis in the U.S., and Islamist terrorism and nuclear proliferation remain serious global crises, and of course there is the current economic crisis, but there won't be much of a world left if temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise at a rate dramatically inflated by human activity.

Here's yet another alarming discovery:

Scientists say they have evidence that the powerful greenhouse gas methane is escaping from the Arctic sea bed.

Researchers say this could be evidence of a predicted positive feedback effect of climate change.

As temperatures rise, the sea bed grows warmer and frozen water crystals in the sediment break down, allowing methane trapped inside them to escape.

The research team found that more than 250 plumes of methane bubbles are rising from the sea bed off Norway.


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On health-care reform, it's time for Democrats to do it by themselves

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Finally: "Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks."

Republicans, you see, are against reform. It's that simple. They may say they're for reform, but they're against Democratic reform more than they're actually for anything themselves. And it isn't just the "public option" that arouses their opposition. They're against the non-profit co-op option, too, a compromise that has been tossed around of late by centrists. Indeed, as Senator John Kyl of Arizona put it -- and he's the minority whip, and so speaks for the party -- the co-op option is a "Trojan horse," government-run health care "by another name." In other words, to Republicans, it's the thin end of the wedge. As the "Trojan horse" was filled with Greeks, so is the co-op option willed with the "public option."

This isn't the case, of course. The the "public option" and the co-op compromise are simply not the same thing, though a successful co-op system could lead to the eventual creation of a genuinely public system. Regardless, Republicans aren't going to vote for any bill that includes either a "public option" or a co-op compromise. Kyl himself said so: "I don't believe Republicans will be inclined to support a bill." Again, it's that simple.

So why bother? Why try, as Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota, is doing, to work out a compromise, a deal with Republicans who have no interest in compromise and who aren't about to negotiate in good faith and who see bipartisanship as empty rhetoric?

It's time for Democrats to do what needs to be done on their own. To me, that means introducing and passing a bill with a robust "public option," but, realistically, they need to work out a bill that secures as much Democratic support as possible, preferably one that actually achieves meaningful reform. Instead of reaching out to the other side and pushing inadequate compromises, they need to pull together, ignore Republican obstructionism, and do what's right for America.

(Now, whether they actually pull together 60 votes in the Senate is another matter. But why not give it a shot?)

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Clip of the Day

By Creature

Barney Frank is my hero. Just watch.

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The right, naked

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's ugly, but it's real. Here's Think Progress:

Last week, Las Vegas radio station KDWN AM720 sponsored a "contentious" town hall, emceed by conservative morning show host Heidi Harris. At the event, local news stations were interviewing an Israeli man who was praising the "fantastic" "national health care" in Israel. During his remarks, a woman yelled out, "Heil Hitler!" The man stopped, became visibly upset, and exclaimed, "Did you hear this? She say to a Jew, 'Heil Hitler'! Hear? I'm a Jew! You're telling me, 'Heil Hitler'? Shame of you!" After he angrily confronts her, the woman mocks him by making a crying sound to imply he is a whining baby.

Now, it would be unfair to suggest that this ignorant bigot speaks for all Republicans, or for all conservatives, or for all opponents of health-care reform. (Obviously.) At the same, though, she is clearly not a minority of one -- within the mob, backed by conservatives across the land, there are no doubt many more like her... and some of them might even be carrying assault rifles.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Novak (1931-2009)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I liked him, back in my conservative youth, and, even later, I suppose I respected him for being, unlike so many of his right-wing colleagues, refreshingly honest. He was what he was and he spoke his mind loudly, forcefully, a reporter who was unabashedly ideological, a pundit who was one of the leading Republican voices of his time, a partisan to the very end. Sure, he was also "The Prince of Darkness" (not to mention a "Douchebag of Liberty") but, compared to the extremist blowhards of today, the Hannitys, O'Reillys, Limbaughs, and Becks of the conservative commentariat, he was independent in his thinking, a towering intellect, in fact, an admirable voice in a crowd of hacks, whether it was on CNN or in his long-running WaPo column. The left-versus-right dynamic that characterized shows like Crossfire, one of his main platforms, is abhorrently stultifying and stupifying, but he certainly made it all more amusing, and, from time to time, more edifying, than it would have been without him.

Robert Novak died today at the age of 78. Washington, and American political discourse generally, just won't be the same without him.

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Do Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd have any shame?

By Creature

According to their new poll, the American people have bought--hook, line, and sinker--into the GOP's healthcare lies. Yet, these two act as if they played no role in that. It's Iraq all over again.

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Georgia on my mind

By Capt. Fogg

Florida, the state I live in, does not allow "open carry" of firearms. To get a permit to carry concealed weapons, one has to attend a safety class, have a clean police record, clearance from the county sheriff or police chief, and submit a set of fingerprints. Like Mack the Knife, the weapon must be kept out of sight and may not be used to intimidate or threaten anyone. You can't, if armed, sit at a bar or other "place of public nuisance," and you may not bring it onto private property or into a court house or police station without permission.

Apparently, it's different in Georgia. Although it's hard to get a clear explanation of the state code, it seems you, as a permit holder, can walk around with an AK over the shoulder and a pair of .50 caliber Desert Eagle automatics in your belt -- and more if you can carry it all. You can dress in camo, festoon yourself with weapons and ammo belts like Pancho Villa, and attend a political rally or event or demonstration -- and according to Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), you definitely should! It's been happening of late -- people showing up at public meetings where "Kill Obama" signs and signs comparing him with Hitler are displayed. Never mind the obvious danger to the country and to any president who tends to make delusional, stupid, and ignorant people very angry.

They have the right to do that,

Gingery told Chris Matthews yesterday. An interesting assertion in a state that has had so much to say about who you could marry, what you could do after you did, where you could buy a house, and what kind of provocation legitimized a lynching.

Of course, if you had tried that during the recent Republican era, you'd most likely have been bussed outside of town to a "free speech" area, if you somehow avoided any altercations with the police and secret service. But that was then, this is high noon in Dodge City. What better way for a determined terrorist than to come unarmed into a public arena, grab Bubba's old Colt Gummint model, and blaze away at the president, governor, senator, etc.? What better way to show them city boys just what we think about the way they do things up North?

Whether Gingery thinks the way to preserve one's rights is to abuse them in the most extreme way possible or whether he secretly hopes to intimidate the opposing party into submission -- whether he'd just love to see Joe Biden in the Oval Office this year -- it's impossible to tell. Perhaps he's only hoping that being surrounded by a hostile ad hoc militia will force Democrats to listen to their ravings about death panels, re-education camps, rationing of medical care, free medical care to illegal aliens, galloping Marxism, slippery slopes, the president's citizenship, and the loss of precious bodily fluids, but really -- don't we already have Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for that?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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So Joe the Plumber wants to beat the crap out of Nancy Pelosi...

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The culture of violence and death on the right is rather alarming, is it not? Earlier this year, it was the shooting in Pittsburgh. Throughout the Bush years, it was the bloodlust of the warmongering neocons, the view that there's no problem that can't be solved with a little killing, or a lot.

Now, it's the guns and rifles brought to the health-care town halls.

And it's also Joe the Plumber saying that he'd like to "beat the livin' tar" out of Nancy Pelosi. Yes, you read that right. Samuel Wurzelbacher actually said that he'd take "[t]hose kind of people" -- people he doesn't like -- out "behind the woodshed." (Yes, he'd like to beat the crap out of a woman.)

Charming. But oh-so-characteristic of a huge swathe of American conservatism today -- and of the mobocracy that dominates the GOP.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Michele Bachmann

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Again? Yes, again. If she insists on saying stupid crazy things, I'll keep noting her stupid craziness.

Apparently, Rep. Bachmann, surely one of the most embarrassing things Minnesota has ever produced, believes that she has God behind her (and her political career):

If I felt that's what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it [run for president]. When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I've said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That's really my standard. If I am called to serve in that realm I would serve, but if I am not called, I wouldn't do it.

As TPM's Eric Kleefeld notes, she actually said in 2006 that God had "called [her] to run for the United States Congress."

Let me just say this: If "God" has nothing better to do than use an idiot like Michele Bachmann as one of "His" agents on earth, then "He" surely isn't the omnipotent, omniscient Being the fundamentalist faithful like Bachmann herself make "Him" out to be. And if Christians really believe that Bachmann has been called upon for a political career on earth by their "God," well, they ought to take a long, hard look at their faith, for their "Lord" is awfully lame.

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More town-hall madness, assault rifles

By Creature

I don't know much about the NRA.  As an East Coast, Starbucks-drinking liberal I don't have much to do with them.  However, seeing as how bringing assault rifles to presidential rallies are all the rage these day, one would think the NRA should be the group standing up and calling for an end to it.  If they want to be considered a legitimate organization, it seems like a no-brainer.  No one is saying take away their guns (obviously the semi-automatic assault rifle is the go-to gun of hunters everywhere) but common sense and decency would demand that they are no where near the public square. Unless, of course, there are deer in the public square, then, by all means, shoot away.

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Majority madness

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A whopping 57% of Republicans either think that Obamacare would create "death panels" of the kind Palin and others have lied about or are unsure whether it would.

That's a pretty decisive majority of madness.

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When the crazy gets crazier; or, town-hall madness, assault rifles and all

By Michael J.W. Stickings

President Obama may have been "honored and humbled" to speak to veterans in Phoenix yesterday (at the VFW National Convention), but the right-wing mob outside the convention center was in no mood for such niceties. As TPM is reporting, "[a]bout 12 people were carrying guns, including at least one semi-automatic assault rifle." Just because something is legal, even if it shouldn't be, doesn't mean that it's a good idea, and this was no such thing. I understand that the guy carrying the rifle explained that he was only carrying it because he could, because it's one of his "freedoms," but come on, that's bullshit. Taking firearms to an Obama event isn't an expression of freedom, it's a threat. And it says a lot about the current state of conservatism in America -- for it is conservatives who are stoking this insanity, conservatives in politics and the media, and they, too, must be held accountable.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

It's called the free market. And it's turned on Glenn Beck.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Glenn Beck went too far, even by his wildly extremist standards, when he recently called Obama a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people." (It was "glennbeckery" at its most blunt.) And, in response, advertisers are pulling their support from his show. As James Rucker reports at HuffPo, eight more advertisers have joined the growing list, including Wal-Mart (hardly a bastion of left-wing radicalism), Best Buy, and CVS. The number, apparently, is up to 20.

Obviously, these companies are not acting in a vacuum. They're responding, in large part, to an impressive anti-Beck campaign organized by Rucker's But what's wrong with that? I applaud Rucker and his fellow activists for saying that enough is enough and actually doing something about it. The right does this sort of thing all the time, pressuring companies to adopt policies sympathetic to various right-wing causes, notably of the fundamentalist Christian variety. But this isn't about moralism or theocratism, it's about exposing Glenn Beck for what he is, a right-wing blowhard who has made a name for himself spewing vitriol. This campaign, far from making things up, is simply pointing out to these companies that in advertising on Beck's show they are implicitly agreeing with him. And, clearly, the more they come to know about Beck, the less they like him, the more likely they are to pull their support.

And it's certainly refreshing when the Becks of the world get their comeuppance.

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The Public Option is not dead -- maybe

By Capt. Fogg

President Obama is being excoriated right and left -- well, mostly left -- for having abandoned the public health care option in health care reform. Are we buying into the propaganda once again? It's not true, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
said on Face the Nation yesterday. The president is still committed to the idea.

Although Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
told us on the same day that it's "not essential," leading to the speculation that the idea had been dropped, now we're being told she "misspoke." Was she being used as a stalking horse to try out the idea? I don't know, but if the admittedly unscientific CNN poll showing that 57% of us think it is indeed essential has merit, the huge and boisterous tumult trying to tie it to every vestige of evil that can be pressed into service is mostly sound and fury and a tale told by Republican opponents. Presumably, the number who think it's merely a good idea is even larger.

We're not going to have reform without it, says
DNC Chairman Howard Dean:

[A]public option is essentially what veterans and people over 65 have — it's Medicare.

A sentiment which reflects what many of us supporters have been saying all along in the face of dire warnings about death panels and summary executions and worse.

The amplitude of the argument, which still seems to be growing louder has made us forget that health care reform is a very popular goal and with some insurers talking about very substantial hikes in premiums I don't think public support has waned very much at all.

Congressional support is another matter, of course, with Kent Conrad (D-SD) proclaiming on Fox News yesterday: "The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for a public option. There never have been." There is some justification, to put it mildly, for public disillusionment with Congress.

I wonder how many letters, calls, hookers, and e-mails it takes to equal the power of corporate contributions, junkets, and three-martini lunches.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Best Democrat of the Day: Eddie Bernice Johnson

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For saying this yesterday on CNN:

It would be very, very difficult [to support a bill without a "public option"], because, without the public option, we'll have the same number of people uninsured. If the insurance companies wanted to insure these people now, they'd be insured.

Keep fighting the good fight, Rep. Johnson of Texas. You have the truth at your back.

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Worst Democrat of the Day: Mike Ross

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For saying this yesteday on CNN:

I will never vote for a bill to kill old people, period.

Rep. Ross, from Arkansas, is, as you might expect a Blue Dog. And this is just the sort of fearmongering, and outright lying, you'd expect from Republicans.

No wonder Democrats are losing the spin war. No wonder the "public option" is dying. Republicans never do this to each other. Why is it that Democrats insist on tearing themselves apart?

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How good is Usain Bolt?

By Michael J.W. Stickings


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If they lie they shouldn't be invited back

By Creature

It's really that simple. As Steven Benen points out in two posts this morning, Orin Hatch and Dick Armey were both on national TV yesterday lying. Will that stop the networks from invited them back? Not. A. Chance.

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The death of the "public option": What's really going on?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So. Is the "public option" dead or not? One of the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Kent Conrad, says it is. (And I responded yesterday.) Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says is it as well... or not. Therein lies some confusion, and she may very well herself be confused. She seemed to back it on This Week (ABC) yesterday, only to pull back on State of the Union (CNN). As she explains on the latter, the "public option" is "not the essential element" of reform.

Don't worry, it gets more confusing.

Sebelius was essentially just echoing the president himself, who on Saturday said this:

The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health-care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it, and by the way it's both the right and the left that had become so fixated on this, that they forget everything else.

Please. This is Obama, once more, playing to his beloved middle, and, in the process, vilifying both sides. This is hardly fair, though, to those on the left who voted for Obama, who continue to support Obama, and who support the "public option" because they believe, as I do, that only a government-run health-care coverage option will do what reform is supposed to do, which is not just keep costs down but provide access to coverage, and therewith to care itself, to all Americans, notably to the millions and millions who either lack coverage altogether or have no choice with respect to the coverage they have, squeezed by the profit-based insurers who are more likely to deny coverage than to extend it. To call this a fixation, as Obama does, is insulting.

Otherwise, of course the "public option" is not the entirety of reform. Of course there are other elements to it. It is simply a fact that reform is a comprehensive package. But to describe the "public option" as merely a sliver. Is that also not insulting? And is that not grossly misleading? To those who lack or have inadequate coverage, this is not a mere sliver but rather the essence of the thing. The same goes for those of us who support govermment-run health care -- and I, for one (as a Canadian who likes the Canadian system -- I am also British and feel the same way about the British system), support a single-payer government-run system that is far more extensive that what is currently being proposed in the U.S.

Sorry, Mr. President, but in playing to the middle, where conservative Democrats and a handful of Republicans, the latter clearly taking their marching orders from the right (and being as partisan as always), are trying to water the bill down so much as to render it inadequate, if not to defeat reform altogether, you risk losing the base, and bulk, of your support not just on "the left," as if only ideological extremists are supporting the "public option," but among the various liberals and progressives and moderates who want this to be meaningful reform and who think that now is the time, at long last, for just the sort of government involvement in health care that you here dismiss.

On CNN, Sebelius was pushing "consumer choice," "choice and competition," not the "public option" specifically or any specific version of reform. An administration official told Marc Ambinder that Sebelius "misspoke," on the "essential part" bit, while anther official, Linda Douglass (a key White House player on reform), said that Obama still supports a "public option." A third official refuted the first: Sebelius did not misspeak.

So what is it? As the Times is reporting:

The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama's call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector, signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate.

That seems to be the point White House Press Secretary was making on Face the Nation (CBS) yesterday. As Ambinder summarizes, "Gibbs said that fostering competition and choice were non-negotiable, but the specific mechanism designed to do so was up for discussion."

So Obama is waffling, Sebelius is waffling, Democrats in the Senate are waffling, and, meanwhile, Republicans are getting what they want, which is Democratic divisiveness and, ideally for them, inaction on reform altogether, all while they continue to score political points by lying about the Democratic plan.

But is Obama really pulling back from the "public option"? Perhaps not. He surely knows that he needs to reach out beyond his liberal-progressive base if reform is ever to be passed. While he may see non-profit co-ops as a suitable replacement for a government-run component, could it not be that his waffling, his apparent pull back, is actually part of his larger campaign to pass a comprehensive reform package that includes a "public option"? He has done this before, after all -- in a way, it is his modus operandi. He reaches out in search of compromise and bipartisanship, knowing that, ultimately, the other side won't agree to an acceptable compromise. But then he can at least say that he tried, that his motives were genuine, while ensuring that blame is directed at the other side. He seems to be doing with with Iran, so why not with the Republicans and the obstructionists in his own party?

But then there is the other possibility, that Obama knows that "Obamacare" is a tough sell that is unlikely to pass the Senate. Maybe he thinks that some reform is better than no reform, that a bill with non-profit co-ops is better than no bill at all, that, ultimately, the best that can be achieved is not the best (the "public option") but something that at least comes close to it.

Either way, Obama is being his usual realist self -- and it is realism that forms his core, so much not the idealistic rhetoric that we came to know during the campaign. I do not excuse him for calling the "public option" a sliver or for blatantly dismissing the concerns of "the left" as somehow akin to the fearmongering of the right, but, still, it is possible that he is doing everything he can to ensure that the best possible bill is passed.

Which is not to say that I won't be disappointed if reform does not include a "public option." I will be -- just as I am angry and frustrated now. To me, there is simply no excuse for failing to go all the way.

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