Saturday, February 13, 2010


By Creature

I am so sick and tired of the bitching from the right about spending. For fuck's sake, people, without the spending we would have no economy to speak of right now. Are your memories really that short? Not to mention, if we really want to compete with the likes of China we must spend a ton more. The right loves to whine that our children and grandchildren will pay the price, but without some serious investment, government investment there won't be an America left for them anyway.

Enough with the bull already. Can we please, for once, have a serious, fact-based conversation in this country?

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Dan Quayle, still stupid after all these years

Appearing on Fox News (where else?) yesterday, former VP Dan Quayle argued, or "argued," against the use of reconciliation to deal with health-care reform:

They're gonna go to budget reconciliation, which I believe would set a very bad precedent, because essentially -- if they could do it, and I don't know if they can do it, but if they could do it -- what you have done, effectively, is to take away the filibuster in the United States Senate. So, therefore, you have 51 votes in the House and 51 votes in the Senate. That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind. That is not the constitutional process.

Okay. Let's go through that.

First, Democrats don't intend to use reconcilation to pass health-care reform, just to make so-called patches to a bill that both houses of Congress have already passed, including with 60 votes in the Senate.

Second, as TPM's Rachel Slajda notes, George H.W. Bush, Quayle's boss, used reconciliation "regularly." So how would using it now "set a very bad precedent"? Or is only bad when Democrats do it?

Third... 51 votes in the House? D'oh!

Fourth, as Slajda further notes, while the filibuster "seems to have been around since Congress began," it is not mentioned in the Constitution, which "gives both houses of Congress the power to set their own rules." Those rules include not just the filibuster but reconciliation, do they not?

"I would imagine wiser, cooler heads will prevail and this process will not be attempted," Quayle added.

By "wiser, cooler heads" he presumably means fearful Democrats who cave in to Republican objections and demands, and who will let Republicans set the double standard that Quayle seems to want in place: Republicans can do what they want when they want, and use the rules as they see fit, but Democrats can only do what Republicans tell them to do.

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Dying for the Gold

By Capt. Fogg

I never had much sympathy with the guy who decided that Hurricane Wilma was just the ticket for kite surfing fun in Ft. Lauderdale a few years ago, or even the guy who went paddle boarding last week off Palm Beach during an annual shark migration, but as dangerous as the luge is at any time, Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21-year-old luger from Georgia, deserved better.

Kumaritashvili's practice runs showed he was not quite up to snuff. He didn't finish one practice run and his speeds were significantly lower than other athletes', but the safety of this very fast course has been questioned, and critics may have been right. He was killed in a crash yesterday, the second one in practice for the Vancouver games. Of all the things not worth dying for, "going for the gold" and for ephemeral national glory have to be amongst the least valuable.

I don't know if it's too late to correct the design, but let's hope nothing else like this happens.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Under my skin

By Capt. Fogg

It's strange to find myself on the same side of any fence with the Book of Revelation literalists, a group for which my loathing is nearly boundless. Nonetheless, the disturbingly Orwellian prospect of having RFID devices implanted in people so that their employers can track their movements scares hell out of them as much as it does me.

A Radio Frequency Identification Device is small enough to be placed under the skin with a hypodermic needle, and it's a great thing for keeping tabs on cattle or identifying lost dogs. They can also contain data, medical or otherwise, that can be read by a scanner. Most humans object to being forced to having one inserted, however, particularly as a substitute for a key or ID badge.

Civil libertarians -- indeed, any kind of libertarians -- tend to be militantly opposed to allowing this to be done to people, but it's of course for reasons of privacy and the protection thereof, not because they give credit to what may be the looniest book to worm it's way into the Christian canon. There are many such people in places like Virginia, and it seems to be they who are behind a bill designed to prevent such implants. Why? Because John of Patmos, almost 2000 years ago, had RFID capsules in mind when he talked about the Mark of the Beast.

He didn't, and the Beast is most likely Nero, but even if the enemy of my enemy is not really my friend, these things are the mark of some kind of beast, corporate or governmental, and I'm as much against it as they are.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Vancouver Olympics -- Opening Night

Yes, we have the Olympics on here at home, with the opening ceremonies about to begin, and I'm sure I'll watch a lot of the competition over the next couple of weeks -- I'm especially looking forward to hockey (Go Canada!) and curling (Go Kevin Martin (from Alberta)!) -- but, I must say, I'm already sick of them, and have been for some time.

The hype on Canadian television, for weeks and weeks now, and seemingly everywhere across the country, has been ubiquitous, over-the-top, and sickening.

Enough with the flag-waving.

Enough with the American-style "we're the best country in the world" jingoism.

Enough with the "we're all about winning gold" obsession.

It's just not who we are. It all seems phony, and forced.

I'm as proud as the next Canadian, perhaps prouder, and I want the Vancouver Games to reflect well on my country, and I want my country to do well, but the "Believe" theme is just icky.

I just can't take it. 


We remember that the Olympics are run by the IOC, a disgustingly corrupt and greedy organization, right?

So, please, let's not define ourselves as a country by this event, or by how many medals we win.

We're better than that. Right?


9:11 pm -- What an awful rendition of our national anthem. I'm embarrassed.

No, I'm not live-blogging, but I will comment occasionally.

10:24 pm -- Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado? Really? I'd have preferred Geddy Lee and... uh... how about Sarah McLachlan? I mean, if you want some good Canadian music...

By the way, I switched over to NBC from Canadian TV (CTV/TSN). The Canadian commentators, including Brian Williams (formerly of CBC, our Bob Costas in terms of Olympic hosting), are just awful, adding nothing at all of substance, nothing at all of anything. Their comments during the introduction of the participating countries/athletes were generally shallow and stupid (e.g., "Greece deserves a gold medal for its contributions to civilization").

And I've had enough of Donald Sutherland, a fine actor who has become the voice of the Olympics. So much forced gravitas.

10:29 pm -- What was up with those German outfits? Talk about awful...

10:30 pm -- $30-40 million for these opening ceremonies? Oh, look, a bear.

10:31 pm -- Okay, fine, it's sort of cool, and the focus on Canada's Aboriginal peoples is nice.

10:34 pm -- Orca whales. Very well done. Nice tribute to Vancouver, British Columbia, and Canada. Okay, this is really, really good now.

Totem poles. Quite impressive, I must say.

10:36 pm -- And here's Sarah. She used to be amazing, but she lost her edge and her last few albums have been, well, not so amazing. I met her after a concert in Somerville, Mass., way back when -- '94 or '95. I can't remember. I flew in from England, my friend Naif picked me up at Logan and drove at high speed to Davis Square, and I got there just in time for one of the best concerts I've ever seen, on her Fumbling Towards Ecstasy tour. And I had a backstage pass as a media member (for The Tufts Daily). Honestly, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, and I was totally speechless and could barely say anything at all. But she was really nice and lovely and signed my ticket, which I still have somewhere.

10:42 pm -- Wait... is that some Olympic spirit I'm feeling?

10:43 pm -- Yes, I think it is. What I had enough of was all the hype. Now, with the events starting tomorrow, I'm finally into it, and looking forward to the next couple of weeks.

Costas is great.

10:46 pm -- One problem here. The tribute to Quebec, which is fine, features music by, and the voice of, Loreena McKennitt, an Ontario songwriter and musician. She's actually quite amazing, but her music doesn't fit here. Although now they're on to fiddling, so maybe it does. I guess it fits anywhere. Okay, I give in. It's all really entertaining.

10:50 pm -- Bring on some Rush! "Tom Sawyer"!

12:54 am -- Okay, well, that was all pretty awesome. That YouTube guy with the poem about Canada was, to me, the highlight. But even the malfunctioning climax was handled well, and I thought the idea of having four people light the Olympic cauldron was distinctively Canadian and very well done.

All in all, a fantastic Opening Ceremony, and I say that as one who generally dislikes such overblown spectacles.

UPDATE: Here's the poem from the Opening Ceremony. It's by Shane Koyczan. I'll post the clip when I can find it. Honestly, I'm pretty proud to be a Canadian tonight.

12:56 am -- It's just a shame that it's raining in Vancouver -- and that Gretzky had to make his journey to the outdoor lighting in the rain. But that's Vancouver. It's not a winter city and really never should have gotten the Winter Olympics in the first place.

But I must say, I'm into it now. I've been converted. I realize that there's a darker side to the Olympics (see the comments section to this post), but it's nice to see Canada celebrated in this way, to see Canada celebrate itself in this way, given our tendency for humility, and, where I was sick and tired of the Olympics before they even started, I'm now into them and really looking forward to the next 16 days.

And that's it for me. Good night, everyone.

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From Palin to Armageddon

TPM (with our Headline of the Day):

No... really? Who'd a thunk it?

The Massachusetts man charged this week with stockpiling weapons after saying he feared an imminent "Armageddon" appears to have been active in the Tea Party movement, and saw Sarah Palin, who he said is on a "righteous 'Mission from God,'" as the only figure capable of averting the destruction of society.

As we reported yesterday, Gregory Girard, a Manchester technology consultant, was found with a stash of military grade weapons, explosive devices including tear gas and pepper ball canisters, camouflage clothing, knives, handcuffs, bulletproof vests and helmets, and night vision goggles, say police. They believe Girard, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, was "preparing for domestic and political turmoil," and feared martial law would soon be imposed.

And that's Massachusetts, remember, the state that elected Scott Brown, a Republican. (They're not all a bunch of health-care-lovin' lefties, obviously.)

Should we really be surprised by any of this? That the insane right-wing fringe -- the Tea Party "movement" and more and more of Palin's Republican Party -- is so deeply mired in violence and delusion?


And then there are some who think that Palin is actually too establishment for the teabaggers, and that the Tea Party "movement" is "becoming nothing more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party."

Oh, what fun out there on the fringe!

(For more on the fracturing of the teabaggers, see my post from last week.)

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Tales from the health care battlefront -- Part II

Ed. note: This is the second part of an amazing, and harrowing, and deeply personal three-part series. Part I is here. They're quite long, but please take the time to read these posts in full. -- MJWS


Before I dive into the full narrative of my plight since May 2008, a couple of brief anecdotes. My father keeps track of all my medical bills, since it's a little hard for me to spread them all out in any organized way when my universe is limited to a bed. In 2008, he caught nearly $25,000 in billing errors that would have been paid by the insurance company or by us if we weren't paying attention, all from the people who handle billng for doctors, hospitals and other health-care related providers such as X-Rays, MRIs, etc. In 2009, they were slightly less incompetent -- we only caught $21,000 in errors. Every one who has medical bills should demand itemized bills because they will always try to sneak something past you. A 72-year-old woman was shocked to see when she got her itemized hospital bill that she'd been charged with costs related to her pregnancy.

Hospitals always lie. There is a nationwide nursing shortage, but they still understaff nurses on purpose, so there is never enough staff to carry out doctors' orders so they instead are forced to routinely lie on the paperwork --- and nurses are the good guys in the health care system. However, the shortage leads to more problems. An elderly woman was walking her gigantic dog who took off after another dog, dragging her and breaking practically every bone in her body. However, the hospital made her condition even worse because since there wasn't proper staffing to turn her as often as she needed to be turned, she developed horrible wounds all over her body and had to be transferred to a specialty hospital to be treated because of the first hospital's negligence.

Now, I've put it off long enough. Here comes my story. It really begins in January 2005 when I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis or, as I refer to it now, the good old days.

This diagnosis came after two years of many doctors and many tests trying to figure out what was happening to me, specifically severe weakness and lack of control with my legs. At what point, I went to a cardiologist who sent me to a dietitian. I lost 8o pounds and my legs got worse, so we realized my weight wasn't the problem.

Eventually, I had to use a wheelchair and a walker to get around, but I was able to work full-time for three more years until fatigue issues and bladder problems made it impossible for me to make it through an 8 hour shift most of the time, so I had to go on disability in February 2008. In May of that year, I made the biggest mistake of my life. My urologist, one of those specialists who liked to make as much money as possible so he had a P.A. see most of his patients, claimed that all the medication wasn't enough and my bladder was failing and I needed to have surgery to install a suprapubic catheter. He said if I didn't I would be prone to having more urinary tract infections (at this point, I'd only had one ever) and could eventually have kidney problems.

For some reason, my mind wasn't thinking the way it should. My instincts were telling me this was a bad idea and whenever I go against my instincts, I usually get in trouble. If I'd been thinking right, I'd remembered that I'd had bladder problems all my life, including bedwetting until I was a teen and a bladder that wouldn't empt, solved by a different urologist who prescribed a medication called Tofranil. It would also have occurred to me that this scalpel jockey, while he claimed to have dealt with M.S. patients before, clearly had no idea that M.S. is like a snowflake: every person who has it has it differently and primary progressive is a rarer type than the more common ones. Aside from bladder scans, he did no other tests to see if anything else might have been lurking in my bladder. On May 5, the day of the outpatient surgery, I should have called it off then when I realized that the surgery was not taking place at a hospital but at one of those drive-thru ATM surgery centers that his surgical group owned so they could take a larger cut than they would if they performed the surgery at a hospital.

Of course, this part is a minor annoyance but prior to the operation, the doctor came to see me and my parents and took our hands and led us in a prayer to Jesus. He'd never asked if we had a religious preference; for all he knew we could have been Jewish. Once I awoke after the surgery, another employee of the drive-thru place checked me out and got me ready to go home. They gave us a form letter on how to care for the wound on my stomach in the vaguest terms (one size fits all apparently) and said to see the doctor for a followup visit on JULY 1.

It only took a few hours for things to go wrong. The whole idea of this suprapubic catheter is that my urine would flow out a tube and into a bag and not out my penis anymore so that night when piss started coming out my penis anyway, we knew something was wrong. After a series of calls, messages and pages, the doctor's nurse called back and said that I was probably having bladder spasms, which often happens, and prescribed pills which I started taking and which did nothing to alleviate the problem.

So, for days, in addition to pain, I kept urinating like I always did as well as into the bag. On top of that, my bowel movements had ceased. The doctor's nurse relayed the suggestion to take double doses of Miralax, but it didn't help. Eventually, I noticed that if I was in a sitting position, I tended not to piss out my penis so I made the mistake of starting to sleep sitting up in my wheelchair with my feet stretched out onto my bed. However, another problem developed, when white rock-like things began appearing in the drainage tube and I wasn't going out the catheter at all. I finally went back to lying down on the bed and the doctor sent a home health nurse to come and irrigate my catheter to try to clear the field and jump-start the process. She had to come two days in a row when finally (this was eight days following the original surgery now), the doctor decided that perhaps I should go to the hospital ER to figure out what was wrong.

By this point, my legs, which were already weak from the M.S., were essentially not functioning, so paramedics (with the help of firefighters because of my weight) had to use a megamover to lift me off my bed and carry me to the gurney in the hall which couldn't navigate the tight corners to make it to my bedroom. Sure enough, as soon as the men lifted me off the bed, I finally had my bowel movement. We also discovered for the first time, since no one had seen my ass in a while, that in that short period of time I had developed a gigantic ulcer wound (or bedsore) on my behind. The wound was so large, someone could shove two fists into it and it had developed that fast, in a mere eight days.

So began the first month of my nearly four months of hospitalization in 2008. The first hospital was a "not-for-profit" (ha-ha -- they are all for profit) Catholic-run hospital. They had a horrible television selection, using a satellite with a very peculiar pick of what channels they allow. In fact, they only allowed one cable news channel: Fox. Since that is obviously a partisan choice, I would think that would threaten their not-for-profit and religious status. Isn't it the same as when a church takes political sides? Hell, did no business people ever get sick? I'm sure they might have liked CNBC.

While I was in the ER, the idiot urologist did show up and thought he might solve the problem by trying to manually shove the catheter a little deeper into my bladder, which does not feel particularly good. We waited as the ER people ran all sorts of tests and everyone ignored us as we tried to keep telling them that I was lying on a huge pile of shit that it might be a good idea to clean up. That's where I first met the asshole hospitalist I mentioned earlier. The one good part of the ER visit was for the pain, a nurse gave me my first exposure to Dilaudid, a magical drug which is the only one I've ever taken that stops all my various pains at once. Otherwise, I need various pain treatments for various pains. Dilaudid was wonderful. It makes you feel as if you have melted butter in your veins instead of blood.

The first night was a nightmare because they had to get a special air mattress for me because of the wound, but miscommunication told the ER it was already in my room when in fact it hadn't arrived from the other side of town yet so I spent several hours wedged in the doorway of my hospital room on a gurney as we waited for the special bed to arrive. I had not eaten in hours and had missed a lot of my regularly scheduled medications.

Once the bed finally arrived, not much happened the first night. The following day I was visited by their "wound team" which we would later learn did not exist. The person who supposedly served this function visited me once a week and her first instruction was to put an ointment on the wound. The wound itself was not wrapped. I also was supposed to be turned every two hours but given the purposeful short-staffing of nurses and staffing, my size and my inability to help much myself, this was hardly ever followed, especially at night. If you needed something, you could call for a nurse, but the short staffing made some calls go unanswered for literally hours. At times, a voice would speak and ask what you needed, but it did nothing to expedite someone to get to your room. All it did was get an unseen force to turn off your call light, which I would of course hit again.

Another time, when it was getting close to time for my pain medication, I had told my nurse that I would need it at the proper time. In the meantime, my IV had completed and, for those of you haven't had experience with a completed IV, it starts beeping annoyingly, so I called again. They also had started adding cell phone numbers on a board each day so you could directly reach your nurse. When my call light was being ignored, I called the nurse's phone and it kept going to voicemail until she finally answered and said curtly, "I know. I'm getting your pain medication." I informed her I was calling about the IV actually, but that sort of thing happens a lot with understaffing. People assume. Good thing it wasn't something serious I was trying to get help with, then what would have happened?

Back to the turning. When they did gather enough people to turn me, I always had to remind them to watch the catheter bag so it didn't get pulled out in the process. Several times, when I wasn't on the ball, they'd forget to re-hang the bag, leaving lying on the bed even with my bladder which you aren't supposed to do. Another time, I noticed that none of the aided had remembered to empty the bag and by the time they did more than 12 hours later, it was about to bust.

Meanwhile, the nonexistent wound team switched ointments and kept up the treatment and the nurses kept telling me how much better it was looking, though I couldn't see it to know one way or the other. There was talk that perhaps I should be transferred to another hospital which specialized in wound care, though the hospital claimed that I had to be in their hospital for a month first.

Back on the bladder front, we were still having problems. We were told my urologist was coming one day to check things out. He didn't end up showing until the next day when I was set up for lunch. Of course, he expected me to move my food and let it grow cold since his time is infinitely more valuable than that of the man whose life he'd ruined. I told him we'd been told he was coming yesterday and he could wait for a minute or two so my food didn't get cold. He started to walk out so I yelled so the hall could hear, "So much for your Hippocratic oath, but hey, as long as you get paid, who cares about the damage you leave in your wake?" He turned around and checked things out. Later in the day, I was wheeled down to look at the bladder and catheter placement with an X-Ray where he found that it was enveloped by calcium stones. He also mentioned to me that he hadn't noticed all the fat rolls before. Of course, I'd been his patient for several years so how he'd missed that I was overweight when he'd had to have me lift my stomach to run bladder scans -- oh yeah, most of the times his nurses did those or he had his P.A. see patients so he could make more money by being elsewhere.

It was decided I needed to have a second surgery to clear out those deposits and place a new catheter (June 1 now). This time, it was done in the hospital, so afterward, the anethesiologist came to visit with me and gave me a device to practice breathing with periodically to hold off pneumonia. Funny, that wasn't a concern at the drive-thru ATM surgery center. After this surgery, I did not feel well. I starting having alternating sweats and chills and weakness in my hands. I had developed my first UTI since the catheter surgery (you know, the infection the urologist said this was supposed to prevent), so I was very sick for days.

Meanwhile, I continued to have the usual problems with the understaffing. Not to getting moved as I was supposed to; getting my wound treated and being told it was looking much better; noticing on the computer in the room how late they often were in giving me my medication, etc. I complained to higher-ups so much, they kept trying to bribe me to get me to shut up. First, they brought in an extra TV attached to a DVD player. Later, they managed to find a laptop for me to use. They kept bringing up the specialty hospital, but insisting that the insurance required I stay a month before I could be approved for a transfer.

The idiot hospitalist called for a consultation with another doctor who also called for yet another consultation to look at my wound to see if I should have a colostomy to prevent the wound from getting contaminated by bowel movements. Given my inconsistent pattern of BMs at this point and the fact that one "common" surgery had screwed me up, I told them, hell no. Then they were ready to let me be transferred to the specialty hospital.

We talked to our health insurance case manager and it turned out that the hospital had been lying and I could have been moved two weeks earlier. So I was taken to a specialty, for-profit corporate beast of a hospital that had a good wound care team.

That's another long story that's going to require a part III.


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GOP relents, Obama gets some of his nominees through

By Creature

Sure, it's just crumbs thrown to a hungry president, but a win is a win and the GOP blinking makes for good headlines (that's if Democrats circle the wagons and forcefully frame it that way).

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Thursday, February 11, 2010


By Carl

I don't think so...

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country has produced its first batch of uranium enriched to 20%.

[...] Western powers fear Iran is heading towards enriching uranium to 90% - to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Previously, Iran had enriched uranium to 3.5%, which is sufficient for power needs. 20% is necessary, they claim, for medical isotope purposes, which costs them the grand total of
$1 million dollars a year.

Interesting, the facility most likely to have been used to create the enriched uranium was provided to Iran by the
United States back in 1967 under the "Atoms For Peace" program.

Isn't it ironic, dontcha think?

Previously, Iran had promised a
stunning "punch" to the West. This was more like a feint. Few take the claim very seriously, except of course the fainting-couch denizens.

Scroll down to the comments, if you'd like a good laugh. Or cry. Or laughiecry....

Meanwhile, the truly distressing development in Iran is the government response to the
current wave of protests from dissidents. They have been lining the streets with militiamen, which has kept violence to a minimum.

But there has been

Curious thing about Iran: for a dictatorial nation, they do seem to be fairly liberal in their policies with respect to dissent. Not as tolerant as the average Western nation, to be sure, but considering what Saddam Hussein used to do, it speaks volumes.

The Obama administration response
has been measured, and if anything, has faulted to the side of caution.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Idiocracy in the Beltway: David Broder's mad crush on Sarah Palin

David Broder, WaPo columnist and "dean" of the Beltway press corps, is a moron. I realize that he's been there a long time and that some think he's deserving of respect for his longevity, and that some even buy into his idiotic faith in bipartisanship, which really means Republican-leaning centrism, and that some of his admiring peers think he stands above the partisan fray, which allows them to think ever so highly of themselves, but Broder continues to prove that he doesn't have a clue, and that he is so enamored of himself and his supposed above-the-frayness that he has lost contact, if he ever had it, with what is going on both within the Beltway and without.

Take, for example, his latest piece, a love letter to Sarah Palin in the wake of her speech to the teabaggers in Nashville last weekend:

The snows that obliterated Washington in the past week interfered with many scheduled meetings, but they did not prevent the delivery of one important political message: Take Sarah Palin seriously.

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.

This was not the first time that Palin has impressed me...

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

It's hard to believe he's serious, but it goes on:

This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.

But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty -- and potentially, to Obama as well...

Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good. 

Where to begin? Or... why bother?

Palin is good at what? Reciting the most simplistic of right-wing Republican talking points? Being all folksy and supposedly charming by ridiculing anything and everything smacking of intelligent thought? I'll let Steve Benen step in:

Broder's column, much like Palin's speeches, is devoid of all substance. He didn't, and couldn't, point to a single idea, proposal, or achievement the right-wing Alaskan has presented that has even an inkling of value. On the contrary, Broder seems to suggest that Palin deserves accolades precisely because she has no real interest in ideas, proposals, or achievements. She's at the "top of her game," the columnist argues, not because Palin has any idea what she's talking about, but because she can "sell herself."

What Broder neglects to mention is that this deliberately know-nothing approach to politics during challenging times is a recipe for an idiocracy. To maintain American preeminence in the 21st century, the country must resist the urge to celebrate stupidity, whether Broder is "impressed" by it or not.

Idiocracy... that's the right word for David Broder's media establishment, and for Sarah Palin's GOP, not to mention for the whole Tea Party "movement."

There's nothing "pitch-perfect" about Sarah Palin. Conservatives love her, and lust after her, not because she's a woman of genuine substance or a genuine political leader -- she's no Margaret Thatcher, I wrote at The Guardian last year -- but because she winks at them and doesn't look or sound like Rush Limbaugh or any of the other spokesmen for the extremism of their movement. She's the pretty, telegenic frontwoman for a movement that isn't pretty at all but rather is full of anger, bitterness, and resentment, fear, bigotry, and bile. In that role, she's just an empty vessel for all the venom they can feed her. She may yuk it up with the teabaggers and the Fox News clan, but that doesn't make her a lovable and beloved political figure, and it doesn't mean she can make extremist right-wing politics any more palatable to Americans.

What's funny, though, is that Broder is just plain wrong about Palin being representative of "the present mood of the country." As Creature reported earlier today, 70 percent of Americans don't think she's qualified to be president. A further look at the numbers reveals just what a marginal figure she is:

The Post reports just 45% of conservatives consider Palin qualified to move into the Oval Office. Last November, 66% of conservatives said she was qualified.

Only 37 percent of Republicans have a "strongly favorable" view of Palin. Among all Americans, her overall favorable/unfavorable split is 37/55, the lowest it's been since ABC and the Post added her to national polls in Sept. 2008, when John McCain made Palin his running mate on the GOP ticket.

"Although Palin is a tea party favorite," the Post reports, "her potential as a presidential hopeful takes a severe hit in the survey."

In other words, Palin isn't even terribly popular with her own party. She's just popular with the right-wing fringe. To be sure, that fringe is taking over her party and becoming more and more its mainstream, and so she remains a major player in the GOP -- I'm not denying that -- but it is ridiculous to think that her appeal is so broad as to make her the incarnation of the Zeitgeist, the true populist alternative to elitists like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Obama.

And what's also ridiculous is to think that David Broder actually knows what he's talking about.

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Jobs bill

By Creature

That doesn't create jobs and fills the pockets of those who's pockets need no filling. All with the president's backing. Awesome.

Update: Harry Reid kills the lard-laden Baucus jobs bill. Now that's awesome. As for the actual bill, without the lard, eh.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Never again should America be in a position where the Secretary of the Treasury comes in to Congress and says 'Give me $700 billion or the economy will disappear by Monday.'" -- TARP-watchdog-hero (and my choice to replace Timmy Geithner) Elizabeth Warren, warning that the government must prepare now for the coming commercial real estate collapse.

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On Iran: Time for the next step

Guest post by Amir Farokhi

Amir Farokhi is an Atlanta attorney and a principal with the Truman National Security Project.

Ed. note: Today is the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. At a rally in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran is now a "nuclear state." This past Sunday, Ahmadinejad gave the order to proceed with uranium enrichment. This process would produce uranium enriched at 20 percent, well short of the 90 percent required for weapons-grade nuclear fuel. Iran's excuse is that it needs enriched uranium for its medical reactor, but it is relatively easy to move from 20 percent to 90 percent enrichment. Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, and, to be sure, Iran is still a long way off from being able to build a nuclear bomb, but there is little doubt that the Iranian regime, whatever its ultimate goal, is aggressively flaunting its new status. This may be as much for domestic as for international consumption, but it is nonetheless essential that we take the threat seriously. -- MJWS


As Iran approaches the anniversary of its revolution, the U.S. would do well to reflect upon the changes President Obama has instituted in America's Iran policy. Characterized by a theme of "engagement," Obama sent a well-received Persian New Year's greeting to the Iranian people in 2009 and inserted U.S. diplomats alongside European counterparts to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear activity. It was a good start to a new approach.

Yet this new approach, while pitch-perfect, has not visibly slowed Iran's nuclear activity. Iran has played cat-and-mouse with the West: appearing to negotiate in good faith and then pulling back, presumably to buy more time to develop its nuclear program. Indeed, this week, Iran announced it would resume nuclear enrichment at levels indicating progress toward nuclear weapons.

Iran's intransigence begs the question: "Is it time for more aggressive steps?" In short, yes. The world has given Iran multiple opportunities to act in good faith. Iran has not. To protect American interests and slow Iran's nuclear development, the time has come to add sticks to the promise of carrots. Some options, however, are better than others.

Continued engagement? Yes, on the nuclear issue. Engagement has yielded results. Several years ago, American calls for strong action on Iran were met with skepticism by Europe and rejection by Russia and China. The one-two punch of President Obama's outreach coupled with Iran's obstinancy has convinced our European allies to support sanctions. With Europe now backing sanctions, and even Russia showing frustration with Iran, the time is ripe for additional pressure. In just one year, President Obama has spurred more international consensus than his predecessor was able to muster in eight.

Impose sanctions? Yes. With Iran refusing to play ball, the next reasonable step is sanctions. To be effective, they must hit at the economic heart of the regime. Instituting tougher sanctions through the United Nations will be difficult, as China and Russia are reluctant to support harsh measures toward Iran, a major trading partner for each. Moreover, Iran has learned to operate under severe sanctions. Nevertheless, the U.S. still has an opportunity to push for effective sanctions that target Iran's gasoline imports, oil refining needs, Dubai banking connections, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Push for regime change? No. In the wake of last year's disputed presidential election, a reformist "Green" movement captured the world's attention with its defiant protests, technological creativity, and resilience. The U.S. avoided the temptation to overtly support the opposition movement, to avoid bringing additional heat on the reformers. Indeed, Iran's political protestors requested that the U.S. stay out of Iran's political drama. Given the longstanding history of Western interference in Iran's domestic affairs, this approach gives nuclear negotiators a greater chance of success.

However, there have been calls from across the political spectrum for President Obama to change course. Last month, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a pragmatic voice on foreign affairs, called on the U.S. to strengthen Iran's opposition movement in order to "deepen rifts among the rulers." Haas reasoned that because rifts within the regime are so significant, and because Iran's reformers are already labeled as pawns of the West, the U.S. should take advantage of the moment and push for change.

Yet this approach remains unlikely to succeed. First, Iran's reformists are just as committed to nuclear development as the hardliners. Second, Iran's fierce nationalism, embodied by the reformists as well, will surely reject Western efforts to promote regime change. Finally, such efforts will severely handicap future diplomacy with Iran. While the U.S. should speak up in support of human rights in Iran and condemn violence, we should not actively seek to influence Iran's domestic politics.

Military Action? No. The least attractive option remains military intervention, including targeted airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. America's military is stretched perilously thin, public support for a new war is nonexistent, and global allies are unlikely to contribute to such action. Moreover, a military strike on Iran puts American troops in the region at greater risk of attack, increases the likelihood of Iranian-sanctioned terror activity, and may mute the progress made by the reform movement. Further, there is no guarantee military action will be successful.

Yet even if the U.S. holds fire, we may be sucked into conflict if Israel unilaterally strikes Iran's nuclear facilities. This is the least desirable outcome. The better military deterrent may be to increase military technology and training in Iran's Arab neighbors, a process that the U.S. has already begun. The risk of setting off an arms race in the region, however, stands as caution.

Keep on Keeping On? Yes. Iran's domestic politics will only be resolved from within. But the Obama Administration has successfully cast Iran as the bad guy, with the U.S. playing the role of responsible global leader. This is the best shot we have at coercing Iran into acting as a responsible member of the international community. President Obama has already gotten the ball rolling. It's time to get it rolling faster.

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Weather is not climate: What the bad winter storms in the U.S. northeast have to do with global warming

Jon Stewart had a nice bit last night on the bad winter weather in the northeast, poking fun at those, mostly on the right, who think that all the snow is evidence that global warming is a myth.

The fact is, weather is not the same thing as climate, and a single weather event doesn't really tell us anything meaningful about climate, let alone global climate. This is simple enough to understand, isn't it?

I won't repeat what I've written many times before -- e.g., here, here, and here -- but the gist is this: Climate changes on a global level can lead to all sorts of freakish weather. Indeed, in a world that is warming, winter storms like the one ravaging the northeast will continue to happen -- and may be partly attributable to global warming. Here, via TNR's Brad Plumer, is meteorologist Jeff Masters:

There are two requirements for a record snow storm:

1) A near-record amount of moisture in the air (or a very slow moving storm).
2) Temperatures cold enough for snow.

It's not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.3°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow.

The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events--the ones most likely to cause flash flooding--will also increase. This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air.

And here's Brad with some additional points:

Now, that doesn't mean we can definitively blame this snow monstrosity on global warming -- again, it's hard to attribute any single weather event to long-term climate shifts. (For instance, El Niño may be playing a bigger role right now in feeding these storms.) At most, we can say that a warming climate will create the conditions that make fierce winter storms in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic more likely. Or at least it will for awhile: If the planet keeps heating up, then at some point freezing conditions in the Northeast will become very rare, at which point snowstorms will, too But we're not at that point -- the Earth hasn't warmed that much yet.

On the other hand, climate models do predict that snowstorms in the southernmost parts of the United States should become much rarer in the coming decades: There's plenty of moisture down south, but freezing temperatures are likely to decrease and the jet stream is expected to shift northward. So if those regions start seeing a sustained uptick in snowfall, then something's gone awry in climate predictions. But the blizzard in the Northeast, while miserable and incredibly disruptive, doesn't appear whack with long-term forecasts. 

(For more, see Bryan Walsh at Time.)

All this is science, though, and, of course, the global warming skeptics and denialists, like the various talking heads on Fox News, don't want anything to do with science, with truth and the search for truth, with reality. For them, it's about sticking their heads out the window, once they remove them from their asses, and basing everything on a) how they feel, and b) what fits their partisan political ideology and narrative.

"Oh, look, it's snowy, it's cold... Al Gore is wrong!"

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It's like they're not fully developed human beings, like they're incapable of dealing with the world as it is, but I suppose that's what right-wing politics will do to you.

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70% think Palin not qualified for president

By Creature

There's hope in that number. Yet, the remaining 30% tea-crazies are driving the dialogue in this country. And I'm back to depressed.

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Charles Wilson (1933-2010)

Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who served Texas's Second District from 1973 to 1996, has died at the age of 76.

Give him some credit, I suppose, for being a driving force behind Operation Cyclone, the covert and ultimately successful CIA effort to arm the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Of course, that short-sighted effort helped unleash al Qaeda and the Taliban, but at the time there were good humanitarian, if not geopolitical, reasons to oppose the Soviet brutalization of Afghanistan, and he certainly doesn't deserve the blame for the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Take a lot of credit away from him for supporting right-wing dictatorships like the one in Nicaragua.

Otherwise, let's just be generous and say he was an interesting man worthy of a really good movie.

And, indeed, Charlie Wilson's War, about his role in arming the anti-Soviet Afghan rebels, was one of the most underrated movies of the last decade, with a typically fine performance by Tom Hanks as Wilson. (Philip Seymour Hoffman is also excellent, as usual, and Amy Adams is solid, while Julia Roberts is terrible and almost ruins the whole thing.)

Yeah, he certainly was a character.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hopey changey

By Capt. Fogg 

Can you believe there's a website called The local trailer parks echo with teleprompter jokes, there are more teleprompter jokes clogging up blog comments than there are clumps of fat in Rush Limbaugh's arteries and that chattering little chipmunk Palin just can't let go of that chewy chestnut. I wonder was Abe Lincoln only a charismatic guy with some scrap paper? Yes, he was to be sure, but not only and the Small Government Conservatives slandered and murdered him anyway.

But of course the mini-skirt Moose Mom doesn't know, and doesn't care that you might know that the first time the electric note cards were used was at the 1952 Republican Convention by former President Herbert Hoover. It was the first one ever televised of course and he did it again in 1956. Whether he was charismatic or not, I will leave to you and to Sarah Snickers, but Eisenhower used one from 1952 and virtually every other president, candidate, and TV talking head pundit at various levels of charisma has used one too.

That's right, George W. Bush used a teleprompter, there he is in the picture, although I'm told "that's different" by the snarksters and flim-flam bloggers and if you remember the TV debates, Bush even wore some kind of device worn on his back. So it's hard to know what Governor Barbie had in mind, but it's clear she doesn't feel threatened by anyone who knows more than she does -- which is most of us -- because like most irresponsible pseudo-conservative snarko-terrorists, she's always surrounded by the like-mindless who think she's a genius.

Maybe if George had used one more often or had been able to read along with the moving words, he wouldn't have given us such delights as "the childrens is learning" but we'd be so much poorer without such things as part of our culture, or whatever remains of one.

So, yes, the president is a charismatic man, which of course is required for political success in the age of television, but that's a bit like saying he's a man who wears shoes. Compared to the most educated of recent Republican candidates, he's a bit more than charismatic and of course, note cards or not, when he speaks he says something -- and in respectable English as well.

But when one really can't be described as anything more than political junk food, and that's the kindest thing I can say about Sarah Palin the human Twinkie. When you're a tasteless confection of sugar, oil, and starch with no ability to do anyone any good, the best you can do is just what she does. Well, never mind about the hope and change -- you're hopeless and intransigent. You abandoned Alaska, leaving them with record debt and some incoherent story, but it was all about a better offer, wasn't it? So isn't that all you are -- a mendacious mediocrity and charismatic candidate for What Not To Wear -- with notes scribbled on your palm?

So how's that wiggly-giggly thing working out for ya, Sarah?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Boehner's scared of live TV

By Creature

Transparency is only good until you have to participate in it.

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By Creature

A gaffe:

"I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen," Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."

Obama's centrism makes him tone deaf. I get that he's speaking to Business Week, but to not acknowledge that the only reason a "free-market system" exists for those "savvy businessmen" is that the taxpayer made it possible is seriously bone-headed.

This will have repercussions.

Update: The full quote is here, and it's more nuanced than the screaming headlines imply. Nuance, however, doesn't drive the media. Hence, gaffe.

Update II:
The White House argues "nuance" in response. They are not wrong, but when your argument is nuance, it is a losing one.

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Cheney's terrorists

Guest post by Gen. Donald Edwards (Ret.)

General Edwards served in the U.S. Army for 37 years, including two tours with eight campaigns in Vietnam. He served as a congressional staffer from 1997-99. He is a resident of Maine and Ashburn, Virginia.

This piece first appeared at Progressive Fix, a project of the Progressive Policy Institute.


Just last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair declared with certainty that there will be another terrorist attack aimed at the United States within the next six months. With the Obama administration pursuing record numbers of drone attacks and taking out top al Qaeda leaders, it's hard to understand how this could be the case. But the paradox becomes clearer if we take a quick trip back through time to examine the track record of one particular individual: Vice President Dick Cheney.

As a former military officer, it is immensely difficult to speak out against our former vice president. While he was in office, I believed that it was inappropriate to criticize Dick Cheney. But now that he is no longer in government, I am compelled to speak my mind about his disastrous national security policies.

In the days and years following September 11, 2001, Vice President Cheney stood out as the chief architect of a calamitous approach to U.S. foreign policy that resulted in a weakened United States and the recruitment of a new generation of terrorists dedicated to anti-American jihad. The Bush-Cheney contribution to terrorist recruitment is clear from the numbers: In 2000, there were 423 international terrorist attacks. The Iraq War heralded a sharp spike in terrorist attacks, which continued with a 607 percent average yearly increase. Eight years later, there were 11,770 international terrorist attacks, as the terrorists birthed by the Bush-Cheney policies grew up.

Unlike Dick Cheney, who glorifies conflict but has never put his own body on the line, I am a retired military officer. I know firsthand the long list of security threats that our country faces. And I know that Cheney's reckless strategy, out of touch with today's threats, made that list longer. The first rule of grand strategy – from Sun Tzu to General Petraeus – is to choose your own battlefield. On September 12, 2001, the United States was in a position to frame the security threats of the new century as the world united against violent, radical extremists. Osama bin Laden, on the other hand, was eager to frame his battle as the West versus Islam. The Bush administration walked onto al Qaeda's battlefield and began fighting Osama bin Laden's war.

As even former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld realized, winning the fight against al Qaeda requires killing more terrorists than we create. Instead, Cheney served as a prime recruiter for our enemies. Al Qaeda featured Guantanamo Bay in its recruiting videos, citing its evasion of the Geneva Conventions as "evidence" of American's lack of moral standing and antipathy toward Islam.

Defeating al Qaeda turns on human intelligence, which requires careful infiltration, relationship-building, cultural research, and triangulation of information. But conservatives based their intelligence-gathering tactics on Hollywood movies: bust a knee cap hard enough, and the truth will pour out like blood. In reality, interrogators rarely know whether they have the right knee cap – and even if they do, actual intelligence agents know that busting it is likely to yield a string of lies, misinformation, and false leads. Instead of generating information and creating leads, Cheney's strategy led to an Arab generation growing up on images of Abu Ghraib.

Finally, quashing al Qaeda requires focusing on the countries where the movement had built relationships and infrastructure. For over a decade, al Qaeda's senior leadership had lived in and erected training camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Meanwhile, bin Laden's roots lie in Yemen, and he repeatedly recruited the radically loyal tribes originating in that country for his riskiest missions. Yet the past administration ignored Yemen and starved Afghanistan for troops in order to launch a war in Iraq, where there were no terrorists. Terrorist attacks spiked following the invasion of Iraq, and have continued to grow since.

For a generation of young Arabs now in the prime terrorist age range of 18-25, September 11 was their first political memory. The Bush-Cheney strategy handed al Qaeda the colors they needed to paint a false picture of "America versus Islam." It produced hundreds of terrorists who learned that they could be heroes by fighting the West – the West that tortured and indefinitely detained Arab brethren and killed women and children.

And to think we had an opportunity, in the wake of 9/11, to bring about a smarter, more hopeful strategy. America was unified and ready to sacrifice on September 12. If our leaders had called on the best and brightest to learn Arabic or join the CIA, we would now have a flood of fresh intelligence experts. If they had asked us to declare our independence from oil – demanding that auto companies innovate and asking environmentalists to accept a resurgence of nuclear power – we would have stopped funding the bullets that are now going into terrorist guns.

We have not heard the last from Cheney's terrorists. We cannot waste another day. We must act immediately to build the covert networks we need to fight terrorists. We must prioritize shutting down Guantanamo – a gift that keeps on giving for al Qaeda – and not make it a political football. And we must understand that, as we did during the fight against the Soviet Union, claiming the higher ground in the debate is strategically important. Cheney sold America's greatest weapon – our moral authority and our freedoms – on the cheap. Let's win it back, before more of Cheney's terrorists strike again.

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A Sarah Palin double standard

By Creature

No doubt.

[And, again, as with Rachel below, Boehlert is preaching to the choir.]

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"They are unembarrassed"

By Creature

If only Rachel wasn't preaching to the choir.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Start spreading the news...

By Carl's up to you, New York, New York:

1) An embattled Gov. Paterson yesterday
strongly denied rampant rumors of extramarital affairs and drug use as he blasted the media for printing "callous and sleazy" allegations. (ed. note Mind you, he came to office acknowledging he has an open marriage, with his wife standing at his side when he said that)

Capital rife with rumors of Paterson's political demise Because nothing says "leave" like a sex scandal. I'm not saying that Patterson isn't a lame duck, and certainly his political actions of late indicate he acknowledges only a slim chance of re-election, so he'll likely drop out of the race, but...

(State) Senator's bill calls for expulsion for "egregious misdemeanors" It's intriguing that Pedro Espada is authoring the bill under which Hiram Monserrate would be automatically ejected by the New York State Senate, as both were instrumental in the defection/re-affection to the Democratic party that caused Espada to be selected majority leader in the first place! The man knows dirty politics and plays it like a Mafia kingpin.

4) The political fate of State Senator Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat convicted of assault in a dispute that left his companion with a gash on her face, grew uncertain on Thursday as a
special committee recommended that the Senate vote soon on a motion to expel him. Yup. You got that right: an elected official permanently scars a woman's face and his political future is actually possible.

New York's political machinery is starting to resemble the Wild West,
only more so.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Tell me again why the Republicans are against the heavily Republican Senate health-care reform bill

As Greg Sargent notes, the Republican plan for "bipartisan cooperation" basically means scrapping the current health-care bill (or bills) and starting over. According to Eric Cantor's office:

After going it alone on health care reform for nearly a year, President Obama has decided he wants to bring Republicans into the conversation. Here's the problem: unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there's not much to talk about.

Thing is, Obama has hardly gone it "alone." After all, it's never really been clear what Obama himself is for. As far as I can tell, he's for something, and maybe even a robust public option, but he's been more than willing, all along, to work out a compromise. Just consider how the bill got passed in the Senate, how much was done to appease (and secure the key votes of) Lieberman and centrist Democrats like Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln: no public option, no Medicare buy-in, two key liberal initiatives.

But Obama has also reached out to Republicans, just as Senate Democrats did, trying to work out a deal with the two Maine senators, Collins and Snowe, and others. But there was no deal to be had. Republicans talked up compromise and the need for bipartisanship, but the talk was nothing but a transparent delaying tactic, and in the end they opted for obstruction and opposition, with all Republicans, including the few moderates, voting against a bill that largely resembed the Senate Finance Committee bill that some of them had supported.

Indeed, as Ezra Klein points out:

[I]t's [not] well understood how many of the GOP's central health-care policy ideas have already been included as compromises in the health-care bill. But one good way is to look at the GOP's "Solutions for America" homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them -- yes, you read that right -- are in the Senate health-care bill.

Read Ezra's post in full for a discussion of those planks.

Now, look, I get why most Republicans are against health-care reform -- or at least why they're against these specific bills, even the one without a public option. They're against reform ideologically -- and why wouldn't they be? They're conservatives, after all. I even get why they're against it politically, as I happen to think that health-care reform would be of massive political benefit to the Democrats (and, of course, of massive benefit to the American people). And so I get why they're trying to delay the process by any means, or put a stop to it, and why they want to scrap it all and (allegedly, but not seriously) start over. In the absence of a serious or even workable alternative, all they've got is bullshit.

And that's what these calls for cooperation and bipartisanship are: bullshit.

Indeed, as Steve Benen explains, Republican "'bipartisanship' is defined as giving Republicans exactly what they want -- period":

The incessant talk about "bipartisanship" is itself suspect -- I tend to think a governing majority should be able to give their agenda a shot, whether or not the minority approves -- but even if we put that aside, how, exactly, are responsible officials supposed to work with a rival who demands nothing short of 100% satisfaction, despite being part of a failed minority?

So, yes, I welcome Obama's upcoming public forum on health-care reform (February 25). Let Republicans show up and defend the indefensible, or their ideological opposition to reform. Get it on the record for all to see. Or let them boycott the event and reveal in a different way just who they are and what they're all about. It's easy to snipe from the sidelines, far more challenging, as they recently learned all too well, to stand up, in public, for what they supposedly believe in.

But make no mistake: The Republicans are full of shit. The only real question is whether they're too stupid to know it.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Michele Bachmann (and the Republican push to privatize Social Security and Medicare)

Yes, it's Bachmann... again (our previous post on her are here) -- for saying, at a right-wing conference in St. Louis on Saturday, that people need to be weaned off Social Security and Medicare and that, essentially, the American social safety net ought to be privatized.

We've been here before, haven't we? It wasn't popular when Bush talked it up, and it won't be popular now. Which is all the more reason for Democrats to hit back hard and to force Republicans to vote -- to go on the record -- as proponents of privatization.

And, can you believe it, they're doing just that. In response to GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's appalling and "violent" proposal to privatize Medicare and Social Security (and to cut health-care costs by requiring seniors to buy private plans with increasingly less money, meaning less coverage and less care), House Democrats are looking to force a resolution vote on Social Security privatization. Republicans would have no choice but to vote cynically against something they support or expose themselves for what they are and what they support. Either way, Democrats would win, and the American people would get a good look at just what the GOP is all about.

As if the crazy, and revealing, comments of the likes of Michele Bachmann aren't already more than enough.

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