Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canada sweeps to gold in Olympic men's curling

Who is Canada's greatest Olympian? How about Kevin Martin?

I'm serious. He should carry the flag at the closing ceremonies tomorrow.

Martin's men's curling team, from Edmonton, just beat Norway, the team with the strange pants, 6-3 to finish off an undefeated run in Vancouver, sweeping through the round-robin matches and dominating the playoffs.

(Update: It's just after midnight. One of our three Olympic broadcast networks is reshowing the match. Yes, I'm rewatching it. Yes, it's still exciting. And enjoyable, without all the stress. I'm looking forward to Martin's final shot and seeing the reactions again.)

He captured silver eight years ago, losing to Norway. Today, he and his rink of John Morris, Marc Kennedy, and Ben Hebert put Canada on top of the curling world again, just as Brad Gushue did four years ago.

It was an incredible run in Vancouver -- and it's been an incredible run for Martin the past few years, since he overhauled his team for the '06-'07 season, winning the Briar, Canada's incredibly competitive men's championship, in '08 and '09, as well as the World Championship in '08 (narrowly losing to Scotland in '09), and then, with two great victories over rival Glenn Howard, Canada's 2009 Olympic Curling Trials.

He's my favourite curler and has been for years. While he has done incredibly well here in Canada, success at the international level has often eluded him. That silver in '02 hurt. But there he is atop the podium, with a huge smile. The man's awesome curler, and a great Olympian.

And there they are, as I write, the best curling team in the world, Team Martin, receiving their gold medals, of which they are so deserving, smiling and singing O Canada. What a moment.

Along with our hockey win over Russia the other day, this is the highlight of the Olympics so far for me. And it means a 25th medal for Canada, putting us third.

But it also means a 13th gold medal, putting us on top by a wide margin, Germany second with 10, the U.S. third with nine. With that, we tie Norway (2002) and the Soviet Union (1976) for the most golds ever at the Winter Olympics (and the most by a host country).

We play for a 14th gold in men's hockey tomorrow against the U.S., the capstone to the Vancouver Games. For that, the anticipation across this country is immense. As for me, my nerves can't take much more.

But even if we lose tomorrow, this has been an incredibly successful Games for us. Forget the medals. Forget the early concerns about weather (and lack of snow). Forget the few overhyped glitches. It seems to me, as I watch from afar, that the Games themselves have been a wonderful event: great competition, great drama, and a beautiful host city putting on a great show for the world.

The medals are a bonus. There has been much ridicule in this country, as well as abroad, over our "Own the Podium" program. And perhaps deservedly so, to some extent. Why should we "own" the podium. Is that all that it's about? I get that more and better funding is needed, but the optics of that push for medals have been, in a way, embarrassing.

During the first week of these Games, there was a good deal of woeful, self-pitying hand-wringing as we appeared to be falling well short of expectations. We weren't going to finish with the most medals, which never should have been the goal (as it was completely unrealistic), and we weren't even going to match the haul in Turin in '06.

And then a funny thing happened: we started winning. Last Sunday, culminating in our spirit-draining loss to the U.S. in men's hockey, was a disaster, but, since then, it's been day after day of amazing performances. In fact, looking back, it's hard not to see how the Vancouver Olympics, at least in terms of winning and losing, have been a towering achievement for us.

Sure, there have been some tough, bitter disappointments, with expected medalists coming close but not reaching the podium, but there have been disappointments for every other major country as well. It's the Olympics. It happens. Even some of  the best athletes in the world fall agonizingly short on the largest stage in the world.

We won 24 medals in Turin. We have 25 in Vancouver -- and we'll have 26 after tomorrow hockey final. Could there have been more? Of course. But to do so well, on home soil, winning the most golds, what an awesome showing for this great country.

And, tonight, as we celebrate that, and as we deal with immense hockey-related anxiety, it seems only fitting that Kevin Martin swept to victory on home ice, the greatest curler in the world finally winning gold after all these years.

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Worst Democrat of the Day: Ben Nelson, quasi-Republican

Democrats may have to abandon their effort for comprehensive healthcare legislation in favor of a piecemeal approach, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Friday.

Nelson, a centrist Democrat whose vote is critical to the fate of healthcare reform in the Senate, said that while he's inclined to support a majority-vote maneuver to pass a bill, he's unsure Senate Democrats will be able to do so.

"I don't know if we can get a comprehensive bill through," Nelson said during an interview on KLIN radio in Nebraska. "Honestly, I just don't know."

"We may be forced to doing healthcare -- to use my analogy -- by making a pie a piece at a time, which is typically not the preferred way to handle legislation," the senator added.

TNR's Jonathan Cohn says "[t]his seems to be his way of doing business. He'll grumble a lot, particularly when addressing his more conservative constituents, but that doesn't always foretell how he'll vote."

And, of course, Democrats don't necessarily need his vote. (The Hill's post is misleading, if not downright wrong.)

Still, when he's not an outright obstacle, he's a real nuisance, not least when he just seems to be regurgitating Republican talking points.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a veep contender in '08 and a possible Republican presidential nominee down the road, told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren the other day that hospital emergency rooms should be able to turn people away:

Well, for one thing you could do is change the federal law so that not every ER is required to treat everybody who comes in the door, even if they have a minor condition. They should be -- if you have a minor condition, instead of being at the really expensive ER, you should be at the primary care clinic.

Even Van Susteren thought that was nuts (which is really saying something): What if what's deemed to be "minor" -- say, chest pains, which could suggest indigestion or something much worse -- isn't?

Furthermore, what if you don't have adequate insurance coverage to pay for a clinic? What then? Do you get no treatment at all?

Aren't Republicans just so wonderful? And this is one of their stars!

(h/t: C&L, which has the video)

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The end of David Paterson

As you may have heard, New York Gov. David Paterson has announced that he will not seek re-election. (Or, rather, will not seek election. He was, after all, not elected to the office of governor but appointed, by succession, following Spitzer's scandal-fueled resignation.) He pulled out, following a good deal of justifiable speculation in the New York media, "amid crumbling support from his party and an uproar over his administration's intervention in a domestic violence case involving a close aide."

It is not clear what he did or didn't do in the matter of that "close aide," David Johnson. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, himself with designs on the governor's mansion in Albany, will investigate.
And it could very well be that LG&M's Scott Lemieux is right:

One thing worth noting is that, while it will get much less attention (especially nationally), the scandal that seems to have ended Paterson's political career would in any rational world be considered much more serious than those that have presumably ended the political careers of the likes of Mark Sanford or John Edwards. (Or, although the commercial transaction makes it slightly trickier, Elliot Spitzer.) Without getting in to moral comparisons, abusing the powers of your office to protect a domestic abuser strikes me as much worse than consensual adultery from the standpoint of one's fitness to stand in office.

Again, there's a lot we don't know yet. And I'm not so sure the moral/ethical distance between Paterson and Sanford is all that great, given that the latter lied about his whereabouts and used state resources to conduct his, er, affairs. Still, Paterson almost makes Spitzer look good, in retrospect -- at least Spitzer, after all, knew what he was doing, was a compelling figure (and remains one today), and didn't seem thoroughly incompetent, and worse.

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(Retro) Quote of the Day: Judd Gregg on reconciliation

Here's the New Hampshire senator, a Republican, in 2005 (when Republicans had a majority in the Senate):

We are using the rules of the Senate here. That's what they are, Senator. Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate set up under the Budget Act. It has been used before for purposes exactly like this, on numerous occasions. The fact is, that all this rule of the Senate does is allow a majority of the Senate to take a position and pass a piece of legislation... Now, is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so.

If you've got 51 votes for your position, you win.

Pretty simple, huh? Pretty democratic.

Ezra Klein notes that, at the time, Democrats were against reconciliation, "a terrible abuse of power." And so, yes, the hypocrisy cuts both ways. But Republicans, who are now against it, went ahead with it, as Democrats should now.

What has been appalling, though, has been the Republican-friendly Beltway media coverage and "analysis," heavy on GOP talking points, portraying reconciliation as some sort of indefensibly anti-democratic and even anti-American partisan trick. It isn't, and, far from subverting democracy, it actually allows the majority party to cut through a Senate rule that paralyzes the legislative process and, with it, democracy itself -- namely, the filibuster.

Hey, if it's good enough for Judd Gregg...

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Canada-Slovakia 2010

The semifinal match between Canada and Slovakia is underway. The winner gets the U.S., which smashed Finland 6-1 this afternoon, all six goals scored in the first period.

Strangely enough, this may actually be tougher for Canada than the Russia game. I expect Slovakia to play cautiously, wait for openings, and rely on their excellent special teams play.

If Slovakia can keep the game close, the way the Swiss did against Canada in round-robin play, they have a shot, not least given all their experience up front (Gaborik, Palffy, Stumpel, Hossa, Zednik, Handzus, etc.), one of the best defencemen in the world back on the blue line (Chara), and an excellent young goalie (Halak, who's the #1 backstop for my beloved Habs).

It's just over seven minutes into the game. Canada's had some good chances, but it's still 0-0.

It's unlikely we'll be able to dominate the play the way we did in the first two periods against the Russians, but we need to keep pushing and pushing aggressively like we did in that game. It was that relentless offense, with great forechecking and cycling, that kept the Russians on their heels, and we can't let up here. (Alhough we also need to watch for, and avoid, broken plays and giveaways/takeaways that lead to rushes the other way. That's what hurt us against the Swiss and the Americans. We certainly don't want to be playing from behind against a hot goalie and a team that collapses into a trapping, stymieing D.)

Now under eight minutes left in the first. A stat just came up showing only four hits by Canada so far. Not good. Not good at all. We had something like 16 in the first against Russia.

Scored! Patrick Marleau! 1-0 Canada -- unless it was a high stick? Looks okay... They're going to video review... And it's a goal. Excellent. 

Okay, I'll be back with more comments later. In the meantime, as always, you can follow me on Twitter. I posted quite a few tweets during Canada's appalling loss to the Swedes in women's curling. I'll tweet a bit during this game, too.


Well. That was intense. And way, way, way too close for comfort. After a strong first period and a solid second one, the third was almost a disaster for Canada. We were lazy, disorganized, and far too relaxed, and we ended up chasing the puck around, and tripping ourselves up, when the speedy, talented Slovaks finally asserted themselves. We're in big trouble against the U.S. if we play like that. (And we need to get a lot more from Sidney Crosby, who was invisible at times tonight. Indeed, other than Getzlaf, Toews, and Morrow, I can't think of another forward who did all that much.)

But. We did what we needed to do, and let's give credit where it's due: this Slovak team is pretty good, and it helps that they have a lot of experience playing together, and they really stepped up in the third period, almost tying it up in the dying seconds.

Ultimately, I'll take the 3-2 victory, but Canada needs to get back to what worked against Russia if it wants to put away the speedy, talented Americans.

We shall see. On Sunday.

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"Tough shit"

By Creature

Your GOP:

As Democratic senators asked again and again for unanimous consent for a vote on a 30-day extension Thursday night, Bunning refused to go along.

And when Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Politico reports, Bunning replied: "Tough shit."

It's not like people are suffering, or anything. What an ass.


For today, let's annoint him our Worst Human Being in the World. HuffPo has more. -- MJWS

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Thoughts on the Summit

I'm late getting to this, but, well, you know, the Olympics.

Our women's hockey team shut out the U.S. for a third straight gold, our men's and women's curlers both won their semifinal matches, and Joannie Rochette, a lovely and courageous young woman, skated to the bronze in women's figure skating, with all of Canada behind her, just days after her mother's death.

Yesterday was a pretty good day.

The Vancouver Games have done a lot to unite this country, to allow us to think about what it means to be Canadian, and the pride I feel as a Canadian is immense. (We'll see how I feel after tonight's hockey game against Slovakia, though.)


The Beltway media, as usual, are all about winners and losers, but I thought it was, overall, a fairly impressive and thoughtful discussion of one of the leading issues of the day -- a rarity in Washington.

But while I will admit that the Republicans did fairly well, mainly because they kept their far-right proclivities to a minimum, successfully hiding them from public view, and that it's still not clear what the Democrats are doing, I think it was President Obama who came out on top, if I may put it simply, hearing out Republicans respectfully and yet putting them in their place when that was called for, which was often. And I think Greg Sargent is right:

Obama listened politely for six hours, with occasional flashes of temper, but in the end, the message was clear: It's over. We're moving forward without Republicans.

Whether Obama and Dems will succeed in passing reform on their own is anything but assured, to put it mildly. But there's virtually no doubt anymore that they are going to try -- starting as early as [today].

That was the subtle but unmistakable message of Obama's closing argument. After hours of hearing Republicans repeat again and again that only an incremental approach to reform is acceptable to them, Obama rejected that out of hand.

And he continues:

To clarify, this was a call to Dems, perhaps more than anyone else, that the time has come for them to stiffen their spines and move forward with reconciliation, which Republicans, and even some nonpartisan observers, have repeatedly characterized as akin to marching off a cliff.

Also: This summit was always about laying the groundwork for Dems to go forward alone, barring a major capitulation from Republicans. As noted here repeatedly, Dems will find themselves in exactly the same position tomorrow as they did yesterday: Confronting the enormously difficult task of passing ambitious reform on their own.

For a long while now, Republicans have shown us what they're made of, and where they stand, which is against genuine reform, and against dealing with the very real crisis that afflicts the country's health-care system and that makes life miserable, and even unbearable, for tens of millions of Americans.

It's now time for Democrats to stand up and be counted.

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GOP slander and misdirection

By Creature

Krugman on the big Health Care Summit:

If we’re lucky, Thursday’s summit will turn out to have been the last act in the great health reform debate, the prologue to passage of an imperfect but nonetheless history-making bill. If so, the debate will have ended as it began: with Democrats offering moderate plans that draw heavily on past Republican ideas, and Republicans responding with slander and misdirection.

At least Republicans stuck to what they do best.

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Do Dems have the votes for the public option?

He isn't a Democrat, but Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont certainly thinks so.

I think we do have 50 votes in the Senate for a public option and frankly I don't know why the president has not put it in and I hope that we can inject it. I think it's a very important part of healthcare reform.

This is in direct opposition to the White House's claim that the votes just aren't there.

I'm torn, I must admit. While I would like to see a bill with a public option be signed into law -- it would, after all, make for much more meaningful reform -- I understand Obama's preference that the House pass the Senate bill as is (that is, without a public option) and then that modifications (but not the addition of a public option) be made through reconciliation.

And I repeat what I wrote the other day:

Or maybe they are, or at least could be with enough prodding, but maybe securing them, in both the House and Senate, would take too much time, and require too much prodding, too much additional compromise, too much playing off of competing Democratic interests, not least in a challenging mid-term election year.

And maybe the White House thinks that pushing through a more robust reform bill, one with a public option, by way of reconciliation would undermine the president's ability to sell reform as something other than a solo partisan effort. We all know what the public thinks of partisanship. We also know what it thinks of reform -- unpopular within the context of legislative sausage-making, much more popular when the specifics are known. And we know that the media are spinning reconciliation as a dirty word. So how would passing a reform bill, even one with a popular public option, through what is perceived to be partisan trickery benefit Obama, not least given how Republicans would undoubtedly propagandize against both the process and the substance? And how would it benefit Democrats running for re-election in November?

At this point, in other words, it may just be a matter of brutal political calculation. In a perfect world, maybe Obama would have pushed vigorously for the public option and would be demanding it now. But it's hardly perfect in Washington, and the key is get this done as soon as possible so that what would be major historic achievement could be communicated to the public well ahead of the midterms and so that Congress, and the Democrats specifically, could move on.

Don't get me wrong. This is not what I want. It's just what I think is realistically possible in the short term -- and what would benefit Democrats without excessive risk of the whole thing unravelling.

And part of the problem is that the situation in Congress is so unclear. Sanders says the votes are there, but Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa says they're probably not: "I hate to say it, but I am not certain we're going to be able to get a public option in this bill."

But if now is not the time, the time will come. Harkin:

That doesn't mean we stop trying... I keep reminding people that this bill is not written in stone, like the Ten Commandments, for ever and ever. This is a law, it's a bill, we change laws all the time around here -- that's what we do.

And so, whatever happens now:

At some point, we're going to revisit the public option, I can assure you of that.

Which is what many of us have been saying all along. Indeed, I have often referred to this admittedly flawed bill as a possible thin end of the wedge that could lead to significant supplementary reform down the road, if not in the very near future.

As Chris Bowers puts it: "To strengthen your negotiating position, and to prepare for future fights, it is important to round up as much support as possible."

Those fights are coming, whether Republicans like it or not, and I suspect there will continue to be significant and perhaps increasing popular support for the public option going forward.

And so while the push for the public option must continue, and while the temperature of the Senate must be taken, the current political reality both in Washington and across the country must not be ignored. Given that reality, what needs to be done is for Democrats to get this done now.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Summit win

By Creature

Regardless of how this is spun, I think this was a win for the president and for HCR. It showed his seriousness. His knowledge. It knocked down many, many GOP lies (even though John Boehner tried to pack as many as he could in one lie-loaded mouthfull). And, hopefully, it moved the needle with the public. Overall, I think it was a very worthy exercise. Now, Democrats, get it done.

Update: Here's just one example of Obama win:

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Bet You Didn't Realize This

By Carl

One big reason why your health insurance bills, as well as your medical bills, have been skyrocketing is...lack of competition!

The House voted Wednesday to strip health insurance companies of their exemption from federal antitrust laws, a Democratic measure that could resonate with public concerns about insurers but that has an uncertain future in the Senate.

The provision passed on a 406 to 19 vote, with most Republicans joining all the House Democrats in voting for the measure.

President Obama has said he favors the idea of repealing the exemption, and House Democrats say doing so would add scrutiny to the practices of health insurers. "The American people want and need this protection," said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.)

Basically, the regulation and oversight of insurance companies was done on a state-by-state basis after a 1945 anti-trust exemption was passed. Nominally, this was supposed to avoid collusion, price manipulation, and other lovely outcomes of monopolization.

Except...well, when you have major corporations who can talk to each other about what they're doing in New York as opposed to Montana, and yet, Montana and New York's attorneys general do not or cannot talk to each other on how to handle it...I said it the other day: in confusion, the more powerful force will manipulate the situation to aggregate more power.

A state or two is not as powerful as a multinational insurer with lobbyists in Congress.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes this repeal will do little to lower insurance premiums. I disagree. That might be true short term. It will take a while for Congress to bone up on insurance and monopolies. Long term, however, I think this will dampen increases and perhaps even lay the groundwork for lower rates.

If. We. Have. A. Public. Option.

It's funny how Republicans seem so scared of free enterprise. They don't seem to mind the anti-capitalist conglomerates that fund their campaigns, but they mind someone bigger coming along to bully them.

Weird, that.

(Cross-posted from Simply Left Behind.)

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Sensational summit spin

By Creature

Thanks, media. Why bother talking substance when you can talk about the big Obama/McCain dust-up. It's no wonder the public has no clue what HCR is all about.

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Stanley Fish is a moron

Guest post by Jeffrey Shallitt

Jeffrey O. Shallitt is Professor of Mathematics in the School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario). He is the vice president and treasurer of Electronic Frontier Canada and the author of the blog Recursivity, where this post first appeared.

Ed. note: This is Jeffrey's first guest post at The Reaction. I first discovered his blog, and learned about him, when I recently tracked back a link to my post last December on the idiocy of Stanley Fish (for an appallingly bad review of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue). As his Wikipedia entry explains, he is "a noted advocate for civil liberties on the Internet." I recommend his blog highly. -- MJWS


Stanley Fish is a moron.

Yes, I know he's a "literary theorist" and "legal scholar" and has a Ph.D. and has written ten books and has a lecture series named after him. But he's still a moron.

Want proof? Read this column in The New York Times. There, Professor Fish, favorably quoting a book by Steven Smith, tells us that "secularism" is completely incapable of answering any "real" questions: "...there are no secular reasons, at least not reasons of the kind that could justify a decision to take one course of action rather than another."

So what does Fish think provides these reasons? Why, religion of course.

This argument is so stupid that I find it hard to accept that Fish really believes it. So either he's dishonest (which wouldn't surprise me), or he's a moron. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, the latter option is more palatable.

"Secular" analysis just means thinking about things without relying on religious dogma. When Muslims outlaw interest because their holy book forbids "usury," secular thinkers can point to economic analysis that is noncontroversial outside religious communities: that having money today has value over money ten years from now. When Jehovah's Witnesses prevent their children from having blood transfusions that would save their children's lives because of their interpretation of the Christian bible, secular thinkers can point to the safety of the procedure and the likelihood the child will die without it.

Social science research can reveal aspects of the human character that suggest some ways of structuring our society are better than others. By "better" I mean that they result in happier, prosperous, and freer people, and a more just society. Fish may answer that my devotion to these principles is not "secular." But it clearly is -- it is driven by my own self-interest and by principles that are generally accepted, without any reliance on religion or "notions about a purposive cosmos, or a teleological nature." And evolutionary psychology can help explain why people think and act they way they do.

"Secular" analysis doesn't mean all secularists will agree on everything. Some may think (as I do) that a woman's right to autonomy over her own body clearly trumps the right of an embryo to come to term, while others may disagree. But neither do all theists agree: Christians can't even agree on the most basic fact about Christianity, whether good works or faith alone gets you into their heaven. So advancing religion as the answer to ethical quandaries is not in the least helpful.

"Secular" analysis has one big advantage that religion doesn't have: it can appeal to people of all faiths (and of no faith). If I argue that repealing Sunday blue laws will help the economy, that argument has an appeal for everyone, an appeal that is quite different from one relying on a particular interpretation of a particular holy book that Sunday is "God's day." Similarly, if I argue that not repealing Sunday blue laws is better because it gives small business owners a respite from having to run their business seven days a week, that argument is accessible to everyone. But arguments that depend on one particular dogma and implicitly demand that I take the dogma seriously or at least "respect" it, fail by their very nature to have universal appeal.

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The Obama Code

By Capt. Fogg

What's black and white and red all over? What about proof that Barack Obama has a Muslim agenda?

The "Conservative blogosphere" as Raw Story calls that big ball of slime, is "abuzz" with much sound and fury now that the "Conservative" Drudge Report has identified the new logo of the Missile Defense Agency as a secretly coded message that Barack Obama is going to make the USA a Muslim country through the use of anti-ballistic lasers and missiles.

This fits in with my theory that because the US flag has red stripes and stars, Betsy Ross was a Chinese Communist.
"New Missile Defense Agency Logo Causes Online Commotion,"

says the Drudge Report. I'm sure he'd like that to be true and perhaps he will be able to create commotion amongst the large proportion of his readers with fewer working synapses than a jar of mayonnaise. Perhaps there are other mental midgets so terribly desperate for more absurd calumny to be flung at the White House they'll willfully suspend the kind of disbelief that would inhibit a normal person, but we'll see just how far the "conservatives" can pull that anti-American bandwagon before the clowns themselves jump off and the mules run away giggling.

Yes, it's red, white and blue and looks, if you're astigmatic, vaguely like the President's campaign logo based on the US flag. It has some curved lines perhaps to suggest missile trajectories and orbiting satellites. There's a point of light indicating a missile hit with a laser, which if you're trying hard might suggest a star and as everyone knows, the flag of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim secular democracy has a crescent moon, a red background and a star, and so does the American based Nation of Islam which has had known terrorist members like Mohammad Ali and Michael Jackson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Coltrane, so how can we avoid that hidden message shouting at us? Thorazine or some heavy anti-psychotic drugs perhaps?

Drudge packer Frank Gaffney, writing at, a Web site run by the well known "conservative" blogger Andrew Breitbart, says the new logo may be a sign that the Obama administration has "nefarious" plans for US defense. No, really. You couldn't make this up or at least you couldn't try to sell it while keeping a straight face, even to an idiot -- or to American "conservatives" whichever is stupider and more demented.

Hey, have you ever noticed that the Capitol building has a dome? Like the Dome of the Rock maybe? And the Washington monument looks a lot like a minaret - and don't you hear those voices?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Quote of the Day: Bernie Sanders on global warming deniers

In case you missed it, this is what the independent Vermont senator said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday:

It reminds me in some ways of the debate taking place in this country and around the world in the late 1930s. During that period of Nazism and fascism's growth -- a real danger to the United States and democratic countries around the world -- there were people in this country and in the British parliament who said "don't worry! Hitler's not real! It'll disappear!"

Well, we know how that turned out, don't we?

Sanders is being accused of hyperbole, of course, and worse, but to those of who live in reality and understand that, in EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's words, "[t]he science behind climate change is settled, and human activity is responsible for global warming," his words ring true.

Given the possibility, and indeed likelihood, if nothing or not enough is done to curb climate change, of massive global catastrophe, including the deaths of millions and millions of people as the seas rise, freakish and destructive weather becomes more common, and civil society collapses in some of the most unstable parts of the planet, those who deny global warming, or who are euphemistically called "skeptics," are nothing more than enablers of future genocide.

Obviously, there is a qualitative difference between Hitler and the Nazis on the one hand and global warming on the other. But the denying, the refusal not just to do anything about but even to recognize the great danger that threatens us, is common to both situations.

And we will pay for it again, and on an even greater scale.

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Olbermann: "What is this country for, if not to take care of its people?"

Today is the health-care summit at Blair House. Everyone who participates in it, and every American -- and, indeed, everyone -- should watch this. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. And if it doesn't move you, you're just not a human being.

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Quote of the Day: Anthony Weiner on the GOP

The Democratic Rep. from New York's 9th District, speaking on the House floor yesterday:

The Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of an insurance industry.

Yes, yes, yes. It's nice to hear someone actually speak the truth, however much Republicans may object to it, in a world of partisan truthiness. Watch it:

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canada-Russia 2010

This is big. Very, very, very big. The entire country seems to be in a state of anxious anticipation. Some are calling it Canada's biggest hockey game since '72, when Canada barely beat the Soviet Union in the Summit Series. In Game 8, with the series tied 3-3-1, Paul Henderson scored "the goal heard around the world," the most famous goal in Canadian hockey history, maybe in all of hockey history.

The '87 Canada Cup, with a Team Canada led by Gretzky, Lemieux, and Messier, was significant, too, with Canada winning the final series 2-1 over the Soviet Union with an incredible 6-5 victory in the third game, maybe the greatest hockey game ever played, Gretzky passing to Lemieux for the tie-breaking goal with just 1:26 left in the third period. This after the Soviet Union had won the first game 6-5 in overtime and after Canada had won the second game 6-5 in double overtime.

And now? A loss would mean a second straight Olympic quarterfinal loss to Russia, another failure, another occasion for national self-doubt and misery.

These two teams don't like each other. It's Crosby vs. Ovechkin, but the rivalry and intensity go much deeper than that. It goes back to '72, and it's been tense and intense ever since.

And so here we go...

I'll add to this post later -- and tweeting during the game. In the meantime, I and an entire country are tuning in. It's a national event, and we're probably more unified tonight than we have been in a long, long time. There's something very special about that.

Go Canada!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


8:25 pm -- 4-1 Canada after 1. What an awesome period for Canada, some of the best hockey I've ever seen. Aside from those couple of solid shifts for Russia that produced the goal, Canada totally dominated.

Alright, let's get back to it. We can't let up, can't give the Russians an opening.


8:59 pm -- Alright, Canada, take a deep breath.

7-3 after 2, but Russia will have some time on the power play when the third period starts. Overall, so far, a brilliant game by the Canadians, who have managed to control most of the play and have done some fantastic cycling in the Russian zone. That's the way to keep the puck away from Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Semin, et al., and that's what they need to keep doing in the third. No letting up. No sitting back. Relentless, aggressive play, pushing the puck up and keeping the Russians on their heels.


10:03 pm -- Wow.



I know it was only the quarterfinals, but that was a historic statement game against our main hockey rival. It wasn't even close.

The top Russian players, including Ovechkin, were non-factors. And every Canadian player was solid, with some standing out with exceptional games. Too many to name, in fact, but I want to single out Doughty, who has emerged as perhaps Canada's top defenceman. What a fantastic player. Even Pronger was okay tonight, and I generally can't stand him. And up front... the San Jose line wasn't great, but how about Toews? He was the 12th or 13th forward selected, and not expected to play much, but he's been amazing, and tonight was his best game.

I'm just in awe of how Canada played tonight, one of the best games a Team Canada has ever played.

But it's not over yet. Now it's on to the semis to face the Swedes (probably), who aren't exactly pushovers.

For now, though, let's savour the moment. What a team. What a game.

O Canada, what utter brilliance.

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What's in a name?

By Capt. Fogg

After listening to the self-contradictory, incoherent, quasi-literate and massively hate-packed rhetoric emanating from CPAC, where we were told that the concept of progress was a Marxist idea, that Progressives wanted to progress toward Communism. Liberals were the enemy of freedom and most insane of all: "Royalists" It's hard to hold on to any hope that what's left of the American Right retains even a rudimentary grasp on reality or any commitment to any ideal in any way related to Democracy and the Rights of Man. Taxes are Communism, protection of the rights of minorities is Communism, secular democracy is communism, but collusion between corporations and government isn't, as Mussolini defined it, Fascism -- it's freedom.

A party that won a solid majority in a free election is an "insurgency." Teddy Roosevelt, his opponent Woodrow Wilson and Adam Smith are all Communists who tried to destroy us and Glenn Beck got what he calls a "free" education, not by attending any private school, but by using taxpayer funded, government owned resources at the public library. Yes those of us who have pushed through legislation that finally allowed women and minorities to vote or own property or live like free men and women are simultaneously Nazis, Bolsheviks, Trotskyites, Maoists, and yes -- Royalists. Those of us who think vast sums of corporate money are corrupting the system are any wildly preposterous political epithet that comes to mind, but also Communists, Marxists, Trotskyites and the kinky sex partners of the Taliban. That they're not calling non-Republicans Irridentists or Scrooby Separatists is only the result of their neglected education, but of course those things are only another form of Marxist Islamofascism and Trotskyite lesbo-Feminism with a bit of Royalism thrown in for flavour.

"Protect our precious Medicare?" Well that's not communism even tough it and Social Security were until the country voted for health care reform. Why? because Obama is a Fascist follower of Pol Pot, trying to corrupt our youth and a Communist, Muslim, illegal alien, soft-on-terrorism, cannibal none the less - and because any hateful insanity must be true if it vilifies Obama - he's a Royalist.

No accusation is too ludicrous whether it contradicts all the other accusations or not. It' s not important to make sense or to tell the truth; it's only important to pump up the accusations, pump up the hate.

After listening to John Yoo describe a Republican justice department according to which, an American president like the one he served has more power than any European Monarch did in the age before Democracy, including the right to wage wars, internal and foreign, suspend civil rights, amend laws, refuse to obey laws, to lie, misrepresent and fabricate and to justify any action by Presidential fiat, it's hard to believe we're not simply listening to cross talk between parallel but vastly different universes. Is it legal for the President to order that the testicles of an innocent child be crushed to make his parent talk? But of course says Professor Yoo! Do as the President says shall be the law -- but we're Royalists all the same.

It's not so much that the Republicans seem to have defined conservative values as Marxist and indeed almost everything including evil itself as its opposite, they're inventing their own paranoid psychotic reality permeated by gibbering, drooling and incoherent rage, it's that we're not in open revolt against them; that they have a huge, armed and vastly wealthy base of support.

And we just sit and listen.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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E Pluribus Unum

By Carl

This story annoys me:

Republican Congressional leaders on Tuesday rejected President Obama's challenge to come up with a single comprehensive proposal to achieve his goal of guaranteeing health insurance for nearly all Americans.

But they said they would attend a televised forum to discuss the issue with Mr. Obama on Thursday, even as they voiced doubt that he and Congressional Democrats were acting in good faith.

You know what? Don't fucking bother. McConnell, you can take your Boehner and shove it sideways.

This is America. "E Pluribus Motherfucking Unum," beeyatches! Obama is graciously including you in this meeting not as a sop to you and your pathetic little base but as a means to try to get you to nut up and engage yourself in this very important discussion.

And he has been more than patient with your pasty little asses.

The threat earlier this week to take the entire health care reform issue to a reconciliation vote was not an idle one. This summit is your last chance, I suspect. President Obama has played nice, but as the movie says, "be nice until it's time to not be nice".

It's quite near time to take the gloves off. And trust me, GOP, you don't want in an election year to go back to your constituents to find out why their precious pork has been pulled by a President who doesn't feel in the mood to spend money he has to borrow.

Look, I'm all for consensus building, and I'm all for inclusion. I would love to live in a world where we come together and try to recreate Eden, where no one suffers and no one feels slighted and everyone can have all that they need.

But Republicans simply won't do that. They don't want a state of grace for all people, just for a select few who happen to have a bit more of the green pieces of paper that our pathetic and moronic society is forced to live off.

They would rather see the rest of us die than to extend the decent hand of humanity to help others up.

Flat out, that's the truth. They are so blinded by their greed and ignorance that they cannot put it aside for even one minute to see that people are dying out here for want of adequate healthcare and it will only get worse.

So...fuck 'em. Pass the bill, and move on.

(Cross-posted from Simply Left Behind.)

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Public option polling

By Creature

Democrats are not allowed to cite health care polls until they acknowledge that those same polls are overwhelming positive for the public option. Including it makes the rest of HCR palatable. I don't know why they won't run with that.

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Stuff to Read (2/24/10)

With the Olympics on, and with me blogging a bit less than usual, I have a good excuse to start what I hope to be an ongoing series here at the blog: Stuff to read.

You see, I read a lot, on any given day, that I don't end up blogging about. And so what I'll do, hopefully on a frequent basis, is link to interesting articles, reviews, stories, etc., often with a sentence or two of commentary. Some of it will be political, related to our posts here, but a lot of it won't be. And I'll try to get the co-bloggers to add their recommendations, too.

So if you're looking for stuff to read, look no further. Let's begin.


Slate: "Spaghetti With Eyes," by Constance Casey -- An utterly fascinating look at the eel (yes, the eel), a far more fascinating creature than I thought, with migratory and reproductive patterns that are simply amazing. I'll think twice before ordering unagi again.

ESPN: "Tiger still playing by his own rules," by Bill Simmons -- You shouldn't need me to tell you to read the greaet Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) regularly, but this piece is a reminder of his value as a sportswriter. Instead of fawning all over and enabling Tiger Woods like so many in the media, Simmons exposes that sham of a news conference last Friday for what it really was: more of the same freakish, manufactured BS, "a borderline train wreck," everything seeming "staged," with Tiger pathetically hiding behind the addiction excuse.

The New Republic: "The Republican Obama," by John B. Judis -- Floridian Republican upstart Marco Rubio as the new Obama? Really? Judis makes an interesting case, and it's true that Rubio "assiduously avoided endorsing any of the notions of the crackpot right" at CPAC over the weekend, but there was an awful lot not to like in that pandering speech, a lot that was borderline insane, with Rubio playing enthusiastically to the right far more than Obama ever did to the left (did he ever?), and with nothing on the left mirroring the utter insanity of the right.

Okay, that's it for this first installment of Stuff to Read. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Obama's strategy on health-care reform makes perfect sense even as the lack of White House leadership continues to be a significant obstacle

I'm not sure I agree with Glenn Greenwald that the absence of the public option in the White House's new health-care reform compromise is proof of Obama's opposition to the public option:

It now seems obvious that White House's claim of support for the public option was a pretense used to placate the progressive base (in fact, it seems committed to excluding the public option very likely because it would provide real competition to the health insurance industry and is thus vehemently opposed by the industry and its lobbyists).

Let me stress that I'm not sure what Obama supports and what he doesn't -- who is sure, outside of Obama and his inner circle? -- though I tend to take him at his word that he would prefer reform with a public option. But I simply do not accept that his various public utterances in support of the public option have all been part of some grandiose "pretense," a Machiavellian plot to delude progressives.

What we know about Obama is that he is a ruthless realist. Whatever his ideals, whatever his principles, he is fully aware of what is possible, or of what seems to be possible, and he generally operates/governs within the parameters of that realism. That's how he was as a candidate and it's how he is as president.

Now, where I am deeply critical of Obama is in the area of leadership. As Ezra Klein writes:

This has been a complete and utter failure of White House leadership. They need to give this effort their support, or they need to kill it by publicly stating their opposition. But they can't simply wait for someone else to make the decision for them, which has been their strategy until now.

That failure continues. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs may very well be right that the votes just aren't there for the public option, but the problem is that the White House -- President Obama himself -- never pushed for it in any meaningful way. What was said behind closed doors I don't know, and he may well have pushed for it privately, but he never came out publicly and demanded a public option or else, using his bully pulpit to move public opinion, providing the sort of determined leadership Democrats needed.

That alone wouldn't have guaranteed success, of course, but at least the public option would have had a good shot. Now? Not.

Ezra explains:

For supporters of the strategy [to use reconciliation for the public option], that's not going to be very satisfying: Maybe there would be more supporters if the president took up the cause! It will also intensify the efforts of activists who want to prove that there is sufficient support, which means individual senators will be under even more pressure to sign the letter, which means this isn't likely to go away quietly. The White House is using the Senate as a sort of human shield here.

For opponents of the strategy, Gibbs's comments will be taken as evidence that the White House opposes the effort. I think that's actually the right interpretation, particularly given that Gibbs later emphasized Obama's intention to discuss "consensus ideas" Thursday, but it would be nice if the White House would just say what it means rather than leaving people to guess.

In other words, Obama opposes the "effort" to pass the public option through reconciliation but, if I may add to Ezra's analysis, not necessarily the public option itself (insofar as that matters at this point).

We may be critical of Obama's conservative approach to reform, of his stultifying realism, of the utter lack of leadership on the president's part, but I suspect that the White House is driven by the desire for success, and by the view that passing the compromise (and admittedly flawed) Senate bill (with appropriate modifications to appease the House) stands the best chance of success given the current political situation.

And why is that? Because the votes really might not be there. Or maybe they are, or at least could be with enough prodding, but maybe securing them, in both the House and Senate, would take too much time, and require too much prodding, too much additional compromise, too much playing off of competing Democratic interests, not least in a challenging mid-term election year.

And maybe the White House thinks that pushing through a more robust reform bill, one with a public option, by way of reconciliation would undermine the president's ability to sell reform as something other than a solo partisan effort. We all know what the public thinks of partisanship. We also know what it thinks of reform -- unpopular within the context of legislative sausage-making, much more popular when the specifics are known. And we know that the media are spinning reconciliation as a dirty word. So how would passing a reform bill, even one with a popular public option, through what is perceived to be partisan trickery benefit Obama, not least given how Republicans would undoubtedly propagandize against both the process and the substance? And how would it benefit Democrats running for re-election in November?

I certainly think that, in the long run, Democrats would benefit politically/electorally from health-care reform. Ultimately, the success and popularity of reform would win out.

But, for now, at this moment, given the current political reality, Obama's clear preference that the Senate bill be passed, with modifications addressed through reconciliation, is completely understandable. It is not what I would have preferred, and a big part of me does wish Democrats would bring back the public option, with or without Obama's support, but, at the same time, I just don't think that this reality can be denied. As Jon Chait writes:

Health care reform is still hanging on for dear life in the House. The dynamic is that the Democrats are going to lose some votes from pro-life members who insist on Bart Stupak's language. They need to make up the votes by persuading Blue Dog and other centrist Democrats who voted no for the original bill to vote yes this time. Many of those centrists said at the time of their original vote that they preferred the Senate bill and opposed the public option. Restoring the public option, aside form sucking up a lot of time by introducing another big fight, would greatly complicate this already-complicated task.

That's why Jay Rockefeller opposes adding the public option to the bill at this point. Rockefeller is the author of the public option. So it seems like the fear that reopening this debate will sink the whole bill really is the reason for the administration's reluctance. Or maybe Rockefeller's in on the pretense, too.

This seems to me to be the correct interpretation. Steve Benen adds:

I realize that Gibbs's response today seems unexpected, but it doesn't strike me as all that surprising -- if the White House thought the votes were there for a public option, the administration would have included the idea in the proposal unveiled yesterday. The fact that the president's version of reform didn't include the idea should have made it pretty clear that the White House thinks, correctly or not, that public option support remains insufficient.

I should note, though, that Gibbs's comments need not be the end of the public option. The White House is under the impression that the votes just aren't there to pass this specific measure, but if proponents on and off the Hill want to prove otherwise, there's still time to do just that. Gibbs didn't say the president opposes the public option -- Obama has said repeatedly he supports the idea, and would like to see it in the final bill -- he just said he thinks the public option lacks the support it needs in Congress.

If public option advocates want to prove Gibbs wrong, now's their chance.

To repeat, there is the distinct risk that such a move could meet with serious popular disapproval. But that's not to say Democrats shouldn't try. If the votes are really there, they should go for it -- and communicate to the public just why they're doing what they're doing. But if not, or if it would be overly costly or challenging, they should do what Obama proposes, which would at least give them a historic accomplishment to run on, major legislation to call their own, and which would benefit the American people with meaningful change to a health-care system that is unfair, unjust, and economically destructive.

Let's just be realistic about what can be done.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Steve King

Actually, the Iowa Rep. isn't just a crazy Republican and extremist conservative ideologue, he's a terrorist sympathizer. TPM reports:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told a crowd at CPAC on Saturday that he could "empathize" with the suicide bomber who last week attacked an IRS office in Austin, and encouraged his listeners to "implode" other IRS offices, according to a witness.

As well, in an interview with Think Progress, King sympathized with the suicide bomber, Joseph Andrew Stack (clip below):

I think if we'd abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn't have a target for his airplane. And I'm still for abolishing the IRS, I've been for it for thirty years and I'm for a national sales tax... It's sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America.

It may be "sad," but, to King, it's fully understandable.

Here's yet another glimpse into the Republican mind -- and remember that it's the Republicans who always talk up law and order, national security and the war on terror, as if Democrats cannot be trusted to protect the American people.

That's all hypocritical partisan bullshit, of course, as we are reminded -- that we should ever need reminding -- when the ugliness bubbles to the surface, as it so often does in the Insanitarium.

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