Saturday, March 20, 2010

No "deem and pass" in House

This is good news, assuming the Democrats have the votes to pass the Senate bill:

Top Democrats confirmed Saturday that the House would hold separate votes on the Senate healthcare bill and the reconciliation bill, making fixes to it.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the chief deputy whips, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), all of whom said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won't use the tactic of deem and pass for healthcare reform.

The move effectively kills the "deem and pass" strategy Democrats had been eyeing to make changes to the Senate bill through a rule on the bill, which at the same time would have deemed the original Senate healthcare bill to have passed the House.

The House appears set now to move toward an up-or-down vote on the Senate healthcare bill, as well as a separate, up-or-down vote on the series of changes to that bill. There will still be a vote on the rule, as there always is for a piece of legislation, though it will not package the two bills together.

The "deem and pass" tactic -- it's a legitimate legislative procedure, not some trick -- seemed a bit sketchy to me in this case, a way out for have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too Democrats who want to pass but don't actually want to vote for it, as if somehow voting for it to have deemed to have passed instead of voting directly for it makes any real difference with voters (or with their consciences?).

This can only mean -- can it not? -- that Pelosi, Hoyer, et al. do have the votes, even without a Stupak deal. They'd better have the votes, or the amount of egg on their faces will be enough to feed the entire population of the 48 contiguous states, as well as Saskatchewan and possibly Manitoba.

"We are going to get this done," said President Obama this afternoon.

We're almost there.


Jon Chait doesn't think this was all planned...

But if it was, it worked! Republicans spent a week whipping themselves into a lather over a procedural maneuver they've used many, many times. It wasn't their real objection but they made it seem like the end of the world. "Demon pass," they've been calling it. And now they've wasted several days worth of ginned-up outrage.

This whole prolonged drama has made the Republicans look bad, really bad, but look for the manufactured outrage to continue indefinitely. It's what they're all about, and it's all they've got.

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Stupak to get abortion vote

By Creature

I don't think I'm a purist, but there is a line that should not be crossed. Enthusiasm meet gap.

Update: Stupak's scheduled press conference has been canceled. I'm hoping that's a good sign.

Update II: Pelosi says no separate abortion vote. Whew.

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The return of the public option

Apparently, if Sen. Harry Reid is to be believed (and why not?), we haven't seen the end of the public option just yet:

Hoping to assuage progressive Democrats who remain disappointed with the content of the health care reform bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) committed on Friday to holding a separate vote on a public option in the coming months.

In a letter to two of his more progressive colleagues in the Senate -- Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- the Nevada Democrat implicitly apologized for his inability to get a government-run insurance plan into the final piece of health care legislation and promised to keep working to get the policy into law.

Well, well.

I'm all for this, and I hope Reid does in fact move forward with a concerted effort to supplement the Senate's health-care reform package with a robust public option.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The House has to pass the current reform bill first, the Senate has to add the necessary patches, and the president has to sign what is a genuinely historic reform package into law.

Then we can move forward.

As I have been saying all along, however flawed the Senate bill, or "Obamacare," it could very well be the thin end of the wedge that leads to further and perhaps even more transformative reform down the road.

As Penny Lane might say, "it's all happening." Let's just hope the Democrats don't screw it up.


Speaking of which, from my favourite movie of the last decade, Almost Famous:

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Photo of the Day: Exhausted starfish

High tide waves wash over some of the thousands of starfish that have been washed up on the beach at Budleigh Salterton in Devon, England. Over the last few days hundreds of thousands of starfish have been washed up on the beach, which marine experts believe is due to them become susceptible to high tides and storms after becoming exhausted spawning.

Quite amazing, really. But I suppose we'd all feel that way after such prolific spawning.

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Self-defeating Stupak

If anti-abortion Democrat Bart Stupak thinks his renegade effort to undermine health-care reform, by putting abortion before all else, has been a "living hell," he has no one to blame but himself. And its seems he's having his doubts:

The ideal outcome, Stupak said, might be for the House Democratic leadership to get the votes they need without him and for the bill to pass.

"You know, maybe for me that's the best: I stay true to my principles and beliefs," he said, and "vote no on this bill and then it passes anyways. Maybe for me is the best thing to do."


"It's caused a lot of internal conflict. 'Am I doing the right thing,' you know?" he said. "I believe everyone should have healthcare. In all my correspondence -- I've been saying for years -- it's a right, not a privilege."

Then stop being an obstructionist, Stupak, and get your priorities in order. There's still time. If you want to fight the abortion battle, fine, but leave it for another time. This is too important -- to you, apparently, if we take you at your word, to the president, to your party, to your country.

As Jon Chait puts it, "Stupak sounds like a man who has backed himself into a corner, realizes he's wrong (which he is), but can't quite admit it."

Just admit it, Stupak, if only, for now, to yourself. And help pass this historic legislation.

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Blue Dog runs for liberal cover

By Creature

Sorry, Rep. Lynch, feel free to oppose HCR for any conservative, Blue Dog reason you like (which there are none, at this point), but do not do so while hiding behind progressive cover. If Dennis Kucinich can back this bill, then there is no room on his left to hide.

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History in the making: How the Democrats crafted a comprehensive and fiscally responsible health-care reform package

Conservatives, as expected, are freaking out and going into full-out fearmongering mode over the details of Obamacare. Take this headline at The Weekly Standard, for example: "CBO: Obamacare Would Cost Over $2 Trillion." Apparently, the CBO analysis of Obamacare, the comprehensive health-care reform package that will soon be heading to a vote in the House, is so bad that "it's not likely to convince wavering House Democrats to jump to the Obamacare side of the fence." Yes, it's a disaster: "This legislation is a ticking time-bomb."

For the love of Glenn Beck, what the hell?

Well, first, reform is about extending coverage and making existing coverage better, and more broadly about fixing an unfair and unjust system, not just about cost. Obviously, though, it's going to cost something. If you want to do repairs to your house, you're going to have to shell out some dough. Nothing is free.

But the CBO analysis, which focuses on cost, is actually extremely positive. Here's Ezra Klein:

If you're a liberal House Democrat, here's what you'd be voting against: Legislation that covers 32 million people. A world in which 95 percent of all non-elderly, legal residents have health-care coverage. An end to insurers rescinding coverage for the sick, or discriminating based on preexisting conditions, or spending 30 cents of each premium dollar on things that aren't medical care. Exchanges where insurers who want to jack up premiums will have to publicly explain their reason, where regulators will be able to toss them out based on bad behavior, and where consumers will be able to publicly rate them. Hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford health-care insurance. The final closure of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit's "doughnut hole."

If you're a conservative House Democrat, then probably you support many of those policies, too. But you also get the single most ambitious effort the government has ever made to control costs in the health-care sector. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill cuts deficits by $130 billion in the first 10 years, and up to $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years. The excise tax is now indexed to inflation, rather than inflation plus one percentage point, and the subsidies grow more slowly over time. So one of the strongest cost controls just got stronger, and the automatic spending growth slowed. And then there are all the other cost controls in the bill: The Medicare Commission, which makes entitlement reform much more possible. The programs to begin paying doctors and hospitals for care rather than volume. The competitive insurance market.

Got that? Costs are controlled and, in the long run, deficits will be significantly reduced. Plus, there are all the various elements of reform. Republicans may still hate it, but Obamacare has something for every Democrat. And there's no good reason, at this point, with so much hanging in the balance politically, why any Democrat should vote against it.

As for the cost, though, Jonathan Cohn acknowledges that "these projections are not a precise science" but stresses that the Democrats "constructed a bill that, even in the worst-case scenario, CBO thinks would not raise the defict. It's not an ironclad guarantee, but it's as close as you can come. And if that's not fiscal responsibility, I don't know what is."

Republicans, of course, are blinded by partisanship and ideological fervour, but their own record, from Reagan's massive military spending to Bush II's massive tax cuts and prescription-drug benefits plan, is hardly one of such fiscal responsibility. I and many others would have preferred a more genuinely transformative reform package, including a robust public option, but it is truly impressive that the Democrats have been able to settle on a bill, however flawed in terms of what it leaves out, that does so much and yet is so fiscally sound.

Steve Benen effectively sums up where we are and how we got here:

It's probably an esoteric point, but it's worth pausing to appreciate just how ridiculously challenging it was to craft this health care reform proposal. There's a very good reason this legislation has never passed up until now, and why presidents who've tried have failed, and it goes beyond just right-wing hysterics and corporate pushback.

Think about the scope of the task -- Democrats were told they needed a health care reform bill that spends a lot of money on covering the uninsured, lowers the deficit, strengthens Medicare, helps businesses, eases government budgets, protects consumers, and controls costs, all at the same time. It would also need to earn the blessing of Congressional Budget Office, the American Medical Association, the AARP, and the nation's largest labor unions.

Democrats were also told they needed to do all of this in the face of unanimous and apoplectic Republican opposition, far-right manipulation of gullible conservative activists, and media coverage that largely ignores the substance of the bill while pretending every right-wing attack deserves attention.

This is a needle that's almost impossible to thread. And yet, that's exactly what the White House and congressional leaders have done. It's no small feat.

It's an incredible feat, when you think about it.

In a divided Democratic caucus, featuring liberals and conservative Blue Dogs, the trick was to find a way to deliver on what both contingents wanted to see in a reform bill. As impossible as this seemed, the final Democratic reform proposal does just that.

I have no idea what's going to happen when the final roll call is held, but Democrats have no reason, no excuse, no coherent rationale for killing the best chance the United States has ever had to pass health care reform. 

We are quite possibly watching history in the making. It's time for Democrats to make it happen.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

An affront to humanity

Those who know me, even just through this blog, know what I think of organized religion, and of Christianity in particular.

Well, let me be blunt.

If, as Glenn Beck suggested, taking the baton from Rep. Steve King, one of the more extremist Republicans on Capitol Hill, voting for health-care reform on a Sunday, perhaps this Sunday, is "an affront to God," then Beck's "God" can shove it.

Because it would mean that his "God" thinks that millions and millions of Americans, those who have inadequate coverage or no coverage at all, those living in poverty or struggling with debt, unable to pay their bills and put food on the table and take care of their children, should be excluded from America's unfair and unjust health-care system.

"They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God," said King. Please. First, there's the separation of Church and State. I know conservatives don't believe in it, but it underpins American politics. Second, this isn't about Christianity, just as America isn't about Christianity. And third, the deists who founded the United States way back when might have a thing or two to say to King and Beck about what is and what isn't in the public interest. The theocrats of the right may object, but they, to me, are among the most un-American of Americans.

If you want an affront to humanity, look no further than Glenn Beck himself, or the likes of Steve King, hardly alone in the GOP. But the real affront to humanity is America's health-care system, and while reform wouldn't fix all the problems -- the Senate bill, with "patches," is flawed and doesn't go far enough but is not only much better than nothing but a significant historical achievement -- it would go a long way toward making it far more fair and far more just than it is now, with power taken away from the interests of profit and given to those who at present have no liberty at all in a system that either denies them coverage, and care, or subjects them to the bottom line of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, providing them with inadequate coverage and care at exorbitant prices. It's liberty, of a kind, but only in some right-wing Hobbesian state of nature, where life is nasty, brutish, and short, and massively profitable for those in a position to oppress the rest.

How is any of that "Christian"?

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By Carl 

You'd think the one base that the Teabaggers would not want to piss off is the Religious Right. 

Well... guess what?

Where shoulders once shrugged, fists now shake. Glenn Beck's comparison of social justice Christians with Nazis and Communists is a reminder of many things, not the least of which being that deep down, Glenn Beck is shallow. On Beck's show, demagoguery reigns.

His reactionary comments were clearly intended to raise the hackles of moderates and liberals -- and he succeeded.

Writing with the outrage of a biblical prophet, Sojourner's Jim Wallis refused to attack Glenn Beck but challenged him to an open conversation about social justice, what it is and why it’s important. Beck demurred.

That Glenn Beck is a practicing Mormon only make the story more interesting.

Interesting? It came as a shock to me. I thought he was Jewish! Little did I know... but I digress:

Across the religious spectrum, Beck's comments served as a source of puzzlement to commentators. Especially illuminating is a quote by Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University in a recent New York Times article: "My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every L.D.S. congregation I've been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that's Beck's definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team."

It was, of course, only a matter of time before the Teabaggers went from ridiculous to carnivorous. The jihad they have been on, trying to eliminate all opposition to a conservative, homogenous, rich-white-men-only society has long been a source of intrigue by the mass media, some who I believe are rooting for it to happen. 

Glenn Beck hitched his star to this movement. It will be with this movement that he comes crashing down to the pavement, hard. My estimate is one year before he's irrelevant, and three more years before he's been shot to death by one of the crazies he's encouraged in a Mark David Chapman-like transference. 

Good riddance to him, says me. But that hopeful state won't occur for a while, so let's focus on this rather curious construct he's invented. 

The Religious Right has never been one for tolerance and until recently, had made alliances with non-Evangelical-Protestant groups like the neo-cons and Catholics only in the sense of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." That appears to be crumbling. Recently, there's been a sense of anger amongst the hoi polloi on the right that, because they're so rigid and dogmatic they're being somehow oppressed even more. 

Well, if laughing at someone is oppression, Bozo The Clown ought to be running terrorist camps because honestly, the Teabaggers have behaved in a way that is only comedic. Plus, I'd argue that if anything, the Teabaggers have been handled with kid gloves, much like Senator Joe McCarthy was before Edward R. Murrow got his talons in. This too is only a matter of time. 

There's this warped Dispensationalist Bible that the Religious Right, including Beck, appear to adhere to. For those of you who aren't up on Biblical philosophy, Dispensationalism is another word for "God has mood swings." Rather than admit that God Himself might have evolved and learned from His creation of Man, Dispensationalists put forth the theology that God is still perfect, but, well, psychotic, in that he sometimes hates man (Genesis, Job) and sometimes loves man (the Gospels) and sometimes has slasher fantasies about Man (Revelations). 

To me, this latest "outrage" from Beck is nothing more than Glenn Beck watching his ratings plateau and trying to figure out another controversy to drive his advertising, which from what I seen relies heavily on seed corn and gold.


Every time Beck opens his mouth, he isolates both himself and the movement he has co-opted. 

Keep talking, Glenn. Just, you know, put down the megaphone. 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Texas should be kicked out of the Union (for turning education into un-American right-wing propaganda)

Homer: And how is "education" supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine-making course and I forgot how to drive?

Marge: That's because you were drunk!

Homer: And how.


Historians on Tuesday criticized proposed revisions to the Texas social studies curriculum, saying that many of the changes are historically inaccurate and that they would affect textbooks and classrooms far beyond the state's borders. 

You think? Maybe the historians criticized them because the result isn't history but right-wing propaganda:

The changes, which were preliminarily approved last week by the Texas board of education and are expected to be given final approval in May, will reach deeply into Texas history classrooms, defining what textbooks must include and what teachers must cover. The curriculum plays down the role of Thomas Jefferson among the founding fathers, questions the separation of church and state, and claims that the U.S. government was infiltrated by Communists during the Cold War. 

Clearly, Texas is controlled by un-American elements that are, to a man (and woman), utterly insane -- even if what they're doing fits right in with the current truth-denying direction of American conservatism.

The only viable solution, it seems to me, is for Washington to rid the United States of the massive disease that Texas has become. Let it go, for America's sake as well as for its own. Then it can revise history to its heart's content, a heart flooded with venom.

(Or perhaps, to make some quick cash, Washington could sell Texas to the highest bidder. Maybe a gaggle of Russian oligarchs. Or maybe trade it -- say, to China for Tibet and some significant debt relief, which would be good both for the spirit and for the pocketbook. Or maybe to Spain for Catalonia and the Basque region. Think how much better American cuisine would be if foodie-haven San Sebastian and El Bulli were American -- and how much better American soccer would be with Barça on board. I'd certainly throw in, say, Rachael Ray to make that deal happen. Texas is way too valuable, you say, what with the oil and the cattle and the Dallas Cowboys and all? Fine. Then ask for Majorca, too, along with the collected works of Pedro Almodovar. Still not enough. Then target Javier Bardem and Penepole Cruz, as a couple. They're Oscar winners. America loves them. And they're hot.)

Otherwise, for a country supposedly so devoted to its founding, and that takes its history to be somehow providential, where, as they say, is the outrage?


Simpsons quote, above, from the episode "Secrets of a Successful Marriage," Season 5. It first aired on May 19, 1994.

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Nuns for Obama

More specifically, Catholic nuns for Obamacare:

A group of Catholic nuns is urging Congress to pass health care reform, breaking ranks with bishops who say the current bill does not do enough to block federal money from being used to fund abortions.

"We write to urge you to cast a life-affirming 'yes' vote when the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) comes to the floor of the House for a vote as early as this week," a group of nuns wrote in a letter to members of Congress released Wednesday by NETWORK, progressive Catholic advocacy organization.

NETWORK said the 55 signatories represent tens of thousands of Catholic nuns in the United States.

The letter argues that the legislation "will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children."

"And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," the letter reads. "It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."

The nuns are siding with the Catholic Health Association, a group representing Catholic hospitals, which offered its support for reform earlier this week.

Well, there you go. Those are some enlightened nuns, and while I may disagree with their views on abortion, I applaud them for breaking from "the powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stepped up its criticism of the bill in recent days."

The bishops, and the rest of the Roman Catholic Church, should get over it. Even without the Stupak anti-abortion amendment, the Senate bill isn't pro-choice legislation, it's legislation designed to make an unjust system more just and an unfair system more fair.

I realize there are elements of American Catholicism that are deeply loyal to the Republican Party and that generally have their heads up their asses (see, especially, William Donohue and the Catholic League), but shouldn't the Church welcome reform that, if enacted, would take life-and-death power away from the insurance industry and provide coverage, or better coverage to those who already have it, to tens of millions of Americans? Even with conservatives prevailing in the Vatican (Ratzinger et al.) and in the College of Cardinals (which turned Ratzinger into Benedict XVI), isn't there enough progressivism in the Church to guide it away from extremist American conservatism, much of which is some fanatical combination of libertarian and fundamentalist?

One would think. At least the nuns seem to get it.

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And who is my neighbor?

Look out your window, baby, there's a scene you'd like to catch
The band is playing "Dixie", a man got his hand outstretched
Could be the Führer
Could be the local priest
You know sometimes Satan, you know he comes as a man of peace.

- Bob Dylan -

It hard not to think of the parable of the good Samaritan when you read about the anti-health-care reform protesters in Columbus Ohio. Seems that Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) is still undecided and so competing groups showed up outside her office Tuesday last to express their opinions as loudly as possible.

A wrinkled, kneeling man holding a stick crawled up to a group opposing the effort with a sign saying he has "got Parkinson's" and needs help, say Raw Story's David Edwards and Sahil Kapur. Will any of us be surprised at the reaction?

"If you're looking for a handout you're in the wrong end of town," one man yelled at him.

"Nothing for free over here, you have to work for everything you get.

Something smells bad in Columbus and I don't think that stench is called Christian values.

Of course, the health-care reform under consideration isn't about handouts, it's that some people's greatest fear is that not only will someone get something he himself isn't getting, but that it might cost him some money. Insurance, by nature is about dividing risk amongst participants and so those who suffer losses will be covered while others pay a smaller amount. This seems to be fine with Republicans as long as some third party is skimming off 40% while keeping those at greatest risk out of the pool. This seems to them perversely to be Communism when individual risk is minimized by maximizing the pool and cost minimized by self administration by public ownership.

Is it a coincidence that people who don't seem to get this are the same people so mean spirited that they will mock someone with a terminal and debilitating disease and tell him to "work?" Is it that such people fear someone who could challenge their own self-pity that they must hate those really deserving of it? God knows who the Christians in Columbus are, but no one else seems to.

Even so, health care reform isn't about being a good Samaritan, it's about the most economical and efficient method of minimizing the burden on any individual participant by making us all participants, so whether there is a God who punishes nasty, malicious, selfish greedy bastards or some other principle of Nature that punishes the intellectually unfit and self defeating Conservative, it may be time to get out of Columbus and not look back.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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British government climate ads go too far, says independent regulator

From the BBC:

Two government press adverts which used nursery rhymes to raise awareness of climate change have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

It said the advertisements went beyond mainstream scientific consensus in asserting that climate change would cause flooding and drought.

A total of 939 people complained to the ASA about the "Act on CO2" campaign.

Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said the ads should have been "phrased better" but defended the campaign.

Three other advertisements, including a TV commercial, were cleared by the advertising watchdog.

Yes, perhaps they could have been "phrased better," and I tend to agree that going too far on global warming can backfire, providing ammunition to the denialists, but, well...

How exactly do you exaggerate environmental Armageddon? If anything, what climate change could lead to is far worse than flooding and drought.

It's best to be honest about that, is it not?

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CBO scores, America wins

By Creature

Great numbers all around. Serious deficit reduction. Donut hole closure. Medicare solvency. Bunches of people covered. And, it's all paid for. It's time for Blue Dogs to get off the damn fence and every other Dem to get out and sell this thing.

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Stuff to read (3/18/10): Obama, SCOTUS, Pakistan, and Glenn Beck

Check these out, all highly recommended:

-- Media Matters: "The media myth of Obama's 'falling poll numbers'," by Eric Boehlert. Key quote: "Feeding off right-wing talking points, political journalists love to push the idea that Obama's polling numbers are in the tank and that he's fading fast. It's all part of the preferred, CW narrative that his entire presidency is slipping away. (It must now be 'save[d],' according to Newsweek.)"

-- The New Republic: "POTUS v. SCOTUS," by Jeffrey Rosen. Key quote: "In battles between a popular president and an anti-majoritarian Court, it's almost always the president who prevails. Using the Court as a punching bag puts Obama in the company of his greatest predecessors, Jefferson, Lincoln, and both Roosevelts -- all of whom bashed the Court for thwarting the will of the people. As long as he plays his cards carefully, Obama has much to gain from challenging John Roberts, and the Roberts Court has much to lose." (See also my recent post at HuffPo on the spineless chief justice.)

-- Der Spiegel: "The Football Stitchers of Sialkot," by Hasnain Kazim. Key quote: "The city of Sialkot in Pakistan produces as many as 60 million hand-stitched footballs in a World Cup year. The firms here are running out of new workers since child labor was abolished. Western buyers may have a clear conscience, but the children of Sialkot now toil in the local brickworks instead."

-- Chicago Sun-Times: "Jesus was a Nazi. So's your preacher," by Roger Ebert. The great film critic addresses Glenn Beck's attack on "social justice," including in a religious context, claiming it is code for both Communism and Nazism. Key quote: "Does Glenn Beck speak for average Americans? His logic indicates they must be attending churches that preach Communism and Nazism from the pulpit every Sunday. Why are they so slow to catch on? Now that Beck has alerted them, where can they flee to worship? What will become of them? They have been cast out into the wilderness, where nothing makes sense anymore. The lonely, barren, ignorant wilderness, silent but for the gnashing of Glenn Beck."

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The conservative lies about health-care reform just keep coming and coming

You know what, if conservatives really think the health-care reform package currently in Congress is sooooo bad, and sooooo unpopular with the American people, they should just shut the fuck up and let it pass so that Democrats suffer at the polls for having passed it. Isn't that what they want?

But their ongoing and increasingly desperate opposition to it suggests that they actually know better, or maybe just that there's this nagging fear that, once passed, the sausage-making done, the very popular details of reform in the open at long last, health-care reform will actually be not just hugely successful as policy, historical change to an unjust, unfair, and costly system, but hugely beneficial to the Democrats in the long run, including perhaps in November.

But you know what, I've had it. Conservatives should just shut the fuck up, period. All they are is a bunch of bullshitting obstructionists who have no interest whatsoever in meaningful reform of any kind. Pajamas Media, for example, is touting a new poll conducted by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest that purports to show that popular opposition to the reform legislation is overwhelming. Well, PJM is a right-wing website and the CMPI is a front for the pharmaceutical industry. Should we really take this poll seriously?

First of all, the poll is loaded with bias. Take the following:

Six in ten Americans (60%) agree that a current Democrat proposal to send the Senate health care bill to the president without voting up or down on it is "unfair."

It's Democratic, not "Democrat." The use of "Democrat" is a sure sign of partisan bias. As for the result, are we really to believe that the American people understand the nuances of parliamentary procedure, including reconciliation and "deem and pass"? Or how about this: Is is unfair that Republicans used the filibuster to block a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate, where reform passed with a supermajority of 60 votes?

Eight Americans in ten (81%) oppose allowing the government to decide what kind of health care coverage Americans are able to purchase.

Yeah, but this isn't in the legislation, and one is talking about having the government control health care, and for individual choice to be done away with. In fact, Obamacare is all about choice, better choices for more people. It's market-oriented reform that would expand choice, providing coverage to many of the uninsured and freeing many who have poor or limited coverage from being denied treatment and from being locked into a system that takes their money and provides inadequate care in return.

Most Americans (87%) oppose having a government panel recommend or decide what medical procedures or medical advances your doctor or health plan can or cannot use.

This is the mythical "death panel" that conservatives like Sarah Palin have been propagandizing about. There would be no such death panels under Obamacare. Conservatives seem to have moved away from the death panel argument, but apparently the lie lives on in polls conducted by the CMPI.

Anyway, it goes on and on like this. It's like asking respondents if they oppose suffering from acute diarrhea and finding that 98% do. Well, obviously. Obviously people object to death panels and being told what care they can get or what coverage they can have. But, then, this whole poll is about making shit up. Obamacare only looks bad, in this poll, because the questions are dishonest.

The president of CMPI, Dr. Robert Goldberg, concludes:

The poll suggests that Americans oppose how the health care bill is being passed and want more debate and a more democratic approach.

Uh, no, that's what Republicans want. And if you want "a more democratic approach," how about a president who was democratically elected supporting legislation that was passed by a supermajority of senators, after a majority of representatives passed an earlier and more robust bill? In the Senate, reconciliation is actually quite democratic, as it would allow a simple majority of senators to pass "patches" to the bill. In the House, "deem and pass" to approve the Senate bill and patches may not be quite as democratic as an up-or-down vote, but let's not forget that the House has already passed a reform bill.

But the lies keep coming, from Republicans on Capitol Hill and Fox News to conservatives in the media and throughout the blogosphere to the Tea Party extremists wielding their fear and venom across the land to the pharmaceutical industry masquerading as an independent health-care organization supposedly dedicated to the "public interest."

They should all shut the fuck up, as they continue to have nothing but poison to contribute to a process that, hopefully, will soon be over with the Democrats passing historic reform legislation.

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Time to step up

By Creature

If eight of these last fifteen conservative Democrats can't be brought on board to support a conservative health-care reform package what's the point of them being Democrats? As I've said before, this bill is tailor made for them. Let's go, people, this shouldn't be that hard.

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Top Ten Cloves: Possible reasons Tiger Woods is coming back to golf in The Masters

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Major decision: Woods will play Masters

10. Still trying to verify announcement; Woods might be messed up by the early Daylight Savings Time

9. Augusta is one city that he doesn't have a mistress in?

8. Topeka, Kansas said they would diss Google, and name themselves Tiger Woods if he came back

7. Looking to crack, get referenced, in that "shitmydadsays" thing

6. Announcement in error; Tiger just was getting early start on his St. Patrick's Day celebrating

5. Needs a new green sport coat, since wife Elin took a scissors to all his others

4. It's a result of a compromise with Britt Hume

3. Was just waiting until Jay Leno went back to 11:30

2. It was either The Masters, or The Marriage Ref

1. Eric Massa tickled him until he agreed to come back to golf in The Masters

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Photo of the Day: Thai protesters take to the streets with blood

Photo, below, from The Globe and Mail: "Supporters of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hold up cannisters filled with human blood as they gather outside Government House in Bangkok, Thailand. Protesters donated blood with the intention of collecting one million cubic centimeters to be used in demonstrations outside Government House, as the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to reject calls for a dissolution of the House and a fresh election."

Thaksin's supporters are known as "reds" or "red-shirts," while Thaksin's opponents are known as "yellows" or "yellow-shirts." If the former take the streets with blood, I can only assume that the latter take to the streets with urine. Which begs the question: Are there any brown-shirts in Thailand? If so, I can only assume that...

Well, you get the picture. I make light of the political situation in Thailand, but, of course, it is deadly serious. (But can you imagine, say, Bush's supporters in 2000 carrying around cannisters of blood? Yeah, so can I.) Now, I don't know a great deal about Thai politics, but a lot of what I know comes from the BBC -- and I recommend checking out its profile of the Reds and Yellows, its profile of Thaksin, its profile of Abhisit, and it's Q&A on the current protests. It also has the latest developments with a protest timeline stretching back to 2006, as well as more photos. I'm sure there's a lot at Wikipedia, too.

I certainly don't know enough to come down on one side or the other, though it seems to me that Thailand would benefit from somehow splitting the difference between Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire who has the support of the rural poor and urban students and activists, and Abhisit, an Oxford-educated academic who has the support of the "educated middle-classes," as the BBC puts it.

The pieces linked above contain loads of background that explain how Thailand got to where it is today, but suffice it here to say that this all goes back to Thaksin being overthrown in a military coup in September 2006. (I'm sure it goes back much further than that, but let's not go there.) Since then, there has been persistent unrest and insecurity, with the military continuing to exert influence.

Thaksin himself is in London or Dubai, or somewhere, in self-imposed exile making business deals. He faces jail time if he returns home, and presumably he is content to let his supporters, the red-shirted United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) fight his battles for him. Meanwhile, while Abhisit has "advocated free healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and free education, textbooks and milk for nursery-school children" and is "a consistent campaigner against corruption," his Democrat Party has been "closely associated" with the yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is "a loose grouping of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class" (yellow = Thai monarchy). Indeed, his foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, is "an open supporter of the PAD movement."

A pro-Thaksin government was actually won the first post-coup elections, held in December 2007, but was removed from power by the Constitutional Court a year later. After a few Thaksin supporters switched sides, Abhisit was able to "form a new government and become the next prime minister without calling elections." Like Thaksin, Abhisit seems to be a populist, if more of an establishmentarian one, but the reds claim that his government is illegitimate and that he is "a puppet of the military." They want Abhisit to resign and for new elections to be held.

Hence the current protests in Bangkok. It's all quite fascinating, actually.

Anyway, as for the blood, according to the BBC: "Government cleaners quickly went into action to mop up the blood on Tuesday, amid fears of infection and some criticism that the blood spilling was wasting a resource which could have been used to help the sick."

Yes, perhaps it's best to keep bodily fluids out of it.

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Rank obstructionism

By Creature

Lead Republican obstructionist Mitch McConnell on his block-everything-strategy:

"It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out," Mr. McConnell said about the health legislation in an interview, suggesting that even minimal Republican support could sway the public. "It's either bipartisan or it isn't."

The media should keep this quote in mind next time McConnell whines about the Dems going it alone.

On the larger point of Republican obstructionism, it continues to amaze me that more Obama supporters aren't absolutely outraged that the Republicans have basically nullified their vote and, in turn, their voice. Procedural maneuvers would be unnecessary if Republicans only respected democracy.

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Where are the votes on health-care reform?

According to CNN, "opponents of reform [are] just 11 votes shy of the 216 needed to prevent President Obama from scoring a major victory on his top domestic priority."

Not good, not good at all.

But wasn't it no less an authority than White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs who said, just the other day, that reform would be "the law of the land" within a week, that the votes would be there?

What the hell's going on?

Well, the votes may very well be there -- or may soon be there. Perhaps to highten the drama, perhaps to indicate its ideological leanings, CNN may highlight the opposition to the Senate bill in the House, but that doesn't mean that the White House and the House Democratic leadership aren't building support, and gaining ground, on the other side. Indeed, as House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson indicates, "the votes are there" to pass reform.

Over at Firedoglake yesterday, David Dayen had the horse race -- isn't that what the media think it is? -- at 205-209 against, including "leaners." A later post by Chris Bowers at Open Left noted an addition to the Yes side, making it 206-209, and suggested three uncommitted who should vote Yes, making it, effectively, a tie. If Chris is right, it now comes down to a group of 13 Democrats, a group that is overwhelmingly conservative (they "vote more like Republicans than like Democrats") and pro-Stupak. That's the bad news. The possible good news is that eight of them are relatively new to Congress, elected in 2004 or after, meaning they relied for their election on the support of the current Democratic establishment, and that eight of them voted for the House's own reform bill back in November.

As Chris explains:

This is a pretty right-wing group, but securing a majority of them it possible. The key is probably for groups that supported them in 2008, including the White House, to throw the hammer down and make this vote a pre-condition for support in 2010. They vote more like Republicans than like Democrats, but only have the benefit of being in Congress due to support from Democratic and progressive groups.

Well, the hammer has been thrown down. Britain's Telegraph is reporting that Obama "will refuse to make fund-raising visits during November elections to any district whose representative has not backed the bill," and TPM is reporting that "Health Care for America Now is targeting 11 House Democrats in a series of new ads. The move, according to Politico, is part of the team effort with SEIU, AFSCME and other groups to target 17 House Dems, spending a total of $1.7 million."

In other words, it ain't over yet, even with the media more or less taking the Republican side (on the horse race but even more so on both the content of reform and the process by which it is moving through Congress, both of which expose the media's abject ignorance and unwillingness to overcome it). Gibbs may very well be right, the votes may very well be there, and this admirable if admittedly flawed reform package, to be improved through "patches" passed through reconcilation in the Senate, will soon be the law of the land.

But I'm still deeply worried. This could easily fail. And failure would mean not just no historic reform, reform that would directly benefit millions and millions of Americans as well as the entire country in terms of making health care more fair, more just, and less costly, but Democratic self-destruction. I wonder if the Democrats really understand this, and I wonder if those still on the fence have any idea what this is really all about.


Here, via TPM, an ad targeting Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania (who's not one of the 13):

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Kucinich a yes on HCR

By Creature

Welcome to the swallow-hard club, Dennis.

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Quote of the Day: Norman Ornstein on Republican hypocrisy (on reconciliation and "deem and pass")

Ornstein is a long-time Congress-watcher who knows what he's talking about:

Any veteran observer of Congress is used to the rampant hypocrisy over the use of parliamentary procedures that shifts totally from one side to the other as a majority moves to minority status, and vice versa. But I can't recall a level of feigned indignation nearly as great as what we are seeing now from congressional Republicans and their acolytes at the Wall Street Journal, and on blogs, talk radio, and cable news. It reached a ridiculous level of misinformation and disinformation over the use of reconciliation, and now threatens to top that level over the projected use of a self-executing rule by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of "deem and pass." That strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don't like self-executing rules by either party -- I prefer the "regular order" -- so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so -- is there no shame anymore?

Please note that Ornstein published this post at the blog of the American Enterprise Institute, hardly a bastion of liberal Democratic thought.

As for his question, no, there is no shame anymore, certainly not in the GOP.


By the way, you can find tons of reaction to "deem and pass" over at Memeorandum.

In particular, Ezra Klein has a brief explanation and some justifiable concern:

So here's what's happening: The House has to pass the Senate bill before the reconciliation fixes can be attached. But they don't want to do that. So they're passing the reconciliation fixes and deeming the Senate bill passed as part of that. This might work if Americans were extremely sensitive to the minutia of congressional procedure. Instead, Democrats have shot themselves in the foot and given themselves many more problems than if they'd just said the Senate bill is a big step forward and our fixes will make it even better and voted to pass both.

Alas. (Still, what must be done must be done.)

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CNN: It's enough to make you throw up

So I've been home all day feeling, well, unwell: upset stomach, nausea, headache, you know, stuff that makes you want to take a lot of the pink stuff.

Well, I was feeling a bit better this afternoon, but just a short while ago, having worked up enough energy to make it over to the computer, and to turn it on, and to fire up the intertubes, and to surf over to my favourite sites, I made the horrible mistake of checking out what's been going on out in the world today.

And what, almost immediately, did I learn?

That CNN, once a "respected name in news," and once a network worth paying attention to, and, of course, watching, has hired RedState blogger Erick Erickson as a so-called "political contributor," joining the likes of Bill Bennett and other extremist or otherwise intellectually incapacitated conservatives on what would seem to be an increasingly right-leaning network desperately trying to pull up its ratings by turning into Fox News Lite. Sorry, but having James Carville, Paul Begala, and Roland Martin on board does not constitute balance, or at least not the sort of balance of which CNN should be proud.

Now, I realize that having extremists and otherwise second-, third-, and fourth-rate, and worse, conservatives on your network can do a great deal to make conservatism look bad, which it does. But I don't think CNN is doing this to embarrass conservatives. After all, it enthusiastically calls its line-up of political contributors "The Best Political Team on Television." Intended irony that is not. CNN really does seem to think that it's home to analytical greatness.

"Erickson joins the Best Political Team," reads the announcement on CNN's Political Ticker. There you go. It would seem that CNN thinks that Erickson belongs among its heavyweights. Of course, the joke is on CNN. It's a pitiful line-up of contributors, on the whole, and so, in a way, Erickson will fit right in. Conservatives will applaud the move, but how many conservatives watch CNN? As for the rest of us, to the extent that we even watch CNN ourselves, we know that an already bad political team just got worse.

Yet I can't help but be annoyed that CNN insists on providing such a prominent media platform to the likes of Erickson. It's not that I care about CNN, or its ratings, it's that there's already enough pollution in the universe of 24/7 cable news and that, inevitably, all that pollution infests the body politic and makes it sick -- and it's all getting sicker, and there ain't enough pick stuff in the world to make it better.

But what's so wrong with Erickson, you ask? Look, it's not that I object to CNN hiring a conservatives -- yet another one, I might add -- however much I object to its rightward drift. As Steve Benen noted today, "there are thoughtful, intelligent conservative bloggers in the country, who occasionally have insightful things to say." I can't think of many of them, but there are a few, to be sure. "The problem here is that Erick Erickson isn't one of them."

Steve provides the necessary context and perspective:

The point here isn't that it's disappointing to see CNN hire yet another conservative voice, adding to its already-large stable of conservative voices. To be sure, it's frustrating, but it's nothing new.

The problem here is with Erickson himself.

For example, it wasn't long ago when Erickson explained his belief on why the left has a stronger online presence than the right. He attributed it to an asymmetry in free time, since conservatives "have families because we don't abort our kids, and we have jobs because we believe in capitalism."

This is the same Erickson who recently called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat f--king child molester," referred to two sitting U.S. senators as "healthcare suicide bombers," praised protesters for "tell[ing] Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel" (he later backpedaled on that one), and described President Obama's Nobel Prize as "an affirmative action quota."

And perhaps my personal favorite was the time, just last year, when Erickson was angry about new environmental regulations relating to dishwasher detergent. He told his readers, "At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?"

There was a point when major professional outlets would look at a voice like this as an "extremist," to be shut out of the mainstream of America's civil discourse. CNN, however, considers this record of radical rhetoric, and concludes it should pay him to offer on-air political commentary.

So CNN really thinks Erickson belongs on the "Best Political Team"? Even if it isn't the best -- although, to be fair, the competition is hardly all that impressive -- are CNN's standards so low, to the extent that is actually has any, that it's happy to be providing a platform for this detestable jackass?

"This is a genuinely sad day for American journalism," Steve concludes. "CNN ought to be ashamed of itself." It ought to be, but it won't be. Its cluelessness, I fear, is rivalled only by its shamelessness.

But enough. I need to lie down. I'm feeling mighty queasy again.

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Oh, the humanity

By Mustang Bobby.

David Brooks gets all sentimental and weepy over the lack of comity in the Senate because the Democrats might use reconciliation to pass the healthcare bill.
Once partisan reconciliation is used for this bill, it will be used for everything, now and forever. The Senate will be the House. The remnants of person-to-person relationships, with their sympathy and sentiment, will be snuffed out. We will live amid the relationships of group versus group, party versus party, inhumanity versus inhumanity.

We have a political culture in which the word “reconciliation” has come to mean “bitter division.” With increasing effectiveness, the system bleaches out normal behavior and the normal instincts of human sympathy.

I suppose it would be pointless to remind Mr. Brooks that President Bush's tax cuts passed in the Senate in 2003 through reconciliation and then only by the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Cheney. And then last month we were treated to the spectacle of Senators Jim Bunning and Richard Shelby, both Republicans, bringing the Senate to a screeching halt because of their personal vendettas. I don't seem to recall that he used those as examples as the end of civilized discourse as we know it.

Being lectured about the loss of civility in Congress by a Republican is like getting a lesson in table manners from an alligator.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Deem and pass

By Creature

I have no problem with the House using this procedure. Weary House members can use whatever cover they can get (and Nancy Pelosi is doing right by them by giving them some). Republicans having a temper tantrum over it is nothing new. It's what they do. Pass the damn bill and then start working to improve it.

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Map of the Day!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Last week, we gave Juan Cole's post "Quote of the Day", on the Israeli announcement of housing expansion on the day Vice President Joe Biden arrived to, hopefully, jump-start the stalled peace talks, and now, causing a good deal of tension.

Today, he follows up (with pointers to the blog flare-up, between Andrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, with additional commentary from Spencer Ackerman and Matthew Yglesias) with more;

The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted After the League of Nations Recognized It

As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.


The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.


You can almost look at that map and think it was shaken, like an Etch-A-Sketch.

Go read Juan Cole's "The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted After the League of Nations Recognized It", it's a good briefer on what's all the fuss going on.

Bonus Bonus

Steve Clemons, over on The Washington Note, has a bit of fun, creating some hijinks, reworking, tongue-in-cheek, an AIPAC press release;

The AIPAC Statement We Need But Have Not Gotten (Yet): Netanyahu Government Needs to Remove Daylight Between US & Israel

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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