Saturday, December 18, 2010

The end of DADT

By Creature

I don't hate everything about politics right now. It's strange.


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Leaking on the leaker

By Capt. Fogg

Sex by surprise? OK, sex with two Swedish girls a third of my age would indeed be a surprise for this old man; for sure and maybe a fatal one, but it's not about me or likely to be, sad to say. It's about politics and money and power and that's no surprise at all.

So no matter what your feelings about Julian Assenge might be (mine are solidly into the Who Cares territory) you have to smile when information as to the actual charges against him are leaked to the public. That's if you love irony.

Was he sat up in a "honey trap?" I don't really care, he went into this with his eyes open and he is sort of an adult, but then his chief accuser did go on sleeping with him in her apartment for weeks and never asked him to leave. One has to wonder just where the "Surprise" was for her unless it was in E-mails leaked to Assenge's lawyer suggesting the quest for money was behind it, but then she may only have wanted the man to be tested for STDs, says The Guardian. Who knows, who cares? We're looking for scandal and a prop for our prejudices. The truth is boring.

Now can we get back to the war on Christmas?

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Fox News viewers completely misinformed: study

As the Times reports, a new study "conducted by, a project that is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, shows that Fox News viewers are a deeply misinformed bunch:

According to the study, which can be reviewed online, in most cases, the more a person watched and read the news, the less likely they were to have been misled about the facts. But "there were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue," the study's authors wrote. In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.


The study's authors continued, "These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant. The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it — though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican."

Other media outlets, including MSNBC, produce varying degrees of misinformation, of course, on different subjects, but Fox News is by far the worst offender.

In response to the study, a Fox News executive predictably ripped into the University of Maryland, instead of actually addressing the study and its findings, citing the Princeton Review to dismiss it as a major party school with lazy students who don't study much, as if the study had been conducted not by serious researchers but by some drunk dudes during frosh week. As the Times notes, though, the Princeton Review ranks Maryland quite highly. Moreover, "[t]he study was backed by two parts of the University of Maryland, the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies," the latter of which in particular cannot easily be dismissed.

Anyway, does the study actually tell us anything we didn't already know? No, of course not, it just quantifies the obvious. Which certainly makes it somewhat useful insofar as it bolsters the case many of us continue to make on a frequent basis.

I would just note, contra the Times, that Fox News doesn't just "[tilt] to the right in prime time. It tilts far to the right all the time -- ever see Fox & Friends?

And I would just ask this: While there is no doubt that Fox News, as an organ of Republican propaganda, is in the business of partisan misinformation, does watching it produce so much misinformation or were the people who watch it frequently, mostly conservatives with mouths agape, swallowing whole everything that is fed to them, deeply misinformed to begin with?

It's a chicken-and-egg thing, and it's no doubt some combination of the two: misinformation feeding upon and feeding misinformation in an endlessly manipulative cycle of ever-deepening ignorance and idiocy.

Yes, that pretty much describes how it works at Fox News.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Lie of the Year: Government takeover of health care

The St. Petersburg Times's has come out with its "Lie of the Year," a Republican lie that's a most deserving winner -- "A government takeover of health care":

In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a "government takeover."

"Takeovers are like coups," Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. "They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom."

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the "public option" concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.

Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times' independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year's most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)

By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Republicans uttered countless lies this year -- for example, nasty and bigoted ones about Muslims and the Park51 community center -- but this was certainly one of the most significant and enduring, rivalled only by the various lies, also nasty and very often bigoted, spun by the Teabaggers, whether about Obama or "government" or taxes or whatever.

There was a lot to choose from, but PolitiFact, in its independent and non-partisan way, chose wisely.

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Are we about to get DADT repeal?

Maybe. Yes, just maybe. There's no good reason to be optimistic, given how the Senate works, but, well, things are looking good.

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown today voiced his support for a stand-alone repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, bringing the bill one vote over the 60-vote threshold that it will need to reach if and when the Senate votes on the measure in the coming weeks...

Brown's backing means that – on paper – supporters of the repeal have 61 senators in favor of the bill. On Wednesday Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski both announced their support for the stand-alone repeal. The House passed the clean repeal on Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to bring it to a vote in the Senate before the end of the year.

With the $1.1-trillion omnibus budget bill pushed aside (and off into the next Congress), mainly because Republicans (who had been involved in crafting it) were going to use it to paralyze the Senate (by requiring that it be read in its entirety, out loud by Senate clerks, all 1,924 pages of it), there would now appear to be enough time to get DADT repealed and perhaps also START ratified.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced late today that he would hold cloture votes (which effectively end any filibusters) on DADT and the DREAM Act (which is unlikely to pass) on Saturday. It looks like the Senate will vote on stand-alone DADT repeal before turning to the START treaty.

Credit where credit is due: Joe Lieberman has been a big supporter of DADT repeal and seems to be the one behind this legislative strategy:

I want to thank Senator Reid for his leadership in bringing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010" to the Senate floor for a vote. I am confident that we have more than 60 votes to end this law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation. Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will affirm the Senate's commitment to the civil rights of all Americans and also make our military even stronger.

Now it's just a matter of getting the necessary Republican votes: Brown, Snowe, and Murkowski, and maybe also Collins, Lugar, and Voinovich.

No, we're not there yet, but we're close -- and I honestly didn't think it would get done.

And think about it.

If DADT is repealed and START is ratified, wouldn't that be an incredible way for this Congress to bow out? DADT repeal in particular would be a major victory for the Democrats' progressive base (and of course also for civil rights), particularly at the end of a two-year run that was hardly all that positive for progressives. And START ratification would be a major victory for Obama's foreign policy agenda.

It would be hard to maintain any momentum heading into the next Congress, with Republicans taking over the House and the Democrats coming back to a smaller majority in the Senate, but two such victories in the wake of the midterms and the bleak post-election period would give us a good deal to cheer about as we head into 2011.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Relief is just a leak away

There's nothing like a good leak. No, I'm not talking about beer drinking or kidneys. Yes, it may still be all about indecent exposure, but exposure of a different kind of naughty bits. God bless the leaker.

Remember "climategate," that clumsy journo-speak title for some e-mails between British climatologists that after a bit of redaction seemed to be saying that the evidence for global warming was fabricated by a great worldwide network of rogue paleoclimatologists plotting to be characters from a James Bond movie? Well, the hoax may be on the other foot now, so to speak, but you won't hear it from the folks at Fox News who spread it around the planet. You won't find Fox News admitting or mentioning that NASA data confirmed a rise in temperature quite independently and with irrefutable scientific rigor.

You won't find Fox News admitting to error of any kind much less to deliberately lying, whether its hoaxing us about scientific data or showing the fake and fraudulent video that ruined ACORN. I admit, those e-mails had me going for a while, but that was before the new data and the new revelations. Even Andrew Breitbart publicly washed the egg off his face, but Fox News? Well, you decide.

It was all too easy to call Julian Assenge a "terrorist" or call for his summary execution, but I'm curious to see the outcome of some recent leaks showing just how Fox News slants the news:

Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data... we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question,

said Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon in a leaked e-mail in response to correspondent Wendell Goler's report that that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization data again confirmed that the 2000 to 2009 decade has been the warmest worldwide on record, not just warmer than the previous one.

Like anything Fox News gets paid to misrepresent, conflicting data must always be impugned by the " some say" or "people say" trick as though those "critics" weren't simply Roger Ailes or Bill Sammon or a Fox News sponsor or most of all the Republican Party.
When the data conflicts with the politics, always mention "the critics." That's unslanted journalism, Fox News-style.

And when something you don't like sounds good, change the name.

Take the "public option," for instance. According to a leaked memo from Republican pollster and Fox News man Frank Luntz:

If you call it a "public option," the American people are split, if you call it the "government option," the public is overwhelmingly against it. 

Public sounds popular, sounds democratic, sounds like the people want it and polls show that they do, so let's call it "the Government option," said Sammon to Sean Hannity in another leaked e-mail. "Great idea," said Sean.

Let's also claim that the "government option" would be "sponsored by the government," although in fact, the proposed public option would have funded the program with the premiums paid by enrolees -- just like private insurance. So we need even stronger language -- let's call it the "Government-run option" and drape it in the Soviet flag.

Never mind that we're lying, whatever serves the Party, that's what we'll say. That's journalism, Fox News-style.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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The political pendulum of potential revolution

Guest post by Nicholas Wilbur 

Nicholas Wilbur is an award-winning reporter and opinion columnist turned political junkie and critic. He is the founder of the blog Muddy Politics and lives in New Mexico.

(Ed. note: This is Nicholas's third guest post for us. You can find his first two, both on the Obama-GOP tax deal, here and here. -- MJWS)


A friend asked me recently, "Is there a revolution approaching?"

It was not a stupid question. Given the turmoil in Washington over tax cuts, immigration reform, unemployment benefits, gay rights versus military policy, the constitutional challenges to health-care reform, a quasi-filibuster in the Senate against affluence, and the continued existence of the government itself (via a controversial omnibus funding bill), revolution seems possible if not inevitable.

After the midterm elections, most assumed that the politicking and trash-talking of the campaigns would subside, that the lame-duck Congress would pass the last two months of the year making headlines only when reporters with a quota wrote fluffy filler features about golf games and vacation plans for the slew of Democrats retiring in January.

Obviously, that hasn't been the case. But political turmoil, brutal policy battles, inter-party fighting and even the near severing of the liberal base from the alleged liberal of the decade, the prophet of progressivism, the headman of hope, Barack Obama, are not signs of revolution.

They're signs of life in the most deplorable sense of the term – proof that, in a bittersweet, backward and still disappointing way, Washington is functioning. The fact that a socialist senator from Vermont carried the day as the No. 1 Twitter trend with his 8 1/2-hour filibuster means only that politics continues to provide ample entertainment for Americans, and – to the shame of too few Americans – for the rest of the developed world as well.

The truth is, revolution in America is a dream, a distant, out-of-touch fantasy with worse odds than a three-legged mule competing in the Daytona 500. A few will talk of it, a few less will listen, but fewer still will actually do anything to achieve it – mainly because nobody knows where to start, much less where to end.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ filibuster speech proved this.

In talking about tax cuts for the wealthy, he went on for hours about rich people's control of the banks, the markets, the marketplaces – Wal-Mart, of course, not excluded. He railed against classism, inequality, education, poverty, corruption, and more – issues that millions of Americans fight for and against daily, whether volunteer social workers or over-paid corporate lobbyists.

And that is the dilemma.

It is the reason the majority of Americans generally tune out news from Capitol Hill. It is the reason politics is such a dirty word that patriarchs prohibit it as a dinner conversation topic. It is the reason so many feel helpless to the point of foregoing their most basic rights as United States citizens: voting.

There are too many issues to tackle, too many injustices to protest, too many wrongs to right – and not nearly enough time to adequately address them, even as a salaried member of Congress, who proved this by talking instead of marching, lecturing instead of fighting, and filibustering an issue all but decided after sitting on the sidelines as the policies that created these social ills were pushed through Congress, in many cases, decades ago.

Four thousand people began following Sanders on Twitter throughout and after his speech, and the blogosphere twitterpated with admiration, confusion, false hope, and a renewed longing for the long-abandoned utopian dream. The bleeding hearts fluttered anew with the romantic idealism of progressive revolution even as our elected members of Congress yawned and exited the building, knowing full well the difference between symbolic gestures and realistic political solutions.

It's difficult to gauge what is sadder, the fact that Sanders was correct and still ineffective in riling even his fellow lawmakers, or the fact that as his speech turned heads continent to continent, the most staunch supporters of his ideals did nothing but forward e-mails, "Like" Facebook pages, and "retweet" pragmatically impossible progressive talking points.

When unemployment begins to fall, steadily or slightly, the focus of American media consumers will adjust accordingly. The hostility of D.C. politics will be buried in the papers and ignored by the masses once again.

The truth was written by a Marine nearly four years ago on a wall nearly in Ramadi, Iraq, and it speaks beyond foreign policy: "American is not at war... America is at the mall."

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Well done, BP -- you guys are the best!

Striking resemblances between BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and a little-reported giant gas leak in Azerbaijan experienced by the UK firm 18 months beforehand have emerged from leaked US embassy cables.

The cables reveal that some of BP's partners in the gas field were upset that the company was so secretive about the incident that it even allegedly withheld information from them. They also say that BP was lucky that it was able to evacuate its 212 workers safely after the incident, which resulted in two fields being shut and output being cut by at least 500,000 barrels a day with production disrupted for months.

Other cables leaked tonight claim that the president of Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing $10bn of oil from his country and using "mild blackmail" to secure the rights to develop vast gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.

And how do we know this? Because WikiLeaks leaked the cables.

The more WikiLeaks leaks, the better. Otherwise, we are all just kept in the dark by an authoritarian system that remains in power, and exerts its power, by sustaining mass ignorance

It is the truth, and only the truth, that can bring down such a system. And the reason governments are for the most part opposed to what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are doing is that the truth can bring them down -- and they know it.

Whether it's what BP is doing, or Goldman Sachs is doing, or the U.S. government is doing.

Because if the truth gets out, we might just fight back. Yes, we might just say we're as mad as hell and aren't taking it anymore.

And we can't have that, can we?

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Free Bradley Manning!

Glenn Greenwald, from a must-read post:

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning's detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

In other words, Manning is being tortured. (Read the whole post.) And for what?

For revealing the truth.

We should all, those of us who care about liberty and freedom and oppose authoritarian government (which a government that detains anyone in this manner and on such grounds certainly is), should be outraged -- and should demand not just his human treatment but his release.

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House passes DADT repeal. Not that it matters or anything.

Well, the Senate may be paralyzed by Republican obstructionism and the stupid filibuster rule, but at least the House passed DADT repeal.

That's something, even if Republicans opposed it. (Presumably because they hate gays. How else to explain support for a bigoted policy rejected by an overwhelming majority of the American people and that the military itself opposes?)

Something that will result in nothing, though, because the Senate isn't about to budge, even if Democrats almost have the 60-vote supermajority needed for repeal (that is, to overcome the GOP's filibustering). As John Cole observes:

Now we get to sit around and wonder what kind of bullshit excuses Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Joe Manchin, and the other "moderates" come up with to block the bill.

Ain't democracy a gas?

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DeMint is DeCrazy

He's one of the wingnuttiest Republican senators, which is saying something -- yes, he's Jim DeMint of South Carolina!

And he wants to paralyze the Senate, and prevent it from doing anything until next year, by forcing readings of the START arms-control bill and an omnibus spending bill. As The Hill explains, such a move "could eat up hours of the remaining lame-duck Congress, 12 for the former and 40 to 60 for the latter.

DeMint has backed off on START, meaning that the treaty could actually be ratified:

A procedural vote on the treaty Wednesday garnered 66 votes, a strong indicator that the treaty could pick up the 67 votes it needs for ratification.

Thirty-two Republicans voted against opening debate on the treaty and two senators, including Democrat Evan Bayh, were not present – putting Democrats in striking distance of securing the necessary votes. Still, a number of Republicans have called for more time to debate the measure, and may ultimately vote to block its ratification if they feel like they’re being steamrolled.

Well, no, Politico, they'll block ratification because the Republican Party is the Party of No, the party of extreme partisanism and absolute obstructionism, because they don't want Obama and the Democrats to have a victory on anything, no matter the cost to the country. (Oh, and of course, because many of them are against arms control generally, so much do they want to return to the glory days of the '50s, when white men ruled the world and children cowered under their desks.) Harry Reid could introduce legislation prescribing that all rich people be given daily rub-and-tugs and the Republicans would still think twice before signing on (and would, even then, claim it was their idea all along, which it probably was).

But DeMint isn't just an obstructionist. He's also crazy, in a Christianist sort of way:

We shouldn't be jamming a major arms control treaty up against Christmas; it's sacrilegious and disrespectful. What's going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. They did the same thing last year -- they kept everybody here until [Christmas Eve] to force something down everybody's throat. I think Americans are sick of this.

No, Americans are sick of extreme partisanism and absolute obstructionism. Isn't that what we keep hearing from all those independent voters?

Regardless, there's nothing "sacrilegious and disrespectful" about legislating around Christmas. The business of government doesn't stop just because there's a major holiday coming up, and of course no one's talking about working on Christmas Day itself.

Arizona's Jon Kyl made comments similar to DeMint's, saying that Reid was "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians" -- the other presumably being Black Friday (when Christians shop like mad to prove just how predestined they are) or, for Catholics, St. Patrick's Day (when Christians drink like mad to prove just how devout they are) -- but Reid, to his credit, fired back:

As a Christian, no one has to remind me of the importance of Christmas for all of the Christian faith, for all their families, all across America. I don't need to hear the sanctimonious lectures of Sen. Kyl and [Sen. Jim] DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means. Where were their concerns about Christmas [when they were posing] filibuster after filibuster of every piece of legislation during this entire Congress? 

Where were they? Being the good Republicans they are, obstructing everything for partisan gain.

But DeMint is a man of hypocrisy, not principle:

I have no problem working every day until Christmas and beyond to stop this rampage of spending and bad policy, what I object to is Democrats trying to rush through an agenda voters rejected and hoping that Americans are too busy with the holidays to notice.

See, it has nothing to do with Christmas, which is just an excuse. It's okay, apparently, to be a Republican around Christmas, just not a Democrat. (Really? Voters rejected the START treaty last month? Huh.)

If the situation were reversed, do you really think DeMint would call Republican efforts "sacrilegious and disrespectful? Of course not. He'd be trying to ram all manner of Republican shit down Americans' throats. He's just that sort of guy.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some progress on New START?

By Peter Henne

It looks like I might have been wrong on New START, the arms reduction treaty currently being deliberated over in the Senate. Back in November I argued that the continued objections of Senator Jon Kyl -- among other Senate Republicans -- to the treaty made its passage unlikely, even though most of the critiques of the deal make little sense. In addition to Kyl's objections, Jim DeMint -- GOP Senator from South Carolina -- also threatened to force the Senate to read through the entire treaty, a process that could last 10 hours and prevent passage this year.

Now Jim DeMint seems to have "backed down," partially under pressure from GOP Senate leaders. If the treaty moves forward in the Senate before the Democrats lose several members of their caucus in the next session, its chances for ratification are rather good.

Notice, however, that I said I might have been wrong. Republicans are hardly supporting the bill, and it is very likely they could still delay a vote. So I'm not getting my hopes up yet.

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If it's broke...

By Mustang Bobby

Here's Rachel Maddow last night on the broken Senate and what it's costing us not just in terms of getting things done but in terms of how our country works:

I'm not sure that there's ever going to be any reform in the way things work on Capitol Hill. I know people who work there on both sides of the aisle and the one thing they agree on is that yes, the process sucks but neither side is willing to make the changes to get it to work as intended because if they do, they would have to give up something and, more importantly, they don't trust the other side to act in good faith when they achieve the majority. In other words, they are sure that all of the checks and balances that one side advocates for, i.e. the protection of the minority, an end to the secret holds and the arcane rules of procedure, would be used against them when they're not in power.

We saw this played to a fare-thee-well last winter during the healthcare debate. The Republicans carried on about how the bill was "rammed down their throats," just like the stimulus bill and the bank bailouts, conveniently forgetting that all of the bills passed through the legislative process without any slight of hand.  Indeed, those of us who wanted the bills to pass were frustrated at the tortuous and tortoise-like process. This is in stark contrast to the GOP's thrill of getting the Bush tax cuts and agenda swept through both Houses back in 2002 while at the same time darkly threatening to invoke the dreaded nuclear option, something the Democrats never even brought up last winter.

There will be a lot of talk about reforming the rules of the Senate and changing the filibuster rules to allow debate to go forward and putting an end to secret holds. That's all it will be, though. Every election cycle brings in new faces and tyro staffers who are determined to shake up Washington and change the way it does business. And then they get in office, they get invited to dinner with a few lobbyists, and, two years later, someone else is running against them because they're part of the problem.

And so it goes.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Waiter, there's a terrorist in my tea

"In a free society we're supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it."

What is it about Florida? Is it as Frank Lloyd Wright once said, that since it's the lowest point on the map of the U.S., everything loose wound up down here?

We may be no more fatuous than the rest of the country in blabbering about our "freedom" and how everyone in the world is jealous of it and how every military exploit is about freedom and every casualty is a sacrifice for freedom and that this freedom is the result of our foreign wars rather than our constitutional law, but we sure look strange to that supposedly jealous planet when we agitate that more and more of it be taken away from us -- in the name of freedom.

Speaking of loose things floating around in the bilges of America, Florida Representative-elect Allen West, soon to represent the 22nd district, who identifies with that nebulous assemblage of misfits and nitwits called the Tea Party, seems to be all in favor of censoring the press despite all his tea soaked and treacly rhetoric about constitutional restraints on government power:

I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this and also supported him and applauding him [Julian Assenge] for the efforts. So that's kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.

No, he's not talking about reporting troop positions or exposing covert agents, he's talking about embarrassing the administration as "a serious crime." That's the same administration Tea Party folks have been waving guns at and making threats at and calling tyrannical, Marxist, and illegal.

Yes, it's been all too hard for most of us to tell exactly what message the Tea Party people are bringing to the party, and this message of government for government's sake; government by, for and of the Executive Branch and military authority and damn the Constitution, smells more like plain old exaggerated nationalism and authoritarianism than tea.

One of the ways "the terrorists" won is that domestic authoritarians posing as libertarians can simply identify anything that threatens them: things like the truth, for instance, as "terrorism" and make it a crime. Things like identifying high crimes and high criminals and the kind of lies and manipulations of truth that get people killed and bankrupt economies. Revealing a crime -- a politically motivated burglary, for example -- becomes, by the Logic of Tea, "aiding and abetting a serious crime" and "terrorism," while actually aiding and abetting by hiding it or obstructing justice becomes... what, freedom?

Is West a moderate compared to Uncle Mike Huckabee, who demands summary execution for Assenge? Palin, Gingrich, Mitch McConnell, and even CNN are calling him a "terrorist" and telling us not only that we can't handle the truth but that we don't deserve it and the government doesn't owe it to us. It's all about freedom, of course, and all of this from people calling Obama a "tyrant." So whatever the Tea party is selling, I think we can dispense with the idea that it has anything to do with less powerful government, a government restrained by lawm anything to do with a government of the people, responsible to the people and most of all, anything to do with freedom other than to garble its meaning.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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By Carl
Diogenes once famously searched for an honest man.
Remember that parable as this story unfolds.
We're all aware, possibly too aware, of the phrase "death with dignity". We heard it often enough during the Terri Schiavo case, when Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist magically diagnosed a patient in a vegetative state from a thousand miles away using remote viewing. This stream of consciousness is not about that case. That, believe it or not, was too cut and dried to really interest me, beyond the asshatical way the Republicans rode to her "rescue".
As if.
No, the conundrum I'm thinking of is even more difficult, even more visceral.
The question before you all is, when does "death with dignity" cross the line into suicide, assisted or not?
Let's say the patient has a living will, in which he refuses all invasive medical procedures except pain relief. Let's say further this living will can only be triggered in three cases: 1) The patient is non-responsive (unconscious), 2) the patient is terminal, or 3) the patient is conscious but has incurred brain damage sufficient to render them non-responsive.
Now, let's say this patient is admitted to the hospital after a fall. Broken clavicle, nothing too serious, but his age and general health make releasing him immediately a risk. The patient then spikes a fever as he's being treated for the fracture. The hospital decides to admit him after more than 24 hours in the ER. The healthcare proxy is admitted and submits the form, and begins consultation. Seems like a routine treatment scheme, so that proxy agrees with treatment.
As he arrives at his room, the patient's BP begins to spike as well. The hospital gives him appropriate medicines and he begins to stabilize.
Now the fun begins. His O2 saturation levels, which for any normal person are in the mid-90% range, start to decline. The pain of the fracture makes taking a deep breath difficult, and the general health-- obesity, fluid build up associated with congestive heart failure, and so on-- make pumping blood through the body difficult. Fluid begins to build up on the lungs, further complicating matters.
The patient is offered an O2 mask, which he refuses, violently. since it's a non-invasive procedure, the hospital sedates him and slips on one of them nasal-thingies. The sat rate stabilizes, but shortly thereafter, begins to decline.
A partial pressure mask is offered. The patient again violently refuses, and again, since it's non-invasive the hospital sedates and now restrains the patient, and places the mask.
The O2 sat rate still isn't responding. The healthcare proxy is notified, and asked if intubation for ventilation (forcing air into the lungs) would be ok. After ascertaining the dilemma, and with the reassurance that the intubation would be brief at most, the proxy agrees.
Now the fun starts. The patient is being weaned off his sedation, since the lungs need to start working on their own for him to be taken off intubation. The patient awakens, furious.
At no time prior to the intubation was the patient ever unconscious (except to sleep, of course). The "knock out" was necessary, presumably, to place the tube in. The patient, a stubborn cuss, simply refused to answer any questions, despite clearly being conscious and aware of his surroundings. This is why the proxy was consulted. He immediately rushes to the hospital, living will in hand, because he never figured he'd need this for a fracture. Silly proxy!
The proxy now insists the tubes be taken out. The doctors refuse. In fact, the doctors ask to be another tube in, a central line, since the patients veins in his arms are collapsing from all the O2 blood tests. The proxy refuses, at first. The proxy, in front of the doctors, asks the patient "Do you need any medicines? Do you want anymore tubes inserted? Do you want these tubes taken out?"
The patient answers, in sum, no more.
The proxy turns to the doctors, who had been unable to get any kind of response from the stubborn patient, and says "Well? What are you waiting for?"
The doctors mention that it will take a while to initiate the procedure: first, there's paperwork, then a behaviorist must be consulted, then the medical board of the hospital has to authorize it.
The proxy says, "Yea. And...?" The necessary forms are presented.
A little while later, the ethicist sits with the proxy and asks for some background details. The patient is clearly depressed, and has been for some time (e.g. all his life). The proxy mentions that the patient has been trying to commit suicide by, errr, proxy, refusing to take his medications, refusing to see doctors unless they come to him, refusing to be admitted to either a nursing home or assisted living facility and basically slowly withering away in his apartment, since he can't walk the stairs anymore.
The ethicist consoles the proxy about the difficulty of the decision and the need to remove the tubes, but, as she puts it, "the hospital is not in the business of assisting suicides".
Making the proxy feel guilty about the decision to intubate, of course.
The ethicist then makes the following offer: Give the doctors time to get the tubes out safely, with the satisfaction that she might breathe on her own after consultation with an intensive care specialist, if in return the patient agrees to be more cooperative.
Here comes Diogenes. She then says to the proxy, "I'll see if I can lie to her into believing that it will only take a day or so".
A lying ethicist. Interesting.
The patient has made it clear he wants to die with dignity. The proxy supports this decision, and not reluctantly, but made the mistake of trusting the doctors who said intubing the patient would only be for a short while, until he could breathe on his own.
...which, by the way, turns out he can, since after this discussion, the ventilator was turned off and the CPAP function turned on (air is not forced in, but is maintained at a higher pressure than normal to assist in breathing). The lungs are functioning OK, and the O2 sat rate is stable at 94%. Hours later, the ventilator is turned back on in order to allow the patient some rest and to let his lungs have a break overnight.
The doctors still believe it's a suicide request, and are probably not being fully forthcoming with the patient or proxy.
So the patient requesting to commit suicide or for the chance to die with dignity?
Thoughts? And as a bonus question, what would you do next?
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The costs of the Obama-GOP tax deal

The Senate voted yesterday to end Bernie Sanders's admirable filibuster and to send the Obama-GOP package to the floor for debate and a final up-or-down vote.

The vote was overwhelming: 83 to 15. (Nine Democrats, five Republicans, and one independent (Sanders) voted against it.)

An initial critic of the deal, I now go back and forth. In principle, I'm still against it. But what is principle? The reality is that Obama needs this (and we still care about his 2012 re-election, right?) and for the most part the American people need this. At the very least, given the continuing poor state of the economy, the stimulus that Obama won in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is critical. (For more on this, see our two guests posts by Nicholas Wilbur here and here. He makes a persuasive case.)

This is what happened with health-care reform. I wanted more, like so many others, but I nonetheless ended up supporting the bill. It was much, much better than nothing, and a lot was achieved.

Can that not be the case here? It will be, if Obama follows through on his promise not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy past 2012. If he stands firm, this will be, as Jonathan Chait puts it, "a huge victory." (And if he doesn't? Then this will be "a massive defeat." The president hardly inspires much confidence these days, particularly within his base, but there's good reason to believe that he will stand firm. I just hope I'm not trying to convince myself of this at the risk of looking stupid when, as so often happens, Obama and the Democrats give in once again to Republican demands.)

Anyway, Chait posted a couple of helpful charts yesterday -- one from the White House and one from

The first looks good (for our side), the second looks bad (for our side) -- if, in the latter case, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are extended (contra Obama's pledge).

So which one is right? Well, we'll have to see -- time, and politics, will tell. There is no doubt that making the deal entails significant risk for Obama and the Democrats.

But Chait is right, I think, that "the liberal revolt does help demonstrate the costs the administration will pay if it capitulates on the upper-bracket Bush tax cuts in 2012."

For that, I fear, there would be no excuse, and the president would deserve to be held accountable for such costly failure.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Virginia judge rules individual mandate unconstitutional, but Obamacare will prevail

As you may have heard, a federal judge in Virginia ruled today that a key component of "Obamacare," the individual mandate, is unconstitutional.

As the Times explains, the judge, Henry Hudson (a George W. Bush appointee), determined that "the law's requirement that most Americans obtain insurance exceeded the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause." (However, he "declined the plaintiff's request to suspend the act's implementation pending appeal, meaning there should be no immediate effect on its rollout.")

I wrote about this case back in August, when Hudson ruled against the Obama Administration's request that it be dismissed.

A few thoughts:
-- Republicans, needless to say, are celebrating the ruling and reiterating their call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. As Steve Benen notes, however, the individual mandate was a Republican idea:

The record here may be inconvenient for the right, but it's also unambiguous: the mandate Republicans currently hate was their idea. It was championed by the Heritage Foundation. [Bob Dole incorporated the individual mandate into his reform plan in '94.] Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush kept it going in the 1980s.

For years, it was touted by the likes of John McCain, Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, Chuck Grassley, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Judd Gregg, and many others all notable GOP officials.

As late as last year, Sen. Chuck Grassley stated publicly that "there [was] a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate."

This is about cheap politics. Republican pollsters no doubt told GOP officials that the mandate is a potential vulnerability to the signature Democratic polity priority, so that's where the party is focusing its attention, hoping that the public simply doesn't pay attention to the fact that they're attacking their own idea.

-- Simply put, the individual mandate is essential if health-care costs are to be kept down. If there is no requirement that people buy insurance, only those who are sick (or otherwise at risk) will buy it, driving costs ever higher. You need healthy people (including young adults), people less likely to make claims, to buy into group coverage to make that coverage affordable for those who otherwise can't afford it. I realize that this is separate from the question of the constitutionality of the individual mandate, but it's obvious why the mandate is necessary and why both parties have promoted it as a core and essential component of reform.

-- This would appear to be a significant defeat for Obamacare, but we need to remember that two previous rulings (in Virginia and Michigan) found the individual mandate constitutional. This was a partisan judge ruling against it. As the Times reports, Hudson "has a long history in Republican politics in Northern Virginia." The two judges who ruled in favour of the mandate are Clinton appointees -- perhaps more partisanship, though it's hardly clear, and not necessarily the case, that Democratic appointees ruling for the mandate were acting in a partisan way (that is, perhaps they were ruling on the merits of the case).

Moreover, this case -- Cuccinelli v. Sebelius -- was initiated by a crazy Republican, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. 

-- As Ezra Klein writes, Hudson "refused to overrule anything but the individual mandate itself," leaving the rest of the law intact (again, while allowing enactment to proceed in full):

The real danger to health-care reform is not that the individual mandate will be struck down by the courts. That'd be a problem, but there are a variety of ways to restructure the individual mandate such that it doesn't penalize anyone for deciding not to do something (which is the core of the conservative's legal argument against the provision)... The danger is that, in striking down the individual mandate, the court would also strike down the rest of the bill. In fact, that's exactly what the plaintiff has asked Hudson to do.

Hudson pointedly refused.

In other words, even a Republican judge (who owns part of a Republican consulting firm that worked against reform) only went so far -- and, at that, not very far at all. And so:

[R]ight now, the range of opinions stretch from "the law is fine" to "the individual mandate is not fine, but the rest of the law is." That could create problems for the legislation if the mandate is repealed and Republicans block any attempts at a fix, but it's a far cry from a world in which the Supreme Court strikes down the whole of the health-care law.

Of course, the Supreme Court is rather conservative and hardly likely to be friendly to Obamacare. Still, there is reason to be optimistic even after this decision.

-- I do not pretend to be a constitutional expert, but it does seem to me that Hudson's ruling was erroneous. The Roberts Court may uphold it, but a sensible, non-partisan court, I suspect, would reject it altogether. As Jonathan Cohn put it back in October (via Benen), "the only way to throw out the mandate would be to reexamine conventional assumptions about the Commerce Clause. That would be a fairly radical move."

For more on this (right-wing) radicalism, see Nick Baumann's excellent post at Mother Jones: "Most legal scholars agree with the Obama administration on this. They believe the commerce clause allows Congress to regulate economic decisions, not just economic activity... Drastically limiting the scope of the Constitution's commerce clause (as Hudson would do) is the slippery slope to the libertarian paradise."

-- As I wrote back on August:

Republicans, whipping up blood-curdling public fury with their lies, like the ridiculous claim that there would be "death panels," drew their battle lines early on. In Congress, they were unanimously against reform, even this modest reform package that for the most part they themselves had promoted back in the '90s as an alternative to Hillarycare and that a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, had implemented in Massachusetts. They required Democrats to fight their way through all sorts of legislative hoops, denying clear majority rule. And once the bill passed, they continued to fight, pledging to repeal it if they took back Congress. But they know better, don't they? Or some of them do. They know that it's a losing issue for them, which is why they fought so hard against passage in the first place. Their electoral success, on this issue as on others, depends on public ignorance, but the public can't be kept in the dark forever.

And so these challenges will go forward, in Virginia and elsewhere, but the law will only become more and more a part of the lives of Americans, like Social Security and civil rights. You never know how SCOTUS will rule, of course, and there's a chance part of the law, if certainly not all of it, could be struck down, but I tend to doubt it. Having lost, Republicans are just flailing about, mired in the stink of their own political and ideological extremism, desperate for validation. One judge may have given them what they wanted, but they won't find any lasting success fighting health-care reform.

Judge Hudson's ruling may be a setback for reform, and perhaps even a fairly significant one, but winning a battle here and there does not mean winning the war.
Obamacare is here to stay.

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Glenn Beck admits to being a terrorist

By Capt. Fogg

Not that he admits to having admitted it.

We've all had e-mails insisting that some event hasn't been reported by "the media" because the media is so biased. every week brings news of stories the "liberal media doesn't want you to know." I recall one that proved the "liberal" media was biased in favor of, or at least opposed to revealing the criminal nature of Black people. I've had others insisting there was some cover up of the fact that Jews, Gay people, black people and others were trying to take over or already controlling things in some secret and sinister matter. Most of them these days have to do with covering up the essentially evil nature of Muslims as Muslims.

Many of these alleged omissions share a great deal with the lack of coverage of the invasion from planet Mongo in that there is no truth to them and many simply represent that age-old gambit of taking over by insisting someone else is taking over; lying, cheating and stealing by insisting someone else is lying, cheating or stealing.

You can't get away from the fact that Glenn Beck and his employers have become rich by creating the feeling that the United States is in great danger, often from things they recently denied could even be a danger, like the National Debt and international terrorism, for instance - even things hard to seriously criticize like meat inspection.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the real media usually cowers and rarely challenges the absurd claims of the Right, for after all they're also owned and controlled by corporate interests of their owners and advertisers. When they do speak up, they often get beat down and portrayed as clowns or traitors, so I have to admire the courage of Fareed Zakaria in calling on Beck to stand behind his absurd lies. It's about goddamn time.

Beck the Bigot for hire, claims that nearly ten percent of the world's Muslims are terrorists. That, says Zakaria would make for 157 million of them -- a large number to keep hidden, even for a liberal entity like CNN, obviously out to support the violent overthrow of the US.
"Well, Glenn, again, maybe because it just isn't true," Zakaria noted on his CNN program yesterday. "I can't find any poll or study or shred of data that suggests that 1.5 million Americans, which is what that number would work out to, want to violently overthrow their government."

Backpeddling like an abashed PeeWee Herman on his Schwinn, Becks' mouthpieces, having done the math, fell back to saying that well, perhaps that many support terrorism, thoughtcrimewise even if they're not shooting at us because they are angry at the US government -- which makes them terrorists. Bad move, that was.

"Does supporting such anger against the American government make one a terrorist?" he asked in a check-mate moment.

Well if it does then what do we call Mr. Beck? What else is he? What do we call the guy who spends all his time railing about the wickedness of Mr. Obama, the evils of social justice, about the need for regime change, the need to override the election process in favor of some magic substitute for free elections, the need to take action before it's too late?

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Why We Will Never Have To Worry About A Palin Presidency

By Carl

A little over two years ago, one of Sarah Palin's first interviews after being tapped as John McCain's running mate was a multipart chat with CBS's Katie Couric. And it was a disaster. To this day, Palin still has a chip on her shoulder about one question she was asked in particular: What does she read?

Since then, Palin has been asked the question repeatedly, and has come up with something approaching a stock answer.

Said "stock answer's" shorter?

I can see books from my bedstand!

Seriously, how thin skinned is this broad? Two years after she bungles an interesting-but-inocuous question, she's still fuming about it!

"Because of that one episode, that one episode, that would turn an issue into what it has become over the last two years. I think that's ridiculous," Palin told Walters. "That's one of those things, where that issue…that I don't read, or that I'm not informed, it's one of those questions where I like to turn that around and ask the reporters, 'Why would it be that there is that perception that I don't read?'"

Um, cuz you couldn't answer the question "what newspapers or magazines do you read?"
It was only asked three times. You were a cypher, altho the answer to that question defined you in so many ways. Not just that you couldn't give an answer (George Bush, for example, claimed not to read the paper, full stop, and no one made it a defining moment for him, altho it should have been in hindsight) but that you stumbled so badly NOT answering it, that you came off as a bubble-headed moron-- perfect to lead the Teabagging "movement" I might add-- and that you took umbrage at such a simple question, an attempt to understand you better and to allow voters to get to know you better.
Hell, I've asked tougher questions on first dates!
If she was a different kind of woman-- independent, tough-minded, intelligent-- she might have caught a glimpse of her future and been mad at herself for blowing a simple chance, turning what would have been a minor piece of the puzzle into a keystone of her entire political career. I'd argue that question may turn out to be the defining moment of her life, from birth to death, but that's running neck and neck with the SNL parody by Tina Fey. Of course, that moment was preceded by this, and opened the door to the perception that Sarah Palin is a brainless stooge.
But she's not that insightful witty intellect. She's Sarah Palin, so her anger is misplaced and outerdirected to the people who "harmed" her: Katie Couric, with le dernier coup applied by Fey three nights later. She didn't hurt herself by being an idiot, no, those folks were out to get her, see? They laid a boobytrap in front of her and it exploded right in her face!
Um, deft politicians see a booby trap a mile away and step aside.
One can only wonder what perception people will walk away from even the 2012 primary season if Sarah Palin is dumb enough to do anything but endorse minor Congressional candidates. She'll be pilloried from the right and left-- she's already incurred the wrath of Karl Rove and that wing of the neo-cons, and the mantra of "running against the boy's club" will only go so far when the knives really come out. She'll be expected to defend herself vigorously or face all kinds of charges of being weak.
Even her TLC show about Alaska has drawn fire from the very people you'd think would favor her: hunters! Her "skills" with a rifle seem to be sorely lacking for someone who brags about bagging moose from a helicopter, or whatever the hell she claims.
Her skin would be flayed off after March in the primaries.
I do acknowledge one thing: to her handlers' credit, she hasn't gone after Tina Fey.
Yet. But my suspicion is she is seething inside and given her inability to let this go, she's likely going to try to exact her revenge at some point.
I pity her. Fey will mop the floor with her. Again.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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