Saturday, August 10, 2013

Harry Reid predicts U.S. will eventually have single-payer health-care system

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And I hope he's right:

In just about seven weeks, people will be able to start buying Obamacare-approved insurance plans through the new health care exchanges.

But already, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is predicting those plans, and the whole system of distributing them, will eventually be moot.

Reid said he thinks the country has to "work our way past" insurance-based health care during a Friday night appearance on Vegas PBS' program "Nevada Week in Review."

"What we've done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we're far from having something that's going to work forever," Reid said.

When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: "Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes."

The idea of introducing a single-payer national health care system to the United States, or even just a public option, sent lawmakers into a tizzy back in 2009, when Reid was negotiating the health care bill.

"We had a real good run at the public option... don't think we didn't have a tremendous number of people who wanted a single-payer system," Reid said on the PBS program, recalling how then-Sen. Joe Lieberman's opposition to the idea of a public option made them abandon the notion and start from scratch.

Eventually, Reid decided the public option was unworkable.

"We had to get a majority of votes," Reid said. "In fact, we had to get a little extra in the Senate, we have to get 60."

On that, he is right. Single-payer, or at least a public option, would have been immensely better than the Republican-style system of "Obamacare," but it just wasn't going to happen. (Damn Lieberman, though he wasn't the only obstacle.) It's amazing how many on the left still don't understand this. I do think Obama could have done more to push for more progressive reform (assuming he actually wants a more progressive system), but the realities of the legislative branch are what they are, and it's quite amazing as it is that Reid et al. were able to get anything of substance passed at all given Republican opposition and obstructionism, conservative lies, and the concerns and objections of Democrats like Lieberman.

I wanted much more but ended up supporting Obamacare as probably the best that could have been achieved at the time -- and, yes, as the necessary thin end of the wedge that might just lead to more progressive reform down the road. And while a single-payer system isn't coming anytime soon, it's out there as the next step, or the one after that, and it may well be that the (highly likely) success of Obamacare, contra Republican fearmongering, is what eventually opens the door to it.

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Friday, August 09, 2013

Obama the hypocrite, Snowden the patriot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"Snowden made me do it."

There was yet another Guardian report today (this one not authored by Glenn Greenwald) of yet another troubling revelation, via Edward Snowden, about the extent of the U.S. surveillance state:

The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens' email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.

The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans' communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing "warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans".

The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.

Yes, that's right: warrantless surveillance of American citizens. (And you still see no problem with this, surveillance state apologists?)

Apparently all this has gotten to be too much even for noted surveillance state enthusiast Barack Obama:

President Obama said Friday he would pursue reforms to open the legal proceedings surrounding government surveillance programs to greater scrutiny, the administration's most concerted response yet to a series of disclosures about secret monitoring efforts.

At his first full news conference in more than three months, Obama said he intends to work with Congress on proposals that would add an adversarial voice -- such as a lawyer assigned to advocate privacy rights -- to the secret proceedings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

In addition, Obama said he intends to work on ways to tighten one provision of the Patriot Act -- known as Section 215 -- that has permitted the government to obtain the phone records of millions of Americans. He announced the creation of a panel of outsiders -- former intelligence officials, civil liberties and privacy advocates, and others -- to assess the programs and suggest changes by the end of the year.

"It's not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs," Obama said in the White House East Room. "The American people need to have confidence in them as well."

All of this is quite promising, if not nearly enough (really, a privacy lawyer, that's it?), but it's clear that the president has been forced into doing this -- by media reports, public outcry, and falling approval ratings -- and for that reason it's reasonable to be skeptical of his sincerity, and of his commitment to ensuring there is anything like serious oversight and accountability. 

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When is a human a factory?

By Carl 

When you're a poor black woman who died 50 years ago:

Henrietta Lacks was only 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951 in a Baltimore hospital. Not long before her death, doctors removed some of her tumor cells. They later discovered that the cells could thrive in a lab, a feat no human cells had achieved before.

Soon the cells, called HeLa cells, were being shipped from Baltimore around the world. In the 62 years since — twice as long as Ms. Lacks's own life — her cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer.

But Henrietta Lacks, who was poor, black and uneducated, never consented to her cells' being studied. For 62 years, her family has been left out of the decision-making about that research. Now, over the past four months, the National Institutes of Health has come to an agreement with the Lacks family to grant them some control over how Henrietta Lacks's genome is used.

[…]The agreement, which does not provide the family with the right to potential earnings from future research on Ms. Lacks's genome, was prompted by two projects to sequence the genome of HeLa cells, the second of which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

What benefit does the Lacks family gain from this? Privacy. After all, sequencing the genome would reveal nearly the entire family's genetic history, and expose her descendants to identification when they obtain genetic tests for whatever reason.

For instance, Lacks died of cervical cancer clearly contracted from the HP virus. Not that anyone should be ashamed of this, but it's not something that should be publicized unless the heirs agree to.

But think about this: HeLa cells were vital to the development of the polio vaccine (admittedly, not exactly a profit enterprise originally), in vitro fertilization, cloning and mapping the human genome, among other important – and profitable – medical advances. I think the Lacks' family is entitled to some reparations for that, don't you?

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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The South, in all its bigoted glory

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A couple of days ago, New York's Daily Intelligencer blog posted a couple of items that together provide a pretty good picture of the South: 

Flying Confederate Flag Along Highway Will 'Tell People That Everyone Is Welcome' in Virginia

"This will tell people that everyone is welcome," says Susan Hathaway, the founder of the pro-Confederate-flag group Virginia Flaggers, who plans to display a giant ten-by-fifteen-foot flag along the I-95 highway in Virginia. "Why do we have to be a place where Southerners who are proud of our heritage are not welcome?" Susan is a real character.


Georgia Republicans Like Paula Deen Much More Than They Like Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr., a man who played such an integral role in the fight for racial equality that his birthday was declared a national holiday, has a 59 percent approval rating among Georgia Republicans. Paula Deen, a lady who was fired for trying to treat black people like actual nineteenth-century slaves, has a 73 percent approval rating. #thesouth

In related news, Mississippi is still burning.

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American hypocrisy on extradition

By Frank Moraes 

Glenn Greenwald wrote a very insightful article the other day on the hypocrisy of the United States government and and media. It circled around this business of Obama calling off the summit with Vladimir Putin. The White House gave a number of reasons for this including the fact that Russia is persecuting homosexuals. But everyone excepts the fact that it is just that Russia was given Edward Snowden temporary asylum.

Since when did the United States government give a flying fuck about the treatment of the powerless anywhere, even in the United States. After all, it was only last year that Obama "evolved" on the issue of gay marriage. As it is, Obama is perfectly fine with locking up cannabis and cocaine users for decades at a time -- even though he has quite publicly admitting to doing the same thing himself. So it's all about Snowden, because if there is one thing that the administration does care about, it is punishing whistleblowers, or as Obama calls them, "people involved in espionage."

Greenwald noted that the United States and Russian do not have an extradition treaty. So Putin isn't doing anything unusual, much less illegal. But guess who the United States does have an extradition treaty with? Italy. And yet, our great nation of laws broke its treaty when the Italian government asked for the extradition of Robert Lady and other CIA operatives who were convicted in absentia of kidnapping for the purpose of torture. And last year, the United States refused to extradite Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to face genocide charges in Bolivia. And a couple of years before that, we wouldn't extradite terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela.

But we need to have our priorities. These three examples are only kidnapping for the purpose of torture, genocide, and terrorism. Snowden is accused to leaking potentially embarrassing documents. And let us not forget, these three men only harmed poor and weak people. Snowden annoyed some very powerful people. That's the kind of crime that must be punished!

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With seniors turning on Republicans, are Republicans done?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(See also Frank's post on this.)

Carville and Greenberg notice something interesting, and perhaps transformational, going on:

There's something going on with seniors: It is now strikingly clear that they have turned sharply against the GOP. This is apparent in seniors' party affiliation and vote intention, in their views on the Republican Party and its leaders, and in their surprising positions on jobs, health care, retirement security, investment economics, and the other big issues that will likely define the 2014 midterm elections.

We first noticed a shift among seniors early in the summer of 2011, as Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare became widely known (and despised) among those at or nearing retirement. Since then, the Republican Party has come to be defined by much more than its desire to dismantle Medicare. To voters from the center right to the far left, the GOP is now defined by resistance, intolerance, intransigence, and economics that would make even the Robber Barons blush. We have seen other voters pull back from the GOP, but among no group has this shift been as sharp as it is among senior citizens.

It's never made much sense to me why seniors would vote Republican given the the Republican effort to dismantle the social safety net, the government programs so many seniors rely on, but I suppose there's something to be said for tradition, and of course part of voting Republican is being motivated by fear of change, of the new, of what is young and different.

But the Republican Party is moving further and further to the right, becoming the party solely of anti-government Tea Party types, right-wing Christian fundamentalists, neocon warmongers, and, of course, the Romney-style rich. And for all the post-election talk of rebranding, the Republican Party is doubling down on pushing away minority voters as well, it seems, as anyone else who isn't of this ideological stripe, including seniors generally.

We'll see if this holds next year. Midterm elections are characterized by low voter turnout dominated by an older, whiter electorate. But if Republicans are losing old white people, at least enough of them to make a difference, what hope do they have?

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Thursday, August 08, 2013

The adult in the room

By Carl 

The interesting dynamic that is the relationship between Obama and Putin has a new twist, and it's one we should welcome: 

On Wednesday evening, when U.S. President Obama cancelled his upcoming visit to Moscow, the Russian reaction was perhaps most clear in the way that Vesti, the state's main propaganda TV channel, conveyed it on the channel’s website. Buried about half way down on the page, underneath a story about Russian tourists in Turkey, Vesti announced: "The invitation for Obama stands." Beside that was the somewhat diversionary headline: "Barack Obama will travel to St. Petersburg for the G20 summit." The actual news — that Obama had decided not to meet with his Russian counterpart before, after or during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg next month — was clearly not something the official spin doctors wanted to advertise.

After a year spent honing their anti-American rhetoric — on issues ranging from the adoption of Russian children to missile defense in Europe and the civil war in Syria — the Kremlin message makers were suddenly eager to claim that President Vladimir Putin didn't really mean for things to go this far. "Sure, Putin uses this rhetoric, but it's not so much anti-American as anti-Euro-Atlantic," says Evgeny Minchenko, a Kremlin-connected political strategist. "And keep in mind that he has tried to stop short of a head-on collision."

So, shorter Kremlin: Holy fuck, he's not that idiot Bushy BooshBoosh

Indeed, he is not. And he's not going to kowtow to the likes of a tin-plated moron who trades offices like a Southern governor.

Putin has played the U.S. since at least 9/11, using our War on Terror as cover for all kinds of sins in Georgia and Chechnya, and let's not forget the 130 Russians who died in a terrorist standoff in a Moscow theater.

Yes, this is the guy Edward Snowden wants protecting him, but won't give up secrets to. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Keep in mind that, as Bush pursued a unilateral American foreign policy with healthy servings of imperial aggression, without engagement or advisement from what could have been its strongest ally in fighting terrorists, Putin took both offense and advantage of Bush's narrowed focus to become an active player in the Arab and Muslim world, particularly as the development of the Russian natural gas industry saw Russia become a major player in the energy field that previously had been dominated by the OPEC nations.

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A.M. Headlines

(Arizona Republic): "Hundreds protest Obama outside Phoenix high school"

(Politico): "Obama's Russia reset unravels"

(The Hill): "Christie surges in New Hampshire"

(New York Times): "The Times isn't for sale, its publisher declares"

(USA Today): "Tesla shares soar on earnings surprise"


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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

P.M. Headlines

(AP): "Obama cancels Putin summit amid Snowden tensions"

(Politico): "Jay Leno's interview with President Obama (transcript, video)"

(Daily Beast): "Al Qaeda conference call intercepted by U.S. officials sparks alerts"

(Rasmussen Reports): "Christie is candidate GOP voters want least as their 2016 nominee"

(Matthew Yglesias): "White House seeks return to the housing status quo"


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WaPo drifts down the Amazon

By Carl

Well, Jeff Bezos, the creator of, has purchased the Washington Post:

The Washington Post Co. agreed Monday to sell its flagship newspaper to founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to The Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will get a new, still undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without the newspaper.

The Post Co. will retain the building in Washington, as well as the online presence of subsidiary websites such as and Foreign Policy magazine.

The newspaper business has had a rough time of it, adjusting to the online news presence of so many blogs, websites, and news outlets. Even the vaunted NY Times has had to eat crow and a billion dollars on what should have been a profitable endeavor, the purchase of the Boston Globe.

The Post made its own stupid decisions, most notably buying Newsweek magazine for a premium – which ironically was also sold over the weekend by IAC to IBT -- and a raft of television stations, none of which bolstered its flagging paper and only distracted resources and attention.

Bezos is generally acknowledged as a CEO’s CEO, one of the top two or three in the world. He also skews a little liberal (he’s a big supporter of Senator Patty Murray of Washington) which bodes well as a bulwark against the corporatocracy of Rupert Murdoch and other conservatives who own the “liberal” media. He’ll be keeping the paper privately owned, which means that he won’t be responsible to shareholders for quarterly earnings and may be able to build a media empire on this foundation.

If anyone can, it would be the guy who started the world’s largest bookstore.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Benghazi still not a scandal

By Frank Moraes 

So what is this stuff about Benghazi I wrote about earlier? Last Thursday, CNN broke a story suggesting that the CIA was running guns from Libya to Syria out of the Benghazi proto-embassy. This, supposedly explains the administration's "cover up" of the attack. The big problem I see here is that the story is an answer to a question no reasonable person is asking. But okay, I'll bite.

CNN claims that they've learned that "dozens" of CIA operatives were "on the ground" in Benghazi the night of the attack. I want to start with the vague number "dozens." It literally means at least 24. Yet the article later claims that there were only 35 people total at the compound and that there were 21 at the annex, which is claimed to have been run by the CIA. Still, 21 is a lot of people.

But why would this make us believe that it had (1) anything to do with gun running and (2) anything to do with the attack? CNN doesn't even have a source for the first connection. All it says is this, "Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels." Note all the weasel words here: speculation, included, possibility. As for the second connection there is nothing at all.

The article also gives major time to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). He believes that we need to have public hearings with everyone who was in Benghazi the night of the attack. I'm all for that, but I don't think that Wolf is an honest broker here. This is a man, after all, who thinks that Edward Snowden is a traitor. He's said some nice things against the surveillance state, but I suspect if a Republican where in the White House, he wouldn't even go that far.

It seems to me just another Republican witch hunt with the vaguest of targets. After all, even the CNN article provides no reason to believe that anything the CIA was doing had anything to do with the attack. So what would Wolf's hearings be but an open ended opportunity for the Republicans to snipe at the Democratic administration?

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Were the Boston bombers right-wing extremists?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For what it's worth, from the BBC:

One of the brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston bombings was in possession of right-wing American literature in the run-up to the attack, BBC Panorama has learnt.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev subscribed to publications espousing white supremacy and government conspiracy theories.

He also had reading material on mass killings.

Until now the Tsarnaev brothers were widely perceived as just self-styled radical jihadists.

Panorama has spent months speaking exclusively with friends of the bombers to try to understand the roots of their radicalisation.

The programme discovered that Tamerlan Tsarnaev possessed articles which argued that both 9/11 and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing were government conspiracies.

Another in his possession was about "the rape of our gun rights".

Reading material he had about white supremacy commented that "Hitler had a point".

He may have been, and his brother may still be, a Muslim, of convenience or otherwise, and maybe even a self-styled jihadist. And that -- with the implication that the violent Other, the great threat, is Muslim -- is obviously part of the simplistic narrative that has arisen in response to the bombing, so very popular in particular on the right.

But Tamerlan, at least, appears also to have been an angry, bitter young man who frequently lashed out violently at those around him. He may have been radicalized into a violent, anti-American strain, and perversion, of Islam, but any such radicalization only would have worked because it found fertile soil in the form of the Tsarnaev brothers.

In any event, it would be similarly simplistic to suggest that they were right-wing extremists along the lines of the American political spectrum.

I would just note, however, that domestic terrorism in the United States these days is almost entirely the product of right-wing extremism.

For what it's worth.

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More evidence of the government's assault on liberty, privacy, and the Constitution

By Michael J.W. Stickings


A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin -- not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence -- information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

"I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

Because the DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD) -- which also includes the FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS, and DH -- is supposedly targeting (bad) people suspected of drug-related crimes, this will no doubt be written off by many, including the surveillance state apologists, as necessary, just like the supposedly anti-terror surveillance conducted by the NSA.

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Oh, those scientists, with their fake meat

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, it's not really fake meat, just... different:

The world's first lab-grown burger has been cooked and eaten at a news conference in London.

Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

One food expert said it was "close to meat, but not that juicy" and another said it tasted like a real burger.

Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.

The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald.

As one who does not eat red meat -- I call myself a flexitarian -- I really want this to work. Not just for myself, of course, but as a way to deal with the problem of hunger and food shortage worldwide.

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Louie Gohmert just can't stop reminding us he's the stupidest member of Congress

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Hill:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Monday that the Obama administration is making the United States look "like a bunch of cowards" by closing 19 embassies amid intelligence reports about possible terrorist attacks.

Gohmert, guest-hosting on Sean Hannity's radio program Monday, said the administration failed to learn from last year's deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans.

"We don't want any more people to die," Gohmert said in response to a caller's question. "But it brings us back to the question that [then-Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton asked, what difference does it make at this point?

"The difference it makes is, that if you will bother to find out exactly what went wrong, why you didn't have security where you needed it, where you need security to shore up, what you can do to make sure that doesn't happen again, you don't have to close your embassies like a bunch of cowards that go running away," he continued.

It's possible that the U.S. government hyped (or largely made up) the threats against its facilities overseas as a way to support its case for (essentially universal) surveillance, just as justification for the entire war on terror has been based largely on government fearmongering about threats that the public, given lack of access to evidence, has no way of proving one way or the other -- and the media are playing right along, hyping the "worldwide alert," as CNN blared, without a shred of evidence -- but Gohmert's suggestion that closing embassies is cowardice is just plain stupid.

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Monday, August 05, 2013

Another nuclear emergency in Japan

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an "emergency" that the operator is struggling to contain, an official from the country's nuclear watchdog said on Monday.

This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.

Countermeasures planned by Tokyo Electric Power Co are only a temporary solution, he said.

Tepco's "sense of crisis is weak," Kinjo said. "This is why you can't just leave it up to Tepco alone" to grapple with the ongoing disaster.

"Right now, we have an emergency," he said.

Well, you know what they say about playing with fire. Or plutonium.

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Republicans have been very, very good to social conservatives

By Frank Moraes 

I have a bone to pick with Paul Krugman. His column today is quite good, "Republicans Against Reality." The first half of the article is about Republican dysfunction. He highlights last week's transportation bill fiasco. It's an old story. Talk to any conservative (and sadly many liberals as well) and they will tell you that there is loads of wasteful spending in the government. But when you ask them what ought to be cut, the first thing they say is: foreign aid. There are two problems with this. First, foreign aid really does help us out globally by pushing back against all the bad stuff we do. (And note: Israel gets by far the most foreign aid of any country.) Second, foreign aid only makes up about 1% of the federal budget.

So the problem the House Republicans are having is that they've gone along with Paul Ryan's new mythical budget. But when it comes to actual policies, the House members don't like it because it requires cutting programs that their constituencies like and depend upon. So vauge notions of cutting "waste": gooood! Concrete ideas of cutting actual programs: baaad!

The second half of Krugman's article is about how the Republican leadership is reaping what it sowed. He writes:

For a long time the Republican establishment got its way by playing a con game with the party's base. Voters would be mobilized as soldiers in an ideological crusade, fired up by warnings that liberals were going to turn the country over to gay married terrorists, not to mention taking your hard-earned dollars and giving them to Those People. Then, once the election was over, the establishment would get on with its real priorities -- deregulation and lower taxes on the wealthy.

That is mostly true, but I take exception to the claim that the Republican Party has abandoned the social conservative base. Just in terms of policy, they got things like the Defense of Marriage Act and Terri Schiavo. But more important, they've gotten really conservative judges throughout the federal court system. I don't have any doubt that if Roe v. Wade came up for a vote in the Supreme Court that it would be overturned. So social conservatives have gotten what they want.

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Republicans' line on job creation

By Mustang Bobby

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to Fox’s Chris Wallace on the president’s jobs bill proposal:

First of all, Chris, government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does.

A couple of points here: if the government doesn’t create jobs, then who do all the police, firefighters, public school teachers, soldiers, and, oh, yes, members of Congress work for? In Miami-Dade County, the single largest employer in the county is the public school system, and they’ve already cut their administrative staff by a third over the last five years. The second largest employer is the county itself, keeping — for the most part — things running so that people can actually get to their jobs and provide for everyone.

As for the second point, a lot of the private sector creates jobs thanks to the government with contracts to build roads, support the infrastructure, and provide services to the people who work for the government, be it federal, state, or local. And that includes such services as grocery stores to sell them their food and the hundreds of other businesses that sell the niceties of life like clothing, cars, and haircuts that keep our economy running.

Mr. Cantor probably knows better, but he has to keep up the Galtian mantra so that he won’t get primaried by the cranks who scream about keeping the government hands off their Medicare.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)


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Exploitative television

By Carl

Normally, I look forward to this time of year. It’s Shark Week. If you don’t know or don’t care for it, Shark Week has some interesting programming about sharks, which is sadly interspersed with more and more exploitative programming.

They don’t just exploit sharks, they exploit you and me as well. Playing on our fears, reinforcing the worst about sharks, and drumming up crises where none existed before, all in the name of programming. They are the FOX News of popular science, and they suck about as badly.

Take last night, for instance. There was a “documentary” called “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives,” which supposes that a extinct (by several million years) dinoshark called Megalodon still lives off the coast of South Africa. Done up in documentary style, along the lines of the equally egregious “Mermaids” on the sister network Animal Planet, Discovery essentially creates a fictional narrative and gussies it up with phony incidents and dubious experts in an attempt to attract viewers and…for what?

I watched a bit of it last night, and the more I watched, the angrier I got. Rather than talk about the megalodon as an abstract, rather than discuss its niche in the paleontological archives of history, or how it evolved into the modern day (and far less dangerous) shark, Discovery decided to go for grabbing you by the short hairs and twisting.

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A.M. Headlines

(New York): "What is Chris Christie doing right?"

(New York Times): "GOP governors warn party members in Congress not to shut government"

(Paul Krugman): "Republicans against reality"

(Politico): "Obamacare message war goes local"

(CBS News): "U.S. still on edge in face of uncovered terror plot"


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Sunday, August 04, 2013

A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "New York Times Company sells Boston Globe"

(USA Today): "Terror threat closes U.S. embassies, consulates"

(Crooks and Liars): "Study: Medicare for all would save half-trillion in first years"

(Democracy Now): "'We are slowly dying': Fast-foot workers launch strike for living wage and right to unionize"

(Fox News): "Five years later, an evolving Tea Party wades in the 2014 elections"


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