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Monday, 31 August 2009

Maybe I know

Southern Beale recently had a little trip to the emergency room after a bump on the head, and ran into one of those doctors who think they know about the Canadian healthcare system. (And he didn't give her a CAT scan, anyway.)

While I was reading the post at SoBeale's place, I found a reminder in the comments that Liberal Values is a blog run by a doctor who pushes for medical reform every chance he gets - and when I dropped in there, I found the Sci-Fi TV post.

What you do for your Town Hall meeting on healthcare is get the supporters out. This time, they were there for Lloyd Doggett. But the right-wing was there, too, hating healthcare because they hate America. No, seriously, they said so out loud.

Having your son die in Iraq seems to make even Republicans see some light - the first clip at this page includes a story of a pro-war Republican who is grateful to Kennedy for personal reasons, and for Kennedy's help in the fight to get better armor for our troop and their transports and save soldiers' lives.

Got a personal perspective on healthcare? Tome of the Unknown Writer is collecting healthcare stories. Contribute to the project if you have a story, too. (Mine's too simple: I live in England, so I have healthcare. I don't even have to put up with BS like this.)

Just my personal opinion, but I think if the Democrats really wanted to pass a real healthcare bill, it'd be a done deal - 'cause all they'd have to do is what the Republicans do, only honestly. The Republicans have to be partisan because no one in their right mind would support Republican policies. Democrats being "bipartisan" means going along with ideas that no one in their right mind wants. There isn't really a question, there.

Bob McChesney interviews Chris Hedges about his latest book, Empire of Illusion.

Glenn Greenwald on America's royalty and what "meritocracy" means in the United States.

I like the way he agrees with me.

Just starting to suspect that Obama really is yanking your chain, and the people he's playing 11-dimensional chess with aren't the Republicans, they're you? Well, then, I dedicate this Ellie Greenwich song to you.

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12:47 BST


Sunday, 30 August 2009

And it gets higher day by day

The New York Times is saying the Democrats should just ignore the GOP and pass healthcare reform without them. I'm actually all for that if by that they mean pass a genuinely good healthcare reform bill, but they don't: "Superficially seductive calls to scale down the effort until the recession ends or to take time for further deliberations should be ignored. There has been more than enough debate and the recession will almost certainly be over before the major features of reform kick in several years from now. Those who fear that a trillion-dollar reform will add to the nationís deficit burden should remember that these changes are intended to be deficit-neutral over the next decade." But a "deficit neutral" plan is a failure; a good plan would actually cost less than what we have now. And if the Dems are going to ignore the Republicans and the Gang of Six (as they should), there's no need to pass a watery bill that doesn't do enough and costs more than it should. Single-payer is the fiscally responsible plan, so let's have it.

Let me recommend heartily Charlie Stross' response to the reaction from some America quarters to the release on compassionate grounds of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi by the Scottish government: "American attitudes to crime and punishment are unspeakable; disturbing, mediaeval, and barbaric are some of the adjectives that spring to mind. But above all, the word that most thoroughly applies is merciless. The commission of a crime is taken as an excuse to unleash the demons of the subconscious, however dark, however disproportionate, upon the perpetrator. Once labeled a criminal, an individual's right to fair treatment is utterly expunged, and any violation or degradation, however grotesque, is seen as something that they brought on themselves."

I remember back in prehistory, before they got married so they could work together to destroy the world, Cueball Carville and Mary Matilan were frequently the "typical example" in articles about the fascinating phenomenon of conservative women dating liberal men (which articles were, of course, just an excuse to gossip about the fact that Clinton's PR flack and a major right-wing PR flack were Doing It). And these articles always marvelled about how right-wing women were finding liberal men so irresistible. Occasionally they mentioned that it didn't work the other way around for right-wing men, who continued to disgust liberal women. But they didn't say why.

This Week In Tyranny it was "all about the IG report."

Sometimes I forget that I can just go over to the Fortean Times news page if I want a laugh. How about "Policeman breaks into zoo to feed Pop Tarts to gorillas" for a headline? And of course, the exciting story of "Father's fury over children's 'pornographic' sweet wrappers."

Tina Turner sings Ellie Greenwich's "River Deep, Mountain High".

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17:05 BST


It's your money - and your blood

CMike tells me:

This week Bill Moyers features the film Money Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much which is based on the book with the same title by Maggie Maher, a former journalist for Barron's Magazine, "America's premier financial weekly."

Part 1, explains, in 32 minutes, a reality that a cynic, like me, pretty much all ready understands.

Part 2 tells, in 22 minutes and 40 seconds, the brutal tale of a monster which is ever awaiting its chance to devour each of us, in our turn.

MAGGIE MAHAR: If you can believe it, Rashi Fein has survived 5 decades of the battle for health care reform. In 1953 he served on President Truman's commission on the health needs of America at a time when Truman was pushing for universal coverage. Then he worked with JFK when he fought unsuccessfully for Medicare, a battle that LBJ would later win. As a professor of medical economics at Harvard, Fein has never given up. He firmly believes that medicine should not be all about money. As he puts it, "We live in a society not just in an economy.
How bizarre he would think that way, living here as he does, in Reagan's America.

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11:40 BST


Stuff my girlfriends showed me

Lejaby - Hypnotic half cup bra OMG 49 quid!Bra of the Week

Sara Robinson continues her series: "Fascist America III: Resistance for the Long Haul [...] How in the hell did we get here? And more to the point: how do we get back out?"

David Waldman (aka Kagro X) says it just doesn't make any sense: "Maybe I'm just not sufficiently wonky on the health care subject, and after all, this isn't likely to happen to me right away, because I have insurance through my wife that I'm pretty sure we're keeping as long as we can. But I don't get how you can possibly hand me a health care bill with an individual mandate and no public option. If I'm uninsured or poorly insured, and the answer coming out of Congress is that I now have to buy crappy insurance from some private company that has no plan to actually help me pay for my health care without raking me over the coals, then I've gone into this fight an ardent supporter of strong reform, and come out a teabagger. You're going to force me to pay an insurance company for shit insurance that as a free market actor I decided not to even try to buy?"

BarbinMD says she saw Wolf Blitzer amplify "the emerging meme" that his friends reckon the new Ted Kennedy of the Senate will be John McCain. Yeah, right.

Mike Lux doesn't buy The "We Can Do Health Reform Without Taking on the Insurance Industry" Argument.

Eric Boehlert unpacks the media message: "Angry right-wingers are important; angry libs are annoying."

Doghouse Riley: "Thank God Our Long National Nightmare Of A Wildly Popular Government Program That Accomplishes Something Is Over."

Yesterday Thers linked to an entire post full of links that didn't depress me.

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00:43 BST


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Accumulated stuff

Once again I must apologize for the light blogging. Let's just say it's been an interesting few days.

We need some damage control on the bizarre idea that people like John Yoo can write crazy defenses of illegal acts by the executive in secret, without even review by the Attorney General, and magically make a president's crimes legal.

Hunter has no more faith in the ability of our current crop of elective officials to do anything but the wrong thing when it comes to national emergencies, and sees corruption and crookery at the bottom of the shambles of our "healthcare" plans: "But a trade of mandated purchase of a for-profit, private product in exchange for a meager promise to not abuse customers is -- let's all say it together, for good measure -- goddamned asinine. The government of the United States should not have to bargain to get an abusive industry to be slightly less abusive." (But Robert Reich claims the public option is not dead.)

I rather liked what the Rude One had to say about Ted Kennedy.

"They push the hardest on abortion because we give the most on it: The obsession with abortion is so all-consuming and violent not because of the issue itself, but because right wing nuts know that when it comes to abortion, most of the country will give them leeway to advocate murder, and that even liberal men will sometimes have 'intellectual' debates about whether or not violence would be justified if you really believed fetuses are people. It's not that they're just highly moral people who have grown overly incensed about this issue. They are highly immoral people who get excited pushing the boundaries of hate and violent rhetoric, and they push harder on abortion because they know that they can get away with it. That when someone actually acts on it and murders a doctor, it won't be taken as seriously as would a terrorist action against other villains of the right wing pantheon, such as IRS agents or college professors. But if they got the same soft touch, they'd be threatening those people just as much. This has nothing to do with babies." People protest more when they have expectations of getting somewhere with it. And lots of people have worked hard to let the forced-pregnancy terrorists have that expectation. (Also: Insurance companies say granny is too expensive.)

Just a bunch of fringe weirdos.

Man, I'd worry about seeing these eyes staring back at me in outer space.

Ellie Greenwich, "Another Boy Like Mine"

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03:38 BST


Wednesday, 26 August 2009

In Memoriam

Someone told me last night that Capitalism: A Love Story has its own page now, and going from there this morning to Michael Moore's homepage (for a good version of the trailer) is what brought me to the news that Ted Kennedy has died.

This was not unexpected, and for some time I have felt a certain sadness in knowing that his long fight for healthcare was devolving into the mishmash of betrayal and lies we have now, after everyone made such a big deal of passing healthcare legislation at last "for Teddy", and that he was likely to go out seeing that dream once again becoming a shambles. I also feared that some people who should know better (including, it seemed, Kennedy himself), were pushing too hard a plan - any plan - just so they could get Obama to sign it before Teddy died.

Well, obviously, if anyone was in a rush to pass the plan so Teddy could see it signed, that urgency is gone, and if any good can come of his passing, I hope it's that they rethink this whole hurry-up-and-wait-for-worse-than-nothing project the Blue Dogs (including, as near as I can tell, Obama himself) have been saddling us with.

It's time to junk the whole current proposal and go back to square one. Demand single-payer now, at the very least. Do it for yourself, and your family and friends, and your country - and, perhaps, in memory of all the times he really did hold the line and remember what it's all about, do it for Teddy.

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12:24 BST


Tuesday, 25 August 2009

In our continuing drama...

Taibbi's full article doesn't appear to be up yet, but Rolling Stone has a page for "Sick and Wrong " (and a bunch of other interesting stuff, including Wenner's 1970 interview with John Lennon). But, in the meantime, Susie Madrak has been reading Taibbi and giving you the money quotes, such as:

The Blue Dogs were demanding that the very thing that makes the public option work - curbing costs to taxpayers by reimbursing doctors at Medicare plus five percent - be scrapped. Instead, the Blue Dogs wanted compensation rates for doctors to be jacked up, on the government's tab. The very Democrats who make a point of boasting about their unwavering commitment to fiscal conservatism were lobbying, in essence, for a big fat piece of government pork for doctors.
And, in the next post:
If your employer offers you acceptable care and you reject it, you are barred from buying insurance in the insurance 'exchange.' In other words, you must take the insurance offered to you at work. And that might have made sense if, as decreed in the House version, employers actually had to offer good insurance. But in the Senate version passed by the HELP committee, this is no real requirement for employers to provide any kind of minimal level of care. [...]

If you have coverage you like, you can keep it," says Sen. Sanders. "But if you have coverage you don't like, you gotta keep it."

Susie also found that even the LAT is looking seriously at how the Blue Dogs and insurance companies have conspired to kill healthcare. She says:
I am thoroughly disgusted by Obama's lack of effective leadership on this - and Congress's willingness to lard the bill for their contributors at our expense. It's very important that we keep the pressure on, because if we don't, we're going to be saddled with a very expensive dog of a health care "reform" bill.
And she has more from Taibbi there, and here:
Taibbi says that by ignoring single-payer and by cutting the meat out of the public option, healthcare reform is no longer going to do the thing Obama said it would do: Save money. And because of that reality, yes, Congress will be trying to shave money off Medicare to pay for the whole mess.
And Taibbi:
It's a joke, the whole thing, a parody of Solomonic governance. By the time all the various bills are combined, health care will be a baby split not in half but in fourths and eighths and fractions of eighths. It's what happens when a government used to dealing on the level of perception tries to take on a profound emergency that exists in reality. No matter how hard Congress may try, though, it simply is not possible to paper over a crisis this vast.

Then again, some of the blame has to go to all of us. It's more than a little conspicuous that the same electorate that poured its heart out last year for the Hallmark-card story line of the Obama campaign has not been seen much in this health care debate. The handful of legislators - the Weiners, Kuchiniches, Wydens and Sanderses - who are fighting for something real should be doing so with armies at their backs. Instead, all the noise is being made on the other side. Not so stupid after all - they, at least, understand that politics is a fight that does not end with the wearing of a T-shirt in November.

He's not wrong.

Also flagged by Susie, a piece at After Downing Street on how Hal Turner was in the pay of the FBI when he advocated lynching Cynthia McKinney, Roger Ebert on how good your "good" insurance is, Jon Cohn on The Colbert Report (on his book, Sick), Hamsher on the Senate version, and Chris Hedges saying it's robbery, not reform.

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13:09 BST


Maybe it just sags like a heavy load

Dear Democratic leadership, you have given us none of what we asked for, returned nothing of what has been taken from us - and in fact, you seem determined to take even more. Given all this, what are you good for?

The Rude Pundit makes an observation about "disruptive" behavior.

Dan Froomkin: "Let's be blunt. The public option -- emphasis on the word 'option' -- is a way to hold the insurance companies accountable should they (entirely unexpectedly, of course) fail to live up to their promises, ignore the rules, and keep doing things the way they have for the past several decades. By contrast, the core of the argument against the public option is nothing more than a sort of whiny plaint of 'Leave the insurance companies alone!' Okay, but a "public option" that isn't available to everyone isn't even about accountability. The most recent version of the "public option" is closed to all but nine million people the insurance companies don't want anyway. At the very least, the insurance companies should have to compete with real health insurance, and that would be... well, that would be single-payer.

So Holder is appointing a special prosecutor to see if some members of the CIA did not torture within guidelines, or something. Jeez.

Yet another right-wing presidential tubesteak obsession.

Bob McChesney talks to Glenn Greenwald about the ghastly media.

This Week In Tyranny we have a round-up of things said about Tom Ridge's revelation in his book that the Bush administration was manipulating terror alerts for political reasons. Or, rather, Tom Ridge running around acting like it's a new revelation. See, Tom Ridge is getting a bad rap on the idea that he didn't say anything about this back when he resigned. He did.

Are progressives Jonesing for a placebo? Matt Taibbi smells Health Care Rats coming out of the woodwork, and AIG rats continuing to eat the economy alive.

More from Glenn Greenwald on how Bush critics are still crazy extremists.

"Wash. Post admits its editorial page populated by un-thoughtful persons."

Many people wonder whether the honesty will hold out for James Fallows.

Thanks to GWPDA for alerting me to this scenic video.

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01:06 BST


Sunday, 23 August 2009

Or crust and sugar over--like a syrupy sweet?

Fantasie - Helena balconette braBra of the Week

The Milky Way Over the Badlands

Stormy Occultation

Roger Ailes (the good one) on the truth about Krauthammer.

Bob Somerby also thinks Krauthammer has a screw loose, but he's really on the trail of the "liberal" media in the form of Tweety: "First, Matthews has been spouting that blather for months about how 'they want him picked up because he's in the country illegally.' We know! He's arguing on Obama's side when he says this, but this whole construct is monumentally stupid. Guess what, dumb-ass? If an American woman gives birth in some other country, her baby is still an American citizen! She doesn't have to leave her baby in France when she returns to the states. Her baby might not be a 'natural-born' citizen in the manner required of presidents - but the baby would be a citizen. Almost anyone with two IQ points to rub would understand this simple fact. But Matthews got this stupid riff in his head a long time ago, and he'll never drop it. Second, note a more significant fact: Even at this very late date, Matthews doesn't know what to say when someone like DeLay says he 'would like the president to produce his birth certificate.'"

Everything you know is wrong.

Paul Craig Roberts says Americans are Serfs Ruled by Oligarchs.

Aimai has an encounter with Joe Klein that answers the musical question, "Who Does Joe Klein Think is the Crazy Left?"

Scalzi on Star Wars design flaws. And more..(Thanks to Dominic.)

If I were campaigning against Betsy McCaughey for office, I'd sure want to make videos comparing her statements before, during, and after her temporary stint as a Liberal - especially her statements on abortion.

This letter appeared in Thursday's (print) IHT, but I can no longer figure out how to find it online, so I'm just gonna have to type it out:

With his poll numbers heading south and an increasingly [sic] number of Americans growing skeptical of his health care plan, President Obama is now charging that the Republican Party is being "dishonest" about the debate.

But it was Democrats who screamed for years that former President Bush "lied" and "took us to war under false pretenses," and now that the Democrats have control of the government they have failed to back these charges with any criminal proceedings. And Mr. Obama claims the other party is being dishonest? Does anyone see a tinge of hypocrisy here?
EUGENE R. DUNN
MEDFORD, NEW YORK

Gosh, you think maybe prosecuting Bush and Cheney for their crimes might have been a good idea? [Update: Thanks to Charles for finding it for me.]

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13:25 BST


Friday, 21 August 2009

Crosstown traffic

David Derbes in a comment at Eschaton makes it simple:

Even better would be no direct pay from individuals, but pay for the program as we do the army, the FDA, and all the other government programs that promote the general welfare, by taxes.

Imagine if to ensure that your house was protected by the fire department, that you had to send a check every month to the fire department. That's nonsense. And if your neighbor hadn't sent in her check, and her house catches fire, guess what? Your house is threatened.

And this is why we need universal health care.

Kucinich: "The hotly-debated HR3200, the so-called "health care reform" bill, is nothing less than corporate welfare in the guise of social welfare and reform. It is a convoluted mess. The real debate which we should be having is not occurring."

First Amendment Award winner Matt Taibbi interviewed (again) at Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

Antonin Scalia, Agent of Satan: "This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged 'actual innocence' is constitutionally cognizable."

Sir William Beveridge proposes"abolition of want before the enjoyment of comfort", 1942.

Oliver has the trailer for Michael Moore's Capitalism A Love Story.

Sam Seder has been sitting in for Cenk on The Young Turks, and there are some videos up on their site. (And don't miss the dramatic readings of real hate mail to Kos.)

Actually, Marcy understates the case against the media's "insight" into what was going on right in front of them in plain sight: that the Bush administration's "terror alerts" served no useful purpose except as theater and that in many cases they were counterproductive - and that "the left" noticed this because they were not able to bind themselves with love of Bush. The alerts caused panic rather than prudence, they were virtually always useless, their timing frequently made no sense (like, why suddenly announce the capture of someone who had been nabbed a month earlier?), they often exposed intelligence that was best kept quiet - purely in order to aid PR exercises, and they were never things it was useful for the public to know in order to protect themselves. Why would anyone who was paying attention think they were for any purpose but to manipulate the public?

The Onion: "Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care."

Dreamland

Hendrix studio outtake

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19:10 BST


Thursday, 20 August 2009

More of the same

Gosh, from Joe Klein and "Anonymous Senior White House Official" (who sounds amazingly like someone named Rahm), right on down to the "far left" of The American Prospect, it is now all agreed that only silly lefties with emotional control issues are upset about having no public option at all. So they're all out there either lying or just wearing nose plugs so they can't smell the fecal stink of what they are carrying, claiming that everything is gonna be all right without any public plan. What we're really getting is just that we will have a rule that says the insurance sharks shouldn't behave quite as badly as they've been behaving, and then we won't enforce it, but we will make everyone buy their fake insurance and pretend we've solved the problem, and we will even give them more taxpayers' money to sweeten the pot. And we're not even supposed to mind. I assume this is because we are merely supposed to be partisan (i.e., support the Democratic leadership no matter what) rather than worry about actual policy, but, you know, I can't. (I do love me some Anthony Weiner, though - oh, yeah!) (via)

The Anthony Weiner Fest continues!

Conservative "Constitutional scholarship" means ignoring 90% of the Constitution - that is, all the parts that are any good - and picking and choosing a tiny number of phrases torn from context to justify whatever they want to do. (And, for the record, I'm not even a little impressed with Grassley's sudden willingness to respond to the, uh, "grassroots" in a democratic way (!) in his quest to do exactly what he was doing before by pretending he wasn't trying to sabotage healthcare all along. And I'm not impressed, either, by Democrats who think that this is "the popular part" of the plan.)

A "socialist hellhole" sounds pretty good to me.

Ah, I see - the TARP money is there to help the Chinese buy US assets. (via)

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16:27 BST


A little night blogging

We keep being told that people really like their employer-provided health insurance and are afraid they will lose it if there is healthcare reform. But who says so? What is the basis for this claim? As BDBlue says in comments below, "This is why single payer never got a seat at the table. Not because it wasn't politically popular with voters. If that were the case, they would've given it a seat and then ignored it. The reason it's been denied air everywhere - and why they had to come up with the "public option" buzzword to deny it air even among a lot of progressives - is because it would be wildly popular. So popular, they wouldn't be able to stop it."

And here's Taibbi telling Maddow that the Dems are about to make healthcare into their own Iraq - unless there's a serious progressive revolt.

In Mother Jones, Daniel Shulman on Novak, Corn, and Plamegate: "At the time, Robert Novak couldn't have know that, despite a half century of covering Washington, one little line would ignite the scandal that would come to dominate his legacy: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." Following the conservative columnist's death yesterday at the age of 78, mentions of his role in outing the CIA operative were ubiquitous in the numerous obits commemorating his life. Our DC bureau chief, David Corn, played a unique role in the Plamegate saga, too. Then working for the Nation, he was the first to raise the possibility that Bush administration officials, bent on smearing diplomat Joseph Wilson, had broken the law by leaking the identity of Wilson's wife."

Strange...Jane's pretty smart, but she didn't really start to worry until June, when it became clear that "the Baucus Caucus (who were negotiating on behalf of the White House, with the participation of the White House) had very likely already dealt the public plan away." Man, the holes were showing way earlier than that.

Happy birthday, Alun.

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01:06 BST


Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Is Obama trying to kill healthcare? Will you let him without a fight?

This morning's guest healthcare remarks were provided in comments by Dan in CA:

Maybe they're letting themselves be yanked around by Baucas because they decided at the outset that the final product of health "insurance" reform would be a mandate with no public option. If you look at it through that prism, Obama's dangling of the public option (here it is, no here it isn't...here it is, no it's gone) suddenly makes sense. It's a negotiating ploy. It's super cynical, but negotiating ploys usually are, especially when the dupes are your supposed allies who are standing up for your publicly stated position.

There's no doubt there are Democratic Senators trying to kill the public option, but it would be nice if the White House got clued in to how weak their position really is. You have Conrad, et al., saying the votes aren't there with it included, but they're not willing to say on the record, "I will vote against this bill if it contains a public option." They're afraid to say it, and they want liberals in the house to kill it for them. This is a sucker's game. It's like with the filibuster. It used to be if you wanted to filibuster a bill, you actually had to filibuster it. Nowadays, all you have to do is announce your intention to filibuster, and Harry Reid pulls the legislation. They're too weak to kill the legislation themselves, but they always get Democrats to kill their own ideas. That's the same game Senate Democrats are playing. They want progressives in the House to play the suckers, to effectively kill the public option themselves by signaling they'll vote for any bill no matter what gets through conference. All under the neglectful eye of the White House.

All this shows how close we are to getting a bill passed with the public option. Instead of twisting the arms of progressives in the House, as Marc Ambinder reports is planned here, Obama ought to be twisting the arms of the Senate sellouts who are going against his publicly stated goals. Make them feel the pressure, force them to threaten to join Republicans in a filibuster, and I bet they'll fold. But to get there, we need the White House united with the House progressives. And Obama needs to actually want a public option. The question from here on out is, does he?

I think the answer is no.

Although Obama did once claim to be "a proponent of a single-payer universal healthcare program," he put the lie to that almost as soon as he got into office and took it off the table. Early reports, in fact, told us that even the "public plan" was just intended as a bargaining tool to try to get the insurance industry to accept some sort of cost-lowering facility in its place. That's all they ever had in mind - to get costs a little bit lower so they could say they'd "won".

But now, with the progressive caucus signaling that they might refuse to go along with a bill that doesn't at least provide something useful to the public, there does seem to be some pushback, although at this juncture it's hard to say whether it will even make a difference, since the push, again, is for "a public plan" rather than anything comprehensive. I mean, this is the "far-left fringe" of the Democratic caucus, talking about what is still a pretty limited "public plan":

"Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable."
That's pretty small beer without the further proviso that it be open to everyone, not just nine million people who will be easy to take it back from.

Let me make this plain: I don't think we should be supporting "a public plan". I think, at the very least, we should be writing postcards and letters, making phone calls, and holding up signs demanding "Medicare for All".

Send a postcard to your member of Congress, write letters to the media, and supplement both with phone calls. (It won't hurt to hammer your Senators, either.) If you can physically drop by your Congresscritter's office, that would be really nice, too. Arranging a sizeable group to hold your own Town Hall-style meeting with your member of Congress would be great. Any pressure you can bring to bear, on any part of the press or legislature, could help tip the balance toward a broader debate. (I'm not pretending this is a sure-fire strategy, but it's better than not doing it. At least they can't say they weren't told.)

Two-thirds of the public say they'd pay higher taxes in order to get publicly-funded healthcare for all. I'm willing to bet they'd be even more enthusiastic about paying lower taxes for publicly-funded healthcare for all.

But the debate right now is between a lousy plan and no plan. It needs to be between a good plan and a better plan, at the very least. We're not there yet.

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13:26 BST


The internet ate my homework

Anna says to me that the appropriate question is, "MR. PRESIDENT, Why Are Cops Tasering Grandmothers, Pregnant Women and Kids?" Really, these things, we are told, are being used instead of guns. If we're to believe that, then we should be treating these cops as people who would murder a driver over a speeding ticket. Police officers who endanger the public, as these cops clearly do, should be dismissed from the force immediately.

Scout Prime flags a Matt Taibbi post and, in particular, this paragraph: "I'll say this for George Bush: you'd never have caught him frantically negotiating against himself to take the meat out of a signature legislative initiative just because his approval ratings had a bad summer. Can you imagine Bush and Karl Rove allowing themselves to be paraded through Washington on a leash by some dimwit Republican Senator of a state with six people in it the way the Obama White House this summer is allowing Max Baucus (favorite son of the mighty state of Montana) to frog-march them to a one-term presidency?"

I once felt alone in my loathing for Lanny Davis, but now the Glennzilla is after him, noting that the essential fact about Davis is that he is a shill for whoever is paying him, and yet he is treated by the media as an independent "analyst". That's because, as a bought-and-paid-for hack for corporate interests, he is the ultimate "centrist". And you would have thought his plate was already pretty full with defending the coup in Honduras, but no, he's stuck his oar in on the healthcare debate.

Since it's clear we need to dump these Dems, it's gratifying when Digby pours on the scorn - a lot.

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02:40 BST


Monday, 17 August 2009

One fly-swatter, a thousand flies

Digby, Rick Perlstien, Paul Krugman and Atrios on How the Media Learned to Bend Over Backward to Please the Right at last year's Netroots Nation. This year, Digby, Marcy, and Christy had lunch, and Christy wrote a post about it: "How The Media Enables And Amplifies The Crazy." (More NN archive footage here.)

This year at NN, Spencer Ackerman liveblogged Marcy Wheeler's discussion of torture prosecutions.

It's always fascinated me that, at pretty much every level, the criminals have admitted their crimes.

This graph (via) shows that, aside from income inequality looking more and more like the Great Conservative Depression, the top 1% grabbed 25% of income in 2007 (year for latest figures). It's worth noting that income alone does not tell you everything about where the money is - those top 1% already control huge amounts of wealth that are just sitting around not doing much, too, in addition to wealth that has become the income of people who are helping them keep their boots on our necks.

And these graphs underscore Atrios's point that, "as a % of GDP, the US has greater public expenditures on health care than the UK does. Not total expenditures, we know that. Public expenditures. More big government health care in the US than the UK."

This might be less of a problem if Democratic officials wouldn't parrot the right-wing's sentiment that when it comes to how wrong (or criminal) the conservatives have been we should just (a) move on as if it never happened and (b) continue their policies. Just think what it would be like if ol' President Change would start producing some, y'know, change. (More here.)

I do not understand why the Guardian has an article called "Obama may drop NHS-style provision from healthcare reform plan". There has never been an NHS-style provision in the president's "healthcare reform plan". There have been various versions of proposals to make some publicly-funded insurance-coverage available, each version of which seems to dwindle before our eyes until at last reckoning it would allow only about nine million people to even have the option of using it, forcing everyone else who doesn't already have commercial insurance to actually pay out of their own pockets for the fraudulent "insurance" on offer from the commercial sector. What the Guardian means, of course, is that Obama is now making noises that suggest he might just force us all to buy the crummy insurance without even the "public plan" option, small and pointless as it is, being part of the package. But Andrew Clark is writing from New York, and like most reports from America meant for British consumption, it's just a combination of the American media's distorted picture with a bit of fake translation-for-the-provinces thrown in. This story is a bit more informative: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government alternative to private health insurance is 'not the essential element' of the administration's health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory." Cowards, or bait-and-switch artists from Day One?

Harmony (thanks to Ruth).

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13:48 BST


Sunday, 16 August 2009

Doctor, my eyes

Calvin Klein - Seductive Comfort Embrace plunge braBra of the Week

I was actually planning to be in Wales this weekend, but instead I decided to stay home and feel sorry for myself about having a cold. It's not an unusually bad cold, and it's definitely not the 'flu (no aches, no fever, not even suppressed appetite), but it has many maddening and brain-deadening features and I have indulged to the hilt in being as pathetic as my condition allows.

BDBlue unpacks Obama: "Oh, so the public option will be like the United States Postal Service. It will be constantly undermined by elected officials who insist it compete with private companies as an "equal" even as they ensure that the private companies get all the really lucrative customers and the postal service gets stuck with all the thankless, unprofitable work that requires them to drive every back road in this country to deliver a letter for less than 50 cents while also giving deep discounts to help mail-based business, regardless of whether such deliveries or discounts make sense from a business perspective.* And the Postal Service is expected to do all of this while the Government insists it do things that none of its private competitors have to do (such as prepay future retiree health benefits). Then when the public option, like the Postal Service, cannot win its race against private companies blindfolded with its legs tied together, it will be mocked by the President of the United States." That'd be the President of the United States who is unaware that most Americans have relatively positive feelings about the Post Office.

I hope no one was thinking that Whole Foods is run by the good guys....

"I pay $400 a month for my health insurance, and it's still cheaper to come to Mexico"

Susie Madrak to Joe Sestak: "We're like the girl you had under the bleachers, but you wouldn't take to the prom."

Froomkin on the week's Cheney-related revelations: "Indeed, it's worth pointing out that pretty much anytime we find out something new about the Bush era, the result is profound, consistent vindication for all the central pillars of the Bush critique chronicled in my washingtonpost.com column and elsewhere over the years. But here's the thing. I'm getting oddly little satisfaction from this -- because I'm increasingly troubled about this presidency. At the heart of all the tragedies of the Bush years was the White House's fundamental untrustworthiness. They didn't tell us the truth. And sometimes -- more often than we still want to believe -- they flat-out lied to us. Lack of transparency was also a fatal flaw. When people can't see into the White House (and the people inside don't want to look out) bad things happen. As they surely did."

The brutal truth about America's healthcare vs Stephen Hawking, who said, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.." And a student who suddenly found himself unable to move and had to be supported by his wife would not have been able to get that sort of care in the United States at all, let alone be kept alive and allowed the time to think that made it possible for him to become *the* Stephen Hawking.

Jurassicpork collects the Quotes O' the Week.

I have no idea why this turned up in a Technorati search for sideshow.me.uk, but it looks like it could be a fun blog.

The Gibson company says good-bye to Les Paul.

A cartoon

Jackson Brown

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03:27 BST


Friday, 14 August 2009

Who's crazy now?

Paul Krugman has identified one part of the problem: "So far, at least, the Obama administration's response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It's as if officials still can't wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren't named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away."

But the other part of the problem is that Obama is essentially sympathetic to conservative arguments. Again, he is part of that curious segment of his generational cohort that, though they may think they are really savvy, actually absorbed the right-wing propaganda smearing liberalism (and the '60s) and elevating "the market" over everything else. (And assuming that Bill Clinton had so many problems with the Republicans because of something intrinsic to Bill Clinton rather than that the Republicans will do that to any Democrat and already have.) It would not surprise me at all to learn that Obama thinks every single ordinary person who shows up at political events wanting to talk about issues for real is "a loser". He may even say it out loud when he thinks no one "important" is listening. He has completely ignored simple facts (like that the only way to be "bipartisan" with a self-declared enemy that refuses to compromise is to surrender or join the other side) that anyone who is paying even a little attention has already noticed. So, yes, he's having a hard time selling his stupid, onerous, destructive "healthcare plan" that isn't about healthcare and isn't a plan. Which makes it awfully easy for Rush Limbaugh to make it sound like a terrible plan. It is a terrible plan. And actual liberals should be saying so.

At the risk of getting ellipses poisoning, let me call your attention to this transcription CMike provided in comments below:

Thom Hartmann in his Hour 1 this past Tuesday, the eleventh, reported that he had been on a right wing radio show earlier that morning:
We had a number of people, who are these tea bag folks, call in...[The Hostess is] concerned that government is the problem and irredeemable...I am worried that corporate power has so corrupted government that it may well be irredeemable in it current form...I see the rot at the center of this what Dwight Eisenhower identified as corporate power...I call it the military, industrial, medical, media, congressional complex...

What I got out of the conversation this morning...is that people are feeling powerless. If you think back on the times you've felt dealing with some company bureaucrat on the phone, trying to deal with a health insurance claim or...a charge on a credit card...I know when I've just lost it, when the fifth telemarketer called me one evening...The feelings of powerless is an absolute human emotion...And here are the realities...19% of the work force [unemployed or underemployed]...losing their jobs to China...banks jacking up rates...banks set to show a $38 billion profit just from fees [from a bounced check or account transfer or paying off a balance early]...one in nine American homeowners is within 90 days of foreclosure or behind on their payments...one in nine families...is using some form of public assistance...one in ten adults is taking some form of pyscho-active drug...

It began with the Reagan revolution...Democrats began to embrace this transnational corporate idea of deregulation and international free trade and the first guy to push back was Ross Perot...So here we have people who don't have jobs, who are in debt up to their eyeballs...They know something is wrong, they don't know what it is because our media won't talk about it. The corporate media is not going to talk about the role played by transnational[s]...in destroying the economy of the United States.

We've been screwed...and most people don't know why or how. They just know it's happened...People are filled with misinformation because there is an industry devoted to lying to them and it's not just about health care...Health care is a symptom of this rage and powerlessness [which] is a consequence of the corporate take over of this country...So we have to "get it," that these people are totally justified in their rage.

Dave Lindorff at After Downing Street says Progressives Should be Shutting Down These So-Called 'Town Meetings' Too!: "This is not about civil discourse. This is about propaganda. The Obama administration and the Democratic Congressional leadership have sold out health care reform for the tainted coin of the medical-industrial industry, and are holding, or trying to hold, these meetings around the country to promote legislation that has essentially been written for them by that industry--legislation that will force everyone to pay for insurance as offered, and priced, by the private insurance industry. What a deal for those companies--a captive market of 300 million people! There will be little or no effort to control prices, and the higher costs will be financed through higher taxes, and through cuts in Medicare benefits. This isn't "reform." It's corruption, pure and simple. (Via Corrente.)

My problem with the "shut it down" approach is that you lose your opportunity to say that insurance companies are "death panels", that insurance companies do put your medical choices into the hands of company bureaucrats, that HMOs don't just let you choose your doctor, and that waiting a few extra weeks for elective surgery there's no rush for is a lot better than having to spend months getting sicker and sicker while you argue with the insurance company bureaucrats about whether you will get treatment at all.

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13:38 BST


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!

It's nice to know that someone on Hardball is pressing the point that Medicare is government-run healthcare, but I wish he'd picked up his cues when his guest first explained that she hadn't been interested in politics through 9/11 and starting two wars because it just seems like we've always been at war, it's commonplace - but she opposes government-funded healthcare because it's not what the Founding Fathers would have us do. Someone really should point out that the FF were adamantly opposed to standing armies and foreign wars, and just as adamantly in favor of government programs meant specifically to serve the people - that's why they did things like starting the Post Office and founding universities that were state-funded and free to attend.

A snapshot from the road to Hell: "In March 2003, two C.I.A. officials surprised Kyle D. Foggo, then the chief of the agency's main European supply base, with an unusual request. They wanted his help building secret prisons to hold some of the world's most threatening terrorists." You know, in that fantasy world where we actually prosecute all of the people who have been doing these things just in the last decade, I'm not sure there would be enough prisons to hold them, even if we set all the potheads free.

Bob Somerby observes: "In one way, it's odd to think that we liberals may get our keisters kicked again. It's odd because our side is so brilliant, while the other side is such a gang of laughable wing-nuts. We liberals love to point this out, often failing to ask ourselves how it is that the gang of nuts keep beating the gang that's so brilliant. In the matter of health care, we've had fifteen years since the last time we failed to get our talking-points and frameworks together. But we keep playing the grasshopper on our side, as the ants on the other side keep beaming out their messages. Very few citizens understand how crazy our health care situation really is. They're satisfied with their own health care, which makes reform hard. In part, they're satisfied because we've never told them about the degree to which they're being looted." (Bob: Yes, it's true, $6,000 a year per person. Because you already pay as much as they pay in other countries for healthcare in your taxes - and then you have to pay again to get the actual treatment.)

And speaking of healthcare, I see we're getting the old false equivalence treatment from Sokol, now. And apparently the "equivalent" side had to be made up - if one side is blatantly full of it, the other side must be, because, well, um, because.

At the risk of being treated like she's wearing a tin-foil hat, Sara Robinson brings us, "Fascist America II: The Last Turnoff". (But, of course, Godwin's law does not say "that anyone who invokes the F-word is a de facto alarmist of questionable credibility." It says that the likelihood of anyone referring to Hitler/Nazis increases as the length of a thread increases. It wouldn't make any sense to declare all references to Nazis/Hitler/facism off-limits when you're talking about, say, the equivalent of concentration camps, depriving certain ethnic/religious groups/easy targets of their civil rights, and so on.)

I guess we do have to make every stupid mistake we made with Vietnam all over again. Over and over and over, no doubt.

The Associated Press has been so visibly run by Republicans for so long that we have to figure when they turn on a Republican, he has no friends left.

Code PINK does healthcare - Well, there was a visit to Bernie Sanders' office, anyway.

Police raid on shadowy Gnome Liberation Front hideout - 18 Lothian and Borders Police raided a (shadowy) GLF sanctuary and arrested 30 of the gnomes, last month.

Correction

Yes, I did look at the sky first without binoculars. I saw a more stars than usual, but no amount of standing around showed me anything that said "meteor" to me. So I whipped out my binoculars and saw what looked an awful lot like those photographs of the Milky Way I like to link to (and even once posted a photo of). I've been staring at the sky out back for a while now, and I've never seen that before in my life.

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14:26 BST


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

It's not possible if you refuse to try

On Sunday, Kip Sullivan's reply to critics of his "Bait and switch" article was posted at the PNHP site, and should be instructive for those folks who think supporting the current version of the "public option" might be our best hope:

I first heard the "political feasibility" argument from members of a Minnesota health care reform commission in the spring and summer of 1990 when the coalition for which I was working, the Health Care Campaign of Minnesota, started visiting commission members to drum up support for single-payer legislation. I remember very clearly hearing the political feasibility argument on a hot summer day in 1990 in the office of Senator Linda Berglin, a commission member who also chaired the Senate health committee. Berglin, who was and still is from the safest Democratic-Farmer-Labor district in Minnesota, said she wouldn't support single-payer because "we can't beat the insurance industry" (or words almost exactly like those). A year later she was claiming that legislation that relied on HMOs to contain cost would have a much greater chance of passing in Minnesota and that's what she was going to focus on.

Over the years 1992 through 1994, Minnesota's legislature did in fact pass a series of bills (collectively referred to as "MinnesotaCare") that were supposed to achieve substantial cost containment by encouraging faster enrollment in HMOs, and thus establish universal health insurance by July 1, 1997. Of course, it all fell apart, beginning in 1995. Minnesota is no closer to universal health insurance today than it was in 1990 when I was first advised by my betters about how politically infeasible single-payer is and how politically feasible the HMO approach would be.

A half-dozen other states have suffered the same lesson. Legislative leaders, egged on by left-of-center groups that didn't know much about health policy but which maintain close relations with Democrats, thought they could achieve universal coverage by funneling more tax dollars through "managed care" insurance companies. This occurred recently in the state of Massachusetts where "Romney-care," a program that requires Massachusetts residents to buy health insurance from that state's bloated insurance industry, was enacted in 2006. The program is having a very hard time staying afloat. All these multiple-payer state initiatives foundered because they did not contain cost.

It is now the summer of 2009. You can imagine my reaction to people who claim single-payer isn't politically feasible but that other proposals that leave the insurance industry at the top of the health care food chain are. I want to get out my guitar and sing in a sad, tremulous voice, "Where have all the flowers gone .... When will they ever learn?"

[...]

The second reason some progressives don't draw the right lessons from the failure of previous attempts to achieve universal coverage is that they fail to understand the role that advocates of bad policy have played in splitting the universal coverage movement and weakening support for single-payer within Congress. This is particularly true of the failure of Bill Clinton's Health Security Act in 1994. The conventional wisdom within the "yes but" wing of the universal coverage movement is that Clinton's bill died because advocates of universal coverage did not rally around his bill quickly enough in the face of "Harry and Louise" ads, and because Clinton didn't engage in skillful "messaging." The fact that the Health Security Act was a horrendous bill is not part of the "yes buts'" folklore.

There have been three cycles of health care reform in the last half century - 1970-73, 1992-1994, and 2007 to date. At the dawn of each cycle, single-payer legislation had already been introduced. But early in the cycle, single-payer legislation was "taken off the table" (to quote a statement Sen. Max Baucus now wishes he had never made). Each time the Democratic leadership chose instead market-based proposals that had no track record and no evidence to support them. Each time they favored reform deemed more "politically feasible" than single-payer because it left the insurance industry in place. In all three cycles, the alternative, market-based proposal was promoted by one or two policy entrepreneurs (that is to say, it wasn't an idea that bubbled up from the grassroots).

By early 2009, it was clear the Hacker-HCAN-Herndon Alliance propaganda for the "public option" and against single-payer had worked with the Democratic leadership, and that the Democratic leadership would fall once again for a market-based alternative and remove single-payer from the table. The removal of single-payer legislation took place without the firing of a single shot in public by the insurance industry and the right wing. It took place at the request of the "yes but" wing.

Some day we gotta stop pretending it's "pragmatic" to be no more than a concern troll.

Elsewhere....

I could have told you this. In fact, I may already have done so.

I see the Google is into the Perseids today. Last night I went out back with the binoculars and didn't see anything that looked like a meteor shower, or even a shooting star, but even with a blindingly bright moon, there was a spookily huge strip of stars up there.

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16:03 BST


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Two things

Wonkette flags an "Important Editorial: If Stephen Hawking Lived In The U.K., He Would Be Dead." Yes, that's what Investors Business Daily is telling its readers. It's understandable that they would be confused: his voice simulator has an American accent. That was a nice catch from Jay Bookman. (The truth, of course, is that Stephen Hawking is far less likely to have survived this long if he had been trying to do so in the US.)

"Lubna Hussein, Hero." Hell, yes. Not many people would have this kind of courage, and though I might, conceivably, have the guts to refuse a plea bargain in order to fight this, I'm not even sure I'd survive 40 lashes, and I definitely wouldn't make statements inviting what would be a more certainly terminal number of lashes - the kind of statements that encourage creepy judges to apply a maximum sentence.

(Thanks to Julia for the heads-up.)

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15:46 BST


Early in the morning I feel the sun

The Republicans hate Social Security and Medicare for two reasons. One is that they empower ordinary people who do useless things like working for a living (without having to beg and bow and scrape), contributing to the normal flow of a civilized society - instead of the useless Malefactors of Great Wealth who think it is their right to run things any way they choose, preferably with most everyone else on their knees and easy to push around. The other reason is that achieving such programs is very good for the political party that does it, and if people actually remember that it was liberal Democrats who gave them SS and Medicare, they are often more inclined to vote for them. But that doesn't mean that people will necessarily vote against the party that works hardest to kill it. Not that David Frum really has much to worry about, anyway, since anyone who is paying attention to the healthcare "debate", such as it is, knows that a lot of the people who have done so much to kill good healthcare in this debate have been Democrats. No one in their right mind expects Republicans to contribute anything worthwhile to this project, but, hey, remember when we couldn't do this because we still needed 60 votes and a Democratic Congress and White House? Well, if we have them, and we still don't get what we've been voting for all this time, whose fault is it then? It was President Change himself who was the first one to take single-payer off the table, you know.... (And it's a little late for you to be chiming in, Steny, and no help that you and Nancy are talking about "health insurance reform" instead of healthcare.

Framing the debate: Lambert has been pointing to a commenter who has come up with some nice phrasing: "Single payer with a robust private option". For those of you who like the Canadian option of "publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare". Me, I like the publicly-funded, publicly-delivered healthcare I get on the NHS.)

This is cute - A Congressman who thinks it's reasonable to demand to see Obama's birth certificate apparently can't produce his own.

Overtesting may be one of the biggest "wasted" costs of modern American healthcare, but so is processing claims. You just don't have this crap with single-payer.

You know, sometimes I really wonder whether anything we do is going to matter. I just wanna go quick and painless.

Baby elephants are cute, even when they are trapped in a manhole.

My favorite thing about Grin was having Bobby Gordon smile at me when we passed in the halls. He was just the prettiest guy in the school and we all had massive crushes on him, and the fact that he played in a good live band was gravy. I didn't even know he'd died until I saw this video. His kid doesn't look bad.

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13:41 BST


Monday, 10 August 2009

Keep on Running

This Week In Tyranny, Dan has some very good links on the can of worms Jean Schmidt opened up by complaining at the Ohio Election Commission that she'd been more-or-less bribed to suppress a House vote, which has led to a deposition from Sibel Edmunds; bribing witnesses to testify against Gitmo detainees; More from Scahill on the Blackwater story; Charlie Savage on how Obama is continuing the Bush method of overriding through signing statements; great stuff from Yves at Naked Capitalism over a number of things, such as Geithner's attempts to wreck what's left of financial regulation oversight (Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration's faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation...."); Marcy on the latest in trying to get Dick Cheney's testimony on the public record; and of course, more unpacking Jane. Read Dan's whole post for his own take.

I wish I could be as optimistic as Paul Krugman who thinks we have edged back from the abyss another Great Depression. My impression of the bailouts isn't nearly as positive as he seems to be playing them right now, and deficits created by giving taxpayers' money to rich people only seem to me to have exacerbated the fundamental problems we are having. That the wealthy people are happier now and trying to put a little more shine on things may make it seem prettier than it was, but to me it is at best a holding action while they finish building their fortresses so they are somewhat protected from having their heads put on pikes when everyone finally figures out what's going on. "I'm still very worried," he says, "about the economy. There's still, I fear, a substantial chance that unemployment will remain high for a very long time. But we appear to have averted the worst: utter catastrophe no longer seems likely." Really? With so many individual states defaulting on their obligations to the public, I don't think so - I think we're about to see a whole 'nother level of pain. And as long as our so-called "recovery" remains jobless, as unemployment increases (albeit not as quickly - for the moment), and more and more formerly solvent people become homeless while the Obama administration continues to avoid standing up to individuals' greatest threat - healthcare costs - we are in for a very tough ride down the line. And I don't see a generation that mostly only knows how to type or play computer games being able to cope anywhere near as well as the generation that survived the first Great Conservative Depression.

I'm about to listen to this interview in which a guy named Scott Horton interviews Glenn Greenwald about civil liberties and executive power. I don't expect it to improve my outlook.

The Spencer Davis Group, live.

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14:44 BST


Sunday, 09 August 2009

Unspoiled by progress

Fantasie - Kara underwired balconette braBra of the Week

An unusual sunrise

Spider's web

Senator Sanders Unfiltered - That's something to look forward to.

A CNN anchor versus the Poster Child for Privatized Medicine - Rick Sanchez actually exposes the man behind the "grassroots" anti-healthcare movement.

Paul Krugman is also talking about the anti-healthcare "movement", including the Poster Child himself, Rick Scott, but, surprisingly, he seems to be falling in line with the idea that the deranged behavior of the right-wingers is all about Obama and racial fears rather than about the fact that these are people who are plugged into the right-wing media and are being consistently fed terrifying lies by the Republican grapevine, Bill O'Reilly, right-wing blogs, and members of Congress, none of which are being seriously debunked in the supposedly "mainstream" media. Maybe these people seem angrier than ever because "liberal" Chris Matthews from "liberal" MSNBC, members of Congress, and other members of the "mainstream" media are all telling them the same stuff about government-run healthcare that Bill O'Reilly, the insurance industry, and Free Republic are telling them. "Everyone" agrees - public healthcare is "snuffcare". But, as Bob Somerby keeps reminding us, none of this is new. The right wing has been saying crazy things for some time, and they've been given a seat in front of all the big microphones to say it. They were doing with Clinton (white), they were doing it with Al Gore (white), and they've been doing it with a whole host of Democrats who are usually white guys with a few white women and the occasional black person thrown in. (It might be instrumental to remember that the all-out push against Cynthia McKinney didn't start because she happened to turn black and female in the middle of her term, but waited until she actually said something in Congress that was so demonstrably true that a huge storm of ridicule had to be kicked up immediately to remove any credence from the suggestion that there were serious questions about 9/11 that should be investigated.) It is simply not news that Republicans have launched another all-out push to delegitimize a Democratic president. Race may help fuel some of their dumber members, but those people hated Clinton - virulently and vociferously - just as much, and to the extent that race plays a part in their hatred of Obama, race (and sex) also played a part in their hatred of Clintons and Al Gore and Democrats generally. (Most of the racists hate Obama less because he is black himself than out of fear that he will help other blacks - just as they hated the Clintons from fear that he was a liberal who would...help blacks. And women.) There is, after all, a method to their madness.

"Insurance Industry Is Targeting Blue Dogs To Shape Health Reform In Its Favor: In a new cover story, BusinessWeek claims that the 'health insurers have already won' the battle over health care reform. According to the magazine, their strategy has been to 'quietly' focus on 'shaping the views' of more conservative Democrats. Central to the health insurers' strategy is to target the Blue Dog Coalition, which includes Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)" (Also: Albert Gonzales thinks his reputation has been unfairly tarnished.)

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01:25 BST


Saturday, 08 August 2009

Interesting times

I have long held that it is fine to refer to Nazis and fascism when you see tactics and policies that resemble those of Nazis and fascists, that are the policies that in Germany led inexorably to concentration camps. A little tweak of habeas corpus here, an excuse or two for censorhip and a few little lists of people or types of people who we've decided it's okay to deprive of their civil rights, and next thing you know...well, you know. Yes, that's what happened in Germany, and the reason it didn't happen in America for decades is that people who remembered and could tell the tale were alive to keep saying, "That's what the Nazis did." A lot of those people were the German Jews who had escaped with their lives and, once upon a time, were listened to.

Unfortunately, age and death have silenced most of those voices, but so has our corporate media, that has helped purvey the idea that to criticize actual fascist policies and actions that are part and parcel of fascism as being similar to what the Nazis did or being fascist polices - well, such criticisms are somehow inappropriate, as if it were mere rhetorical exploitation of the deaths of six million Jews and others, purely to score a few political points in a meaningless chess game.

Of course, to our Villagers, it is a meaningless chess game. War that takes hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of lives, is just a chess move. The illegal and permanent incarceration of hundreds of people who may or may not be prisoners of war or just innocent bystanders, or may just happen to be Muslims - and hiding them no one is entirely sure where and even torturing and murdering them - well, gosh, you lose a pawn now and then, maybe - a pawn, a few thousand US soldiers, it's all part of the game, right? A healthcare disaster that takes the lives of the equivalent of six 9/11s a year - that's just a game, too. But actually trying to fix those things? Fascism!

Now, at this juncture, we expect the Republicans and the Villagers to do this crap, but I really wish I could smack those lefty bloggers who went along with the idea that it was over-the-top to compare the Bush regime with the Nazis, because they helped make it even easier for the little fascists to do what they did then and do what they're doing now.

* * * * *

Treatment effects in plain English.

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19:40 BST


Friday, 07 August 2009

I'm sick of all this rain

Please don't click the link unless you are planning to write a letter to the editor explaining what's wrong with it, but the WaPo had a lengthy piece the other day talking about the Social Security "crisis" that, as usual, invented the source of crisis (apparently, no one has had any children in America for the last couple of decades), and failed to correctly diagnose any problems that might actually befall SS or prescribe any useful ameliorative treatment. The real problem, of course, is that Reagan, Bush, Bush, and now Obama have been spending all our money and not paying it back, and refusing to make rich people and corporations pay their fair share. And yes, it is a fair share they aren't paying, because they've been getting rich in the first place thanks to, first, the American system that made us a reliable, stable trading partner for so long, and now by straight subsidies to corporate entities for business they should have been handling on their own. They've been using (and wrecking) our infrastructure and our money, and they owe us. They should be paying higher taxes on their income, having more of their income taxed altogether, and most of all they should stop being able to get their hands on our money. The fact remains, however, that Social Security itself is more than solvent - it's the rest of the government that's in the hole.

I don't know why I subjected myself to this, but I just watched Democracy Now! even though I knew Lanny Davis would be on defending the military coup in Honduras. My god he is a loathsome toad.

I see Murdoch appears to be extending to The Times and the Sun his policy at The Wall Street Journal of putting the news behind the paywall. Just for the record, I always thought the newspapers took a weird and stupid approach to dealing with news online. It would have made sense for them to restrict all same-day content and wait 24 hours before putting it online for free, with a paid facility for same-day content. Hard-copy newspaper articles were vapor the next day, so why not? There were any number of other ways they could have addressed the introduction of the internet to news-gathering, but it looked to me like they all just dithered and messed around and refused to face reality until it all got away from them.

Shark Week - Nice little video from MoveOn.org on insurance companies versus "a real public option".

Roz Kaveney on fandom and religion.

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20:25 BST


A post I forgot to title

At Pruning Shears, Obama's Bid to Bypass Congress on State Secrets.

At Blog for Our Future, Dave Johnson says, "Free-Market Conservatives Are Just Wrong," Sara Robinson asks, "Fascist America: Are We There Yet?," and Bill Scher says, "Memo To Marc Ambinder: The Right-Wing Is Not The Middle."

Bruce Schneier on North Korean Cyberattacks and on Building in Surveillance.

Yes, the Republicans have a long habit of complete looniness.

You know, it just cracks me up when someone at The New York Times or some other Big Media organ whines about how bloggers just don't show the responsibility and professionalism of real journalists.

The General's interview with David Neiwert (.mp3)

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02:08 BST


Thursday, 06 August 2009

All over the map

Jeremy Scahill in The Nation, "Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder: A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.'" Scahill also talked about this story with Keith Olbermann on Countdown. And there's no reason to doubt Scahill's evaluation that George Walker Bush was completely on board with Prince's murderous crusade, what with his having told Chirac in 2003 that it was necessary to invade Iraq because "Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East."

Stirling Newberry explains why the new privatized health insurance system in the Netherlands is not so hot. Something even a casual observer would have noticed is that countries that did not weaken their social safety nets over the last 20 years have taken fewer hits to their economies than countries that thought they could "save money" by privatizing or reducing real public services.

Rachel on the history of Republican "grass roots" protests.

Another bill in Congress that should interest you is for Net Neutrality. There's a video and petition here, but you know me, I'll tell you to put it on postcards to send to your reps - hard-copy means more than a petition any day of the week, and online petitions are vapor. (via)

Compare and contrast - There are right ways and wrong ways to handle company screw-ups, but it's rare to see a corporate exec simply do it the right way.

Tom Tomorrow on hope for eventual change.

This Week In Utero: 28 - Expectant father NTodd has a genuinely pro-life position.

Bill Maher speaks Truth to Stupid on the Obama birth certificate conspiracy loons. I just want to say that the Republicans had to come up with this BS because they always need a counter to real stuff that's out there about Republicans - like the fact that Dick Cheney illegally ran for Vice President even though he was from the same state as the guy at the top of the ticket, just aside from the fact that neither one of them was actually elected.

If I was the kind of person who went to these kinds of things anymore, I would probably see Janeane while she's here.

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12:54 BST


Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Everything old is old again

I apologize for the slacking off yesterday. Yes, I had something to do all day, but there was a bit of poor time-management involved, as well. Must do better. Now, you're all planning to visit your Reps while they are (allegedly) back in their constituencies where they are supposed to be listening to their constituents, right? And maybe get involved in those Town Hall meetings yourselves, too - like these people did. (More here.) And if you can get face-time with your rep, please, come armed with a really horrible story of insurance creepiness that happened to you or someone you know - and feel free to say that people you know who live in England gape in horror when they hear what you have to go through to get treatment.

Glenn Greenwald has ably covered and analyzed the story of General Electric's deal with Rupert Murdoch to shut Keith Olbermann up about Bill O'Reilly, which all seems to have been brought to a close as Olbermann has returned from his holiday and hammered Bill O'Reilly. He's made it clear that Greenwald is correct, without actually coming out and saying that, yes, MSNBC's corporate parent tried to conspire with Fox's owner to stop Olbermann from criticizing O'Reilly in order to stop O'Reilly's retaliatory tactic of attacking GE itself. And yes, the story is absolutely as significant as Greenwald says it is, even though we already knew that the corporatism at the top of our "news" media has been corrupting what they deliver for decades.

But Lou Dobbs is sacred: "A commercial critiquing CNN's Lou Dobbs is being shown on Fox News and MSNBC this week - but not CNN. CNN has worked with the cable operators that carry its channel to block the commercial, which was produced by the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters. According to a CNN employee who requested anonymity, CNN managers said in a morning staff meeting that the channel had invoked unspecified agreements with operators to stop the ad from running. The ad accuses Mr. Dobbs of 'promoting the false, right-wing conspiracy that President Obama hasn't produced a valid U.S. birth certificate.'"

Welcome to my life, Paul Krugman - This happens to me all the time: I get a call from Auntie Beeb or someone who wants to do a show on censorship or porn or whatever, and they have to find someone to give the opposing view before they can discuss it. This usually means I have to debate with some crackpot who believes sexual equality apparently existed throughout history until Hugh Hefner came along and ruined it all with cheesecake photos, or some other crackpot whose views can eventually be pinned down as, "Masturbation is bad." (Or, alternatively, "Masturbation is bad when men do it.") But on many occasions, the event was stopped cold by a tactic the other side likes to use called "denying a platform" - and if they need to deny us a platform by refusing to provide someone to debate with, that's what they do.

Austin Cline on America's Growing Police State.

Just think, Steve Winwood was about 15 when he wrote "I'm a Man".

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15:14 BST


Monday, 03 August 2009

Old clothes

Another country heard from: Dominic pointed out to me that Dan's Data has entered the healthcare fray, with a wonderful rambling explanation for readers of why the US healthcare debate is nuts. But I'm amused to see "informative" help from Dan's readers "correcting" the record, such as this individual, who thinks the US government doesn't have Constitutional authority to provide healthcare (funny how people just skip right by the very first sentence of the Constitution, which explains the entire mission right there), and this one, who doesn't realize that the real funding for medical research comes largely from the government itself, and that US healthcare, even if you have the money, isn't really all that superior to the healthcare available in the rest of the industrialized world - although I admit that the furniture is better if you get private healthcare. (However, I am in a position to point out that if you go to a private doctor in Britain, you not only get very nice furniture, but you usually don't have to wait more than a minute to be seen; one side-effect of the socialist healthcare system is that it also makes private care better. And yet, most people still don't want to pay for it, because the NHS is that good.)

This should be some kind of punch line, but it's not: "To avoid any appearance of favoritism, his aides say, Baucus quietly began refusing contributions from health-care political action committees after June 1. But the policy does not apply to lobbyists or corporate executives, who continued to make donations, disclosure records show." Not that healthcare PACs who are trying to get good healthcare for Americans should be giving Baucus their money, but they should just send him postcards saying, "You don't serve us, you don't get our money or our votes." He wasn't listening anyway.

In non-healthcare related news, I nearly missed Scott Horton's article on how the DOJ fired a whistleblower who documented the GOP conspiracy against former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. The interesting thing about this particular firing is that it happened last June. That's right, that's Eric Holder's DOJ, under President Change. (via)

And, This Week In Tyranny, the Obama-Holder DOJ is doing its damnedest to ignore the courts when they find that a "detainee" at Gitmo should be sent home.

You will be unsurprised to know that I cannot find it in myself to disagree with Mick's continuing call to Dump the Dems - or at least, any Dems who aren't working for us instead of for the bad guys.

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16:27 BST


Sunday, 02 August 2009

A liberal in Congress

There seems to be someone in Congress really pushing healthcare, and his name is Anthony Weiner (D-NY). He challenged Republicans to vote against "government-funded healthcare" - Medicare - and suddenly Pelosi was saying she'd allow a vote on single-payer on the floor. And he has some charts of his own to counter the Republican charts. It's fun. CMike hid another post in the comments:

Can't get enough of this guy:

Part 1

Part 2

Two video links that were at the PNHP site Avedon linked to:

Part 3

The high five is at 1:40:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0fA2DfwFn4

Finally, someone who can explain an issue:

Let begin by making something very clear. We all have single payer health care now. We have single payer health care whether we have private insurance, whether we have Medicare, whether we have TriCare through the VA. We take money, we give it to someone and then we go visit doctors. We, some of us, have a choice but most of us really don't.

Most of us who have health insurance through our businesses can't just go out and say, "I want to choose another one." Most of us don't have a choice to shop around when we are sick to say, "oh, I'll have my gall bladder removed some other time. I'm going to shop around a little first." Or, "Never mind my gall bladder, can you work on my liver a little bit."

So the mythology that there is a lot of choice that consumers have now is just that, it's mythology. Under single payer plan the way that it would be structured is that you pay a payroll tax, then you choose a doctor, you go to the doctor, and from your payroll taxes, or the taxes you pay in other ways, they reimburse the doctor.That's it.

Put this guy in charge of the president's teleprompter and we might get somewhere.
And if Obama is serious, that's just what he needs to do.

If you've got a relative who sends you stupid articles and videos about how bad "government-funded healthcare" would be, how it's complicated, how it will cost more, etc., this is the stuff to feed them.

Man, I was almost forgetting what a fiery liberal sounded like.

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18:06 BST


Call, write, link, tell your friends

Aubade - Doux Fantasme moulded half cupBra of the Week

This is the bit where I'm going to tell you it's time to deluge everyone you can think of with phone calls and postcards. Yes, yes, I know, but do it anyway. Postcards and phone calls to: the Speaker of the House, your representative in the House, your local papers and stations, the national papers and networks, Newspeak and Time, anything you can think of. Tell them you want a real single-payer plan, not some fake health insurance bill.

Sara Robinson points out that the healthcare debate has an advantage this time around: "One of the big differences between the 1993 Hillarycare debate and our current conversation is that we're hearing a lot more fact and lot less fiction about how other countries' systems actually work. Thank the Internet. Back in 1993, the "Harry and Louise" ads succeeded because most Americans didn't have access to any other sources of information. Now, the whole world is at our fingertips. Anybody who really wants to know how health care is managed in Canada, or the UK, or Japan, or Australia can readily find someone with real experience in those systems who can tell their stories. But progressive Americans living overseas aren't waiting around any more for y'all to ask. Some of us are getting proactive about sending our stories home. All around the world, there are millions of American citizens who have first-hand experience with other countries' health care systems. And Democrats Abroad, the world's largest political gathering of expatriate Americans, is getting us organized to tell our tales." She points to Americans Abroad Know About National Health Care, where you can read some first-person reports.

So, more people are aware of it, and more people are telling their representatives that they want single-payer, not some "compromise" to satisfy the insurance companies. Have legislators noticed? Maybe:

Last night as the House Energy and Commerce Committee completed its markup of HR 3200, the House health reform bill, Chairman Henry Waxman interrupted Representative Anthony Weiner of New York to say that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised that single payer legislation, HR 676, The United States National Health Care Act would come before the entire House of Representatives. Chairman Waxman:
The Speaker has said that she will allow this to be brought up on the House floor, and debated, and voted on.
Of course, Ben Nelson hears something, but he takes it personally, apparently believing that if he is criticized for holding up healthcare reform, he's entitled to lash out against citizens by trying to kill it altogether. So I guess it's not just Republicans who qualify as crybabies. Oh, and totally corrupt. (And, no, I don't think the country is particularly polarized about healthcare - it's really the country on one side and the Villagers on the other. But wouldn't it be good to have a president who could tell the truth about it?

* * * *

Hey, remember Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's antics a while back? Well, it seems his secret assignations were with a federal regulator, and the city council is pretty ticked off.

Spaceblob!

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00:58 BST


Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, August 2009


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