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Monday, 29 June 2009

I'm the innocent bystander

I do find it kind of strange that hardly anyone aside from Lambert and Susie Madrak have treated Matt Taibbi's blockbuster on how Goldman Sachs and their little friends run the world with much seriousness. Even Randi Rhodes apparently prefers to talk about Michael Jackson. I mean, come on.

I have to admit it unnerved me to see that my Congressman, who was still pretty wet behind the ears and ran as a progressive, had found his way so quickly into the Democratic leadership. Because it meant they'd probably found a way to make sure he was on their side instead of mine. And I was right. Oh, Chris, you putz.

The thing about what's happening in Iran, you see, is the familiar ring.

Anne Zook seems peevish after Obama's visit to Buchenwald: "I wonder if he understands that what he saw in Germany is precisely the reason this country needs to lay out everything to do with our recent descent into madness and torture, to publicly and formally condemn ourselves, and to ritually dedicate ourselves anew to, in fact, being the America most of us are pretending we are?"

Queer Eye for the Straight Albatross.

One of the great entertainments of the internets is learning that Republican legislators who get caught in scandals are magically transformed into Democrats by Fox News.

As Froomkin reminded us in his final "White House Watch" post for Pravda on the Potomac's website, you can still read more of him at Nieman Watchdog.

Roz Kaveney on what Stonewall meant, and another take on the same thing.

Auntie Beeb spelled my name wrong. [Update: They fixed it.]

I don't know what to say about the military coup in Honduras, so check out Mercury Rising for it, and for a debunk on right-wing healthcare myths.

I think it's time for this live Warren Zevon performance, don't you?

23:47 BST

Sunday, 28 June 2009

I can read the writing on the wall

I know, I know, I let things slide, and now I'm doing catch-up, but you really have to laugh when you see a story like this, even though it's bitter laughter:

Baucus Regrets Not Including Single-Payer in the Health Care Mix

I think you rarely see a sitting Senator be as reflective about the legislative process as Max Baucus is here when he says he regrets that the idea of a single-payer health care system was left out of the mix:

He conceded that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system, or a "single-payer plan," not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama's proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.
They really are more stupid than words can convey. I mean, I realize Baucus was more interested in killing single-payer than in getting even a half-decent healthcare bill passed, but, seriously, how old do you have to be to understand haggling? And how could you fail to get the optics in this? (Except that, of course, they didn't dare bring up single-payer, or people would have had to talk about it, and people would have been defending it in public, and then they'd have to explain why they weren't getting it. And I'm not sure Yglesias is right that a single-payer plan couldn't possibly have passed. That public discussion might have made more people aware that their own legislators were standing directly in the way of their own healthcare. There has to be a point at which legislators begin to have nightmares about their heads ending up on pikes.) We really are led by morons.

"Tax cuts" actually represent increasing costs to the public. Stupid, destructive programs won't be cut to pay for those "tax cuts", but the ones you thought you were paying taxes for will. That's why we call it a tax shift, not a cut - because in essence it means you will end up paying more for things you used to get for less. College tuition is just one of many examples. By the way, did you actually get a real tax cut you could feel? Most people didn't, but you only have to look around you to see the price we all paid for it.

Fafnir before the end of the world.

I still have my OM1 in a drawer somewhere, and I know that people do not look as good and colors aren't as true in my digital camera, but I'm cheap, and I'm not a good enough photographer to get good pictures in just a few tries, and the economics and ease of the thing make the Ixus so much more useful to me - but I also know it will never make us as pretty as we were on film. I will miss you, Kodachrome.

They give us those nice bright colors

16:33 BST

Accumulated matter

Chantelle - Chantilly half cup braBra of the Week

Biology may or may not be destiny.

Why not turn the banks into regulated public utilities?

God Hates You.

The conservative mainstream prays for death.

Digby has her doubts about Ezra Klein's fantasy that the Democrats have a clever plan to get an excellent healthcare plan patched together in conference committee, and also says, "If Obama doesn't pass serious, systemic health care reform that insures everyone in this country from cradle to grave, this will be what he's remembered for" - "this" being: "The Obama administration is rushing towards a unilateral plan to imprison people without trial, according to a huge, new joint article from the Washington Post and ProPublica. The proposal would completely cut Congress out of the process by using an executive order to essentially bring Gitmo stateside."

Roz Kaveney looks at some stuff about Iran, and finds an amusing move by The Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who are concerned that the fascists in the British National Party "may not intend to offer or provide services on an equal basis to all their constituents and members of the public irrespective of race or colour."

From Suburban Guerilla:

01:17 BST

Saturday, 27 June 2009

"That was the year that money started spending people."

I guess Digby is still more willing than I am to take Obama at his word, in this case about healthcare, when observing that the AMA didn't like his speech. But, in any case, any doctor who is more concerned about malpractice insurance than in patient care really shouldn't be regarded as a reliable authority on the subject of healthcare reform - partly because their priorities are obviously wrong, yes, but also because they are too stupid to look at other countries that have single-payer or socialized medicine and pay attention to the fact that you don't see all these malpractice suits because people aren't furious at how much money they paid to get even more unhealthy and terrified of the future costs to them of iatrogenic* health problems.

And of course, why shouldn't people be furious to the point of lawsuit at a system that by its very nature is a source of iatrogenic disease? When doctors are mere cogs of a health insurance industry that penalizes you for getting early treatment of a problem - therefore making both your medical problem itself and the eventual costs of later treatment worse - it's only natural that you would instinctively want them to pay. Though at this point, of course, putting insurance companies in court for fraud would make even more sense. Fraud, of course, is a criminal charge, which could potentially be a game-changer. If we had a Justice Department and judiciary that could be relied upon not to treat corporations as having more rights than people. Certainly, since the insurers have made it clear that they will continue to defraud the public, they should have the book thrown at them and pay fines that amount to a death penalty for their companies. Failing that, a single-payer health system that contains no opt-out would be a tasty comeuppance for them all.

A nice exercise would be to make every single member of Congress go on the record as to whether they support some sort of government plan. If any who oppose it dare to cite costs as a reason, ask them why, then, they don't support single-payer. Make them come right out and say that they either can't do simple arithmetic or that they care more about the health insurance industry than they do about protecting American lives. And then comparing them unfavorably to Al Qaeda is fair game.

* * * * *

My apologies for having failed to make announcements for Virtually Speaking/BlogTalk this week, but if you want to hear Jay Ackroyd's discussion with Andrew Hoppin,Chief Information Officer for the New York State Senate for some help understanding the craziness going on there lately, or CS Kendrick's interview with Marshall Thompson about A Soldier's Peace, there are your links. (For future reference, you might want to make note of the RSS feed.) The next VS event appears to be on Thursday, 9 July, with Julie Gribble and Martha Davis discussing their documentary about doctors and torture.

Hydrothermal Life Maker

And thanks to Roz for reminding me of that great Simon Ings line.

15:55 BST

Friday, 26 June 2009

Suggestion box

Take it away, Gavin Newsom:

President Obama is right -- the only way we are going to have real health care reform in the United States is by providing a public plan.

But right now, special interests in Washington, D.C. are doing everything they can to stop public health care from materializing. They say it is too expensive, will limit choice and diminish the quality of care.

This is simply not true and we need to fight back.

In San Francisco, we are proving the special interests wrong.

Two years, after we launched the United States' first universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco, almost 70% of previously uninsured San Franciscans are now enrolled in our public program.

Our experience in San Francisco is proving what most Americans already know -- it is much less expensive to keep people well than it is to treat their sickness. This is particularly true when much of the treatment for uninsured Americans is provided in costly emergency rooms. We are providing health care at a cheaper rate than similar private care options and we are doing this in the middle of one of the worst recessions in history.

So Newsom is saying it's cheaper to deliver healthcare to the public through a government plan, and serve a larger share of the public - but it's just asking us to support "the public plan" that the President claims to support. He wants us to sign a petition, to "help" Obama - but my experience with putting my name anywhere that has anything to do with Obama is that all I get are e-mails telling me to buy T-shirts and coffee cups. The least expensive and most comprehensive approach - single-payer - is still off the table. I'd rather have people send postcards to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue saying we want single-payer. Why not, Mr. President?

Meanwhile, NPR wants your help to identify the lobbyists who will fight any good plan at all.

And Bruce Schneier has some suggestions for Fixing Airport Security, but for once I disagree with him about the details. For one, I don't think there is any legitimate excuse for a No-Fly List at all - making it more reviewable isn't the point: American citizens who have not been accused of any crime should not be having their right to travel restricted, period. If I were in charge of changing airport security, the No-Fly list simply wouldn't exist.

23:34 BST

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Get well soon

Since no solid "public option" plan has actually been created, no one even knows what they are defending.

Tom Harkin has an op-ed called "Shifting America from sick care to genuine wellness," and I'm afraid it makes the classic mistake of assuming that massive amounts of money can be saved if we just convince everyone to eat right and keep fit and all that. Well, that's really nice, and I'm sure we can shave a couple of bucks here and there if we harp on this stuff enough - oh, wait, I'm not, because trying to force people to live in ways that aren't comfortable for them (or feasible) doesn't really improve their health all that much. Switching all that corn syrup and aspartame back to sugar would help. Putting supermarkets that sell decent food at normal prices in poorer neighborhoods would certainly help. A better job market that allows more people to work a normal 35-40-hour week and go home secure in the knowledge that their job won't be outsourced in the morning would definitely help. But as long as you've got people working extra jobs and extra hours and living in high-stress about job security and not having easy access to affordable healthcare and not being able to find good food at decent prices in their own neighborhoods, you are not going to solve these problems.

It's a libertoonian meme that we are unhealthy because we don't make the individual choice to "live right". But, you know, people in England and France eat plenty of fat and sugar, and they even smoke more, and they are still healthier than Americans. Now, maybe that's because they never got New Coke and still use real sugar in their Coke, or maybe it's because of a lot of other things, but when people who invented the Deep-Fried Mars Bar (and deep-fried pizza) are in better health than you are, it certainly isn't just because of your individual slovenly and immoral lifestyle choices.

15:18 BST

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Let it bleed

Click for larger size.I guess Obama is the feel-good pill (so you don't notice your legs are being sawed off): "'The one anomaly in the puzzle is that people shouldn't be feeling better because the jobs market is so terrible and unemployment is likely to keep rising,' says Sinai, CEO of Decision Economics. The jobless rate hit 9.4% last month, the highest in more than a quarter century. If unemployment goes higher and stays there, as he and other analysts predict, that could undercut the brightening outlook - especially if coupled with a spike in gasoline prices, higher interest rates or an unexpected economic hit.

Gee, Paul Krugman sounds just like me: "The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by 'centrist' Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around 'centrist,' by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field. I still don't understand why there are people who don't dispute the use of "centrist" to describe such obvious right-wingers. I mean, aside from the right-wingers. (Krugman has some rather amazing quotes from these right-wing Democrats explaining their position. I'd like to hear someone ask them what happened to the idea that we should be willing to do anything, including torture, in order to "protect Americans" - because I'd sure think offending the insurance companies should fall into the "anything" category a lot more easily than torture.) Pressure made Ben Nelson "soften" his position of conservative obstruction, but BTD says, "It's great that Ben Nelson "softened." But there is only one way for the public option to survive -- reform groups need to tell the President that he will be remembered as the guy who killed health care - not Ben Nelson or Kent Conrad. He needs to call them out when the time comes. Believe me, nobody remembers that Moynihan killed health care reform in 1994. Hell, Hillary announced her first Senate campaign at his farm in New York."

When "An exasperated Federal Judge issued a scathing opinion, chastising government prosecutors for insisting that GITMO detainee Abd al Rahim Abdul Rassak was part of the Taliban, when all the evidence against him pointed to his innocence," Ruth got a new hero: "This is the kind of judge I would have liked to see in Federal Court in Dallas when DOJ prosecutors insisted that freedom of speech didn't apply to the Holy Land Foundation defendants. It's the kind of judge I hope sits on their appeal court. It's the kind of judge I would have liked to see on the Supreme Court yesterday instead of the kind that think it's worth raping our earth to save a business some of its legitimate operating costs."

Asking, "Who Are We?" Bob Herbert says, "Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House. One of the most disappointing aspects of the early months of the Obama administration has been its unwillingness to end many of the mind-numbing abuses linked to the so-called war on terror and to establish a legal and moral framework designed to prevent those abuses from ever occurring again." And then there's the ugly spectacle of progressives who hated Bush's policies acting like everything is okay when Obama fights to keep them in place.

Taking care of an elderly relative, Christy Hardin Smith has a front-row seat to the healthcare scandal in America. It's not just the uninsured; it's the outrageous fraud that people who think they have health insurance are faced with: companies that take your money knowing they will do their damnedest not to give you what you think you are paying for.

Bill Maher tells the truth: Democrats are the new Republicans. "In his weekly monologue, New Rules, Bill Maher weighs in on everything from Iran to Twitter, but his primary target Friday night was the Democratic party, which he says has become the new GOP."

The Rolling Stones, live.

16:08 BST

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Rockin' my hobbyhorse

I'm with Lambert: I do not want to support a policy that is designed to fail:

The public option is not some sort of compromise. It is not some kind of gentle glidepath to single payer, since the legislation will be designed to make the transition to single payer FAIL, as Kathleen Sibelius admits. And as the public option FAIL takes 10 years or so to play out, it will suck all the oxygen out of real policy change and discredit government involvement in health care into the bargain, as Medicare Part D is doing -- making the transition to single payer even less likely. Meanwhile, Versailles, having guaranteed a market to the insurance companies by mandating participation, will chip away at the subsidies that make it possible for the 50 million uninsured to participate in that market, screwing them even further. And as the FAIL plays out, many hundreds of thousands will continue to be denied care, and thousands of them will die. How can any progressive support the public option with a straight face?

Progressives shouldn't waste their time and energy on the public option; that public option is at the extreme left of "serious" discourse means absolutely nothing in policy terms, because the Overton Window is skewed so far right that no workable policy is available anyhow. Let Dean do what he thinks he needs to do; let the career liberals in MoveOn, SEIU, and OFA use public option as a fundraising vehicle; wev. None of this is relevant, and all of it is a distraction.

What progressives should do is advocate, as forcefully as possible, for the right, the science-based policy: Single payer. That way, when the public option FAILs, the groundwork for success will have been laid.

We need a not-for-profit plan that everyone pays for and no one can opt out of that is available to everyone. We need healthy people to be paying for it while they are still healthy and can afford to pay for it, or we aren't sharing enough risk. We need to keep the CEOs and shareholders out of it and have something that works for everyone. We need single-payer.

Will Bunch asked last week, "What's 100,000 or so deaths 'to retain political and professional credibility'? " He's talking about the fact that journalists, in some cases quite openly and consciously, made the choice to support the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis rather than risk their "credibility". But, you know, you could say the same about the way they are discussing healthcare - except, of course, that we aren't talking about Iraqis in this case.

I linked a while back to a long article on healthcare by Atul Gawande that you should probably pay attention to because Obama is paying attention to it. But since it's long and somewhat annoying, Charles has unpacked it for you, and you should definitely read that.

There are a couple of things I let Faiz off the hook for when I berated him below, and one is that he ignored the fact that while Americans may not think healthcare is the #1 economic priority we have today, we do think it's a priority. Americans have been lied to about whether the choice is between paying more for healthcare or getting healthcare reform, but that of course is not the choice, and I doubt we'd have any trouble selling single-payer to a single decent and honest soul if people were told that single-payer would save money instead of costing more. But of course, Obama's plan isn't single payer, and it is expensive, and Faiz's real problem is that he feels the need to defend Obama rather than defend good healthcare policy. And that's been the problem with all of these people who continue to lose sight of the policy issues themselves. It's all very well to dispute the lies the right-wing tells about the Obama plan, but that doesn't mean we can't also dispute the lies Obama himself has been telling us. He's not trying to get you healthcare, and we're not going to get it if "good progressives" keep letting him get away with it. (I've got people in comments saying they will vote for a Republican rather than vote for a Democrat who doesn't support single-payer. I wouldn't go that far, but I would heartily recommend that you support a third-party candidate who does support single-payer, and if you haven't got one, find one or become one yourself. We should not have to put up with this and we shouldn't be putting up with it.)

"A bold new computer metaphor" - Dan explains why computers are still in the Sixth Century.

Did I link this Green Lantern trailer yet? I seem to recall linking a different one. I love this stuff.

14:01 BST

Monday, 22 June 2009

Do the deal!

Think Progress has this hilarious healthcare plan from RNC chairman Michael Steel, who apparently thinks Obama has a magic wand, but appended to the end of the post is an appearance by their own Faiz Shakir, appearing on CNBC and defending Obama position against a lovely right-wing talking point - that Americans don't think healthcare is the #1 economic issue, and therefore Obama would be risking his presidency to pursue it.

I was really surprised that Faiz, who is usually pretty good, let that stand - he didn't say that Americans do want healthcare and think it's important - that they don't put it as the #1 issue is pretty irrelevant - is Obama only supposed to do one thing in his presidency? Does it only have to be the #1thing? Why didn't Faiz point out that, as Down With Tyranny! does, that Almost All Americans Not In Congress Or Working For An Insurance Company Want The Public Option? In fact, why didn't he point out that the real problem with addressing healthcare is not that it's unpopular, but that our press and politicians are standing in the way of what Americans really want - single-payer? And why didn't he point out that far from costing so much money, single-payer would actually save money?

Faiz, honey, you need to come to The Avedon Carol School of Verbal Karate.

15:46 BST

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Happy Solstice

Yes, another year has passed, another High Summer Day has arrived, and yet the vile Gay Agenda of destroying The Institution of marriage has failed to work, and Mr. Sideshow and I are still hitched after 24 years, in spite of Elton John.

When Tom Daschle says the "public plan" option should be scrapped, Ed Schultz rants about spineless Dems and talks to Bernie Sanders. (And Americans agree that we should have a government plan so everyone can be covered - and it's bipartisan for real.) And Bill Maher's AMA commercial. (Also: A JAG officer who says he expected to see "the worst of the worst" at Gitmo, and he did - but not among the detainees. And: Congratulations to Khadijah Williams.)

Glenn Greenwald on secrecy creep (including a discussion on The Rachel Maddow Show); on the fact that the right-wing Supremes' decision to nullify more rights was supported by the Obama administration; and on the firing of Dan Froomkin.

Barry Ritholtz tries to convey the size of the bailout expenditure with a graphic to show people who can't conceptualize $15 trillion.

Dday on the Most Transparent Government In History: "Progressives battled George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on their unprecedented official secrecy on the merits, but also out of a recognition that there is such a thing as Presidential precedent. If one President can get away with aggrandizing their power, the successor would certainly watch and learn. Which is exactly what has happened."

Greenpeace and Yes Men spoof , IHT not pleased, and I wish I had a copy of that.

New reviews of old books: Jo Walton on Heinlein's Starman Jones and Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep.

Tahoe textures

16:07 BST

It turned out to be a sleepy Saturday

Triumph Romantic Desire underwired braBra of the Week

Faux Fitness - 8 Inane & Pointless Pieces of Exercise Equipment, and other things via Biomes Blog.

Apparently, the DOJ has come up with a killer argument for why they can't release the Cheney records - because Jon Stewart will make fun of them on TV.

"Conservative Justices' Strange Enthusiasm for the Punishment of the Innocent: Here's a beaut of a decision from the increasingly brutal and inhumane conservative-dominated Supreme Court. Not content with gutting anti-discrimination legislation, a 5-4 majority has decided that if people are wrongfully convicted they should be punished anyway because, hey, tough on crime!"

Rachel Maddow on Charlie Rose - Dammit, I wish she wouldn't call Obama a "centrist" when he's so damned right wing.

Glenn Greenwald investigates the poor, persecuted right-wing columnists at The Washington Post.

I really do wonder how long these people can get away with what is essentially fraud - that they openly admit that they get you to pay for health insurance for years on end knowing perfectly well that when it comes time to deliver they will put every effort into trying to prevent giving you what you were paying for. It wouldn't matter if the US did have the most advanced medicine in the world since damn few people can ever get it, even if they have "great" health "insurance". (via)

High taxes on the rich aren't just there to collect money for the government. They're really there to prevent the rich from destabilizing the economy.

Demosthenes says the whole election-rigging thing in Iran is really about Khamenei, and who will follow him.

British bloggers have no right to anonymity - "In the first case dealing with the privacy of bloggers, Mr Justice Eady refused to protect the anonymity of a police officer who wrote a prize-winning blog called NightJack."

Bruce Schneier and The Psychology of Being Scammed

Troubletown praises Obama's ability to give speeches. (via)

00:38 BST

Friday, 19 June 2009

Gonna wash you up and wash you down

Atrios flagged the story noting that calling yourselves a "coalition of the willing" was a stupid bit of branding, but a "bipartisan group" that includes Republicans (as opposed to, say, actual progressive Democrats and Bernie Sanders) is not willing to secure a good healthcare plan for Americans. Republicans have vowed to prevent any moves toward real relief for America. So have the right-wing Democrats who, unsurprisingly, have joined them. And so, it appears, has President Obama, who is working hard to make sure we don't get what we need.

The more I read - from both sides - about Obama's healthcare plan, the more clear it is to me that Nye Bevan had the right idea.

Diane says it's The Smell Of Dry Powder: "Life just got a little tougher for the over-40 crowd. Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled that in age-bias claims, the plaintiffs will have the full burden of proving that age was a factor in their firing or demotion." Congress can fix this - if they want to. Meanwhile, Ruth examines the meaning of finance regulation by nothing but words.

And Krugman says the Obama plan on this is only half-assed: "Yes, the plan would plug some big holes in regulation. But as described, it wouldn't end the skewed incentives that made the current crisis inevitable." Over on his blog, an important point: "What I wonder is: if you had polled Americans in 1936-37 about economic policy, what would they have said? I'm pretty sure they would have been very against deficits ' yet FDR's attempt to reduce the deficit was both economically and politically disastrous." So hang tough with Keynes.

Laura Nyro, live.

13:10 BST

Short takes

I just came home and found out that The Washington Post has fired Dan Froomkin. Froomkin was pretty much the best opinion columnist the WaPo had to offer, and highly popular. And, though I don't link to him often enough, he has been one of the most reliable linking bloggers on the internet. This certainly wasn't a good move if the paper is trying to draw eyetracks for advertising purposes - but it's good news for right-wing administrations that don't like being held accountable by the press. More from Dday and Steve Benen. All quote Froomkin himself, who says, "As I've written elsewhere, I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That's what I tried to do every day. Now I guess I'll have to try to do it someplace else." (Still more here.)

Richmond Shreve says, "Follow the Risk: In the past when we tried to sort out causes and motivations, a good rule was follow the money. But in our present circumstances it works better to follow the risk. A fundamental notion of capitalism is that profit is the reward for accepting the risk of entrepreneurship. [...] Sadly this is not the model of the corporate executive of the 21st century."

PZ Myers notices a certain faith-based drift in Netroots Nation, which seems to have accepted the idea of a lot of permeability in that wall between church and state. Gotta say, I'm with PZ on this one.

01:23 BST

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

At least if McCain had won, you'd know you were in a fight

Just for the record, it's not just that America is no longer "the leader of the free world." Leaving aside the fact that rest of the free world is beginning to question whether America is even part of the free world, there's also the fact that the US Dollar just doesn't mean what it used to, and nobody really wants to talk to us anymore. Please note that this is happening now, and not two years ago. The rest of the world knows that the American people voted for change, and they even waited a bit to see what we'd do, although clearly they started making new plans right after the 2004 "election". But it's become obvious that there is no change, and it's and that we're not doing anything about it, either.

Bill Maher actually had me agreeing with him here until he made the mistake of speaking as if the only thing stopping Obama from doing what he was voted in to do is a desire to be popular and get re-elected. I wouldn't have minded if he'd acknowledged that who Obama is trying to be popular with is conservatives and plutocrats, and that getting re-elected has nothing to with us, but with his corporate sponsors - but he made it sound like pushing for healthcare and putting the banks in their place was something that might stop the rest of us from wanting to vote for him. Obama's problem isn't that he's not enough like Bush, it's that he's too much like Bush, but he's better at it. He's been playing N-Demensional Chess, all right - but with his supporters, not the Republicans.

Priests fleecing the flock - scamming immigrants out of large sums of money to supposedly help them secure green cards. "But the story of the Corona scheme suggests how especially insidious immigration fraud may be when practiced by leaders of a church - the institution that many immigrants turn to for friendship and guidance in a foreign land."

Tactical corset (Thanks to Dom.)

12:16 BST


Just in case you're wondering, I'm just really busy, and then any time I look at the news, I run into something like this:

Today, on NPR, Secretary Sebelius said that single payer is not only 'off the table' but that the President is considering measures to make sure it does not happen now or ever.
You know, it's been that kind of a month.

03:59 BST

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Changeable weather

Looking at this video, all I can think is, "Why didn't we do that?"

Why is it so hard for Democratic leaders to question Dick Cheney's motives?

Steve Clemons said a well-connected Iranian met up with him to say he sees political killings ahead, aimed pretty much at all of the candidates and the Supreme Leader. (via)

GOP Leaders Not Defending Cheney Against Charge He Wants Terror Attack: "This one's pretty telling: GOP leaders are not stepping up to defend Dick Cheney against CIA chief Leon Panetta's explosive charge that the former Veep seems to be hoping for another terrorist attack in order to vindicate his national security policies. Panetta made big news when it was revealed over the weekend that he'd told The New Yorker that it's almost as if Cheney is 'wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.'" Hm, curious.

I guess the Shorter Jonah Goldberg would be something like, "Affirmative Action for we, but not for thee."

Teaser for the new Michael Moore movie.

Note to self: Listen to Bob McChesney and David Neiwert on McChesney's show.

03:25 BST

Monday, 15 June 2009

More stuff I saw

As you may recall, I'm not really that crazy about petitions in general, though I can't think of any reason you shouldn't sign this one, but I'd rather have each and every American who reads this send an actual, physical postcard to their Congresscritter and both Senators, no matter how crackpot they may be, saying that single-payer is the way to go, or that we support H.R. 676 and just don't understand why it isn't the plan our leaders are getting behind, or that no one should ever have to ask themselves if they can afford healthcare, or that we should have a system like they have in France, or in Canada, or in England - just something to let them know that what you want is genuine universal healthcare, and not just another way to keep feeding the insurance companies. Hell, send one to Obama as well - a deluge of postcards to the White House might even get a jokey little sentence on the evening news.

The Telegraph says: "Iran protest cancelled as leaked election results show Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came third : "ran's reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi has called off a major rally to protest last Friday's election results, amid claims police had been cleared to open fire on protesters." (I feel like I ought to have something to say about a blatantly stolen election, but I guess we learned over the last several years that that kind of thing is just conspiracy theory, right?) Apparently, this is all good for neocons. And Dday notes that our gutted media has not really been able to cover the story, nor do they really seem to care, so you need to get your news from Twitter.

Gnomes refuse to speak to police. I'm never entirely sure exactly what the goals of the Gnomes are, but the shadowy Gnome Liberation Front seems to have held some kind of protest at a highschool in southern New Jersey (proving once again that they are truly an international conspiracy). "As for the gnomes, they're not talking. Lt. Steven Ang says most 'exercised their constitutional right not to speak to police.'" Most? Now, that is disturbing, if it means that some of them did break the long silence of the Gnomes.

14:57 BST

Bang your head against the wall (part 3,302)

It's the kind of thing that makes me fume enough to delay going to bed yet another hour to sit around and steam and then post when I wasn't planning to. Just let Digby explain why the Democrats sound just like the Republicans, and one reason is Frank Luntz.

I was reading a thread earlier where someone responded to complaints about the Democratic leadership by asking, "Do you want the Republicans to still be in charge of everything?" And the thing is, I think they still are - everything, including the Democratic Party.

04:06 BST

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Barbecued chicken

Jamison Foser says that AMA reporting needs a second opinion: "Thursday's New York Times article about the American Medical Association's opposition to the inclusion of a strong public option in health care reform had several serious flaws. As a result, it greatly overstated the significance of the AMA's stance and left out key information that undermines the group's claims. The most basic flaw in the Times article is that it never made clear who the AMA represents. The article's headline described the AMA as a "Doctors' group." The second paragraph said it "is America's largest physician organization," with "about 250,000 members." The eighth paragraph said the AMA "probably has more influence than any other group in the health care industry." And the 13th described the AMA as "an umbrella group for 180 medical societies" before finally acknowledging it "does not speak for all doctors." In fact, the AMA speaks for less than one-third of doctors. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 800,000 physicians practicing in America today, so the AMA's 250,000 members constitute only about 30 percent of all doctors." And there's a reason for that. (Meanwhile, much of the Media Matters front page is about the rain of hate from the right wing, their advocacy of violence while they decry the DHS report about right-wing violence, and their special new hate on Paul Krugman.)

Maybe the reason the jails are full of people who say they are not guilty is because so many are not guilty: "When undercover detectives busted Jose and Maximo Colon last year for selling cocaine at a seedy club in Queens, there was a glaring problem: The brothers hadn't done anything wrong. [...] Since then, a vindicating video from the club's cameras has spared the brothers a possible prison term, resulted in two officers' arrest and become the basis for a multimillion-dollar lawsuit." And they're not the only ones. But not everyone has security cameras there to help them out.

It's amazing how brazen they've all become. They used to at least claim not to be racist bigots, even when they obviously were. They don't even do that anymore - Atrios flagged a quote from Think Progress of Pat Buchanan saying right in front of God and everyone that "One prefers the old bigotry" to Affirmative Action. I like that "one", like he speaks for everyone. But, as Atrios suggests, what's notable about this is not so much Buchanan's open display of presumption and racism, but that he is still invited to appear on MSNBC - which is trying to cast itself as the "liberal" network.

Britain's great lost band: The Pretty Things. "Look, if I'd been to bed with Rudolf Nureyev and I could remember it, I'd certainly tell you." And here they are in the YouTube singing "LSD", "Come See Me", and their chart hit, "Don't Bring Me Down". And, all these years later, here they are again.

17:28 BST

Stuff I saw

figleaves basics - Lace underwired unpadded braBra of the Week

Great Redneck Inventions, and a bunch of weather vanes, via Biomes Blog, of course.

I feel so safe when I learn that the Obama administration is backing a Pentagon plan "cybercommand" to "protect the nation from cyberattack and to prepare for possible offensive operations against adversaries' computer networks." Especially given that the only people Obama seems to recognize as adversaries are Democratic progressives.

Just who does the AMA represent, anyway? Surely not practicing physicians.)

Feeling heat from constituents who are actually making those phone calls, our legislators are trying to come up with a new invention to substitute for real comprehensive healthcare reform. Robert Reich says to watch your wallet. (Also: Even some forced-pregnancy advocates worry about giving terrorists what they want, and Edie Falco on Healthcare.)

Blurbs for Dagmar Herzog's How the Republicans are Screwing up Sex in America. Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics.

Congressional Heroes and Frauds - there are those who vote the right way when it matters, and then there are the ones who only do so when it's merely for show.

Marcy Wheeler analyzes the reasoning behind creating three torture memos where one would do. (And speaking of torture and memos, John Yoo has been ordered to testify.)

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says: "I want my colleagues and the American public to know that measured against the information I have been able to gain access to, the story line we have been led to believe--the story line about waterboarding we have been sold--is false in every one of its dimensions." Which is nice. Is something going to be done about it?

Mad Cop Disease: "The CNN video shows a man standing on a street corner in Passaic, NJ. According to the story, a police car drove next to the man, and one of the officers instructed the man to zip up his sweat shirt (Apparently the police officer decided it was OK to abuse her authority to enforce her personal dress code on the man). The man complied with the request immediately and another officer jumped out of his car and ran to the man and proceeded to beat him senseless."

Fred Clark discusses the transformation of evangelical "Christianity" in America: "The founding myth of this new, stridently political faith says that this politicizing arose in reaction to the Roe v. Wade decision acknowledging the legal right to abortion. After "activist" judges "legislated" from the bench, evangelicals recoiled in horror and rose up, in Falwell's phrase, to "take back America." But that's not what happened. Evangelicals did not recoil in horror from Roe v. Wade. There was no outcry, scarcely any reaction at all."

The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years, according to Reason.

01:45 BST

Saturday, 13 June 2009

First, do no harm

I remember when I first started looking at reproductive health issues, one of the most startling facts I encountered was that doctors knew that delivering babies to women who had their legs in the air was actually more dangerous to their patients, but they did it anyway because - they frankly admitted - it was more convenient. In fact, there were quite a number of things doctors did for their own convenience that endangered patients, right on up to scheduling a cesarian for a woman who was having a perfectly healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy, simply to avoid having an unscheduled labor mess up their golf plans. I think of those things now because I know now that it's not just in OB/GYN that doctors risk our health and lives in order to secure their own comforts, even going so far as to campaign to prevent medical care from becoming more accessible and affordable to millions of Americans who can't get good health care. But I'm also reminded by the video "When Abortion Was Illegal" that there is a history to reproductive health that most people have forgotten - not just about what it was like when abortion was illegal, but how the medical profession reorganized itself in such a way that they would let women die rather than have what had always been a legal procedure. Yes, I know our fictions about "progress" make it seem to us that abortion was a right we won for the first time in the second half of the marvelously progressive 20th century, but the truth is that the illegality of abortion in America was not simply part of the prehistoric mud and slime we were pulling ourselves out of, but a temporary aberration in America's history. Forgetting that fact is very convenient for right-wingers who would have you believe that the abortion right is one of those modern creations that's supposedly destroying America, but it was really a right that American women had always had before. But, consider: We had this right, and we lost it. We can lose it again.

The promotion of hate is the topic of the day. Paul Krugman discusses The Big Hate: "Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment. [...] And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased." And William Rivers Pitt has one on Death Talkers: "Where is all the fear and violence gaining inspiration? The same places it has been for a while now. Those right-wing media people keep talking, and people keep getting killed. Coincidence? Ha." Via MTA, which has much more.

Thanks to Charles for supplying the real picture of George Waker Bush respecting the office.

Charles Pierce himself was at the FDL Book Salon last weekend, discussing his Idiot America.

Why have they given Thomas Jefferson a haircut?

15:02 BST

Friday, 12 June 2009

More and more

I see Atrios saying that "the NHS does kind of suck." And, in a way, it does - it's really a shadow today of the system Nye Bevan gave Britain. But, as NomadUK observes back here in comments, that's because a succession of conservatives in both the Conservative Party and the (New) Labour Party have been "modernizing" it ever since Thatcher was first elected. It's what they do. So they've screwed around with it numerous ways that alienate both doctors and patients, made it run more expensively than it has to and underfunded it as well (that, remember, is a political choice, not the result of hard economic fact; you can choose to fund a big dome nobody wants and a big war nobody wants, or you can choose to step up the funding of the NHS) - and it's still better than what America has. The furniture isn't as pretty, it's true, but everyone is covered, it's very rare to be denied a treatment (although it has been known to happen, because a treatment is regarded as too expensive - in which case you still have the choice to go with private medicine if you can afford it), and as far as I can tell I actually see my GP more consistently and more quickly than most of my friends in America can see their doctors. If I phone my doc's office during office hours with a complaint needing immediate attention, I get to see him that day. If it's not so urgent, maybe in the next 24 hours. If it's something that just has to be done eventually, I might wait as much as a week unless I press for an earlier date. And I don't even live in an upmarket neighborhood. Surgery gets done on time when I need it. Again, as far as I can tell, I don't wait any longer than my friends in America do, but I do so with a lot less anxiety, because I don't have to spend that time making dozens of phone calls begging an insurer to cover the surgery. And it costs residents of Britain no more in taxes to have genuinely universal healthcare (real socialized medicine, mind you, not this namby-pamby single-payer stuff!) than Americans are also paying in taxes for healthcare that they don't get.

But I don't know why the insurance companies are so afraid of the public option, unless they are certain that all of their victims will bolt to it overnight. The public option idea isn't a way to move us to Medicare-for-All, it's a way to keep the insurance leeches in business. It's still too expensive, because you still have to ask people who their insurer is and go through all the red tape that's involved in juggling millions of different people who have all kinds of different plans and different paperwork and - are you getting this? And if you can opt out of paying for the public plan (and throw your money down the drain instead on a commercial insurer), you limit the degree of shared risk, and it's that "shared" part that really makes insurance work. So it infuriates me that the conservative Democrats have pushed me into a position where I'm supposed to be defending the inclusion of this expensive Trojan horse when we should be climbing down their throats for not offering us single-payer. No, I take that back - we should climb down their throats for not offering us socialized medicine, so that maybe single-payer won't sound so "left-wing" to them.

* * * * *

Eric Lotke says the US Chamber of Commerce is a threat to capitalism: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched yesterday 'a sweeping national advocacy campaign - to defend and advance America's free enterprise values in the face of rapid government growth and attacks by anti-business activists.' The Chamber of Commerce doesn't get it. They aren't defending capitalism and free enterprise. They are all but destroying it. Free-market fundamentalists don't understand that capitalism is a system. It has rules, boundaries and obligations. When those rules are broken, the system falters. [...] Capitalism won't work unless a negotiated price and promise to pay $100 is followed by payment of $100. And someone needs to enforce those rules. Otherwise it's not capitalism. It's robbery."


17:52 BST

Once I'm gone, you'll never find me

I want to see Michael Moore's new movie about Wall Street. I hear he doesn't have a title for it yet - how about "Torches and Pitchforks"?

The GOP has some new jargon for photos of the abuse of our POWs and kidnap victims: "Terrorist Propaganda Photos".

I see Mary Landrieu has gone over to the other side (again), this time on the public option. Like Obama, her support for something that might conceivably useful to American has dwindled considerably from earlier promises. Remember the guy who said, "Everybody in, nobody out"?

I see the wingnuts now have Roy Edroso in their sights because he made fun of their latest outrage attack when Letterman made fun of one of Sarah Palin's daughters. We happen to like Roy Edroso around here, so even though we are bored with Sarah et al., we at the fabulous Sideshow offices are officially annoyed.

Atrios: "Though there was no justification, our response to terrorism included invading Iraq. We did that because Thomas Friedman thought some brown people needed to suck on this, and because Richard Cohen thought violence would provide him with needed therapy. We should never forget that these people are racist monsters whose personal psychodramas could only be soothed by the indiscriminate killing of people they obviously do not see as human."

The attack at the Holocaust Memorial Museum reminded Ettlin of a previous visit, and a lesson in something much better than hate.

Did you wonder how stupid it can get? At least this stupid.

Steve Miller Band

00:56 BST

Thursday, 11 June 2009

To your health

I just had my text editor - which used to be perfect - crash on me and lose an unsaved post that had been difficult and time-consuming enough to get together in the first place. So I'm just going to leave you with a couple of things while I go bang my head against the wall:

John Amato has a clip of Chuck Grassly saying he opposes a public plan because of a think tank study that says over a hundred million people would opt out of private health insurance and join it. That's right - he opposes it because people want it. (Also: Elizabeth Warren warns that the problems haven't been fixed.)

Remember those tax breaks that were supposed to encourage repatriation and investment in the US? Well it did not work out as advertised: "The law specifically said the money could not be used to raise dividends or to repurchase shares. Now the most detailed analysis of what actually happened - using confidential government data as well as corporate reports - has estimated what happened to the $299 billion companies brought back from foreign subsidiaries. About 92 percent of it went to shareholders, mostly in the form of increased share buybacks and the rest through increased dividends.

From The New Yorker, Atul Gawande on The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care.

Calling them out - on the Senate floor: "It's not every day that a sitting senator takes to the floor to call out a GOP strategist. But on Wednesday, Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley did just that, whacking messaging guru Frank Luntz for writing a blueprint for demonizing health care reform and Republican officials for dutifully following his lead." (via) It's nice to know that someone still knows how to do that kind of thing.

Incredible Shadow Art Created From Junk

18:54 BST

Roll with it

Man, you'd think from this that single-payer advocates were some kind of lunatic fringe who are advocating some really weird, arcane system that only they understand, wouldn't you? When, in fact that's what the people who want to kill single-payer are doing. Like the "Third Way" creeps, whose bright idea on the public option plan is to Make One that Can't Work. But Why Not Single-Payer?

Howard Dean on Real Healthcare Reform - so Stand with Dr. Dean.

Lieberman and Graham say they'll filibuster war spending: "'We're not going to do any more business in the Senate,' Graham said. 'Nothing's going forward until we get this right.' If the provision is eliminated, Lieberman and Graham said they would vote against the supplemental and any attempts to bring debate on the measure to a close. Graham predicted that most, if not all, of the 40 Senate Republicans would do the same, and Lieberman said he would be reaching out to Democrats on the issue as well. That could be enough to filibuster the supplemental measure on the Senate floor, because 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill." Over what? Oh, over releasing the torture photos under the Freedom of Information Act - they're against that. And they are so mad they will refuse to vote to fund the war in order to stop it! Oh, no, don't throw me in that briar patch!

Leon Panetta Kisses His Credibility Goodbye when he insists he's not interested in hiding the torture documents to avoid embarrassment or hide unlawful conduct, when obviously, that's just what he's doing, since there is really no justification for it.

Define 'Statesman"

Tasering grandma: "The police claim that after Kathryn Winkfein was stopped for driving 15 miles over the speed limit in a construction zone, she disobeyed an order to sign the speeding ticker, used profane language, and became 'violent.' They say the officer who tasered her and took her to be booked for resisting arrest was completely justified. However, Winkfein says that's a lie, and the video appears to back her up." Interestingly, this story showed up on Fox News, who had the video and seemed not to be in favor of tasering a little old lady.

Krugman is totally a DFH blogger. Why, he's gone positively DR

I had no idea that the Google holiday logo is such a battleground.

"Everything I Know I Learned From Dungeons & Dragons."

Living chair

Steve Winwood

02:03 BST

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Your money or your life

I just wanted to go back to Rhonda Hackett's "Debunking Canadian Health Care Myths" for a moment to excerpt this:

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada's taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.
Because it actually underestimates the real savings all those "high" taxes in the raving socialist countries afford their victims. No, even if you're just talking about actual taxes paid, Americans don't save anything on their supposedly lower taxes, but for every imaginary dollar supposedly saved by "lower" American taxes, there is a high cost in having to either pay much more for a commercial service or forgo that service altogether. Having to forgo healthcare is, of course, an expense that extends well beyond the pocketbook.

There are other ways wingers fudge the actual tax numbers, of course, such as only talking about federal taxes without pointing out that someone in, say, England doesn't also have to pay state taxes like an American has to, or talking only about income taxes but not payroll taxes when discussing American taxes, or any number of other ways that Americans magically get away with supposedly keeping so much more of their money than the filthy socialist foreigners do.

Let me put it another way: Bearing in mind that in the time I've lived here the value of the dollar to the pound has ranged between about $1.55=£1.00 to $2.00=£1.00, £30K a year is a pretty comfortable salary here. One of the things that makes it so comfortable is that you already have, regardless of who you work for or if you even have a regular job, a completely portable deluxe healthcare plan that doesn't cost you any extra money when you see your doctor or go to a specialist or get tests or have surgery or endure a hospital stay. You have pretty much full coverage (excepting your glasses and dentistry) for free delivery of healthcare at the point of use, with no argument from some insurance industry hack. If your doctor thinks you need an operation, there's no arguing with insurance agents about it - your doc just refers you to the hospital specialists, you see them, they do what's necessary, and no one sends you a bill. No paperwork, no desperate phone calls, no deciding you can't afford vital treatment.

And why shouldn't Americans have that kind of care, too? After all, you're already paying for it - in taxes. Every time you pay taxes, regardless of your own healthcare plan, you also pay for someone else's healthcare - Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, NIH, SCHIP, whatever - you're paying for government health services and research (which, by the way, is also a subsidy to the commercial medical industry that makes use of the research and development at bargain rates) - only you're paying for a lot of it more expensively than you need to because so much waste is involved in servicing the myriad different commercial providers who have their fingers in the pie. And then when you get your own commercial healthcare, you pay extra for the very fact that someone has to ask you to name your insurance company and give them your insurance details. No one ever asks me my insurance details here - they already know them, because they're the same for everyone.

In fact, the only time I ever get asked anything that creates an administrative tick is when I get a prescription filled. I get asked whether I'm paying the nominal fee for a prescription (I can't even remember what it is - it's that trivial, just a few pounds), or whether I'm getting it free. What determines that difference is whether I am on any medication (not necessarily the one I'm getting the prescription filled for) that is vital to keeping me alive. If, for example, I need thyroxin to survive, I go on the free list for all prescription drugs, because the administrative costs of keeping track of every single individual prescription of that nature are just too much added weight, so it's easier and cheaper to just put someone like that on the free list.

And here's the thing: For millions of people in America, losing your job means losing your health insurance, and that's just when you are most likely to need it. People lose their jobs because they are ill, or become ill because they have been unemployed for a while, and that means that although you've been paying for years for expensive insurance, it will not be there when you need it. And that's just leaving aside the fact that it may also not be there when you need it even if you still "have" health insurance, because your provider spends millions of dollars to try to prevent you from getting them to fork over for your healthcare.

So it's pretty simple: You're already paying for healthcare. You deserve to get it.

14:50 BST

All through my coffee break, now

John Conyers has a question:

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, says it is time to repeal the 16-year-old ban on openly gay service members in the U.S. military. The controversial policy has become an issue for the White House since President Obama took office in January. During the 2008 campaign, Obama had promised to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but recently, the president has appeared to be backing off that statement.

"Why is he becoming so conservative now that he's got the job?" Conyers asked during an interview with Michigan Messenger at a gathering of progressive activists on Saturday. "I think he is getting a lot of pressure put on him from the right, from conservatives. And he is trying to prove to the Republicans that he is bipartisan."

Why isn't he getting balancing pressure from the left to prove that he has the country's interests at heart and isn't a slave to arch-conservative ideology - and if he is, why shouldn't he be responding to that pressure, too? (I mean, responding with something other than sneers and shrugs?)

The only way to satisfy the Republicans' definition of "bipartisan" is to be a Democrat who shares all of the far-right's policy goals and none of those of the Democratic Party, liberals, or indeed most of the rest of the country. That is, to be unipartisan - Republican - in policy matters. If Obama wants to be bipartisan, he can quit pandering to the far-right and start doing the popular things he was elected for which are supported not only by most Democrats, but even by a majority of Republicans (including many who still identify as "conservative").

The administration and their Blue Dog supporters always have a lot of lame excuses for doing what the Republicans want, but the bottom line is that they are doing destructive, wasteful things that nobody else wants, and rather than trying to promote good policies (by talking about what's good about them), they put forward the arguments that the right-wing is making against them, supposedly as an explanation for their own failure to do better, but if you're making the argument, you're making the argument. And they're doing this not just on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Iraq and Afghanistan, but on healthcare as well. And while it may be that at least one Blue Dog is changing his tune, these people, and the administration, should not be feeling so safe about their unipartisan Republican policies in the face of an electorate that has shown its bipartisan support for liberal policies. It should not even be possible to speak in terms of supporting stupid, unpopular policies just to please a bunch of far-right loonies in the Republican leadership. Even Conyers has fallen into the trap. John, it is not bipartisan to support only GOP policies.


Dear blogger: If your format automagically makes your post titles into permalinks, please don't change your title after we've all linked to your goddamn post, thus rendering all our links obsolete and making your post difficult for our readers ever to find again.

12:30 BST

Tuesday, 09 June 2009

Slow glass

The silver lining is that suddenly women who have had them are speaking publicly about late-term abortions, and apparently changing a few minds. Although, frankly, I have to wonder about some of those minds, if they honestly thought that women who had these procedures were doing them because, I dunno, they suddenly decided they didn't want to have a baby after all? We're not talking about vacuum aspiration, here, we're talking about pretty major surgery - people don't do that sort of thing casually. Why would the forced-pregnancy crowd say otherwise? Because they are liars. You didn't guess that?

What order did Olbermann present these stories in last night? He didn't really do two stories on Palin before he got around to healthcare, did he?

I managed to miss this article last month despite the fact that a number of blogs I usually read apparently linked to it, but it deserves a reminder: After 9/11, hundreds of Muslims who lived in America were rounded up and "detained" for long periods. To this day, there are people who are denying that any such thing happened. But it did: "The inspector general's report said last June that Mr. Ashcroft's policy was to hold detainees on any legal pretext until the F.B.I. cleared them, even though such clearances turned out to take months, not days, because they were given low priority. It said little effort was made to distinguish between legitimate terrorism suspects and the many people picked up by chance during the investigation. And yet: "Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said a lawsuit filed by the man, Javaid Iqbal, must be dismissed at a preliminary stage because he failed to allege a plausible link between the officials' conduct and the abuses he said he had suffered. Javaid Iqbal was terrorized by the United States government for nine months that ruined his life - and his love for our country. "In his dissent, Justice Souter wrote that the assertions in Mr. Iqbal's lawsuit, coupled with the government's concession, should have been enough to allow it to proceed. At the early stages of a suit, Justice Souter added, such assertions need merely be plausible.

I have this note from The Talking Dog, who says, "The beat goes on... the GTMO beat, that is... with Ramzi Kassem of Yale Law School, still fighting the good fight against our former fellow Columbia alum Barack (class of '83... same as me, of course); Ramzi gives the Big O's Admin. a 'Low Pass' at this early date... for which the Admin, had to go out of its way! Ramzi represents one of the commission guys, as well as a number of the regular GTMO guys and a Bagram guy... Anyway, he's quite an interesting fellow... hope you enjoy it."

I see the creator of Avery Ant has created yet another crabby personality who has found the secret of getting blog comments.

>Your Doctor Who moment. (Thanks to Mr. Sideshow.)

13:13 BST

Monday, 08 June 2009

Get the lead out

I was just remembering how useful Josh Marshall was in getting Social Security "reform" off the table, and wondering whether he might return to using his powers for good on the healthcare issue, because right now "healthcare reform" is devolving fast into some minor reductions in the rate of the growth of costs coupled with a mandate forcing people to buy health insurance from the professional gougers. Since this is actually considerably worse than no "reform" at all, it shouldn't be anywhere near the table, but as far as we can tell, Kennedy is so eager to get some kind of "reform" passed before he dies that he's given up on insisting on something worthwhile. Obama, as far as I can tell, is just in it for the kabuki - pretend to give Americans a better healthcare option, but don't actually do it. (Sort of like withdrawing from Iraq without actually doing it, closing Gitmo without actually doing it, forbidding torture without actually doing, etc.) And it does look like Josh is covering the issue, at least:

Following the lead of this post by Jon Taplin, you really must read this article in the Times on the battle over including a 'public option' in the new Obama health care reform bill. If you're not familiar with the lingo of this debate, the 'public option' refers to allowing the federal government to sell its own insurance plan which would compete with private health insurance providers. Think of it as a version of Medicare that everyone could buy into.

Here's the key graf from the Times piece ...

But critics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage. They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.
As Taplin suggests, these 'problems' sound remarkably like 'the point' of the whole exercise. Most of the argument here is that a big government plan would just provide the insurance 'service' much more efficiently and cheaply than private carriers. And that the private carriers wouldn't be able to make any money off selling the service any more. But this is the argument that single payer advocates routinely make -- namely, that a lot of the money that goes into private health insurance goes to paperwork, much of which is tied to finding ways to deny people coverage. That, and the need to earn profits on providing the service.
Susie Madrak, noting that Robert Reich says there's no time to waste, calls on us to contact our reps. Ruth concurs, despite the fact that her representative in the House is a right-wing nut - but don't underestimate the value of deluging even the right-wing nuts with phone calls. And Diane notes that a few more voices are being heard on the issue, with an op-ed in The Boston Globe by a doctor who wants to see a real universal plan that cuts the insurers out of the gatekeeping business.

Now, when is Josh going to start that phone-swarm?

16:33 BST

Who killed Dr. Tiller?

James Ridgeway provides A Brief History of the Radical Right in Mother Jones:

One might think that the divisions between pro-life Christians and far-right racists would preclude any sort of working alliance. Evangelical Christians thought that the creation of Israel was a sign of the Second Coming of Christ and became keen supporters of that country. The racialists, meanwhile, hated Israel and detested Jerry Falwell for supporting it. The Klan historically loathed Catholics, and modern far-right leaders like Tom Metzger in California thought abortion was a great way to stem the tide of brown and black babies who were burdening the welfare system and who as adults would threaten white political power.

In the early and mid-'80s, however, the racialist underground often railed against abortion. I wrote about this development in the Village Voice:

Bob Mathews, leader of a terror gang known as The Order, saw abortion as the suicide of the white race. Jim Wickstrom, the Christian Identity leader of another underground terror group called the Posse Comitatus, ranted against Jewish doctors and nurses who engaged in abortion. Posse screeds claimed the space program was part of a plot to get rid of aborted fetuses by blasting them into space.
By the 1990s, the far right had started to attack abortion clinics. Ray Lampley, a far-right racialist in Oklahoma, and two members of a national militia were convicted in federal court of conspiring to bomb abortion clinics (along with gay bars, welfare offices, an Anti-Defamation League office, and the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama). In Spokane, Washington, three men who claimed ties to a group called the Phineas Priesthood were charged with the bombings of a newspaper office and a Planned Parenthood clinic. The group is named for a Bible story in which Phinehas slew an interracial couple.


What was the bridge between the posse movement and anti-abortionist fanaticism? The Sovereign crowd viewed women as chattel, and the prospect of an independent woman deciding to seek an abortion didn't sit well with them. I gained some insight into this line of thinking in another piece I once wrote about a young woman in Oklahoma who aspired to join the Christian Identity group, hoping that its followers would teach her to shoot and become a guerrilla. Instead, the men asked her for sex. When the woman replied that she wanted a relationship first, one of them replied, "Women are for breeding." According to one faction of the group, women who have abortions are race traitors and should be stoned to death. With that in mind, the fact that some members of the far-right became violent anti-abortionists perhaps shouldn't come as such a surprise.

The more "respectable" pro-forced-pregnancy groups publicly distance themselves from the violence of these people, but they don't actually spend much time distancing themselves from their fundamental mindset. Because they aren't really that far apart. And because they know that anti-abortion terrorism does their job for them.

12:04 BST

Sunday, 07 June 2009

Just gonna prove it while the whole world collides

Gosh, I just can't understand why people think conservatives are a bunch of racists.

"The State of the Progressive Movement" - eriposte considers the weak response of progressives to a non-progressive Democratic president: "The most striking example today is the Sonia Sotomayor nomination. From everything I have read about Judge Sotomayor she appears to be a person of sterling character and intellect and a very competent and accomplished jurist. However, she is not exactly a "liberal" judge and in some cases, might even be to the right of the Justice whom she will replace in the Supreme Court (David Souter). Where are the blogswarms and where is the activism to push Obama more to the left on his Supreme Court nomination? I recall a time when the "netroots" and progressives used to be extraordinarily concerned about the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court and the once in a generation opportunity to change it - now, other than repel Republican attacks on Sotomayor, I don't see a lot of people even bothering to push Obama to pick someone who might be more progressive." He's spot on about the primaries, too. (And Mary recommends Rachel on the murder of Dr. Tiller. Rachel also points out that today is the anniversary of Griswold.)

This Week In Tyranny, Marcy Wheeler deserves every word of praise she gets for her coverage of the torture issue, both retired and serving members of the military have questions about the torture regime, and the NYT has a little moral clarity problem.

Brilliant Jill says, "Yes, and Scott Roeder showed us just what a Christian America would look like." (Also: Randall Terry versus Randi Rhodes.)

I admit that Phil Agre does get forgotten in discussions of the roots of the liberal blogosphere, but at least I haven't forgotten to link his piece on conservatism periodically. However, my path to the liberal web was really laid out for me by Norman Solomon, who used to post his column regularly on Usenet and also sent it to your e-mail if you asked. It was from him that I learned about consortiumnews.com, and I believe it was either Solomon or Robert Parry who linked to Media Whores Online, which linked to Bartcop. PNH turned me on to actual blogs, and after I started The Sideshow I got Atrios, who hung out on the MWO and Bartcop forums and in the Bartcop chatroom, to start a blog, too. Meanwhile, Norman Solomon went on to write the Media Beat column for FAIR, and more recently he's written some books and had movies made from his work.

"Big Sky Country", live.

16:44 BST

I wish I had a proper roast beef sandwich

Ballet Carnival underwired braBra of the Week

Some really cool redecorating (via)

Hey, the Google is celebrating 25 years of the Tetris Effect.

Really, there's no need for people to keep congratulating me for "making it into the top 100" - a year ago, when I first discovered Wikio and posted a link to it, I was at 66.

The political center: "But here's a telling public opinion nugget. A big majority (58%) of self-identified conservatives now support allowing gays to serve openly in the military. For the population as a whole, support stands at 69%."

"Um . . . why the hell does this office still exist under a Democratic administration?: I thought maybe we were returning to an Age of Reason, but no, I can see we're still hell-bent on pandering to the Religious Right. [...] I am certainly in favor of reducing the need for abortions, but let's do it by making education and affordable contraception available, which won't happen if you've just appointed someone who seeks to reduce ACCESS to abortion providers." Just think, if Bush had been a smoother operator, he could have run as a Democrat.

Click on and link the hell out of "My Choice" by Rozalyn Farmer Love, because at last, at last, the conservative Washington Post has published a pro-choice article by a woman. Post a nice comment there for her, too. "When I advocate for reproductive rights, for choice, I don't claim that abortion is morally acceptable. I think that it's a very private, intensely personal decision. But I was stunned when one of my professors, a pathologist and a Planned Parenthood supporter, told me that decades ago, entire wings of the university's hospital were filled with women dying from infections caused by botched abortions. It's clear that women who don't want to be pregnant won't be deterred by limited access to providers or to clinics. And I believe that it's immoral to let them die rather than provide them with safe, competent care."

Digby: "This is hard for liberal activists to adjust to. We're oriented to the democratic process which we see as a counter balance to the influence of wealth. But there has never been a time when it was more obvious than now that our two party political process mostly serves as a front for wealthy elites no matter who's in power. This situation does require a reorientation, and a big one." (And Dana Milbank is still a jerk, but that doesn't mean he's not right about progressive activism right now. A while back one of my commenters remarked that at least if McCain had won, everyone would know we had a fight on our hands. But we've still got Bush's policies, only without the progressive push-back. This president may not be a smirking chimp, but I can't help the feeling he just keeps the smirk hidden better.)

I see the usual suspects are continuing to make ludicrous claims about the alleged costs of "illegal downloads".

00:40 BST

Saturday, 06 June 2009

Cherry tomatoes

Mike Lux: "There's been a lot of talk in Washington, DC lately of a "new, centrist compromise" gaining momentum in terms of how to fund health care reform, and that is taxing health care benefits. The problems? It's not new, it's only centrist in the bizarre inside-the-Beltway world of what qualifies for centrist, it's one sure way to make health care reform incredibly unpopular, and it's a bad policy idea. Remember how popular Ira Magaziner's "health alliances" were in the Clinton health reform battle? This would be worse." Via Susie Madrak, who also notes that Ezra makes some good points about why employer-based health insurance has dangerous and costly consequences - and why getting rid of it would solve a lot of problems: "The third reason is that the subsidy -- and that's what this is, a subsidy to employers who offer health care -- is very big, and quite hidden. In March 2007, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that ending all employer-related tax breaks for health care would raise $1.23 trillion between 2009 and 2012. That's more than $300 billion a year. That's much more than you'd need to pay for health care." (Ah, but we're supposed to let these people make all the decisions for us. And why would we doubt the sincere wish of insurance companies to safeguard our health when they have big investments in tobacco?) But I guess we have majority rule.

Dept. of The Uterus in Rats and Men: Men are still the default when it comes to "unbiased" experience. If you didn't experience the boys' locker room, you have "minority" experience. Even if you're a Supreme Court nominee.

You know, states could save a lot of money if they would kick every single prisoner who is in for possession or sale of drugs out of prison and refuse to convict any more of them and discourage the police from chasing possession and sale cases. I'm for that.

Bill Hicks and JFK explain everything. God, I miss Bill Hicks.

14:39 BST

Searching for sleep

"Setting the record straight on Canadian healthcare: I lived in Canada for about 28 years. I can't begin to list how much better everything is in Canada compared to the health care disaster we all suffer from south of the border."

Activist judge tosses Fourth Amendment: "A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits targeting the nation's telecommunication companies for their participation in President George W. Bush's once-secret electronic eavesdropping program." (via). (But at least there are some Dems who don't suck - in Texas, of all places, a state that is obviously so liberal that legislators aren't afraid to kill voter ID.

I'm pretty sure I got it from Atrios somewhere, but I thought this was a pretty ironic little story. Isn't Harvard the school that educates all these business geniuses?

Dan Froomkin offers this clip from Jon Stewart.

Max Blumenthal interviews some typical voters in Utah. Oh, wait, that's not Utah. Makes ya proud, doesn't it?

Archive link for Virtually Speaking interview with Bruce Schneier by Jay Ackroyed ("Jimbo Hoyer") on Blogtalkradio.

01:12 BST

Thursday, 04 June 2009

Media notes

Bruce Schneier on Virtually Speaking tonight at 6:00 PM Pacific - listen live here to the Blogtalkradio stream, or see it at Inworld Amphitheater in Second Life. I'll post the link to the archived audio when I have it tomorrow (I hope).

This post is a bit convoluted with the updates all appearing at the top, but what it's about is the Obamites trying to get one of their posters to remove the content of one of her posts from their grass-rootsy, open-governmenty site because it doesn't sing the party line on healthcare "reform". (via)

E.J. Dionne spills the beans: Hain't no librul media. "Yes, you read that correctly: If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda." Unfortunately, E.J. Dionne also has fallen for a lot of the right-wing media chatter, because he thinks Obama is "middle-of-the-road", and doesn't yet realize that these days the middle of the road runs far, far to the left of the White House.

'Queen of Blues' Koko Taylor dies. Oh, sing it, lady.

22:05 BST

Watching the sky

I am not listening to Obama's speech. I am reading blogs while two different people who are paying attention to Obama's speech are giving me their opposing impressions of the speech in instant messages. One is hearing the good stuff, the other is hearing really stupid stuff (particularly what she described as a brief but really creepy section on women, which drew no applause and inspired my friend to say, "I wonder where we stand on honor killings?"), and I'm afraid that, given the record, my friend who hears the good stuff may just be hearing what she wants to hear. Obama's speechwriters are good at high-sounding phrases, and he is good at delivering them, but the table is still empty. Just a a moment ago, I stumbled on this comment to a post about how Dick Cheney was really running the government for the two previous presidential terms:

When asked what her greatest achievement was as Prime Minister, Conservative Margaret Thatcher said without hesitation "New Labour". She meant that she had tricked the Left into moving rightward in reaction to her extremist positions.

So, too, we have Obama, a right-of-center moderate Republican winning on the Democratic ticket. The GOP here has manipulated the Dems into abandoning everything left of the centerline.

The Conservative dream of turning the globe into one big Pottersville is ever closer to fruition.

I wish people would not make the mistake of saying that the left has abandoned everything to the left of centerline. They've moved way to the right of anything that can be called "the center".

Jawbone flags and digests Paul Street's article, "The Dawning Age of Obama as a Potentially Teach-able Moment for The Left." (Also: A couple of empathy moments.)

Timeline of a horrible anniversary. I remember coming home that night. Mr. Sideshow met me at the station and started telling me about the news. As the first of the headlines were recited, he kept wondering why each of them was not the top headline - what could be big enough to knock the death of the Ayatollah off the top? Or the collision of two trains that killed hundreds of people? Or...? But yes, it was that big a deal. (Of course, it's also the anniversary of a more recent event, which should inspire us to take a moment to remember, and despise, the legacy of a bad, bad president.)

My commenters are talking about giving California back it's best governor.

Since more people agree with me than agree with Rush Limbaugh, how come we're supposed to care what he thinks? Shouldn't I be the one with the big fat radio contract? (Also: This made me laugh out loud.)

Really cool cloud pics (via)

12:40 BST

Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Notes and quotes and goats

Howard Dean: Forget Bipartisan Health Care: "If Republicans want to shill for insurance companies, then we should do it with 51 votes."

Eugene Robinson is not optimistic about Our Car Company: "In truth, I don't see much more than a temporary reprieve for General Motors and a somewhat easier landing for GM workers. Obama said his administration plans to leave management of the company to the professionals. At this point, I have to wonder why."

Bob Herbert seems unconvinced of the sincerity of the right-wing's worries about racism on Judge Sotomayor's part: "Are we supposed to not notice that these are the tribunes of a party that rose to power on the filthy waves of racial demagoguery. I don't remember hearing their voices or the voices of their intellectual heroes when the Republican Party, as part of its Southern strategy, aggressively courted the bigots who fled the Democratic Party because the Democrats had become insufficiently hostile to blacks. Where were the howls of outrage at this strategy that was articulated by Lee Atwater as follows: 'By 1968, you can't say 'nigger' - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff.' Never a peep did you hear."

This is what we are supposed to settle for: "Slowing the growth in health-care spending from 6 percent a year to 4.5 percent would have enormous benefits for the nation's economy, creating as many as 500,000 jobs a year and increasing annual income for the average family of four by $2,600 over the next decade, the president's chief economic advisers said yesterday."

Gitmo protest captured on film

Ann Telnaes on Randall Terry, and AnnPW saying, "Do something positive."

Monkyfister got a camera.

15:55 BST

Tuesday, 02 June 2009

Blogger's notebook

I can't remember if I linked this before or not, but if you're in a mood to have your bones chilled, read Jeff Sharlet's piece from the May issue of Harper's, "Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military: What men such as these have fomented is a quiet coup within the armed forces: not of generals encroaching on civilian rule but of religious authority displacing the military's once staunchly secular code. Not a conspiracy but a cultural transformation, achieved gradually through promotions and prayer meetings, with personal faith replacing protocol according to the best intentions of commanders who conflate God with country. They see themselves not as subversives but as spiritual warriors - 'ambassadors for Christ in uniform,' according to Officers' Christian Fellowship; 'government paid missionaries,' according to Campus Crusade's Military Ministry." ViaRozk, who also reminds me of this 2004 article on the forced-pregnancy gang's tactics, which we have seen elsewhere.

I rather like the idea that if you're a politician who advocates funding cuts for "pork", you have to have them in your own district. Mind you, it looks like Arnold Schwartzenegger is busy right now making sure that the phrase "spending cuts" will not necessarily evoke a positive response from people.

It's funny, when they do find those rare instances of vote fraud, it always turns out to be Republicans doing it.

Pig liberal - I can remember when the articles in Playboy and the magazine's general attitude were so good that I used to hope that someday, when I had kids, they would sneak into grandpa's collection and read it. But I guess anyone who noticed the 2008 Democratic primaries must've realized those days were gone.

Man, I'm glad I'm out of college.

Cool stamps

17:43 BST

The summer she's comin' on strong

I went into a little bit of a tailspin over the news of terrorist activity by an extremist religious fanatic on American soil which is clearly a part of an anti-American movement. It may take me a while to turn the phrases in my head into sentences. In the meantime, David Neiwert is spot-on, and Digby has some important words and interesting thoughts on the issues involved. (Also: Yes, Ed Rendell is a loathsome toad.)

Oh, and Ezra: "As The American Prospect's Ann Friedman writes, this has to be understood in context. It is the final, decisive act in "an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment against someone who was providing completely legal health-care services." That campaign stretched over decades of protests, lawsuits, violence, and, finally, murder. The different elements were not always orchestrated. But the intent remained constant: To counter the absence of a statute that would make Tiller's work illegal with enough intimidation to render it impossible. This was, in other words, a political act. Tiller was murdered so that those in his line of work would be intimidated."

The right-wing is really good at promoting anti-American violence in public, it must be said. Recently, someone placed an ad in a Pennsylvania newspaper that really should have been caught before it was published: "The ad reads simply, "May Obama Follow in the Footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy." Cute, right? But wait a minute - what do those great men all have in common? [...] The Times-Observer realized that they had published and distributed a call for the assassination of a sitting U.S. president early yesterday morning, and now the feds are investigating, because Obama is a power-mad socialist who hates free speech" (Via MTA, which I'm afraid may be right about why the Republicans didn't really put their all into beating Obama.)

Ruth found a rather interesting quote from Richard Clarke's WaPo op-ed that suggests that Cheney really was wetting his panties on 9/11, and that has a lot to do with why they proceeded to do crazy things later. But, isn't it funny that they were the crazy things Cheney had wanted to do all along?.

First we had Cheney on Halliburton's payroll while he was running the government, and now we have the Larry Summers kick-back express. Is it any wonder Barry Ritholtz is fed up?

This looks interesting, though I haven't listened to it yet: "I just had an enlightening conversation with counterculture heroine/outcast Joanna Harcourt-Smith, on my radio show The Media Squat (audio stream). She candidly addressed her and Leary's role in becoming informants for the government, all in the context of Timothy's imprisonment and Bush-style torture."

"I Got A Line On You" - really, I had no idea.

02:12 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, June 2009

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