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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Support your local sheriff

A few facts are in order. One is that organizing any kind of resistance to power takes a lot of time and money, and those who do it are usually expected to do it out of their own pockets and in whatever time is left them after trying to find room and board. Another is that being in any way effective requires professional and commercial services and facilities that don't give you a special discount just because you are doing the good work and not getting anything for it yourself. So a long time ago a few bloggers - good ones - started asking their readers if they would be willing to foot the bill so they could afford to keep doing what they are doing without having to work some other job - one that would either drain their resources for work (e.g., a crummy job that left them too exhausted to think at the end of the day) or would compromise them (such as, say, working for the conservative Washington Post). Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo was the first blogger I can remember successfully asking his readers to help carry the costs of having a real investigative arm. Firedoglake more recently invited readers to provide the paycheck for the outstanding work of Marcy Wheeler.

Another fact is that as long as I can remember, there are certain people who seem to be expected to donate their skills and services no matter what it costs them, to prove that their heart is in the right place and that they are not just trying to make a buck. Writers and artists may be particularly familiar with that assumption, but anyone who does work in liberal causes knows that being expected to work for free is not unusual. Being a right-winger is a business, but the real purity test that is imposed on the left is that if you made a penny on something you did For The Cause, you are a bad person - even if that penny was vital to your being able to do the work at all.

As you may recall, Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher have a PAC whose purpose is to try to impose some accountability on Democrats who take donations for liberal causes and then vote like right-wingers. Jane Hamsher also tried as mightily as any sane person could not to notice what a right-wing con-man Obama was being, but even she eventually could not swallow the health insurance scam. So, of course, it's now war on Firedoglake, and a DKos blogger (naturally) did the "hard investigative work" of looking at the expenditures of Accountability Now PAC to throw some innuendo their way. Accountability Now is one of a few PACs that actually publishes their account report on the web, so that wasn't hard at all. Making the expenditure of a remarkably small amount of money (less than most PAC directors pull down in salary) look like a huge soak-the-punters operation is easy when you don't put it in context, but the context shines a different light.

It's not fun watching bloggers I used to think of as one of ours become enforcers for the things we hated most.

(Note to Chris Bowers: It is not news that con-men can be very persuasive. It is also not news that being President of the United States gives you a really big megaphone.)

In other news, a sign of the times, when a jury refuses to accept the prosecution's case that growing 70 marijuana plants was necessarily cultivation for sale and might very well be for personal use.

Since Stuart and I argued about what conservatism is on our Sunday night chat on Virtually Speaking (listen at the link, or download the podcast), I think it's time again to post a link to Philip Agre's "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?"

(I've been trying to catch up with some stuff that got put on the back burner when a whole bunch of crises erupted without warning and ate up the whole month I had to do them, and now I have just one day to finish them. Yikes!)

14:04 BST

Sunday, 28 March 2010

But demonstrations are a drag - besides, we're much too high

Berlei Peony full cup braBra of the Week

Different landscapes and other artwork by Jeannette Woitzik

Who Would Be Cast in The Coen Brothers' Star Wars? (via)

Christopher Eccleston is John Lennon.

You all seemed to like the Stuart Zechman article I posted on the health insurance bill considered as a hamburger, so maybe you'd like to listen to the conversation he and I will be having tonight on Virtually Speaking, streaming live at 5:00 PM Pacific time (or see it "live and in-person" inworld), or catch the archive stream or podcast later. Thursday's talking heads were James Fallows and Bruce Schneier.

So, I learn from Jane that:

Yesterday after AEI sacked David Frum, Bruce Bartlett put up a post about it. Which the DNC promptly sent around in this email:
From: dncpress.dnc.org
Date: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 5:38 PM
Subject: Bartlett on Frum
To: firedoglake
Key point: "Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI 'scholars' on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do... donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line..."
Well, now, at least, we know who it is who liked the health insurance bill - AEI, a bunch of far-right creeps. And the DNC is trumpeting this fact! And, it's just like I said: They only let their loonies talk about the bill, because it sucked up all the attention from the real criticisms of the bill, while the more "respectable" right-wingers were told to keep their mouths shut so no one would notice how much they loved it - and that liberal critics of the bill had damn good reasons to hate it for its right-wing goals and effects.

Last month, bmaz wondered, "Why Doesn't The Obama White House Want Dawn Johnsen Confirmed?" Because, for some strange reason, everyone was just too busy to get around to confirming someone to head the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel - not exactly an unimportant position. Yesterday, Marcy Wheeler noticed that the White House had released a list of 15 people Obama had finally decided to give recess appointments to - and that Dawn Johnson is not on that list. When asked why, the White House delivered some post-partisan gibberish.

Meanwhile in the financial sector, I've never understood why they got away with calling it "innovation" when it already had a nice, descriptive term everyone understood: "cooking the books". (Okay, okay, yes, I do understand. What I don't understand is why I've heard so few genuinely leftist people tear into it. It's just like "modernization" - a term that had positive connotations because it referred to good things - appropriated to refer to something that had nothing to do with what it was. Anytime someone said, "modernize" or "innovate" in those contexts, someone should have stopped them and said, "Why are you misusing this word? Oh, I know! To disguise the fact that what you're really doing is wrecking things that work and stealing people's money.") (via)

14:52 GMT

Friday, 26 March 2010

I hate the Olympics, and other stories

Strangely, I didn't see this at the BBC site, but Thames Water did supply this Customer notice:

Updated: 12:45pm

Customers in east London may be experiencing loss of water supply or reduced water pressure following a burst on a large water main within the Olympic Park.

We have now shut the main and water pressure is starting to increase across the area. Due to the size of the area affected, water pressure may not return to normal levels until later this afternoon.

We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.

For some reason, hearing that I had no water made me uncommonly thirsty.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, where Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report discusses Obama Democrats VS Tea Party Republicans: A Fake Fight Over Fake Health Care Reform:

The fifteen month running battle between Obama Democrats and tea party Republicans was never much more real than televised professional wrestling. Like the opposing wrestlers, both sides work for the same bosses, for Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and the biggest medical providers. The real health care fight waged by the Obama administration has not been against Republicans, who never had the votes to stop, let alone dictate or pass anything.

The administration's effort all along has been to pass the worst bill possible, with the greatest amounts of corporate welfare and loopholes, and the fewest protections for patients, while silencing, neutering and coercing the voices of most Democrats, who have favored some form of single payer, or Medicare For All from the beginning.

That's what it looked like to me - the Democrats could have passed any bill they wanted, and they passed a crappy bill because they did not want a good one.

And speaking of being thrown under a bus, Obama just extended the Hyde Amendment and his FDA is "refusing to follow the federal judge's orders to allow the emergency contraception pill to be sold over the counter without a prescription. [...] Last April, I wrote a piece about how Obama had declared war on pro-choice Americans, and no one had noticed. I also predicted that Bush's conscience rule would not, in fact, be overturned - and indeed, Obama has included it in his Executive Order, therefore giving it far more legitimacy than ever before. So, we're talking abortion AND birth control becoming prohibitively expensive - and unavailable - for poorer women. But to add insult to injury, his FDA hasn't even given women that last, desperate chance to control whether they get pregnant or not." Is there any liberal policy Obama hasn't betrayed?

Wow, Obama is even making war on the whales. OK, I admit it, the whales have never been my highest priority, but ffs, the whales!

You know, I'm really getting to the point where I feel like the only difference between the Teabaggers and the Obamacrats is that the Obamacrats never call John Lewis a "nigger" out loud. Y'know?

Since I have been waiting for the final episode of the current Merchant Princes arc for quite some time, I was pleased to see Paul Krugman hosting an FDL Book Salon with Charlie on The Trade of Queens.

Zebra finches play electric guitars.

16:11 GMT

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Admit it, you hate this thing

Our friend nihil obstet said somewhere down in comments, Friday: "There's an issue with democracy here that I can't get over -- candidates and elected officials declaring one thing and doing the opposite when nothing has changed. I don't expect in-your-face brutal honesty of the "You don't count so shut up variety". I expect the "You want X. I share your goals, but X will not achieve them. X will cost lots of money and kill puppies. Therefore, I will work for not X which will do wonderful things for you and honor Lassie's motherhood as well," despite all evidence that X saves money and may lead to canine immortality. But I have a problem with "You want X. I will therefore vote for X," followed by "OK, now the election is over (see Obama promise on FISA on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary) or you've worked for me and given me money. Now I will vote against X (the progs and public option)." And everyone's acting as though this is all right? It isn't. It destroys any pretense of democracy. Anyone who believes in democracy has to think long and hard about ever being able to do anything but oppose such people."

And somewhere else in comments, nihil obstet said: "This is all so reminiscent of NAFTA. Advocates say that there are problems that can be fixed later -- without explaining why they can be fixed later but can't be fixed now. And then there's the enforcement -- the bill creates a strong enforcement mechanism for making people pay premiums, but actually weakens enforcement mechanisms for making insurance companies fulfill their contracts, through "tort reform." Now not only will the government not enforce the laws, it won't let you pursue a meaningful lawsuit. A good-faith bill would have at least equal enforcement mechanisms for the two sides in a contract. But someday I'm sure we'll add those environmental and labor protections to NAFTA, and then maybe after twenty years we can get started on figuring out how to get for-profit companies whose customers are driven to them by the Internal Revenue Service and who raise profits by refusing to honor their contracts to obey unenforced laws."

Even a lot of die-hard Republican Limbaugh-listeners want a good health care bill and don't like the Obama Insurance Bill because it isn't a good health care bill - that is, for all the same reasons I don't like it, The Agonist has learned, and they're right: "At this point, the bill does not regulate insurance rates. It stipulates that you can't be denied coverage or limited in your use of insurance, but it does not regulate how much you'll pay for that coverage. It only says that you're required to purchase coverage. The end effect then is to entrench the current system so deeply that further reforms are unlikely to be successful...actual reform that is. Politicians may fiddle around the edges, but the system that delivers sub-optimal care at great cost is here to stay." Why? Because they don't care about you and they are running a con job. "Mr. Obama and his party have found a way to subsidize a value subtracting industry and do so on your dime, all while telling you that this is the best they can do and that it all comes from their great love for you, the peasants."

Taibbi: "Only in America could we have a situation in which the GOP punts away a political opportunity by having a some Texas congressman shout 'Baby Killer!' during a debate - and then the Democrats fumble that punt by celebrating the Republican-ness of the historic bill they just passed." Oh, but it is historic all right that the Republicans finally managed to get the Democrats to pass a horrible bill they've tried to con us into accepting for decades - by pretending to oppose it. That's why they gave their crazies such free rein - because, after all, look, only these crazy racist right-wing loonies opposed it, right? So it must be good!

And now our hopey-changey "progressive" president is ready, with your help, to work his magic on the deficit by killing Social Security. It sure looks to me like the fix is in, and I'm sure we can look forward to many posts in our comment threads pretending that somehow having our most successful programs completely wrecked is some kind of victory for "progressives". (You know, I really hate that word.)

14:00 GMT

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Not what we meant by "progress"

According to immigration, their reason for refusing entry into this country by an unthreatening middle-class sort of American girl who came to visit a friend was that since she had never physically met said friend, and since she is currently unemployed, it's all part of a clever ruse to sneak into the country to steal our valuable menial jobs. I was particularly infuriated to learn that when the US embassy was called, they said it was out of their hands and couldn't be bothered to intervene. What else are the for? Well, perhaps it was a bit of tit-for-tat on the part of the director of Immigration - maybe he was tired of the treatment Brits and others are getting when they try to enter the United States. Or maybe the American girl got all upset and said something that triggered a revenge episode on the part of the chief of Immigration. My own friend is the British girl who had been trying to pick her American friend up at the airport, and she was a bit distraught, so I was trying to deal with that. Meanwhile, Julia was kind enough to try to contact the American girl's Congressman - his office apparently did try, but to no avail. The poor kid was over for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to London and Paris, and ended up spending the night in detention before being forced to pay for an extra return ticket (the whole holiday having already been unrefundably pre-paid) and sent home the next morning. But, as I have been saying, the War on Tourism proceeds apace. Fortunately, at least they didn't stop me from travelling to Winchester for the weekend, but I didn't really do any tourism there. And it rained a lot. And then I came home and found a whole bunch of other fires to put out.

It's getting so we actually need someone to read Matt Yglesias so you don't have to, and although von provides a kind response with "Your Unicorn Warrior of Destiny has not yet been crowned," I can't imagine pretending that this damned health insurance bill "opens the debate". This bill guarantees that people who are not eligible for other (and better) insurance policies will have some sort of tax-payer subsidized insurance policy. It won't have to be a good insurance policy. There is no guarantee that it will deliver health care. It just means the taxpayers will give more money to insurance companies and the IRS will beat your ass if you don't buy one of their crummy policies. This bill may be the final nail in the coffin of any good debate on health care in the United States. And we can't afford it. This is just one more leg kicked out of the economy. Nye Bevan saved his country by getting the National Health Service up and running. Obama may have killed ours with this bill alone.

But you keep hearing about the good stuff that's in the bill, yeah? People keep saying wonderful things are in there. Are there? Read it and weep. The Teabaggers may be spreading pernicious myths about the health insurance bill, but they are not a patch on the Obamarahma myths about how great this bill is.

Mike Lux says, "The Peasants Are Revolting," and he doesn't mean the Teabaggers. Here's a reason.

It's the Republicans' job right now to make you think that they are out of the picture because they're so damned nuts and racist. That way you have no hope but to vote for Democrats. That's the "Where else are you gonna go?" game. They get increasingly nuts, we get increasingly scared that they might win, and then we have to vote for Dems. But I think what's really going to happen is what has always happened before when they play this game - people who hate being betrayed by Democrats just don't bother to keep going to the polls, and then we get a whole buncha more Republicans. This game can play and play.

Digby and Cliff Schecter on Virtually Speaking last Sunday. (And speaking of Digby, this made me laugh.)

And now I have one of those headaches where my brain feels like it is trying to hatch out of my skull, and the drugs haven't gotten to it yet.

16:00 GMT

Friday, 19 March 2010

I told you so

I've been a little busy with some fallout from the War on Tourism, and I can't say the news cheered me up any.

So you just let me know if the Democratic leadership or the White House ever threaten a single conservative Dem for being too right-wing about anything, but it's pretty clear that war had been declared on Dennis Kucinich for refusing to toe the "centrist" line.

Obama and the leadership do not want to pass a health care bill. If they did, it would be the right-wing Dems who would be suffering threats, arm-twisting, and attacks. They're not. Instead, it's the real liberals in Congress who wanted health care who have been bullied into stepping back to give the insurance rip-off bill plenty of breathing room.

And they won:

When we launched the public option campaign in June of 2009, I made several assumptions. One, that the White House ultimately cared more about preserving the Democratic majority than they did about passing a corporate bailout and when forced to choose between the two they would pick the former. And two, that members of Congress have a base interest in keeping their seats and would not cast a vote that jeopardize them.

Both of those assumptions were wrong. Members of Congress are dealing their seats away, planning to retire after the vote is cast in exchange for appointments or other sinecures from the administration. The alternative, as Dennis Kucinich found out, was to be hounded from office by liberal interest groups whose job is now apparently to play enforcer on the left so the President can follow through with his PhRMA and AHIP deals.

I spoke with Dennis following his speech, and his campaign will return the money to those who have donated in support of his pledge to vote against any health care bill that does not have a public option. It's the honorable thing to do. While he shouldn't be expected to carry the weight of the health care bill on his back when the other 64 members of Congress have abandoned him, it is both disheartening and illuminating to realize that the progressives in Congress have no true commitment to anything but putting on a show. Rep. Edwards and her fellow members of Congress should follow Rep. Kucinich's lead and return the $430,000 they collected from donors for their part in the House kabuki as well.

You get good bills by making a case for them and fighting for them. The White House didn't do that because they did not want to. Period. Quit making excuses for these monsters.

00:21 GMT

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Stops on the infobahn

Dimity SO Ribbon Thief balcony braBra of the Week

Centaurus A

Aliens invade vintage postcards. (via)

Steampunk jewelry

Bryan Berg's houses of cards, and another one.

Strangely, there is no PayPal link on Alicia Morgan's page here, although her musings about who takes "risks" and what they entail were inspired by the fact that she's about to lose her house. (You can, however, donate here.)

By the way, what is our side doing to put judges in office? Anything?

This Week in Tyranny, Dan found many interesting links and quotes, including this one: "Senate Democrats plus Joe Biden do technically have many tools at their disposal to pass health care reform, if only they have the will needed to play hardball. This is something Democrats should keep in mind because constituents will ask 'what have you passed to help us?' not 'how well have you protected the stupid broken traditions of Congress that we hate and don't even understand?'" And that's true. But I don't think the tools at Biden's disposal according to Senate rules are even in the right toolbox for this problem. Fight for single-payer and you might have a shot. Only trouble is, it's perfectly clear that it's always been a scam. The Democrats have done everything they can to keep the Republicons "relevant" so they didn't have to pass a good bill - or even a "compromise" bill, as Glennzilla pointed out last August: "The attempt to attract GOP support was the pretext which Democrats used to compromise continuously and water down the bill. But -- given the impossibility of achieving that goal -- isn't it fairly obvious that a desire for GOP support wasn't really the reason the Democrats were constantly watering down their own bill? Given the White House's central role in negotiating a secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry, its betrayal of Obama's clear promise to conduct negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN no less), Rahm's protection of Blue Dogs and accompanying attacks on progressives, and the complete lack of any pressure exerted on allegedly obstructionists "centrists," it seems rather clear that the bill has been watered down, and the "public option" jettisoned, because that's the bill they want -- this was the plan all along." That's still the state of play.

It is kind of amazing that Time let Chris Hayes say in their pages that they've ruined everything. And Jim Henley, who has also read that article, says (in a linky post): "I agree with Dean Baker that 'skills mismatch' as an explanation for high unemployment is bullshit. Whenever there's a genuine boom, meaning a genuine demand surge that businesses need to meet, companies hire whomever seems like a reasonable fit for needed openings and train them. And I haven't seen any demonstrations that current labor niches are in fact more specialized and exclusive than heretofore. 'Skills mismatch' is a way for the clowns Chris Hayes discusses above to pretend that they're not the ones who broke the country."

Someone really needs to ask Mayor Bloomberg, and numerous other officials and business people around the country, why they want the public to fear sending their kids into their schools, or going to their shops, or any of dozens of other things that ordinary people can do that can get them dragged out in handcuffs and even injured without ever committing a crime. There's a really serious pattern here of throwing the baby out with the bathwater - the "safety officers" in schools are supposed to be there to protect the kids, not assault them and traumatize them.

Reminder to self: Watch videos "Lawrence Lessig scares a room of liberals," and "HOWTO beat the London cops on a BS terrorism stop."

Warren Zevon

Now I get to have a week or two of confusion while America springs forward and Europe doesn't and I can't tell what time it is in all the time zones I'm juggling 'til further notice. Argh.

18:48 GMT

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Dante's casino

Bill Maher was a guest on Countdown, where Lawrence O'Donnell was sitting in for Olbermann, with the result that even O'Donnell started to sound like a normal person having a normal, sane conversation with another sane (though somewhat more entertaining) person, as Maher simply stated the obvious: "I think the biggest mistake that he has made in his first year was to put bipartisanship ahead of fixing the country. [...] instead of coming in, with all the energy from the election and saying, 'You know what? We're in a crisis mode, I won this election by a sizable mandate -- here's what we're going to do; if you don't like it, Republicans, you can suck on it.' [...] They should have started with single payer. I mean, even if they weren't going to get it, it is what most other western democracies have. It's the one program that makes sense. But okay, we live in a country that doesn't make sense.. But at least start with that. During the campaign, Obama said, 'If we were starting from scratch, single-payer would make sense.' Well then, let's start from scratch - that is kinda where we are in this country right now. And if they had started from that, then the fall-back compromise position would have at least been the public option. But they didn't even start with the public option - he didn't even defend that." The Raw Story has both an article and the video.

Ruth reminds us that the "go slow" position is precisely the tactic conservatives used to obstruct civil rights, and it reminds me of something very strange I remember nyceve discussing during our little talk on VS* the other week, when she told me that someone had pointed out to her, as an argument for passing the abysmal health insurance bill, that Social Security didn't cover black people, either, but it passed and now it covers everyone. The trouble with that argument is that a good Social Security system that covered close to 90% of the populace was put in place, everyone loved it, and then extending it to black people wasn't that hard. [My error: As CMike points out in comments below, blacks per se were not excluded from SS, but a number of job categories were that disproportionally were held by blacks - and women.] Because the program itself was a good program and it worked. It did not explode budget deficits because it paid for itself. People understood that Social Security was a right that "all Americans" were entitled to, they just had to be reminded of who "all Americans" included. That's not the case with this health care bill, which even its proponents argue will only have positive impact on a relatively small minority of the population (that is, half of those currently uninsured) - in exchange for several things that will negatively affect a larger number. And there's not even any evidence that the uninsured can truly benefit from the bill, since it doesn't drive down premiums (quite the contrary) and it forces everyone else to pay more for it in taxes than they are already paying - and, worse, it still doesn't get rid of the expensive parts of health insurance, including what you still have to pay for at the point of use, all of which is still there. In other words, Social Security delivered, and this bill doesn't. It is not half a loaf - it is one slice of moldy bread that you can at best hope will help that small number of people who are currently uninsured but can somehow manage to find the resources to pay for commercial insurance and find the money to take care of whatever additional charges (like co-pays) will come with any treatment they actually need to have. (Spend a moment thinking about who those people must be - because I don't think it's the same poor people everyone thinks they are helping.) These eager supporters of the health insurance giveaway are betting your lives on arguments like the one that passing a horrible bill is somehow analogous to supporting Social Security, since both had "flaws". But no - SS was a good program that made one nasty but fixable exception, whereas this is a bad bill that has a few little clauses that suggest something good might happen to some people within a group of maybe 10% of the population. I mean, seriously, you could never have passed Social Security on that basis, and if you had, it wouldn't have survived ten years let alone more than half a century.

The Talking Dog interviewed Ellen Lubell, whose client at Gitmo, Abdul Aziz Naji, was not "on the battlefield trying to kill American troops," but in a house that was raided by Pakistani police, probably as a result of the bounty offers the US was making. "The Pakistanis interrogated Aziz, concluded that he had done nothing wrong, and told him they would release him. Instead, they turned him over to the Americans. Aziz was taken to the US prison at Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was tortured, and then on to Guantanamo." The Obama administration in fact cleared him early last summer, but he is still in captivity.

A Republican scandal of the week - that is, a thing the GOP thinks should be a scandal, is that lawyers in the Department of Justice have been trying to uphold our American system of justice - which you'd think would be a good thing, but Grassley is pushing the meme that they are some kind of terrorist sympathizers. Says Spencer Ackerman, "Grassley knows exactly what he's doing. He's taking one of the strengths of the American justice system - the fact that everyone is entitled to legal representation - and implying that it's unseemly. It's a testament to the weakness of his character that he will never forthrightly accuse these attorneys of what he's implying - sympathy with accused terrorists - in a way that they could refute. What a pathetic excuse for a man. Those of us in the media have an obligation to call this smear campaign what it is." (Well, they could answer it - they could just ask if the Senator is suggesting that DoJ lawyers should violate their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution, and if that is why he is violating his own oath to do the same.)

It's been a while since I read anything as dry and unideological on the subject as The History of Modern Pornography, from Patricia Davis, Ph.D., Simon Noble, and Rebecca J. White. But I couldn't find anything particularly wrong with it from a quick scan. Possibly a good primer for someone not familiar with the basics.

17:52 GMT

Friday, 12 March 2010

Health scare

I don't know why anyone let's them get away with calling it "ObamaCare" when, in fact, it is DoleCare - Bob Dole's 1994 proposal for not having a progressive health care solution. With that in mind, Seth Ackerman on Why health care reform is not a "huge progressive victory":

Let's start by asking why there have been no large-scale advances in social legislation since the 1960's. The first thing I'll note here is that the last big, ambitious measure, Medicare, was a government-run single payer program that displaced or preempted private health insurance coverage for about one in ten Americans. That's why the AMA, Ronald Reagan, and the nascent conservative movement spared no effort to decry it as socialism.

Yet none of that prevented Medicare from passing in 1965 with 13 out of 32 Senate Republicans voting in favor. Nor did it stop the bill from winning the support of half the senators from the Deep South (5 out of 10, or 7 out of 14, depending on whether you count Texas and Florida). And what about the Mark Pryors, Blanche Lincolns, Ben Nelsons, Mary Landrieus of the world? In 2009, we were told they fought the Senate bill's mildly progressive elements because they represented states that are "obviously" too conservative to support even such tepid liberalism. But in 1965, three of the six senators from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska voted for or pledged support for single-payer Medicare, a.k.a socialism.

Clearly something has gone terribly wrong since 1965.

[...] But surely if we want to determine whether or not this is a historic progressive victory, we need to ask what exactly the health care reform effort has done to stem this ideological regression, since it clearly lies at the root of an unending string of progressive defeats. And the answer comes straight from the lips of Barack Obama, who has repeatedly told the country that this is a great bill because (1) it's not an unrealistic and impractical foreign-inspired government-run program; (2) it doesn't turn your health care over to government bureaucrats; and (3) it relies entirely on the principles of business competition and consumer choice (usually abbreviated to "choice and competition").

In other words, not only is the bill itself designed in such a way that it doesn't deliver what we wanted from it, but Obama has used this process to undercut the language that would promote a better bill and instead advanced right-wing memes for defeating the health care movement that 80% of Americans support. Barack Obama, slamming the Overton Window shut, right down on your broken fingers.

Dr. Marcia Angell tells Bill Moyers why this bill should not be passed:

BILL MOYERS: But this is all about politics now. It's not about pure health care reform. So given that reality, what would you have the President do?

MARCIA ANGELL: Well, I think you really do have to separate the policy analysis from the political analysis and I'm looking at it as policy. And it fails as policy. Moreover, a lot of people say, "Let's hold our nose and pass it, because it's a step in the right direction." And I say it's a step in the wrong direction.

You're right. Politics is different and there are a lot of people who say, "Look, it's a terrible bill. Even a step in the wrong direction as policy goes. But we need to get Obama elected again and we need to continue with the Democratic majority in Congress. And so we need to give Obama and the Democrats a win. If we don't, the Republicans will come in and take over Congress in the fall, and then the White House in 2012. But the problem with a political analysis is sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. And Democrats and particularly liberals have a history of outsmarting themselves.

And I'm not so sure that if this bill goes down, it's going to make it any harder for them politically. So I think it's difficult times for the President and for the Democrats. But if you look at it as a matter of policy, the President's absolutely right that the status quo is awful. If we do nothing, costs will continue to go up. People will continue to lose their coverage. Employers are dropping health benefits. Things will get very bad. The issue is will this bill make them better or worse? And I believe it will make it worse.


BILL MOYERS: Well, you remind me 45 thousand people, as Wendell Potter said earlier, die every year for lack of health insurance. That should be-- they're--

MARCIA ANGELL: It's not lack of health insurance. It's lack of health care. There is a difference between health insurance and health care. You can have insurance offered that is too expensive to buy or too expensive to use. What good does it do? And what happens when this occurs, is that what you see is instead of improvements, look at my state of Massachusetts.

Instead of seeing improvements, you see it shredded even further. You see more people denied access anyway. Now they're about, I think over 60 thousand people in my state who are exempted from the plan for financial hardship and this is also in the Obama plan. If you're really poor, you don't have to participate, and these are the very people who should be in a plan to cover them.

But, hey, that's 11-Deminsional chess.

"Dem Rep. Lynn Woolsey: House May Pass Senate Bill Without Recorded Vote." What, no one wants to go on record as having voted for this turkey? I see.

God forbid anyone should demonize the insurance industry.

15:55 GMT

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Every day I get in a queue

Rachel Maddow devoted an entire hour to health insurance reform, and, most especially, the liars in Congress and the special interests who oppose it. And she did a good job on that, spelling out the relationships between the "grassroots" and the industry scum, as well as calling the GOP lies lies. Unfortunately, she didn't spend any time on the liars and special interests who support it. Aside from distractions like "death panels", she didn't talk about any of the problems with the bill - or the way the Democratic leadership has played health reform (except for Max Baucus' dilly-dallying) - that are the real reason the bill has had problems and, frankly, still shouldn't pass. (She notes that the Democratic position Grassley is currently opposing was originally his idea - which should tell you something about how stupid that position actually is. Someone like Grassley never proposes a positive reform.) She calls it "health reform". It isn't. Being forced to pay con men in the insurance industry for fraudulent insurance is not health.

I can't help but wonder what Matt Yglesias thinks "the left" is. Like so many journalists based in Washington, he seems to think that "the left" can be defined by a single point that isn't even far enough left to have reached the center yet. If you're not a Republican who spends all your time screaming about how evil liberals are, I guess that makes you "the left". But the actual left of center does not support the current version of the health insurance bill; it supports single-payer or fully socialized medicine, but not forced mandates to buy "insurance" from unregulated mobsters. For that matter, even the center doesn't support this version of the bill. What they support is a program that makes health care available to all without having to decide between eating and seeing a doctor - which, by the way, will not be provided by this bill, but would be provided by single-payer. And MoveOn.org is not "the left", regardless of how the Capitol Hill mob sees it - they are an organization that was formed to promote censure for Bill Clinton in lieu of either the far-right demand to impeach him or the opposing view that he should be let off the hook entirely. (Oh, and Oliver Willis should be ashamed of equating Jane Hamsher and FDL with PUMA. Refusing to be in love with Obama doesn't make you PUMA.)

There are good reasons not to love Obama, on health care or any other subject, but one important one is this: "Bush's policies came to seem less obviously reprehensible as the Obama administration drifted into embracing watered-down versions of many of them."

This Week In Tyranny, the Cheney wing may have gone too far for some right-wingers, some right-wingers amp up the looniness even more, and right-wing extremism is rising. a marine was killed by private contractors in Afghanistan (Congress still hasn't thought the better of privatizing the military), the surveillance state continues to expand, we do torture and it's a virtue, and we have a crappy mass media.

Smoke rings

Revolving Door: Unsafe at any speed

The Who discuss mass transport at the Isle of Wight.

02:29 GMT

Monday, 08 March 2010


I had tech issues this week and today I'm just too tired to think after a trip to the clinic that I thought was going to be routine but took a lot more out of me than expected, so just a few items:

I've posted Stuart Zechman's little analogy on my Other Weblog, but since it had Haloscan comments I completely forgot about, come back here to leave any comments you may have on his suggestion that you "Imagine, if you will, that the only food that people have to eat comes from McDonald's."

Congress Sticks It to Main Street Again - the most important parts of financial reform legislation are quietly being gutted.

Banana underwear, and Professor Xavier's steampunk wheelchair.

Listen to Digby and nyceve as last night's talking heads at Virtually Speaking.

19:40 GMT

Saturday, 06 March 2010

Found on the internets

The "serious people" insist that there is nothing to worry about, even though it's all coming apart and every promised reform has turned into nothing more than another gift for the corporatocracy and wealthy dynasties. And the real message from the White House and the serious people is not that Rahm Emanuel is trying to undermine the president or that the president has been "weak", but that it's all because Obama needs to betray his promises to progressives, because wanting something better than corporate giveaways is wanting "the impossible". (And, via the same post from Scarecrow, "Obama Applauds Mass Firing of Teachers, Just Like When He Applauded the Mass Firing of Banksters. Oh wait. [...] So yeah, the position of Barack Obama's administration is that when schools aren't doing well, it's totally cool to clean house and fire everyone but the food service workers, no questions asked. And the position of Barack Obama's administration with failing banks and financial institutions? Keep every single one (except the guy forced out by shareholders), and hell, keep their ludicrous pay - cause it's in their contracts." But the relationship is even more direct.)

Mick Arran says Chris Dodd and His Non-Reform Banking Reform Comedy Crew are unfunny. Looks like Dodd had to retire because his efforts to secure his post-Senate career would kill him with the voters anyway. Also: "Lawyers have been examining the SCOTUS' Corporate Rights decision more closely and it turns out that not only can corpos spend an unlimited amount of $$$ buying as many conservatives as the Congress can produce (talk about productivity!), but they can do it anonymously and not to have to take the heat for it." And that's how they'll deal with the possibility of being investigated for their criminal activities - by buying elections.

Pruning Shears: "Senate reform is a hot topic. David Waldman has two great posts this week, one on the filibuster crazy GOP and another on the use of anonymous holds. The second explains how proposed reforms are basically meaningless PR because anonymous holds are already not permitted. So at least some delaying tactics can be stopped, but they still go on. Here is why: Senators like the filibuster. Democrats like it. Republicans like it. Senators have a downright regal sense of self regard. They may be frustrated by particular instances of obstruction, and individual Senators may seem like sensible folks with low maintenance egos, but get them inside the building and all of a sudden it's the World's Greatest Deliberative Body and the Cooling Saucer* where comity is worshipped." Dan's prescription is the same one I have: Stop letting the Republicans get away with holds and threats to filibuster and make them filibuster every single thing, starting with all the unconfirmed nominees who have been piling up. Let 'em bring all other business to a standstill while they prove to the public that what they are about has nothing to do with protecting America.

Demosthenes on Damage Control at Newsweek: "That Jones bit is really the crux of it. Newsweek had already decided that it was going to equate the word "terrorist" with "foreigner". That wasn't humor or hyperbole; it was a simple statement of policy. Hirsh stating that "Al Qaeda co-opted terrorism after 9/11" wasn't humor either. It was denial of Newsweek's own culpability for equating "terrorist" with "foreigner"."

Atrios made Obama Wanker of the Day for reversing Attorney General Eric Holder on military tribunals - that is, Obama is denying Sheik Mohammed a civilian trial. But Matt Yglesias notes that our civil liberties atmosphere has become even more toxic in that we now seem to have a two-party push to kill civil liberties.

Thursday's talking heads at Virtually Speaking were Jay Rosen and Jay Ackroyd ("Jay Rosen has been on the NYU Journalism School faculty since 1986, and from 1999 to 2005 he served as chair of the Department. He lives in New York City. Rosen is the author of PressThink, a weblog about journalism and its ordeals (www.pressthink.org), which he introduced in September 2003. In June 2005, PressThink won the Reporters Without Borders 2005 ") - listen to the archived stream at the link. And Sunday's bobbleheads will be Digby and nyceve.

Gary Farber has an action-packed collection of links complete with tales of space Nazis, and also a bagel.

"This is a Christianity from which the Christ of the Beatitudes is oddly absent."

17:27 GMT

Friday, 05 March 2010

Crazy is...

Once upon a time, when the US led an invasion of Iraq under President George H.W. Bush, Osama bin Laden offered America his help and support.

Yet not too many years later, and not too many years ago, the "news" media treated it as absolutely normal that the George Walker Bush/Dick Cheney White House was claiming that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, who were well-known to be enemies, had somehow acted together to attack the United States in the events now known as "9/11".

Even more ludicrously, no one suggested that you had to have the knowledge of a new-born baby or be completely out of your mind to claim that Iraq, which had never even tested a nuclear device and had no delivery systems for one, posed a nuclear threat to the United States or its allies.

Yet for some reason, these same people think it makes perfect sense to suggest that Alan Grayson is "crazy". because he derided the Republicans approach to healthcare as: If you get sick, die quickly. (This was a charitable interpretation by some lights, since what the Republicans really want is for you to take a long time dying and paying "health care providers" a lot of money. But for you, it's exactly right - the only way you can afford to get sick is if you die almost instantly and therefore save your family the cost of your care.)

So, asks Glenn Greenwald,

What conceivable basis exists for disparaging as "crazy" one of the few members of Congress who is both willing and able to bring attention to some of the most severe corruption and worst excesses of our political establishment?
Clearly, that is the basis. It's simply crazy to bring attention to some of the most severe corruption and worst excesses of our political establishment.

Just how crazy is Grayson? Or rather, how threatening to the Conventional Wisdom? The guy is so crazy that in his district, he is currently more popular with voters in both parties than any other candidate or elected official in the state, apparently:

324 registered republicans in the 8th that were part of a recent poll showing Grayson has the support of nearly 28 percent of Republicans in his district. Grayson's opponents - combined - have only a 14 percent approval rating.


Grayson received high marks from Republicans for his Constitution initiative. Over half of all Republicans said that they were more likely to vote for Grayson because he passed a resolution urging high schools to teach the Constitution, and he had distributed tens of thousands of copies of the Constitution throughout the district.

Why haven't Democrats been demanding that teaching the Constitution be returned to the classroom, by the way? Why haven't they made a point of saying as often as they can that ever since the Reaganauts and Horowitz started attacking education, fewer and fewer of our students have the first clue what's in the Constitution? Why haven't they been asking: If conservatives claim they love the Constitution so much, why haven't they been demanding it be put back into the public school curriculum everywhere?
Asked to comment, Congressman Grayson said, "it's like I've been saying: People like a Congressman with guts. They want someone who works hard, pays attention, and gets things done. For goodness sake, we increased federal competitive grants in this district by 98% in our first year. That extra $100 million benefits Republicans, Independents and Democrats equally. People of every political persuasion want to see action to help solve their problems, and that's what they're seeing from us."
Yes. As Ron Beasley reminds us again:
A lesson the Democrats have failed to learn is that when given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat that sounds like a Republican they will chose the Republican nearly every time. But speak your mind as a proud progressive Democrat and you can get some Republican support. It's possible that the Democrats could lose the House and/or the Senate in 2010 and Obama may be a one term President and it will be because they refused to be progressive Democrats.
Or, to put it another way, if Obama really wants bipartisan support, he should sound like a liberal. When Republicans feel like the voters will take revenge on them for not being able to answer liberal questions, even they will find they need to vote for those whacky liberal programs.

19:00 GMT

Thursday, 04 March 2010

More gloom and doom

Sunshine in London at this time of year usually means it's cold. It's kinda like that with everything today - on the one hand, Bunning's one-man filibuster on unemployment comp finally sank, but no one argues against Republican lies that Medicare and Social Security are what's responsible for the deficit. On the one hand, I managed to get through a day without exploding, and on the other, I learned this morning that the invaluable Jon Swift has died. Regular readers of The Sideshow of course remember his that his nom-de-blog was followed through with his lovely performance as a "conservative" blogger (before Colbert grabbed that spotlight for himself), and also that "Swift" performed another important service in making us remember what lesser-known bloggers had done well in the course of the year. What many of us did not know is that he was really Al Weisel, the author of Live Fast, Die Young, about James Dean and the making of Rebel Without A Cause. But we've missed Jon since he stopped posting a while back, and that's who we will mourn and remember. Tributes from other friends and fellows include Jurassicpork, Libby Spencer, Tom Watson, Pam Spaulding, Blue Girl, Melissa McEwan, and Skippy, who lists a lot more.

Dan Froomkin clearly doesn't share the views of his former collegues at The Washington Past who have been singing the praises of Rahm Emanuel, who Froomkin calls "Obama's Chief of Sabotage".

Amanda discusses The war on health care access and the curious fact that it Turns out a lot of men look forward to the oops pregnancy.

It was nice watching Anthony Weiner go on Fox to tell them they're liars (and also nice that he did a short post saying we should stop negotiating with right-wing losers at FDL), but not so nice (if you keep watching) to see a "centrist" Democrat go on MSNBC to pretend that the left's complaints about Blanche Lincoln are comparable to the teabaggers. That's obviously the White House line, but the so-called left is really the people who know that Obama's plan has always been to undercut the single-payer plan we need, and he's also just another warmonger who rationalizes torture - in other words, he's done the opposite of what he told voters he would stand for and bring.

Glenn Greenwald was on Morning Joe talking about why "bipartisanship" is stupid - but if you stay tuned in, you'll get a chance to hear Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter explain why he is running against evil GOP Democrat Blanche Lincoln.

Krugman is not optimistic about the way things are going: "But that's a fantasy. For one thing, governments always, when push comes to shove, end up rescuing key financial institutions in a crisis. And more broadly, relying on the magic of the market to keep banks safe has always been a path to disaster. Even Adam Smith knew that: he may have been the father of free-market economics, but he argued that bank regulation was as necessary as fire codes on urban buildings, and called for a ban on high-risk, high-interest lending, the 18th-century version of subprime. And the lesson has been confirmed again and again, from the Panic of 1873 to Iceland today."

Warren Buffet gets it when he says our health care system is a tapeworm eating our economy: "If it was a choice today between Plan A, which is what we've got, or Plan B, which is the Senate bill, I would vote for the Senate bill," he said. "But I would much rather see a Plan C that really attacks costs, and I think that's what the American public wants to see"

Stop-and-search policies are, of course, intrinsically unAmerican, not to mention that the police use them to treat funny-colored people like criminals when they are doing nothing wrong: "Upward of 90 percent of the people stopped are completely innocent of any wrongdoing. And yet the New York Police Department is compounding this intolerable indignity by compiling an enormous and permanent computerized database of these encounters between innocent New Yorkers and the police." (Hands up if you think it's just New York.)

Photo-real pencil art by Paul Lung

18:36 GMT

Tuesday, 02 March 2010

Yesterday's links today

These are even more links I just didn't get around to... until now:

Hm, let's see what's at AlterNet...

Notable from Eschaton:

Also via Eschaton, Kos makes a good case for supporting Bill Halter, Blanche Lincoln's primary opponent. Blanche is a classic GOP Democrat who votes with the corporations every time. Halter is the Lt. Governor of Arkansas, so he has experience in winning the state - and the Democratic leadership in DC seems to hate him, which is a nice recommendation right there. And I'm all for kicking Lincoln out. (Also, the funniest news I read all day - and don't skip the comments.)

Guardian: "Murdoch's hunger for power is a looming threat to democracy: News International's dismissal of the parliamentary report on the News of the World phone scandal just shows their contempt for the law, MPs and other media"

Balloon Juice: "I still have to wonder how the Sunday shows could not find a moment to mention that Senator Jim Bunning is obstructing 1.2 million Americans from getting unemployment benefits just to be a dick. One would have thought that this might merit a comment somewhere. On ABC there was ample time to discuss the departure of the White House Party Planner, but not the real world impact of obstructionism on so many people's lives. I guess important 'journalists' can't be bothered with things like news when catty Georgetown gossip is at hand."

James Wolcott has a lovely run-down on how the GOP honeymoon with Scott Brown is over. Also, Wolcott seems to have gone to Visit Marc Maron, which I assume means he'll be putting in an appearance on Maron's WTF podcast.

04:49 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, March 2010

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