Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Last Call

Well, now isn't this a nice story breaking this evening.
An officer in the Boston Police Department was suspended yesterday for allegedly writing a racially charged e-mail about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to colleagues at the National Guard, a law enforcement official said. Mayor Thomas M. Menino compared the officer to a cancer and said he is "gone, g-o-n-e'' from the force.

The law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Officer Justin Barrett referred to the black scholar as a " jungle monkey" in the letter, written in reaction to media coverage of Gates's arrest July 16.

Barrett, a 36-year-old who has been on the job for two years, was stripped of his gun and badge yesterday and faces a termination hearing in the next week, said police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. He has no previous disciplinary record, she said.

"Yesterday afternoon, Commissioner Davis was made aware that Officer Barrett was the author of correspondence which included racially charged language," she said. "At that time, Commissioner Davis immediately stripped Officer Barrett of his gun and badge, and at this time we will be moving forward with the hearing process."

What Officer Barrett actually said in the e-mail was, let's see, "If I was the officer [Gates] verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance."

Bonus twenty points for correct usage of "belligerent non-compliance", several trillion points docked as well as loss of job due to the racial epithet. Boy, gotta love post-racism America. My only question is "I wonder which right-wing crackpot will blame Obama for this guy getting fired first?"

I foresee a concern troll post where racism in general is lamented by all parties involved, but some variation of the phrase "But one has to wonder if Officer Barrett would still have his job right now if the President had only chosen to stay above the fray in the Gates case last week" is coming. You can count on it like the sun comes up in morning. It's only a question of who does it first.


Me? I'm going to go read. I'm just angry as hell right now.

Obama Derangement Index

Eric Kleefield takes a look at Rasmussen's bizarre practice of declaring that people who have strong approval and disapproval of Obama accurately measure the mood of the country somehow, a number that at least according to Rasumssen is at -10.
The key questions then are: What is this number, and is it a valid measurement of real popularity? In an interview today with TPM, Rasmussen defended the index's validity against some harsh criticism, saying that intensity of opinion -- the true figure measured by his index -- does indeed matter.

The thing to remember is that this is not simply subtracting all the respondents who disapprove of President Obama from the people who approve. Instead, Rasmussen takes the numbers who strongly approve or disapprove, and then performs this math. As of today, that index number is -10, compared to an overall rating of +1 in Rasmussen's daily tracker.

It would seem at first glance that this number can skew negative -- that is, the people who disapprove of a president are inherently more likely to feel strongly about it, compared to a certain level of lukewarm support for a president. For example, the 2004 exit poll put George W. Bush's strong approval at 33%, to strong disapproval of 34%. But his overall approval was 53% to disapproval at 46%, and he was re-elected 51%-48%.

I asked three prominent polling experts about this, and they all lambasted it.

Mark Blumenthal of said he didn't know of anyone who had previously given this as a prominent "index." "If Obama now has more strong detractors than strong supporters, that is politically meaningful (though contrary to the results of the recent ABC/Washington Post polls, to pick one example)," said Blumenthal. "But to report only those who strongly approve or strongly disapprove of Obama while neglecting mention of the aggregate numbers strikes me as more political spin than analysis."

Charles Franklin of, who is also my former poli-sci professor, said that it "seems misguided" to write off the moderate approvers and disapprovers. And Prof. Alan Abramowitz of Emory University was quite tough on it: "In my opinion, it makes no sense. It assumes that there's no difference between those who just approve and disapprove, that the only opinions that count are strong approval and disapproval, but there' s no evidence to support that claim."

I'd actually say the number is politically meaningful, but we should really give it a name that is really indicitive of what the number means right now: the Obama Derangement Index. After all, if the President's overall approval rating among all citizens is close to or above 50% and this Rasmussen number shows that 10% more Americans strongly disapprove of the President than strongly approve of him, isn't that a pretty good indication of how large the strongly partisan disconnect is out there, i.e. an indication of how out of touch the people on the strongly disapproval side are compared to the national average?

I mean, that sounds like Rasmussen's index there is actually somewhat politically useful, just not in the way intended. If the President's overall approval numbers were, say, in the low 40's and 20% of America strongly approved and 10% strongly disapproved, that would be pretty far out of whack too, just in the pro-Obama direction.

Now, if the Rasmussen number was +25 or so like in February, you'd expect to see the President's overall approval ratings about 25 points above 50, and they were at 68-70% at one point just after the inauguration. With the President's approval ratings now in the low 50's, you'd expect the Rasmussen number to be in the low but positive single digits if it reflected the whole of America: slightly more partisans for the President than against, reflecting America's overall mood.

It is not. He's at minus ten, in fact 39% strongly disapprove and 29% strongly approve of the President right now. That's a significant disconnect, and more and more sources on the right are running with that number as some sort of real indication of the President's approval rating when it's arguably leaving out the most important group: influenceable swing voters in the middle. Moderates.

What this number tells me is that there's a hell of a lot more partisan disapproval of Barack Obama as a whole than there is in the country as a whole: i.e. there's a mathematically significant number of people who just really don't like the guy, but the country overall does.

Big chunk of America there out of touch. The Rasmussen index is about 10-15 points lower than it should be, meaning the country has a measurable hard-on against the guy.

So, Obama Derangement Index it is: (50 + Rasmussen "Approval" Index) - (Obama's Approval Rating Average at

Today's Obama Derangement Index is -11.9%. Ideally, this number should be zero. A strong positive number means people are turning into DFH's. A strong negative number means the Haterade is working.

See? Math is fun. I can assign meaning to numbers too, and I can attempt to justify them as well! I'll think I'm going to enjoy this. That is until Nate Silver shows up to beat me with a slide rule, but until that day, I'll be keeping track of that there spiffy new Obama Derangement Index.

New tag, ODI.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Yggy: "Baucus to Unveil Magical Health Care Bill?"
I can envision two scenarios. One is that the Finance Committee is defining “covers” in a pretty stingy way. A lot of reformers are going to have a big problem with that, if that proves to be the case, though I’m a bit more open-minded about the possible virtues of a bare-bones minimum benefits package. The other, which the artful phrase “scores below $900 billion over 10 years” makes me suspect, is that he’s basically accomplishing this through accounting gimmicks. If you phase a plan in slowly enough, you can get the 10 year score as low as you like.
I'm going to envision a third scenario, where Max Baucus has a hat.

I can totally believe the Senate Finance Committee works like this. Totally.

Speaking Of Bipartisanship

Steve Benen discusses what bipartisan means in 2009.

David Waldman reminded me the other day that Republican opponents of Social Security and Medicare used some of the same ridiculous arguments then that we're hearing now. That's absolutely true. It's worth noting, though, that in those eras, there were plenty of centrist and center-left Republicans who rejected the nonsense and worked with Democrats on achieving progressive policy goals.

Those days are long gone. We're now watching negotiations with Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi, who are not only conservative, but fundamentally reject the goals the majority hopes to achieve through reform.

This is hopelessly twisted, and evidence of a political system that not only doesn't work, but doesn't know how to work. To reiterate a point from a couple of weeks ago, bills with bipartisan support have traditionally been the result of one party reaching out to moderates from the other party to put together a reasonably good-sized majority.

Under the current circumstances, though, the expectations for the majority are skewed -- Republicans have almost entirely excised moderates from their ranks, and voters have handed Democrats a huge majority. It creates a ridiculous dynamic -- demanded by Republicans, touted by the media, and accepted by a few too many Democrats -- that the majority's legislation is only legitimate if it's endorsed by some liberals and some conservatives, as if the parties and ideologies of members aren't supposed to have any meaning. As if it's Democrats' fault Republicans have become too conservative. As if elections don't matter.

I think since November 2000 we've completely established the fact that elections don't matter...not as far as liberalism and progressivism goes. Conservatives can never die, only the actors who play them. Despite the fact that America has given the Democrats the White House, 60% of the Senate and 59% of the House, they will never have a mandate. Ever. The Village demands that America is a "center-right nation", where center-right is defined as anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-intellectual, anti-regulatory Goldwater reactionism. Democrats can never win a mandate, Republicans can only temporarily lose one by acting like Democrats.

So no, elections don't matter because the big media companies and the corporate lobbying behemoths controlling the Village never change. As I said yesterday, the definition of bipartisan is "Democrats roll over and give the Republican Party 99% of what they want, then claim that 1% as victory." I'd have to add that in 2009, that 1% becomes the focus of Democrats being "completely intransigent" and "not willing to work with Republicans."

Sooner or later though, something has to change. I'm mildly sure that the Blue Dogs got a glimpse of that future today if they kept fighting the President on this. But we'll see how this goes in the Senate.

This problem is much larger than health care. it's the fact that the GOP still thinks it runs Washington, and the Village is backing them up. Maybe Obama should start cutting them off at the knees once in a while.

[UPDATE 3:47 PM] Speaking of the GOP still running Washington, what Double G said:

There are many motives for publishing "GOP-on-the-rise" stories. It's virtually certain to generate a Drudge link, Politico's holy grail. It ensures appearances on GOP-friendly cable news and radio talk shows. It solidifies relationships with dirt-peddling right-wing operatives who drive mindless scandals and distractions in a Democratic administration. And it earns a gold star and pat on the head from right-wing polemicists in the never-ending quest of establishment journalists to prove they are not part of The Liberal Media, the goal which Mark Halperin openly embraced on his knees while pleading with Hugh Hewitt, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity to stop thinking that he is One of Them, when he was hawking the book he co-wrote with Politico's Harris.
Perception is reality. Reality is overrated.

Bark But No Bite

The Blue Dogs have decided to go along with a public option after all, as Democrat Mike Ross of Arkansas gets his deal.
Ross said the deal between four Blue Dogs on the House committee, the House Democratic leadership and the White House lowers the cost of the House health care reform plan by $100 billion and also exempts businesses with payrolls below $500,000 from having to provide health coverage for workers.

He also said the bill's government-funded public insurance option -- a key provision for President Obama and Democratic leaders -- would be a choice for consumers instead of coverage forced on people without health insurance.

Republican opponents of the public option and some Democrats, warn such a not-for-profit plan would have a competitive advantage over private insurers and eventually wipe them out.

"The public option will be required to negotiate with health care providers just like private insurance companies do to insure we have a level playing field," Ross said.

TNR's Jon Chait takes it from here:

A couple days ago I argued that, contrary to much of what you were hearing, House Blue Dogs did not pose a threat to the passage of health care reform:

This isn't a fundamental clash over ideology. It's a skirmish over the timing of a vote. The Blue Dogs don't want to have to vote for a more liberal bill than what ultimately becomes law. A lot of the fighting we're seeing a a result is probably kabuki theater. The real bounds of reform will beset by the Senate.

And, indeed, the House now seems to have an agreement, and the primary Blue Dog concession is... the timing of the vote:

Substantively, leadership seems to have given up very little, but, Blue Dogs succeeded at slow walking the bill, which won't get a vote until after the August recess.

Like I said, the bottleneck is the Senate.

It's much less of a bottleneck and more of a huge corporate lobbyist roadblock, frankly. And why did the Blue Dogs insist on wasting so much bloody time? Roll over boys. Good dog.

Still, Baucus is still calling the shots. And right now the Baucus plan meets almost none of the "Is it a good plan?" requirements. (Public option, employee mandate, surtax, subsidies).

How Shall I Put This Diplomatically

Newsweek's Gregory Levey comes up with the, ahem, boldest foreign policy idea I've seen in a while.
On Sunday, George Mitchell, President Obama's Middle East envoy, arrived in Israel to confer with its leaders. Also visiting this week are Defense Secretary Robert Gates, national-security adviser James Jones, and Gulf States envoy Dennis Ross. It's a full-court press on the Israelis, and the American wish list is long. They want Israel to stop expanding settlements; to stop building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; and for hawks in the government to chill out while the U.S. is negotiating with Iran. And yet, odds are, they'll come back to Washington empty-handed, for reasons having to do as much with atmospherics as policy: Team Obama just doesn't have Israel's full trust.

But there is someone who does—someone who could use a job, someone who argued straightforwardly for a Palestinian state, and yet someone who has the implicit admiration and regard of Israel. President Obama needs a new envoy to the region who can get results—

A new Middle East envoy? Why, whom in the annals of America's storied history of statemen, diplomats, and great Solomonic figures does Mr. Levey believe has the gravitas to handle the Israel-Palestine issue personally? What powerful figures could Obama tap for their deep wealth of both extended personal knowledge and rich experience in handling the subtle nuances of such a delicate region of the world, ? Why, what name leaps first and foremost into the mind when considering an American icon of diplomacy and Middle East peace?
-- and George W. Bush is his man.

I was singularly unaware of the possibility that Gregory Levey is insane. But, humor me. Pray tell, what makes George W. Bush the face people want to associate America's Middle East policy with right now?

Indulge me for a moment. Obama has ruffled feathers in Israel by calling for a halt to settlement growth and talking openly about an equitable fate for East Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital. He has elicited deeply felt unease about how much the American president can be trusted to safeguard Israel's basic security.

Obama claims that the peace process is an essential plank of his program for the region, but it will be impossible to make progress if he can't convince Israel to defer to American leadership. In the history of U.S.-Israel relations, probably no president has earned adoration and unequivocal trust from Israel like Bush. (An Israeli diplomat once told me that the former president gave a speech at the U.N. during his second term that attracted so many adoring Israeli diplomats that even the deputy U.N. ambassador couldn't score a seat.)

During the Bush years, Israelis were consistently among the few foreign populations that gave the American president high approval marks—often in far greater proportion than Americans themselves. Senior officials in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, where I worked, spoke on their cell phones daily with their White House counterparts—circumventing the State Department and the Israeli Foreign Ministry entirely.

That closeness paid off. It's no coincidence that, during the Bush years, Ariel Sharon had political cover to suggest "painful concessions" for peace—a euphemism for withdrawal from territory. The unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip—followed by preparations to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank that were interrupted only by the Hizbullah war of 2006—almost certainly would not have happened with anyone else in the White House less trusted to ensure Israel's safety.

So...even though he describes the basic problem with Obama's policies as...Obama's policies (and not George Mitchell) by including George W. Bush, we'll make Obama's policies more palatable to Israel, which apparently is the only consideration to take into account, Israel being the only side in our diplomatic ventures into Southwest Asia.

Not to mention that diplomatic envoys have to have, well, a reputation for actual diplomacy. this is Bush we're talking about. This is a guy who started wars around here that we're still cleaning up, and this guy thinks Bush would be the face of peace and diplomacy?

The problem here isn't the envoy. The problem is Obama is telling Israel "no." Israel doesn't like hearing the word no from America. Ever. Having Bush around only means Israel will smile before telling us to go to hell. Yes, Israel liking Obama and respecting him is important. No, George W. Bush will not help him achieve that, because the policies are still Obama's. Israel still won't like Obama's policies, but that's Israel's problem, not ours. They don't want to make any sacrifices, period. If they are putting up this much of a fit over settlements and are railing that Obama wants to destroy Israel, that's Israel over-reacting just a touch.

Either way, putting in Bush as envoy is just absurd.

Searching For A Huge Deal

Microsoft and Yahoo have finally signed a search engine agreement to combine forces against Google.
Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc inked a 10-year Web search deal to better compete against market leader Google Inc but stopped short of combining their display advertising businesses.

Yahoo shares fell 7.5 percent, as some investors were disappointed by the limited scope of the deal. Shares of Microsoft edged higher, while Google shares fell 1 percent.

"Those that were looking forward to a take-out, the deal today was rather disappointing," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. "The 10-year pact, it's not a bad thing. It's not as good as what investors expected."

Under the deal announced on Wednesday, Microsoft's Bing search engine will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search technology for Yahoo's sites, while Yahoo will be responsible for selling premium search ads for both companies.

Yahoo estimated the deal will boost its annual operating income by about $500 million and yield capital expenditure savings of $200 million. Yahoo also expects the deal to boost annual operating cash flow by about $275 million.

The Google versus The Bing now gets very real. I'm honestly wondering if this is the first step towards Microsoft acquiring Yahoo outright. We'll see. Personally, I use Google 95% of the time anyway. MS has their work cut out for them.

However, seeing they are this serious about Bing means I'm much more willing to try it.

The Moustache Demands Blood, Again

Hey look, yet another John Bolton op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal advocating Israel should bomb the crap out of Iran, just like seven weeks ago. (Four weeks ago he did the same thing too, just in the WaPo.) Mike Gerson at least gets the courtesy of a proper rebuttal. Bolton gets only my scorn and the back of my hand if he's just going to be this lazy.

Since John Boy's not even hiding the fact he's recycling the "Iran's weak now! Israel must attack! DO IT NOW!" crap, I choose to respond with what Andy Serwer said last time he tried it:
Of course, "theologically committed" could also describe Bolton, who has expressed support for bombing Iran for years now, so it's hard to take seriously his proposal that now is actually the opportune moment to bomb Iran. At the very least, we've come to see an addition to the GOP policy agenda, which for a while was simply "cut taxes." Now we have:

1. Cut Taxes

2. Bomb Iran

Can't wait for the white paper.

Or in other words, SEND IN GIANT DR. MANHATTAN!

Only Giant Dr. Manhattan can save us Israel now.

Oh Just Screw It

Thanks, Barack. Way to go on that line-drawing thing.
Here's what he told Time's Karen Tumulty. "I think in theory you can imagine a cooperative meeting that definition."
Obviously sort of the legal structure of it is less important than practically how can it operate. There are concerns that in the past, attempts at setting up co-ops have not been successful because they just haven't been able to get off the ground; sort of the start-up energy involved may not exist if you're doing a state-by-state co-op effort as opposed to a broad national plan.

That's roughly the Schumer position--if a co-operative can operate like a national government-run insurance program, then he'd likely support it. That's clarifying, in light of developments in the Senate Finance Committee. But it might just take the little-remaining wind out of the sails of some reformers.

If Obama will not stake out a firm position on a public option, then it's over, guys. Even I'm just about done with this mealy-mouthed spineless garbage. Take a f'ckin stand, man.

Or else, just freakin go with the Baucus plan, force people to self-insure after every employer drops health coverage and leaves the entire middle class with no way to afford health insurance other than stuff with a deductible so high, you're still bankrupt.

At this point, we're looking at Baucus or nothing, and I'm praying for nothing.

[UPDATE 12:25 PM] Steve Benen offers some calming advice:

Before anyone says, "Obama is lowering the bar and willing to accept a co-op!" notice the details here. The president said, as recently as last week, co-ops have struggled "because they don't have the scale and the resources to be able to compete effectively."

It's why he talked to Tumulty about a "broad national plan," as opposed to regional or state co-ops that fail to include a large enough base of employers and individuals with purchasing power. As Brian Beutler explained, Obama's remarks on this are roughly the Schumer position -- if a co-operative can operate like a national government-run insurance program, then he'd likely support it."

That said, if the discussion shifts to how best to craft a functional co-op system, it's almost certainly shifting away from how to implement a public plan.

It's that last part of course that's the slippery slope. Notice that the Village doesn't bother to mention the other bills in the House or Senate that were passed out of committee, like HELP in the Senate. No, the only health care plan that matters is the "bipartisan" one in the Senate Finance Committee. It has become the default for Obamacare now, not one of many bills on the table that have to be reconciled.

No public option, no employer mandate, limited subsidies, individual mandate = insurance company windfall, higher premiums, no incentive to lower costs. Oh, and watch the co-ops be state only instead of a national one, lowering their power even more. We'll end up with 50 state Masscare programs, which Republicans will then assure are tragically underfunded, and then as soon as possible they will kill the program.

Doesn't take a rocket scientist here, guys. A hundred million plus underinsured is where we're heading.

Can We Bomb Them Yet, Dad?

WaPo's Michael Gerson sits in the back seat of the car, making faces at Obama's engagement policy and wondering when we're going to stop wasting time and get into another war or three.
The problem is not engagement itself -- which was, after all, attempted in various forms by the previous administration. The difficulty is that the Obama foreign policy team has often argued that the reason for tension and conflict with nations such as North Korea and Iran is a lack of adequate American engagement -- which is absurd, and which has raised absurdly high expectations.

During the 2008 campaign, for example, Obama adviser P.J. Crowley (now State Department spokesman) argued, "Hard-liners on both sides have dominated that relationship and made it very difficult for the United States and Iran to come together and have a serious conversation." But can the lack of a serious conversation with Iran -- or with North Korea -- now credibly be blamed on the previous administration? Obama's diplomatic hand has been extended for a while now. Fists remain clenched. This is not because some magical diplomatic words remain unspoken. It is because of the nature of oppressive regimes themselves.

Such regimes are often internally preoccupied. Precisely because they lack genuine legitimacy, they spend large amounts of time and effort maintaining their fragile authority, consolidating power and managing undemocratic transitions. North Korea confronts a succession crisis. Iran deals with growing dissent and clerical division. Both tend to make calculations based on internal power struggles, not some rational calculation of their external image and interests. They are so inwardly focused that they do not have, as Clinton said, "any capacity" to respond to engagement. It is questionable in these cases whether we currently have any serious negotiating partners at all.

And the inherent instability of oppressive regimes also leads them to tighten control by invoking threats from abroad -- particularly from the United States. Because anti-Americanism is a central commitment of North Korean and Iranian ideologies, any softening of this resentment requires a kind of voluntary regime change. Pyongyang and Tehran would need to find a new source of legitimacy -- a new prop for their power -- other than hatred for America. Not easy or likely.

A couple of observations:

First, Gerson is working off the prime neocon directive here, that Iran and North Korea are implacable enemies of the US and that the only solution is regime change. Anything else is a waste of time.

Second, it's been six months, and Gerson's already throwing in the towel on diplomacy. That's laughable, as we were told time and time again under Bush that the regime change we engineered in Iraq required "another six months" and that paradigm went on from 2004 until the present. We still need another year to withdraw our troops out of Iraq, for instance. Always. more time is needed for regime change when "unforseen consequences" appear. Engagement? Six months and it's dead, let's get back to belligerence.

Third, if you take Gerson's next-to-last sentence up there and replace the words "Pyongyang and Tehran" with "The Republican Party" and "hatred for America" with "hatred of Obama", you'd have an equally over-simplified picture of our own political system here as described by a cynical realpolitik observer from outside the United States.

So what does Gerson want to do since he has decided America's foreign policy has failed?

The Obama administration's public campaign of engaging enemies is headed toward an entirely unintended consequence. Eventually it will raise expectations for action. As the extended hand is slapped again and again, the goals of North Korea and Iran will be fully revealed and the cost to American credibility will rise. Already the administration has given Iran a September deadline to respond to the offer of talks and has threatened "crippling action" if Iran achieves nuclear capabilities. Congress is preparing sanctions on Iranian refined petroleum, which would escalate tensions significantly.

This is the paradox of the Obama doctrine. By attempting to engage North Korea and Iran so visibly, Obama is dramatically exposing the limits of engagement -- and building the case for confrontation.

Got that?

Gerson declares engagement has failed, the only logical solution left is military confrontation, when are we going to attack them already? It's the same song the neocons have been playing since 2004...Iraq's done, time to move to Iran.

What kind of confrontation can we afford militarily and economically right now? Besides, Gerson is actually right when he says that Iran and North Korea are coming apart themselves, Tehran through its decreasing internal credibility and Pyongyang with Kim Jong-Il's pancreatic cancer. Exactly what should we do militarily that won't galvanize the remaining populace to use the same "death to America" card to prop up the failing regimes now or the replacement governments in the future?

Have we already forgotten the lessons of 1979, or in fact the last decade when it comes to the issue of the law of unintended consequences? How many unstable, hostile regimes do we need to handle right now? How many of them will we make worse by confronting them militarily? It's not the fading, failing regimes we're trying to deal with, but their eventual replacements. One would think getting in nice with the new management would be the smart thing to do. I don't give either regime much time at this point.

Let them fail under their own sins. Then let us offer them a hand to pull them up out of the rubble.

Outbreak: The Reality Show

Bit of ominous news from CNN today about a military response plan to a major H1N1 outbreak in the United States.
The U.S. military wants to establish regional teams of military personnel to assist civilian authorities in the event of a significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall, according to Defense Department officials.

The proposal is awaiting final approval from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The officials would not be identified because the proposal from U.S. Northern Command's Gen. Victor Renuart has not been approved by the secretary.

The plan calls for military task forces to work in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is no final decision on how the military effort would be manned, but one source said it would likely include personnel from all branches of the military.

It has yet to be determined how many troops would be needed and whether they would come from the active duty or the National Guard and Reserve forces.

Civilian authorities would lead any relief efforts in the event of a major outbreak, the official said. The military, as they would for a natural disaster or other significant emergency situation, could provide support and fulfill any tasks that civilian authorities could not, such as air transport or testing of large numbers of viral samples from infected patients.

On one hand, I can see why this would be necessary. Having the military's command and control and logistics capability could really help in a major outbreak situation, instead of a weak Katrina-like response where overwhelmed local and state officials had no real plan and no way to execute them when things went to hell.

On the other hand, we're being told that regular flu is equally deadly and has so far never required military anything. After we've learned of Cheney's plans to violate the Posse Comitatus Act and put military troops on U.S. soil as far as enforcing the law, the request has to be taken with a healthy supertanker load of salt.

On the gripping hand (for you Niven/Pournelle fans out there) the question we should ask is "Why is the WHO so worried about H1N1 this fall/winter when regular flu happens yearly?" What are they not telling us about the disease? Why would an outbreak of the flu ever require a military response?

The answer is either "The need for a military response is overblown and unnecessary" which should really disturb the hell out of you, or "the need is absolutely justified because H1N1 is a lot worse than the government has let on" which should also disturb the hell out of you.

Cheery thought, isn't it?

Euthanizing A Zombie Lie

The "Obamacare will murder old people!" lie is pernicious and pretty reprehensible, but it doesn't stop willfully ignorant GOP lawmakers from flat out lying to people just to try to kill the bill.

Yes, Republicans are pro-life because Democrats will kill our senior citizens! Soylent Green is made of old people!

Here's the reality.
According to the bill, 'such consultation shall include the following: An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to; an explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses; an explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.'"
You can get end-of-life counseling if you want to discuss it with your doctor. Medicare will for the first time cover counseling for this difficult decision if you want to seek it. Medicare will cover one such session every five years should you want to consult with a professional counselor, if you become ill, Medicare will pay for more such sessions.

These are voluntary services you can request. You don't ever have to do it if you don't want to.

But somehow, airheaded morons like Rep. Foxx here has changed this into "Democrats want guaranteed euthanasia in the bill." It's vile, repugnant stuff. The woman should be censured, if not booted out of office for such a blatant lie.

But of course, nothing will happen to her, and the lie will just continue to grow. Pam Spaulding has more. Like me, Pam finds Virginia Foxx to be an embarassment to NC. As it is, I grew up in NC-10, home of The Odious Patrick McHenry. Seems NC-5 has just as bad a problem.

America Already Has Single-Payer Health Insurance

...and why the Obama administration and the Democrats aren't going down this road, I'll never know. The Kroog points out:
One of the truly amazing and depressing things about the health reform debate is the persistence of fear-mongering over “socialized medicine” even though we already have a system in which the government pays substantially more medical bills (47% of the total) than the private insurance industry (35%).

In a way, this is the flip side of the persistent belief that the free market can cure healthcare, even though there are no places where it actually has; people also believe that government-provided insurance can’t work, even though there are many places where it does — and one of those places is the United States of America.
And you know, as more and more boomers become eligible for Medicare, those numbers will only go up.

We already have a perfectly good public option in place. It's called Medicare. Why not expand it to make it an option for everyone who doesn't qualify for it already? Let younger Americans buy into it. The United States government provides health care for tens of millions of Americans already. It works. It has worked for decades. Reform it, make it an option for everyone, bring down health care costs for everyone due to competition, problem solved. I know I'll never see a dime of the social security money I'm paying into the system now. Ever. At least help me out in the insurance department so I can stay healthy and keep putting taxes into the system, you dig?

Ahh, but that of course would make the insurance giants unhappy. After all, that's what really matters to Congress.

[UPDATE 9:18 AM] Instead, we get our "responsible" media lying to people about the plan. No wonder people are screaming "Get your gubment hands off my Medicare."

[UPDATE 9:32 AM] Add Politico to the "Obama will euthanize old people!" scare bandwagon.

Not Going Anywhere

Not only is Obamacare stalled in the Senate without a vote before the August recess, it's now stalled in the House, too.
U.S. House Democratic leaders, struggling to reach an accord with party dissidents on health care, said they’re likely to miss President Barack Obama’s August deadline for legislation overhauling the medical system.

“It doesn’t look like it to me,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel said in an interview. “I really hoped that we could have gotten a bill out of here by now,” he said, adding that he has a “heavy political heart.”

Obama, who has made revamping health care the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, had urged the House and Senate to each pass versions of the bill before their monthlong August recess so negotiations on a compromise could begin when they return. He’s seeking to provide health coverage to tens of millions of Americans who lack it and curb the soaring cost of care.

With the Senate already planning to leave for its recess without voting, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and members of the so-called Blue Dog coalition of Democrats, who object to the cost and structure of the legislation.

The House would only stay in session a few days after the start of the August break if an agreement can be reached to allow the bill to clear the Energy and Commerce Committee, where the Blue Dogs are holding up the legislation, Hoyer said earlier.

The bad news, without a specific bill, momentum will be lost in August. The good news is that lack of specifics makes it harder to attack the plan, but at this point even I have to admit the damage has largely already been done. Besides, that lack of specifics means the GOP can continue to make stuff up wholesale about health care and continue to scare moderates into thinking the plan is medical fascism.

At some point, Obama's going to have to make the choice if he wants to pursue this or not. The real problem is that I can completely see the GOP health care reform insurance subsidy program becoming the battle cry for 2012 if he walks away from this. Even better, he'll get stuck with the Carter "loser" label, and you'd better believe the GOP will be licking their chops heading into next year.


Related Posts with Thumbnails