Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Last Call

And it keeps getting worse.

A Georgia congressman who faced down a rowdy town hall meeting last week found his office vandalized Tuesday with a swastika painted over the official congressional sign.

Rep. David Scott told FOX News that the swastika spray-painted in black on his office door in Smyrna, Ga., is about four feet wide.

Cobb County police were informed and a report was filed with the U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI. David Johnson, Scott's district director, said the Capitol Police are handling this incident as a hate crime.

Johnson said he suspects the incident happened between the office's closing on Monday night and opening on Tuesday.

Scott, who is black, is both a fiscally conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

There are two things to keep in mind here.

One, is that a nasty, violent section of the anti-health care reform side of this debate is not interested in the least in civil debate. They are interested in tagging the offices of an African-American Congressman with a swastika and doing other garbage like this:

Scott said that the press twisted his comments at the meeting because he was talking about the residents not being permitted to talk about the highway plan. Residents said they were told they could ask questions about anything.

However, Scott told FOX Business Network on Monday that the opponents to health care were manufactured, and he accused the audience members of having a racial undertone in the debate.

"There were tea baggers all around the place," the congressman said of the meeting, later holding up a flier with a picture of a now infamous poster of President Obama styled as The Joker from the Batman movie series.

"If you look at this, that's a picture of President Barack Obama," Scott said holding up the sign. "He's grinning there like he's the clown from Batman. Underneath that it says, 'N---a, n---a David Scott. It says you were, and you are, and you always forever shall be but a n---a.' If that ain't it I don't know what is.

The other thing to remember is that we have at least three more years and change of this stupidity to go.

The heat keeps getting turned up, the pot will boil over and make a mess. Only in this case, a whole hell of a lot of people are going to get hurt when it finally happens.

Madoff With It All

Bernie Madoff's former CFO, Frank DiPascali, showed up in federal court today to plead guilty to a host of crimes done while assisting Madoff in his massive scheme as part of a plea deal.
"I was loyal to him. I ended up being loyal to a terrible, terrible fault," Frank DiPascali told a judge during a hearing at which his long-rumored cooperation deal with the government was confirmed.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys portrayed DiPascali as the man who could unlock his former boss' epic Ponzi scheme and potentially make cases against other defendants.

Since Madoff revealed the fraud to his sons in early December and was arrested by FBI agents, investigators have looked into the actions of his wife, Ruth, his brother and two sons, who ran a trading operation under the same roof, and other insiders.

No other Madoff family members have been charged.

Attorneys argued the former chief financial officer should be free on bail to help investigators sift through a mountain of evidence.

But U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan surprised both sides by ordering DiPascali jailed immediately -- a rarity for a cooperator in a white-collar case who had pleaded guilty.

Sullivan said he felt compelled to keep 52-year-old DiPascali locked up after hearing the defendant admit that, at Madoff's direction, he lied to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006 when he thought they might discover the fraud.

Also, there is the small matter of DiPascali assisting in scamming the universe out of $65 billion, the magnitude of which just might have influenced Judge Sullivan.

Still, puts an end to the whole "noble" idea that Madoff acted alone. I'm betting a whole hell of a lot more people are going to end up following the both of them, it's just a question of how many people and for how long they will be in prison.

Steal $65 thousand, and you're a common criminal. Steal $65 billion, and you're in government.

National Buffoon's Road Trip

Via John Cole, Esquire Magazine's John H. Richardson went on the road with Orly Taitz and the Nutbars of Freedom through my backyard here in Kentucky:
The next morning, I met Taitz in a Cracker Barrel parking lot outside of Louisville. She was joined by a small group of Kentucky citizens, and they were the nicest people you could imagine — warm and welcoming, quiet and modest, dressed as if they were going to church: a tweed jacket for the homeschooler teaching six children, a flowered shirt for the woman who was a delegate to the last Republican convention, a row of medals for the small white-haired man who once commanded a Navy submarine, a white cowboy hat for the pastor of a Children of God church.

"It gets worse and worse and worse," one said. "Did you see Obama bowing to the Saudi Prince yesterday?"

"They financed his Harvard education," said another.

"That's his sugar daddy right there," said a third.

We set off in a flotilla of cars. When we got to the state office complex an hour later, it took less than ten minutes for us to get badges and pass through security. A man named George Wilding, the manager of Kentucky's Public Corruption Unit, led us to a conference room. A few minutes later, we were joined by Bob Foster, Kentucky's Commissioner of Criminal Investigations.

Then Taitz began to talk, and she did not stop for 15 solid minutes: Obama forged this and his campaign forged that and these are his false addresses and here's something very strange that Justice Scalia told her at a book signing and here are the 500,000 signatures collected by WorldNetDaily magazine demanding an investigation...

Finally Wilding held up a hand. "Let me just stop you right there. What applies to Kentucky?"

One of the citizens starts showing him documents. "This is clearly his school record that shows that he was a citizen of Indonesia..."

"I don't understand what that has to do with the Kentucky attorney general's office," Wilding repeated.

"He was on the ballot here in Kentucky," Taitz said.

"That was a federal election. There are federal-election laws. The FBI investigates those. So I believe that your best venue and jurisdiction lies with the U.S. district court and the FBI."

That's when Taitz lost it. "I can see that you are hell-bent on doing absolutely nothing," she said, eyes flaring. "You want to pass the buck."

"No ma'am. I'm trying to follow the law."

"I'm going to the FBI and not only reporting Obama, I'm going to report you for refusing to investigate crimes. You have a duty to investigate those crimes! Why are people paying salary for this whole office of attorney general of Kentucky? To do nothing?"

"I think we're finished," Foster said.

But Taitz wasn't finished. She marched her troops straight over to the secretary of state's office and did the exact same presentation all over again. Then she headed to the FBI to do it a third time. And the whole time, she never stopped talking:

Goldman Sachs runs the treasury.

Obama is a puppet.

There's a cemetery somewhere in Arizona where they just dug 30,000 fresh graves, which wait now for the revolution.

Baxter International — a major Obama contributor — developed a vaccine for bird flu that actually kills people.

Google Congressman Alcee Hastings and House Bill 684 and you'll see that they're planning at least six civilian labor camps.

Google an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about train cars with shackles.

The communist dictator Hugo Chavez way back in 2004 purchased the Sequoia software that runs our voting machines and the mainstream media won't report any of it — not even Fox because Saudi Arabia bought a percentage of Fox in 2007.

This is the stuff that the media never gives Taitz a chance to say because it's so focused on the news hook of the "birther" issue. (And, believe me, this has been merely a tiny sample of what I saw on my road trip this spring.)

Remind me to send George Wilding a thank-you letter.

There is crazy. There is sociopathic detachment from reality. And then there are these guys.

Judged By The Way We Treat The Least Among Us

Via Digby comes this story from the LA Times on the reality of health care for those who don't have coverage:
Hundreds of people were already lining up to receive free healthcare checks at the the Forum in Inglewood.

Volunteer doctors, dentists and optometrists will conduct free health clinic for uninsured and under-insured individuals.

The eight-day healthcare event will run from 5:30 a.m to 6 p.m. and is sponsored by Remote Area Medical, a charity that in the past has staged clinics in rural sections of the United States.

People started arriving before 3. Many said they didn't have health insurance and saw this as an opportunity to be checked out. Organizers placed them in stadium seats outside the Forum, and some said they waited for hours to get medical treatment.

Since 1985, about 400,000 adults and children have been treated by the organization, its leaders said. Individuals will not be required to show proof of income or insurance or documentation of any kind for treatment, according to organizers.

Only 1,200 people a day will be scheduled for the 45 medical exam rooms, 100 dental stations and 25 eye exam sites set up at The Forum, they said. Full exams, including Mammography, chest X-rays, PAP smears, blood pressure screening and diabetes screening will be offered. Prescription eye glasses will be fitted and prepared on site, said organizers.
People lining up for an entire day for a shot at maybe seeing a doctor, dentist, or optometrist. Having to miss work or maybe try again tomorrow. Who knows. Maybe they'll get a basic checkup. Charity health care clinics that come around once every year or so are for the most part it, as states and cities can no longer afford clinics and other services. They're the first to get cut. It's not like these folks have political clout.

And there are millions of Americans screaming bloody murder across this country that if these people get health care, that it will be the most un-American tyranny imaginable, that a revolution is necessary to stop it. They are therefore sworn to see that it never happens. Think about that.

Meanwhile, more and more people will be needing and using these services. As Digby says,
If things don't change, in a couple of years they'll be needed in the suburbs as well.

If the uninsured want health care they can (probably) get it by staying up all night and waiting in the street outside a sports stadium once a year. What's the problem?
There is none as far as millions of Americans are concerned. That's what they get for being poor.

Sins Of The Past

Rep. John Dingell (D MI) on the Ed Show yesterday, talking about the Town Hall Blitzers:

DINGELL: Well, the last time I had to confront something like this was when I voted for the civil rights bill and my opponent voted against it. At that time, we had a lot of Ku Klux Klan folks and white supremacists and folks in white sheets and other things running around causing trouble.
Needless to say, the Wingnuts are having a cow over this.

Just like yesterday with Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer's op-ed. Just like they will with whatever the Democrats say tomorrow that sets them off.

People forget the fact that John Dingell was there for the civil rights legislation fight. He should know. And if he says something like that, then maybe it's worth taking into the perspective of history of which is was given. As Dave Neiwert reminds us:
These are people who believe it's objectively true that the Obama administration's health-care reforms will lead to a mass killing of the elderly and denial of treatment for Obama's opponents. If you want to know why teabaggers are so worked up, this is why: They really believe this stuff.

This kind of alienation from fact-based reality was a significant component of the dynamic behind the "Patriot"/militia movement of the 1990s. It's embodied by the selective "skepticism" of such folks: Anything the runs counter to their belief system is dismissed as "the official story" which is only believed by "gullible" folks (and indeed is more evidence of the ongoing conspiracy), while any kind of outrageous nonsense that supports their belief system is seized up on as "secret truth".

It was a decidedly unhealthy trait when manifested among a relatively small group of people like the Patriots, because these beliefs formed the foundation for a broad range of radical extremism, including violence and armed standoffs with federal authorities.

The prospects of it now becoming a common pathology among the general conservative-movement population -- thanks to its open support from folks like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich (not to mention Fox News) -- are very disturbing indeed.
And that really is the bottom line.

The Man Behind The Curtain

Things are looking decidedly more dicey for Karl Rove on the US Attorney firings issue, from Raw Story:
The House Judiciary Committee released thousands of pages of new documents concerning the firing of nine US Attorneys under the Bush Administration — and they heavily implicate the office of onetime Bush adviser Karl Rove.

Moreover, former Bush Supreme Court pick and legal advisor Harriet Miers fingered Rove during her testimony to Congressional investigators.

Ouch. Some of the finding as Raw Story sifts through the release:
• 2005 White House “Decision” to fire David Iglesias – It has previously been known that New Mexico Republicans pressed for Iglesias to be removed because they did not like his decisions on vote fraud cases. New White House documents show that Rove and his office were involved in this effort no later than May 2005 (months earlier than previously known) - for example, in May and June 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent emails to Tim Griffin (also in Rove’s office) asking “what else I can do to move this process forward” and stressing that “I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY.” In June 2005, Harriet Miers emailed that a “decision” had been made to replace Iglesias. At this time, DOJ gave Iglesias top rankings, so this decision was clearly not just the result of the White House following the Department’s lead as Rove and Miers have maintained.

• Iglesias criticized by Rove aide for not “doing his job on” Democratic Congressional Candidate Patricia Madrid – An October 2006 email chain begun by Representative Heather Wilson criticized David Iglesias for not bringing politically useful public corruption prosecutions in the run up to the 2006 elections. Scott Jennings forwarded Wilson’s email to Karl Rove and complained that Iglesias had been “shy about doing his job on Madrid,” Wilson’s opponent in the 2006 Congressional race. Just weeks after this email, Iglesias’ name was placed on the final firing list.

• An “agitated” Rove pressed Harriet Miers to do something about Iglesias just weeks before Iglesias was placed on the removal list – Karl Rove phoned Harriet Miers during a visit to New Mexico in September 2006 – according to Miers’ testimony, Rove was “agitated” and told her that Iglesias was “a serious problem and he wanted something done about it.”

• Senator Domenici personally asked Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to have Iglesias replaced – In October 2006, Senator Domenici stepped up his campaign to have Iglesias replaced. According to White House phone logs and emails, as well as Rove’s own testimony, Domenici spoke with President Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten about Iglesias on October 5, 2006, and during October 2006, Domenici or his staff spoke with Karl Rove at least 4 times.

Turd Blossom here seems to be in more than a bit of trouble, looking like he's the fixer in this little drama. Republicans complain to Rover about US Attorneys and they get the axe en masse. Everyone seems to be pointing the finger at Karl Rove here, including Harriet Miers (this woman was picked by Bush to be a Supreme Court Justice?)

Not looking good at all.

[UPDATE 6:04 PM] More from Carrie Johnson in the WaPo:

Meanwhile, federal prosecutor Nora R. Dannehy continues to probe whether false statements or obstruction of justice charges could be lodged against anyone in connection with the dismissals and previous congressional testimony under oath about them. Lawmakers said they had forwarded the transcripts and several thousand other pages to Dannehy, who already has interviewed Rove and Miers.

Among the documents that has raised the most interest among lawyers following the case is a February 2007 letter from the Justice Department to the U.S. Senate, indicating that Rove played no role in pushing his protege Tim Griffin for the prosecutor spot in Little Rock. The inspector general called that statement "misleading" last year. Rove denied any knowledge of the letter before it was sent and said he had no role in preparing or reviewing it. Miers told the House that statements in the letter, which was drafted by a team including Sampson, chief of staff to the attorney general, were "inaccurate" and "incomplete."

I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

New Karl Rove tag. Think he's earned one by this point.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Much, much more of this, please.

Even CNN's "Make or Break Month" graphic there serves a purpose, and it's correct. This guy looks a hell of a lot more than the Obama I voted for than the most recent version from the last two months.

Reuters article on the town hall here.

Another Terror Bust In Kuwait

CNN is reporting that six Kuwaitis were arrested by Kuwaiti forces, breaking up an Al-Qaeda truck bomb plot to hit an American military base camp.
The suspects had planned to bomb Camp Arifjan during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Kuwaiti security sources said.

It is unclear when the arrests took place.

The plot also involved an attack on Kuwait's State Security Service headquarters and other government facilities, according to the Kuwait News Agency, which cited a statement from the Interior Ministry.

An investigation into the alleged plot linked to al Qaeda is ongoing, the news agency reported.

Two suspects confessed Tuesday that they planned to attack Camp Arifjan with an explosives-laden truck during Ramadan, which begins August 21, the security sources said.

The other four suspects will be interrogated Wednesday, the sources said.

Pentagon and U.S. military officials had no information about the reported plot on Camp Arifjan, the forward headquarters for the U.S. Army Central Command in the region.

It is a major logistics base for the U.S. military and generally houses thousands of American troops.
Thankfully, nobody was hurt. That's number one.

Issue two however is that getting ambushed in Iraq and Afghanistan is one thing. Getting attacked in Kuwait is entirely something else, and if it's true that the U.S. military had no clue about this attack, it either means something's rotten in Kuwait and we need to reevaluate our intel there, or that something's rotten in Kuwait and the Kuwaitis are up to something.

Either way, I don't like it. And it's just another sign of the times that new President Obama has old American military policy of empire across the globe.

Revenge Of The Son Of Zombie Health Care Lies

Zachary Roth at TPM documents the latest health care zombie lie: Obamacare is coming for your bank account.

No, really. I heard it on the internets.
The hot new conservative health-care lie is that the bill will give the government direct access to Americans' bank accounts at any time, which, in some variations of the lie, will then be raided to finance the legislation.

The bank accounts lie has been proliferating in recent days. A questioner at Sen. Arlen Specter's townhall this morning asked about it. Rush Limbaugh, of course, has talked it up several times over the last week on his show. Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), speaking last week to a local right-wing radio station, called the provision "pretty Orwellian."

Where does it come from? It appears to have its roots in an email "analysis" of health-care reform that includes various lies and distortions about the bill. (Politifact, the fact-checking site run by the St. Petersburg Times, has called the email a "clearinghouse of bad information.") One charge made in the email is that "the federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer."

What's the truth? The section of the legislation on which this claim is based states that the bill will "enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with the related health care payment and remittance advice."

As Politifact points out, the bill's legislative summary makes clear that the intent of this section is to "adopt standards for typical transactions" between insurance companies and health-care providers, and continues: "The legislation generically describes typical electronic banking transactions and does not outline any special access privileges." In what seems like an excess of even-handedness, Politifact calls the claim made in the email "barely true."

Media Matters adds that this is no different from setting up an automatic online bill-pay in order to pay back a student loan, calling it "completely uncontroversial, and totally not scary."

Let's get this straight here, folks. There are parts of the anti-health care reform movement that have legitimate concerns. But there are also plenty more folks in this coalition of chaos that are driven by destroying the plan at all costs, and if that means blanketing the talk radio airwaves and Grandma's email with "Obamacare is coming for your _______" then so be it.

Our debate has devolved into shouting matches where one side screams "Tyranny! Oppression! We will be heard!" when they actually don't have anything useful to say, and the other side is collectively rubbing the bridge of their noses and going "But that's just stupid..." and not getting anywhere. Nothing about actual health care, just insane lies and yelling, and frustrated, annoyed people on the other end.

But drowning out the debate and burying it under layers of bullshit is the most effective way to kill health care reform. It worked in 1994 and redefined the Clinton years. They are counting on it to work again, to convince millions of Americans that the Obama administration is full of James Bond bad guys waiting to throw Grandma in the volcano to fuel their ACORN orgies.

What civil discourse? The other side wants no such thing. There's no change to reform the system if you destroy any and all debate about the subject. That's where we are now.

Poll Vaulting

Back in May, Steve Benen noted that a Gallup poll showing the percentage of Americans who considered themselves to be "pro-life" outweighed "pro-choice" was probably an outlier. I thought it was statistically significant.

Turns out Steve was right.
In mid-May, Gallup released a poll that found 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" and 42% "pro-choice." It was the first time a majority of U.S. adults had identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking the question. Last week, however, Gallup released a follow-up poll showing the pro-life lead evaporating, dropping from nine points to one, 47% to 46%.
However, I do agree with Steve on the point of the media reaction to the poll: almost nothing.
In mid-May, the Gallup poll showing surging "pro-life" numbers generated a huge amount of media attention, including a lengthy AP story that appeared in papers across the country. The poll also generated stories in the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, and the Washington Times. The poll also got plenty of play on the cable news networks.

And what about last week's Gallup poll, showing relative parity between "pro-life" and "pro-choice"? Major news outlets ignored it almost completely. The Associated Press pretended it didn't exist. The number of articles published in major newspapers? Zero. Blogs mentioned it, U.S. News did an online item, and UPI ran a piece. That's it.

So, to review, Gallup results showing strong "pro-life" numbers are a huge story, even though the results were dubious. Gallup results showing weaker "pro-life" numbers are a non-story, even though the results made sense.

He's dead right about that. The one news organization I can find an article on it from last week is Dan Gilgoff's God & Country blog over at U.S. News, showing the country is evenly split on the issue, as it has been roughly for the last several years.

It's probably just a reaction to having a Democrat in the White House. During the Bush years, the country's pro-choice position had edged ahead with a similar 9-point lead in mid-2006, so it makes sense that with a Democrat in the White House that pro-life Americans would be more vocal. Apparently in May, they were very vocal.

Lesson learned.

States Of Decline

Via CalcRisk, the Washington Post reports that FY 2010 state budgets are hideous across the board but the stimulus package has saved them from many worse cuts. However, FY 2011 will be almost universally worse.
This year, the federal stimulus package signed into law by President Obama in February served as a lifeline. For all the intense partisan debate in Washington over whether the stimulus so far has worked, in the states there is little question that federal cash has staved off catastrophe.

According to the General Accounting Office's July report, by June 19 the federal government had disbursed $29 billion to the states, with 90 percent of that money going to Medicaid, to help states maintain coverage levels, or to help them stabilize budgets and avoid layoffs.

"The stimulus has had a tremendous effect in forestalling some of the worst cuts," said Elizabeth McNichol, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It's absolutely worked for the states."

Whatley, of the Council of State Governments, said state deficits would be 40 percent worse if not for the stimulus funds. The federal funds have given states "breathing room," he said, but he added that "the stimulus cushioned the blow of the state fiscal crisis, but it didn't blunt it."

The stimulus money "is helping California weather the worst fiscal crisis in recent memory," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance. But Palmer said the crisis is far from over: "We hope that the worst of this recession is behind us, but whoever is the next governor will face continuing fiscal challenges."

You notice the attacks on the "failed stimulus package" have stopped (or if they have not, they have been drowned out by the Town Hall Blitzers along with everything else.) States have been saved by stimulus outlays, and the numbers bear that out. If anything, I'm in the Krugman camp on this: the initial stimulus was too small.

However next year will present a much larger problem: states are still going to be suffering shrinking tax revenues from falling real estate prices (both residential and commercial now) and that stimulus money will not be there next year. More cuts, layoffs, furloughs, and rollbacks are on the way. More programs will be on the chopping block next year. It's bad now, but it will get worse as an even larger budget shortfall is predicted for next July.

Are Obama and the Democrats prepared to try to push another stimulus package next year? Will that even be an option?

Town Hall Blitz, Part 5

Another day, another Democrat under attack by the Town Hall Blitzers, today's contestant: Sen. Arlen Specter.
A hostile crowd shouted questions and made angry statements Tuesday at a town hall meeting on health care led by Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter.

At one point, Specter shouted into his microphone that demonstrators disrupting the proceedings would be thrown out.

"We're not going to tolerate any demonstrations or any booing," he said after one audience member shoved another making an unsolicited speech. "So it's up to you."

Many in the crowd identified themselves as conservative Republicans, with one man noting they had voted Specter to Congress before the senator changed parties earlier this year.

One woman prompted a standing ovation by telling Specter: "I don't believe this is just health care. This is about the systematic dismantling of this country. … I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country. What are you going to do to restore this country back to what our founders created, according to the Constitution?"

Back to what our Founders created? With what, no Bill of Rights? No Second Amendment? Hell, no First Amendment? All that stuff about peaceful assembly you're practicing and free speech in order to make your views known? You want to go back before that? Before the Tenth Amendment giving states rights not specified in the Constitution? Geez.
The shoving incident occurred early in the 90-minute session, when a man started shouting that he had been told by Specter's staff that he could speak, but he didn't get one of the 30 cards distributed to people allowing them to ask questions. Another man stood up and shoved the protester, and Specter approached the men shouting for calm.

"You and your cronies in government do this kind of stuff all the time," the protester shouted before leaving the hall. "I'm not a lobbyist with all kinds of money to stuff in your pockets. I'll leave you so you can do whatever the hell you do."

Specter remained calm most of the time, except when a woman asked if the bill meant a 74-year-old man with cancer would be written off by an overhauled health-care system. He responded angrily, calling such a scenario a "vicious" rumor.

And of course, people will never believe Specter anyway. Kudos at least to the guy willing to call Congress out on lobbyists however...he's dead right on that.

Oh, and your liberal media moment of zen:

In particular, the Republicans and some Democrats reject a government-funded public health insurance option, which they believe would lead to a government takeover of the health-care system. Most Democrats want a public option to ensure coverage is available to virtually all Americans and provide competition to private insurers.
It wouldn't, but why report facts when you're a news organization?

The Case For Laying It Out

Earlier today I mentioned that I thought Obama needed to firmly make his case for health care reform to the people. Filling in for the Double G, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend has an excellent column on just that subject.

In our current system nearly everyone has horror stories about waiting for insurance to approve the most basic common sense things -- like one extra day in the hospital after a c-section, or trying to get a medication not yet in generic form that you and your doctor know works and the insurance company insists on a different generic substitute or you pay outright. The number and type of what I call "drive-by" surgeries, where they kick you to the curb a couple of hours after you've been opened up on the table is astonishing -- they wanted to do that for my gall bladder surgery and I begged to stay overnight because I've had complications after ambulatory surgery before that landed me back in the ER the next day. Thankfully it was approved, because I was right -- I developed a fever and had serious difficulties that I wouldn't have been able to manage at home.

But what if the insurance company had said no. That happens all the time. It happened to me several years ago, I wasn't able to stay overnight and went into the drive-through surgery; I developed a serious staph infection. It required a second surgery a couple of weeks later. A little time and attention would have saved everyone a lot of grief.

A lot of average people out there just want to see the basics laid out in a clear manner by the administration (and the other side, which, sadly and predictably, has nothing rational to offer given the gravity of the situation). The President has traveled the country, and now members of Congress are back home in their districts to address the concerns of people who do have coverage, and citizens wonder what will happen to employer-based, private plans with an overhaul of the system. Obviously we need to do something -- the system is broken even for those of us with coverage; it's painfully apparent. While getting care for the uninsured is a major problem, the urgency of addressing the under-insured, who think they are in the clear until the insurance company rejections start coming -- and the bills threaten to bankrupt them -- is clear.

However, I don't see how we can get to a public option any time soon with one side skittish and the other completely opposed to the point of acting like jackbooted thugs at town halls -- it would be optimal if the U.S. could do it right. We already do it with Medicare; the GOP seems to ignore it exists in its screams about "socialism", and I'm sure they wouldn't want it taken away from their grandmas and grandpas.

And that's true. People are scared. When there is lack of specific information, the other side has filled in the blanks with scare tactics, and it's working.

Until the President gets up in front of America and really, forcefully lays down what his idea of health care reform entails, he can't win this battle, and health care reform will not happen. The insurance companies are in business to deny care, it's how they make profit. If the President would just lay out a specific alternative, it would go along way towards convincing people what needs to be done.

"It costs too much, let's not do anything right now" cannot be the only option. We need something else, and it's painfully clear that the alternative has to come from the top. Letting Congress dick around for months on end is not the answer.

(Also, while you're over at Double G's, check out Digby's guest column on Tasers.)

The Moustache Demands Heads

I have to congratulate John Bolton for getting through one of his WSJ op-ed pieces without mentioning blowing up Iran. That's actually progress for the man. On the other hand, the Moustache is still carrying the sword for Israel, and this time he's demanding the head of Ireland's former president, Mary Robinson.
Durban is not the only reason Ms. Robinson should not receive the Medal of Freedom. Over the years she has actively opposed “the security or national interests of the United States,” one of the categories of eligibility for the Medal. Those in the administration who recommended her either ignored her anti-Israel history, or missed it entirely, as they either ignored or overlooked her hostility toward America’s role in promoting international peace and security. Or perhaps they share Ms. Robinson’s views.

One example, particularly significant today given the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, is Ms. Robinson’s strong opinions about the use of force. During the Clinton administration’s (and NATO’s) air campaign against Serbia because of its assault on Kosovo, for instance, she opined that “civilian casualties are human rights victims.” But her real objection was not to civilian casualties but to the bombing itself, saying “NATO remains the sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb,” which she did not mean as a compliment.

In fact, Ms. Robinson wanted U.N. control over NATO’s actions: “It surely must be right for the Security Council . . . to have a say in whether a prolonged bombing campaign in which the bombers choose their target at will is consistent with the principle of legality under the Charter of the United Nations.” One wonders if this is also Mr. Obama’s view, given the enormous consequences for U.S. national security.

The Durban Conference aside (I talked about Durban when Marty Peretz wrote basically this same column last week) Bolton seems to think that questioning NATO/America bombing the crap out of things is pretty much tantamount to treason, certainly disqualifying you from the Medal of Freedom.

If we're talking about Medal of Freedom recipients who really have harmed America with more than opinions about NATO bombing and human rights, let's talk about George "Slam Dunk Case" Tenet, Donald "And You Will Know My name Is The Lord" Rumsfeld, and of course Dick Cheney. Once again, objection to Israel's policies is enough to bring the cries of "Anti-Semite!" and demand from Israel that the United States take punitive action.

Luckily, this President doesn't see the world in such binary terms. Falsifying intelligence to get America into a useless and tragic war in Iraq is an act worthy of the highest civilian heroism to John Bolton. Opposing such acts are demonized. Happily, Mr. Bolton's team is no longer in charge of our foreign or domestic policy thanks to the voters, so he can be relegated to ranting in the WSJ.

But then again, that's the Moustache's job these days.

The Producers

Total compensation for workers rose a paltry 0.4% in the second quarter, from 0.3% in the first quarter, not even coming close to a cost of living increase. American workers lost money in 2009. Yet American workers are the most productive in the world: productivity for the second quarter rose by a significant 6.4%.
The Labor Department said non-farm productivity rose at a 6.4 percent annual rate, the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2003, from a revised 0.3 percent gain in the first quarter. Productivity for the January-March quarter was previously reported as a 1.6 percent gain.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast productivity, which measures the hourly output per worker, rising at a 5.3 percent rate in the second quarter.

"It's good because it helps keep inflation low; labor costs are pretty benign," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"On the other hand it means you can do more with fewer people," he said.

Why would companies start hiring again anytime soon if they know they can still squeeze this kind of productivity out of workers? Why not keep laying people off, have more furloughs and wage cuts?

Why should workers get paid for these productivity increases, after all? Gosh, if there were only some sort of union that workers could join to demand a share of these increased profits...Oh wait, I'm sorry. In America, only shareholders count, not workers. Unions are evil organizations that hurt shareholders, remember?

And you wonder why you haven't had a raise in years, while companies are recording huge profits. America has been brainwashed into hating unions, into pulling everyone down into the hell of "right-to-work" employment where you can be let go for any non-illegal reason with no notice, and companies will continue to squeeze employees into working more and more off the clock.

The loss of collective bargaining power has decimated this country's workforce and will continue to do so. Built on the backs of the American worker, indeed.

[UPDATE 11:03 AM] Yggy on productivity:

Rising productivity is basically good, but it means that either the economy is going to grow very rapidly because we’re now so productive, or else that modest growth is going to be accompanied by massive unemployment. And I don’t really know anyone who’s expecting very rapid growth in the near term.
Amen to that. How much blood can you get out of American workers? We're about to find out. Once again, why should American companies hire right now when desperation equals motivation?

The Specter Of Violence

Via Media Matters, Keith Olbermann's special comment segment on Monday targeted Glennsanity, Lou Dobbs, Death Panels For Trig and the Town Hall Blitzers with some righteous indignation and a bucket of logic.

Bonus points for usage of the word "mountebank" to describe Glennsanity's snake oil salesmanship. For an Olbermann SC, it's a pretty damn good one.

Obama's Town Hall

I give the President points for holding his own health care town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire today. The question is, how will it be handled? Will it be a Bush-style town hall where all opposition protesters will shunted to "free-speech zones" a half a mile away? Or will Obama take some real questions from the crowd and really stick it to the Town Hall Blitzers in a fair fight?

Lack of plan specifics so far does limit the President's arsenal, and that's nobody's fault but his own. However, there are still plenty of pernicious falsehoods about "death panels" and the cost of the program itself out there that the President needs to shoot down, and it gives the President yet another opportunity to seize the narrative by telling the folks of Portsmouth the specifics he wants in a bill, like saying a public option is a must-have, for example.

It would be the smart thing to do here to go on the offensive. Obama's got to show he's behind a robust health care reform bill and stop with the trial balloons and placation of the Republicans. My five-minute Rahmbo advice? Admit some protesters. Take some questions from them. Tell them and America the truth, and make them look foolish. If they insist on screaming and drowning out the President and calling the President a tyrant and a liar over the effort to get all Americans access to affordable health care, let them embarrass the movement. Let them look like crackpots.

Then take them down with facts. America's ready for a real discussion, but the only way to get it apparently is to fight for one. The other side has no intention of allowing the facts to come out. Take the facts to them, instead.

Bush would never do anything like that. It's time for Obama to do it instead.


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