Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last Call

Newsweek's Howard Fineman just carries that water for the Obama administration...
A Democratic senator I can't name, who reluctantly voted for the health-care bill out of loyalty to his party and his admiration for Barack Obama, privately complained to me that the measure was political folly, in part because of the way it goes into effect: some taxes first, most benefits later, and rate hikes by insurance companies in between.

Besides that, this Democrat said, people who already have coverage will feel threatened and resentful about helping to cover the uninsured—an emotion they will sanitize for the polltakers into a concern about federal spending and debt.

On the day the president signed into law the "fix-it" addendum to the massive health-care measure, two new polls show just how fearful and skeptical Americans are about the entire enterprise.  If the numbers stay where they are—and it's not clear why they will change much between now and November—then the Democrats really are in danger of colossal losses at the polls.
Yes, and articles like this of course will make sure those numbers don't improve.  Perhaps Democratic Senators should stop speaking off the record to Fineman to begin with, or perhaps Fineman should dig a little deeper to see just why some of these Americans oppose the bill...but it's far easier to quote unnamed "Democratic Senators" and sink the knife in.

Your liberal media, ladies and gents.

Dems Have Just Been Handed The 2010 Elections

All they have to do is play this clip from Larry King.
Last night on CNN, Larry King discussed the rise of the tea parties with a variety of guests and featured footage from last weekend’s lobbyist-organized Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight, NV. Dana Loesch, a tea party organizer from Missouri, and another tea party organizer, Wayne Allyn Root, joined King for the discussion. Root and Loesch decried the “unprecedented” and “unconstitutional” reach of a health care mandate. However, King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea parties would like to “do away with” that program as well. Both tea party organizers enthusiastically said “yes, absolutely” and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system.

Privatizing Social Security, or doing away with it altogether.  If the Dems can't capitalize on that, then there really is no hope for them...or for us, either.  If you think they're going to stop at killing Obamacare, you're sadly mistaken.  The goal here is to turn the clock back eighty years to the Gilded Age and dismantle the New Deal, the Great Society, and every liberal social advance since FDR.  They've been preparing this ground for years.  Now they have their opportunity unless the Dems call them on it.

Feeling Randy, Part 6

Chris Cilizza notes that here in Kentucky, Trey Greyson is losing so badly that he's finally playing the Ron Paul card on Rand Paul.
Grayson, the underdog in the May 18 primary, began the back and forth with an ad that began airing over the weekend in which the narrator says that Paul "wonders whether 9/11 was our fault".

Grayson doubled-down on the attack today with a 90-second web video that splices comments from Paul, Texas Rep. Ron Paul (Rand's father) and, yes, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The Grayson ad and web video seek to make the case that Rand Paul believes that foreign policy decisions made by the United States in the years preceding Sept. 11, 2001 are partially to blame for the attacks.
That position is, not surprisingly, a stone-cold loser in a Republican primary anywhere in the country but particularly in a state as conservative-leaning as Kentucky.

Knowing this, Paul has immediately launched a statewide television ad in which he expresses his "outrage at terrorists who killed 3,000 innocents" before accusing Grayson of a "lie" and a "shameful" tactic.

There is NO subject more fraught with potential political peril than the terrorist attacks of September 2001. The events of that day left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of the United States -- changing the way we look at ourselves and the world.

Politics and politicians have struggled to adapt to that change. 
It's a telling sign that Grayson is resorting to this avenue of attack.  He doesn't have much of a choice, frankly.  Paul is killing him in the primary polls and Grayson's a horrible candidate.  "Mitch McConnell's junior sidekick" isn't exactly a popular platform to run on in Kentucky.

Having said that, it's about time somebody made Ron Paul an issue in this race.  Frankly, there's a lot of disturbing things that both Ron and Rand have to say, and watching Grayson and Paul tear each other up over this may finally be the break the Democrats need.

Well, that is if the Democrat in question was anyone other than Lt. Dan.  It's like nobody actually wants to win this seat, and everyone's playing to lose.

So Poor He Can't Even Pay Attention

Kevin K. of the Rumpies takes Truthdig's Chris Hedges to task for the latest out of the Useful Idiot Peanut Gallery.
The naively empathetic Chris Hedges, writing about the poor, put-upon teabaggers and their childlike “yearning for fascism,” ends his recent article at Truthdig with this ‘graph:
Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.
Honestly, does Hedges believe that these “transformations” are impending? We’re already there. We’ve been there for a long time.  “The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press.” I mean, yeah, how terrible would it be IF THAT EVER HAPPENED? Good christ, really?
Oh, it gets worse, folks.  Who does Hedges blame for the Rough Beast heading for Washington DC?  I'll give you three guesses, and the first seventeen don't count.
We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators’ offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.
I have to just shake my head.  If you honestly believe that the Teabaggers are hurling epithets at black and gay members of Congress because the Democrats aren't liberal enough, there's literally nothing I can do for you.  That's stupidity bordering willful ignorance right there.  But to then blame the Democrats for these nutjobs and then justify their actions in any way makes you more than stupid, it makes you flat out evil.  It's the same idiotic, hyper-cynical "logic" we've seen from the Right in the last week or so, that the Dems brought this on themselves for daring pass this legislation...any legislation.

If we had passed single-payer health care, the teabaggers really would be taking to the streets en masse to "get them some tyrant blood for the Tree of Liberty" or whatever.  And you're blaming Dems for this lunacy?

How does this guy function with that block of cement on his head?

Mister Green(back) Genes

A federal judge has ruled against the entire notion that biotech companies can patent genes, which could put  nasty crimp in the plans of, oh, the entire industry.
Putting a point on things, Judge Sweet, as the New York Times notes, took up the argument of critics who say identifying and isolating a gene is enough to win a patent. That's too clever by half, according to Sweet, and constitutes, "a 'lawyer's trick' that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result."

If the judge's legal logic holds up, it could imperil thousands of patents. But this case is only the beginning of the legal wrangling. "Despite the complete victory for the plaintiffs, we have to keep in mind that this is just the first step on a long road for this particular piece of litigation, and for the future of gene patents more broadly," wrote biotech attorney Dan Vorhaus on the blog Genomics Law Report.

The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation. "The court correctly saw that companies should not be able to own the rights to a piece of the human genome," Daniel B. Ravicher, a lawyer with the Public Patent Foundation, said in a statement. "No one invented genes. Inventions are specific tests or drugs, which can be patented, but genes are not inventions."

In a statement, Myriad said it would appeal the ruling and is confident it will be reversed. The company also said it didn't expect the ruling to hurt its business because many patents on the tests are unaffected.
The bottom line is if you can patent a gene, you can then become the sole proprietor of tests involving that gene, which means you have an effective monopoly on anything that affects that gene: tests, therapies, new drugs, the whole nine.  Since you have a monopoly, you can charge whatever you want.  Everybody else has to play along.

And you wonder why health costs are rising so quickly.  Monopolies aren't exactly good for consumer prices, you know.  Maybe instead biotech companies can compete to see who can make the most effective test or therapy or drug to deal with that gene.

Wouldn't that be nice.

Bart Stupid-pak

Digby points out that Rep. Bart Stupak was played from the beginning by the Catholic Bishops in order to be the instrument of the death of Obamacare.
Nick Baumann at Mother Jones takes a look at the top lobbyist for the Catholic Bishops (they have lobbyists?) who advised Stupak on his bizarre quest to hold out for the Stupak Amendment over the Nelson Amendment for no apparent reason. It's a fascinating story.

And now it seems there is serious trouble in paradise:
Perhaps the biggest question hanging over the bishops' strategy is why they were prepared to see health care reform fail unless the Stupak amendment's abortion provisions were adopted. After all, there was virtually no difference between the Stupak amendment in the House bill—which Doerflinger insisted was the only acceptable option—and the Nelson language in the Senate bill, which the bishops warned would "require people to pay for other people’s abortions."


In the days since Stupak voted for the bill, relations between his bloc and the bishops have soured. "The church does have some work to do in dealing with frayed nerves and divisions on policy questions," Doerflinger told Catholic News Service. Last week, Stupak attacked the bishops and other anti-abortion groups for "great hypocrisy" in opposing Obama's executive order after having supported former President George W. Bush's executive order banning stem cell research in 2007. He told the Daily Caller he believed the bishops and the groups they were allied with were "just using the life issue to try to bring down health-care reform." In other words, he suspected he was wrong to trust that his former allies were acting in good faith.
Yah think?

Yes, it was difficult to understand why Catholic bishops who purport to care for the poor would do such a thing. Certainly the non-wingnut laity wondered. In fact, they were aghast. So were the nuns. So were the Catholic hospitals. Stupak and his bloc were apparently just fools.
The problem was, Stupak was far from being the only one, but he was the one who was going to take the fall.  The fact that in the end Stupak realized he was going to go down as the most hated goat in Democratic party history was the only thing that saved Obamacare from this particular method of execution.

Stupak honestly thought he was going to be a hero.  Lord, what fools the useful idiots be.

Pants On Fire

A lot of noise has been made on the right about the supposed millions of dollars yearly it's going to cost businesses thanks to Obamacare.  Caterpillar claims they will have to take a $100 million charge just this year.  AT&T claims they will have to write off a cool billion dollars in health care costs.  They are claiming they will have no choice but to drop prescription drug coverage for retirees.

There's only one problem.  It's all a snow job.
The provision upon which they're basing this claim closes a loophole written into Medicare Part D legislation when Republicans controlled Washington. And though the change will cost the companies a small of money each year, it doesn't take effect until 2013--the figures the companies released last week reflect the total sum of the costs over several years. And as a result, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman has welcomed executives from these companies to defend their claims on Capitol Hill.

Several firms have indeed claimed the reforms will cost them big bucks before the year is out. AT&T said "Included among the major provisions of the law is a change in the tax treatment of the Medicare Part D subsidy," in an SEC filing, adding that the company "intends to take a non-cash charge of approximately $1 billion in the first quarter of 2010 to reflect the impact of this change."

Verizon notified its employees by email that they may see changes to their benefits. The new law, they wrote, "may have significant implications for both retirees and employers," because of changes it makes to federal tax treatment of Medicare Part D subsidies.

The list goes on. But the reality is less striking than the enormous figures indicate.

When Part D was enacted in 2003, it contained a number of heavily criticized boondoggles for big businesses, but one such loophole offered companies subsidies to continue providing prescription drug benefits to retirees...and made those subsidies tax deductible.

Fast forward to 2010, the newly signed health care bill doesn't end the subsidies, or change the fact that those subsidies are tax free--it simply ends companies' ability to deduct them. The money that companies spend out of their own pockets on prescription drugs under Part D is still tax deductible.

In preparing for the hit, though, companies have summed up the permanent cost of this tax change and plan to write it down all at once. Now, conservatives are citing that overall cost to suggest that these companies will have to bear a billion dollar burden every year. And, of course, the kicker is that this change will not take effect under the terms of the law for three years
In other words, the GOP is lying to you again in order to try to make this look much worse than it really is.  There's a shocker, distorting the truth around Obamacare!

Good thing the Dems have called these CEOs out.
Waxman has invited the CEOs of four companies--AT&T, Verizon, John Deere, and Caterpillar--to defend their claims before his committee when Congress returns from recess next week. We'll look closely at what they have to say. 
Should be an interesting day on Capitol Hill.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

David Bobo Brooks asks:
Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?
And he goes on to relate this to President Obama, with Obamacare of course being the professional triumph and his ruined presidency as the severe personal blow, proclaims lottery winners as more miserable than "hard workers" and ends with:
Governments keep initiating policies they think will produce prosperity, only to get sacked, time and again, from their spiritual blind side.
My answer for Brooks is simple:

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of considering the method in which our economy was tanked in 2007 and 2008.  The folks that "worked hard" and made billions collectively in bonuses wrecked our economy in the name of getting their share and made a great many of us miserable as a result.  I'm more willing to believe that the government has a spiritual side and duty to provide than I do the Gordon Gekko "Greed is good!" profit margin uber alles attitude of the markets.

I mean honestly.  It wasn't government that lost trillions down the subprime rathole, Bobo.


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