Friday, June 26, 2009

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) Siding With Health Insurers In Health Care Debate?

HuffPo has the scoop:

In a closed-door meeting of Senate Finance Committee Democratic members and their staff Wednesday evening, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) suggested that if the committee bill didn't have enough votes for a public option it include a ten-year delay between passage of health care reform and the implementation of a public option that Americans could buy into, according to two Democratic aides.

Under the plan floated by Kerry, a public health care option would only be triggered by private insurance companies failing to meet certain criteria after ten years. Known as the "trigger" in legislative lingo, the idea is vociferously opposed by health care advocates who consider it the death of reform.

Reform advocates say that the system is already broken and that there's no need to wait any longer, also warning that the insurance industry might be able to game the criteria and prevent the public plan trigger from ever being pulled.

One source familiar with Kerry's unexpected suggestion said that the idea seemed to have little impact on the meeting and that the senators quickly moved on.

How in the world are senators -- especially Democratic Senators from ultra-blue states like Massachusetts -- thinking they can get away with standing against what the overwhelming majority of people in the country want?

There is no "Plan B" on this one because this is Plan B. Plan A was single payer. Having a robust public option available as soon as possible is the line in the sand, and if the committee doesn't have the votes for it, make them vote again. And again. And again. Keep voting until you have the votes to pass it.

Flynt Leverett and David Frum Debate Iran

In this episode, we see Flynt Leverett from the New America Foundation and David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute debate the legitimacy of the Iranian election and the American response.

While I don't agree fully with either of them, I'd say that Leverett tends to be a bit more credible (even though I disagree with his central thesis that Ahmadinejad got the most votes). He's a foreign policy expert and a former senior director on the Middle East National Security Councill. He's a proud civil servant, and he doesn't really have ulterior motives.

Whereas David Frum is a long-time hawk and GOP political operative and I don't find a lot of his posturing on Iran to be all that credible as evidence of his concern for the Iranian people, especially given that he has held the post of one of the most disingenuous jobs I can think of -- speechwriter for George W. Bush.

Nearly Half of Iranian MP's Refuse To Go To Ahmadinejad's Election Party

The BBC reports:

More than 100 MPs appear to have snubbed an invitation to celebrate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election win, local press reports say.

All 290 MPs were invited to the victory party on Wednesday night but 105 did not turn up, the reports say.

A BBC correspondent says the move is a sign of the deep split at the top of Iran after disputed presidential polls.

I don't really know how Ahmadinejad was planning to celebrate, but he had a lot less friends to do it with than he expected.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Dies at 50

Michael Jackson is dead at 50, according to TMZ:

We've just learned Michael Jackson has died. He was 50.

Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon at his Holmby Hills home and paramedics were unable to revive him. We're told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back.

A source tells us Jackson was dead when paramedics arrived.

Michael is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.

Jackson had 13 number one hits during his solo career.

Sad day for music!

Strip Search of 13-year-old Unconstitutional

In what appears to be a no-brainer, you cannot strip search children to look for their... advil. ThinkProgress says the following:

In an 8-1 decision today, the Supreme Court held that school officials violated the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures when they strip searched a 13 year-old honor student because they falsely suspected her of bringing ibuprofen to school. Ibuprofen is the same drug used in the painkiller Advil. The Court reasoned that, because there was no evidence that a commonly used painkiller presented a danger to the student body and there was no evidence that the honor student was concealing drugs in her underwear, the school overreacted by strip searching the student.

Justice Thomas was the lone dissenter, meaning he believes it is constitutional to strip search 13 year old girls. You can read the opinion here.

I must say, between the rampant drop out rate, ACTUAL drugs in school, and kids who legitimately have headaches, we can allow the horrible drug... Advil... into our school system.

Obama Not Going To Vigorously Defend Public Option In Healthcare?

Paul Krugman is furious:

Really bad news on the health care front. After making the case for a public option, and doing it very well, Obama said this:

“We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured,” Mr. Obama said. “Those are the broad parameters that we’ve discussed.”
There he goes again, gratuitously making a big gift to the other side.

My big fear about Obama has always been not that he doesn’t understand the issues, but that his urge to compromise — his vision of himself as a politician who transcends the old partisan divisions — will lead him to negotiate with himself, and give away far too much. He did that on the stimulus bill, where he offered an inadequate plan in order to win bipartisan support, then got nothing in return — and was forced to reduce the plan further so that Susan Collins could claim her pound of flesh.

Given the fact that single payer healthcare was kicked off the table before negotiations even began, I'd say a robust public option would be the next best thing. It'd allow people to drop their greedy and inefficient private insurers and join a Medicare-style government-run plan. This wouldn't do a whole lot to control costs in the long-run -- it'd be almost unsustainable to not talk about the bargaining power of single-payer in the future -- but it would guarantee people affordable healthcare in the short run and force private insurers to curtail many of their more vicious practices.

Obama at one point was a strong advocate of a single-payer system, and now it looks as if he's retreated so far back that he's willing to negotiate away offering any sort of publicly run plan to every single person in the country. That's a huge leap backwards.

The reason the private insurance industry is so fiercely pressuring the Democrats right now is that it fears competition from the government. If it had to compete with an efficient, low-cost plan like Medicare, there's no way the industry could survive in its current form.

What does that current form consist of? I'll let ABC News explain:

"[T]hey confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors," former Cigna senior executive Wendell Potter said in remarks prepared for a hearing on health insurance today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Potter, who has more than 20 years of experience working in public relations for insurance companies Cigna and Humana, said companies routinely drop seriously ill policyholders so they can meet "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."

"They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment," Potter said. "&(D)umping a small number of enrollees can have a big effect on the bottom line."

Of course they don't want to compete with the government. They might have to behave in a civilized manner if that happened. The question is, is Obama ready to force them to do that, or is he going to back down in the face of tremendous lobbying pressure?

Would Nixon Abort Obama?

I am surprised the quote from President Nixon, released earlier this week, has not gotten more attention than it is.

Speaking to Charles Colson after the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the president said: "I admit, there are times when abortions are necessary, I know that." He gave "a black and a white" as an example.

"Or rape," Colson offered. "Or rape," Nixon agreed.

I find this particularlly offensive. Basically, Nixon is arguing that it would have necessary to abort someone that was bi-racial, such as president Obama?

Anyone not see a problem here?

Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) Has Been Acting Irresponsibly For A Long Time

The outrage over Governor Mark Sanford's affair has begun.

Conservatives have started to throw Sanford overboard and have begun the usual process of lamenting the state of their party that has gone on every time one of these recent scandals has appeared. The New York Times reports about one such conservative who has commented on the Sanford scandal:

“Personal circumstances over the course of the last week have managed to shrink the front line of the 2012 possible-contender list by 40 percent,” said Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

Speaking of Mr. Sanford’s confession, Mr. Musser said, “The concern here is that this continues a broader narrative that is completely unhelpful to the Republican Party’s rebuilding — that’s life, but it’s a personal tragedy that fairly or unfairly compounds a series of problems.”

I expect that we'll see alot more Republicans come forward and say that Sanford's affair is unfortunate and "unhelpful" to the party, and we'll probably witness a lot of hand-wringing and distancing from the Palmetto state governor, too.

I have major problem with the right's distancing fom Sanford -- it focuses on exactly the wrong thing.

Sex scandals are bad. Cheating on your wife is a terrible thing, no doubt. But let's be honest with ourselves here, Sanford is responsible for a lot more irresponsible behavior than adultery.

My aunt recently retired from teaching in the public school system in South Carolina. She taught at one of two IB schools in the entire state. Due to the Sanford's right-wing antics of trying to reject stimulus package money or use it to pay down state debt, her school was in danger of having to cancel its IB program -- and thousands of teachers were expecting layoffs. Sanford's pandering to the far right -- which apparently values "small government" over the welfare of the children who rely on teachers and the educational system -- threatened to sink his state even further.

Yet he was lionized for his 19th century views on government and his reckless behavior in the face of economic crisis. Newsweek even proudly proclaimed that he may very well be "the last conservative standing" and a major GOP Presidential contender due to his lack of concern for the welfare of the families in the state who couldn't afford private education.

But now, he cheated on his wife, which is a pretty bad thing to do, but let's be honest -- it's nowhere near as bad as trying to starve your state's educational system, doubtlessly plunging thousands of poor children into poverty as a result. Yet the former action has made him persona non grata, and the latter made him into some kind of hero. What kind of moral system are we using to judge our public officials, anyway?

By the way, the South Carolina Supreme Court forced Governor Sanford to take the stimulus money for schools, ending his shameless pandering to the anarcho-capitalist right once and for all. Gotta love those activist judges.

We're Finally Banned In China!

Repeat after me: UGALiberal is not sufficiently loyal to the Revolution!

I recently received this tip from a friend of mine studying in China:

Well Zaid congratulations, is on the list of websites that I cannot access while in China. Now I cannot read more witty titles about contemporary politics.

All I can say is -- YES!

Now I can knock that off my list of things I need to accomplish before I die!

I think it's somewhere around #35. Ah, here we go:

#34 Hot date with Scarlett Johansson

#35 Get political blog banned in China

#36 Hot date with Noam Chomsky

Victory, comrades!

Sanford: My Thoughts

I am just going to throw this out here. If Republicans would spend more time maintaining their marriages than campaigning on their marriages, then maybe there would be less Mark Sanford's, Newt Gingrich's, Larry Craig's, Ted Haggard's, John Ensigns, etc...

Now I know democrats are not perfect, we had Clinton and Edwards and a number of others, but the difference is, we do not make our marriages one of the central parts of our campaigns. Sure, marriage is important, but there are more things we run on.

Johnny Depp's Excellent Tips

I definitely need to find some way to be Johnny Depp's friend:

The waiter who received a $4000 tip from Johnny Depp has told about his night with the superstar!

Mohammed A . Sekhani -- a veteran waiter at Chicago's legendary steakhouse Gibsons -- told “Johnny and his party arrived just after 11.30pm at the restaurant and requested a private room. He had visited our restaurant several times before while he was filming Public Enemies and he promised me that he would return after the premiere."

Sekhani says Depp and his party ordered appetizers like shrimp cocktails while they prepared his favorite dish Clams Casino – which is clams baked with garlic, pepper and cheese.

Good taste in food, too!

Terrorist Plot in the U.S. foiled!

The FBI has arrested a man for threatening to kill Federal judges. He did so because he of a recent decision the judges made regarding hand guns. ThinkProgress has the story.
Today, FBI agents went to the New Jersey home of white supremacist blogger/radio host Hal Turner and arrested him “on a federal complaint filed in Chicago alleging that he made internet postings threatening to assault and murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago in retaliation for their recent ruling upholding handgun bans in Chicago and a suburb,” according to a statement released by the Justice Department. A summary of Turner’s dangerous tirade against the judges:

Internet postings on June 2 and 3 proclaimed “outrage” over the June 2, 2009, handgun decision by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, further stating, among other things: “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed.” The postings included photographs, phone numbers, work address and room numbers of these judges, along with a photo of the building in which they work and a map of its location.

When will people realize that there is going to be a rise in the amount of violence by domestic terrorism. These people are just as dangerous as foreign terrorism. Hate is hate and violence is violence. Your loved ones are no less dead when they are shot by a foreign terrorist than a domestic terrorist.

We must stand up against all forms of violence, even if they come from our own countrymen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Speak No Evil: Melancholy of a Space Mexican

This short comic was nominated for an Eisner this year (Eisners, dear friends, are like the Oscars of comics). Though the artist denies any political opinions attached, it is an interesting meditation on what it is to be a lower working class immigrant in this country: voiceless, faceless (in this case, literally), with no advantage or agency against anyone who would take advantage of you--and, ultimately, treated like so much stock and merchandise.

A very good comic, and a very brief read. Click the post title to go directly to the comic.

Lost and Found

I guess hes not running for president anymore:

South Carolina GOP Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday to an affair, and resigned his position as chair of the Republican Governor's Association following a strange week in which the governor dropped off the grid and could not be located.

“I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina,” Sanford said in a rambling and often emotional news conference at the state capital in Columbia.

“I’m a bottom line kind of guy I’m just gonna lay it out. It’s gonna hurt and I’m going to let the chips fall where they may,” said Sanford, often touted as a potential 2012 presidential hopeful.

The Governor of South Carolina was not hiking, at least not in the United States as his staff said he was, but instead was in South America:
Sanford Resurfaces — From Argentina
Updated The whereabouts of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford this past week just became a bit more curious, as if they hadn’t already stirred quite a bit of chatter in his home state and beyond.

Earlier this morning, Gina Smith, a reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, S. C., acted on a tip and confronted the governor at the Atlanta airport as he deplaned from, uh, not the Appalachian Trail as his staff had finally disclosed on Monday night, but Buenos Aires.

In a short interview, he told Ms. Smith that he didn’t know why his staff said he was hiking, although he conceded that he had considered that activity as a way to take a break after a bruising legislative session ended last week.

“But I said ‘no’ I wanted to do something exotic,” Mr. Sanford told Ms. Smith. “… It’s a great city.”

The governor said he had been traveling alone. Ms. Smith said she asked him if he had been staying at a hotel, but he wouldn’t answer her question.

Update: Mr. Sanford’s spokesman, Joel Sawyer, just sent out a notice saying the governor would hold a news conference at 2 p.m. in the Statehouse.

The governor’s mysterious disappearance had captured national attention in part because the governor is frequently talked about among conservative Republicans as a potential candidate for the presidency. But it also unfolded in a bizarre way, with his wife Jenny indicating that she wasn’t aware of his traveling plans over the Father’s Day weekend and with rival Republicans in the state contending that the governor’s staff had lied to them.

Various staff members had told reporters that they were unable to reach him. But Ms. Smith said in an interview with CNN this morning that obviously, someone knew his whereabouts because of the tip she received and because he was whisked away by someone who met him at the airport.

In the airport interview today, Mr. Sanford suggested that he was confounded by how his absence was “blown out of proportion.”

This story was not "blown out of proportion." Governor, unless you have forgotten, you are in charge of a State. The staff and officials in the state need to be able to contact you. You should, of course, have vacations, but keep in contact or leave a method to be found. You running a state, not working at the local Starbucks!

You can get fired for now showing up to work without explanation in some jobs. I guess in South Carolina, they make you governor.

Miyazaki We Can Believe In

Miyazaki's films always explore the human experience and the wide breath of what this world can be --good and evil. That's why I love everything he directs.

It's always good to see news items like "New Miyazaki Movie Trailer Up!" to distract us from the headlines about the new ways we've designed to kill eachother.

Whaaaaat? Exxon-Mobil's CEO Backs a Carbon Tax

Totally failing to uphold their stereotype of being an earth-raping evil corporation.

The Wall Street journal reports:

ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson is bound and determined to join the Pigou club.

In a speech today in Washington, Mr. Tillerson said that he much prefers a carbon tax—rather than a cap-and-trade scheme—if the government takes steps to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

“My greatest concern is that policy makers will attempt to mandate or ordain solutions that are doomed to fail,” Mr. Tillerson said, reports Dow Jones Newswires. “A carbon tax would be a more direct and transparent approach,” he said.

Wait, so the CEO of Exxon-Mobil is advocating a position to the left of Congressional Democrats, who favor "cap-and-trade"?

Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Barney: "This Isn't Monopoly Money"

This was on ThinkProgress... I knew there was a reason I loved Barney Frank:

On a press call hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund this afternoon, Frank pointed out Republicans’ hypocrisy in railing against the deficit while simultaneously funding a $2 billion air force jet that has never once flown a mission in Afghanistan or Iraq. Frank said so-called deficit hawks act as though the Pentagon is funded with “Monopoly money”:

I am of course struck that so many of my colleagues who are so worried about the deficit apparently think the Pentagon is funded with Monopoly money that somehow doesn’t count.

Frank also dismissed concerns that eliminating the F-22 will cost jobs:

These arguments will come from the very people who denied that the economic recovery plan created any jobs. We have a very odd economic philosophy in Washington: It’s called weaponized Keynesianism. It is the view that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.

I am glad that Barney Frank stands up on issues like this. It isn't just because he is gay that he is one of my political heros, but it is because he has the courage to stand up on issues that are unfair and unjust.

Join the fight against universal healthcare!

For all you concerned citizens out there afraid that we might actually have a working healthcare sy- I mean, desperately frightened of this big government-Stalinesque takeover of healthcare by Obama and his socialist minions, HAARM is here to help!

Access their website here and ensure we never get all our citizens quality, affordable healthcare!

Can Democrats win in Georgia

While I know it is extremely early in the 2010 races, is it possible for democrats to take back the Georgia Mansion. I received this in the mail last night:

Georgia: A New Chance in the Deep South

In the 2008 Georgia Senate race, incumbent Saxby Chambliss was supposed to win in a landslide. Instead, Democrat Jim Martin came within three points of victory, proving that Georgia Democrats are more competitive than they've been in years.

Now, with Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue stepping down, we have a chance to build on that effort and win a major statewide race.

Democrats were being written off in this race just a few weeks ago, but not anymore. New polling data shows the race is now a tossup, and we'll be sure to send you the most up-to-date news and numbers going forward.

I thought it was a bit of a stretch till I looked at the recent polling. It has everyone within the Margin of Error. I think it might be possible, but we must keep turnout in minority communities high. Black turnout dropped in the Senate runoff, but maybe we can do specific voter drives to keep all the turnout high!

Oxendine Ahead for GOP Governor Primary

Rasmussen writes that Oxendine is ahead in the GOP Primary Race:

John Oxendine, Georgia’s fire and insurance commissioner, holds a commanding lead over all other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in an early look at next year’s state GOP Primary.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in Georgia shows Oxendine with 35% support among those likely to vote in the state’s open Republican Primary. His next closest competitors are Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel with 11% and Congressman Nathan Deal at 10%. But 33% are not sure which candidate they prefer.

I do not know much about him, but I will be watching him in the future. It is hard to imagine that he is worst the Karen Handel from a liberal perspective, though it is Georgia, we are known for our overly conservative candidates.