Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heading Not To Confrontation

Conservatives, rest assured. Health insurance companies, break out the champagne. The Congressional Budget Office has “scored” the bill unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and The Hill offers these highlights:

- The bill would reduce the ranks of the uninsured non-elderly by 36 million, "leaving about 18 million non-elderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants).
- Roughly 21 million would purchase insurance on their own through insurance exchanges.
- Total enrollment in the public plan would be about 6 million, or one-fifth of the total consumers shopping in the insurance exchange.
- State spending on Medicaid would increase on net by about $34 billion between 2010 and 2019.

The CBO concluded the bill, if enacted, would not explode the budget, but instead be deficit-neutral. Illegal immigrants would not be insured. A mere 20% of the 30 million Americans (a mere 10% of the population) eligible for the public plan would take it. And still, approximately 12 million non-elderly legal residents would remain uninsured.

This House bill, bolder than that endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Reid and whatever would eventually be enacted, should have brought comfort to the right and discomfort to the left.

Evidently, it has not. On Thursday, the House Tri-Caucus (Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus all met with President Obama. (No word on any scheduled meeting with the Congressional non-Hispanic white caucus.) Raul Grijalva (D.- Arizona), head of the House Progressive Caucus, stated on Democracy Now! that the group was concerned there are no “cost controls on the private insurance companies, especially with negotiated rates, because they get to set the rates and we have to chase those rates with taxpayers' dollar; and no triggers and no opt-outs, that we feel those are detrimental to the public interest and certainly to constituencies that have lacked the ability to access healthcare in this country for so many years.”

Then, apparently, they stamped their feet, got red in the face, and threatened to be really, really, unhappy when they vote for whatever bill is finally brought up for a vote.

While the progressive caucuses that met with the president are concerned, justifiably, by lack of cost controls and the possiblility of a trigger, an opt-out or opt-in, they ought to be worried, as the CBO explained

That estimate of enrollment reflects CBO’s assessment that a public plan paying negotiated rates would attract a broad network of providers but would typically have premiums that are somewhat higher than the average premiums for the private plans in the exchanges. The rates the public plan pays to providers would, on average, probably be comparable to the rates paid by private insurers participating in the exchanges. The public plan would have lower administrative costs than those private plans but would probably engage in less management of utilization by its enrollees andattract a less healthy pool of enrollees.

That would be, in the words (video below) of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, akin to a “health care ghetto,” which would seriously harm any public option that is enacted under the terms currently proposed.

The right (or at least a portion thereof), however, is going to demand its interests be met. Think Progress reports that Representative Bart Stupak (D.- MI) is threatening to block reform over the belief that the proposed bill(s) would permit subsidization of abortion, even though any subsidy would be indirect, and is arguably not a subsidy. It is a very small (though apparently to them, not trivial) aspect of health reform. And a group of Representatives may be willing to perpetuate continuation of the deeply flawed American system of health care over it.

It's their right to stake a claim on any one principle they hold dear. Progressives, however, appear at present to have little stomach to hold out for what they themselves believe in. The reasons may be complicated, and doubtless vary from member to member, but one explanation was suggested by Rep. Grijalva in the interview with Democracy Now:

We're facing the most historic vote that any of us are going to take in our careers. And for procedural reasons or for other reasons, to threaten to filibuster, to threaten to scuttle, whether it is Senator Bayh, Senator Snowe, Senator Lieberman, I think they're missing their opportunity with history, and I think the White House and leadership shouldn't allow them to be absent in this fight.

It could have been: “this is the best we can get;” or “the public option may be weak but we can strengthen it in a later congressional session.” But instead it was: It’s Historic! It’s An Opportunity With History!

This sounds suspiciously like the reason many people- liberals, conservatives, centrists- in the mainstream media (traditionally John McCain’s “base”) were giddy over the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. It gave them an opportunity to “make history.”

There was little discussion, uncomfortable as it would be, as to what “history” was being “made.” And now it seems the same concept is affecting Democrats in Congress. Health care may little improve, costs may skyrocket with the addition of roughly 36 million consumers, but at least “history” will be “made.” The alternative would be a better bill, but at the expense of confrontation few are willing to have with this this president.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Prospects Dim

Staff writer Sarah Avery of the writes

Maybe it was just lousy timing, but many customers of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina are ticked off at the mail they've received recently from the state's largest insurer.

First, they learned their rates will rise by an average of 11 percent next year.

Next, they opened a slick flier from the insurer urging them to send an enclosed pre-printed, postage-paid note to Sen. Kay Hagan denouncing what the company says is unfair competition that would be imposed by a government-backed insurance plan. The so-called public option is likely to be considered by Congress in the health-care overhaul debate.

"No matter what you call it, if the federal government intervenes in the private health insurance market, it's a slippery slope to a single-payer system," the BCBS flier read. "Who wants that?”

According to the health insurer, the mailings relied on a list of registered voters, not on one of the company’s customers. The post card reads

Senator Hagan,

Please oppose government-run health insurance. We can meet our health care challenges without the government unfairly competing with the private sector. Tell Senate leaders North Carolina doesn’t need government-run insurance.

Fortunately, there is reportedly a grass roots movement to send to Senator Hagan many of these post cards, but with the message so modified (although slightly varying one from the other):

Please support government-run health insurance. We can’t meet our health care challenges without the government competing with the private sector. Tell Senate leaders North Carolina does need government-run insurance.

While this is heartening, as Jason Rosenbaum at Firedoglake has pointed out, the health insurance industry really has few worries. While the House’s health care bill, announced by Speaker Pelosi today, is superior to that of the Senate Finance Committee, it does not contain a “robust” (Medicare plus 5%) public option.

Senator Wyden (D.-Oregon) has been explaining lately that the range of the Senate’s likely bill is inadequate:

If folks at the grassroots level, the folks who are carrying those signs about the public option now, say, "Look, it's not good enough that only 10 percent of the population can hold insurance companies accountable, it's not good enough at a crucial time in American history to have choice available only to a handful of people who are poor and sick and unemployed," that's almost like a health care ghetto....

Let's hold insurance companies accountable the right way by making them put their whole customer base on the line.

Even the House bill (transcript, in PDF)- the more progressive, liberal, and humane alternative- will severely limit the number of people eligible for the public option , thereby creating this “health care ghetto.” As costs of the public option rise, government increasingly will be blamed for a spectacularly expensive health care system. Greater government involvement in health care, with a greater range of plans available to a wider group of individuals and families, would have held down costs, but the irony will be lost on most people, and surely on the media.

This is a time for presidential leadership- not in making deals with the pharmaceutical or the health insurance industries or for urging a Senate bill weak enough so as not to offend the Blue Dogs. It is time, finally, for the leadership that President Obama has yet to demonstrate on this issue. Not likely.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Terry Knows All

Another day in the life of Republican extremism.

Today it is Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion rights Operation Rescue, whose website includes the following press release announcing an unusual contest (video below):

See video of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid "Burn in Hell" for putting child-killing in health care, instruction video on how to burn Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid "in hell," and rules for entering video competition of Pelosi and Reid "burning in hell."

Photo: Clip from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid Burn in Hell Video

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid Burn in Hell Video:

Instructions and Rules for Holding "Burn in Hell" Protest, Making "Burn in Hell" Video, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Prizes for "Burn in Hell" Video contestants:

Randall Terry states: "Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are like hardened criminals; they are bent on 'holding a gun' to American taxpayers, and stealing our money to force us to pay for the murder of babies under so-called 'health care.'

"So, in the spirit of American political protest and Halloween, we are opening a competition for creating a video of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid 'burning in hell' for their part in forcing us to pay for murder."

"Burn in Hell" Contest rules are as follows:

Join a Contest! Win Prizes!

Who Can make the best "Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid BURN IN HELL!" video?

First prize: Expenses paid for weekend here in DC during Roe vs Wade anniversary, Jan 22-24, including pro-life training seminar (Includes travel stipend!), and full Insurrecta Nex television series.

Second Prize: 2 Sets of Insurrecta Nex training series, and two sets of all books authored by Randall Terry. (One set for you, one for your Church.)

Third Prize: 1 Set Insurrecta Nex training series.

In addition, all Contestants will receive a free copy of episodes 1-4 of Insurrecta Nex.

Send link of your video by NOVEMBER 15, 2009 to:

Legal Mumbo Jumbo: Obey local laws on open flames; be careful; if under 18, do not burn Nancy Pelosi in effigy unless your mom or dad is with you, and gives you permission, and strikes the match; do not burn yourself; do not burn another human being; do not burn small animals; do not burn large animals; do not burn anyone from PETA; and remember: this is not a threat to Nancy Pelosi's or Harry Reid's is a prophetic witness of what awaits them when they die if they do not repent for this horrific sin.

Now, if you look at the “big picture,” you might observe that the video and the contest are near-incitements to violence. Or you might be disturbed at the vile hatred spewed forth. Or you might be awaiting a congressional resolution blasting Mr. Terry, much as Democrats were cowed into condemning

Or you might observe that Terry, once a Protestant but now a convert to Roman Catholicism, assumes nearly psychic powers as he writes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “it is a prophetic witness of what awaits them when they die if they do not repent for this horrific sin.”

There has been wide disagreement for two thousand years over who gets a ticket to heaven, and why, with even some Christians neglecting the words of the apostle Paul or those of Jesus Christ. No matter: there is little disagreement about what God meant when he told Moses (Exodus 33:19b) “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion”; or as restated (quoted) in the New Testament, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Randall Terry proposes to substitute his judgement for that of the God to whom he claims allegiance, apparently unaware of the simple advice cutting across all doctrines: “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”


Monday, October 26, 2009

Limbaugh And The NFL, Again

Rush Limbaugh, meet the concept of plausible deniability.

You would think a guy who has been involved awhile in political issues would understand the concept of plausible deniability. And as with so many things, one is left wondering: is Limbaugh ignorant or just playing the role?

On October 23 Limbaugh, unable as I am to let die his rejection as part of an ownership group interested in buying the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, said

Now to Michael Smerconish. Smerconish, it's relevant that he endorsed Obama for president. He positions himself as a moderate. Maybe he is. But he has a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer about this and says that it was strictly business, why I was dropped, it wasn't politics. He said the owners' objection to Limbaugh wasn't based on his politics, they overwhelmingly share his views. "Instead, the owners determined that it was just bad business to add to their ranks someone who would have kept them in headlines going forward while most choose to fly beneath the radar." This is the key thing. What happened here was the owners never got a chance to vote....

Now, the way it works is, you first have to be the winning bid, the Rosenblooms then have to want to sell the team after they hear the price, then after the team is sold, then you go and the NFL starts its vet process....

So Smerconish, I know he's trying to get this right but the owners did not reject this. Roger Goodell did.

Rush, please understand: Roger Goodell works for the owners. The owners hired him. The owners could fire him.

In his column, Smerconish primarily a syndicated talk-show host based in Philadelphia) wrote

Only one owner was prepared to say he would not support the inclusion of Limbaugh. But given that Goodell is their hire, common sense dictates he would not have voiced negativity unless more than one held that view. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he wouldn’t vote for Limbaugh because of the host’s “inappropriate, incendiary, and insensitive” commentary.

But it was the owner of a basketball franchise who came closest to explaining why the Limbaugh role failed. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, whom the NBA has fined almost $2 million for his own verbal and behavioral incidents, blogged that the NFL should be “terrified” not of things Limbaugh has already said, but of “what he might say AFTER he was an approved investor in the St. Louis Rams.”

“Given that we will never know what the ’next big issue’ in this world that Rush will be discussing on his show is, it’s impossible for the NFL to even try to predict or gauge the impact on the NFL’s business if something controversial, or even worse yet, something nationally polarizing happens. There is an unquantifiable risk that comes with the size of Rush’s audience,” Cuban wrote on his blog.

The National Football League is risk-averse with owners largely unconcerned with the political, or even racial, views of their owners. They are concerned with possible controversy (or governmental regulation) intruding into their inalienable right (as Rush consistently sees it) to make money and as much as possible.

Roger Goodell understands this and attacked to spare his clients/employers the discomfort of a vote in which they could approve the bid and invite controversy or reject the bid and face the wrath of Limbaugh and others in right-wing talk radio, as well as their listeners. Either way, financial health would be jeopardized, and principle would give way to the business imperative. Goodell enabled the owners to retain plausible deniability, the latter able if necessary to assure those in the rarefied circles in which they travel that they really took no action against their fellow arch-capitalist.

Ironically, Rush, negating his entire argument, would get it right in a single nine-word statement at the conclusion of his segment: "The color of the National Football League," he noted, "is green."
Bring It To A Vote

Five days ago, former Vice-President Dick Cheney joined the chorus of Republicans urging President Obama to accept uncritically the recommendation of General Stanley McChrystal and commit 40,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan. Or, rather, to accept uncritically the recommendation of General Stanley McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A). Most of the GOP would rather wrap itself in the flag of the American military than to muster the courage to call for more American servicemen to be placed in "harm's way" in central Asia.

Accepting an award from the Center for Security Policy, Cheney said "Make no mistake. Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries.... The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger." He blustered "It's time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity."

Carefully avoiding taking a position on the possible escalation, I have a suggestion (assuming the President is amenable to increasing the numbers): submit an increase in American troop strength to Congressional approval. In his fine speech at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station today, the President stated:

I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way. I won’t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, we will back you up. Because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, the defined goals and the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That’s the promise I make to you.

In a representative democracy (aka a republic), there is no more appropriate way to demonstrate the support of the American people for military action than to garner the endorsement of the people's representatives in the lower and upper chambers of the national legislature.

There is obvious, recent, precedence to this strategy. On October 11, 2002 the House of Representatives voted 296-133, and the Senate 77-23, to authorize President Bush

to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--
1.defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq ; and
2.enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

Although the war itself has not turned out so well, the politics of military action helped enable Mr. Bush to be elected re-elected President as his opponent was stuck with trying to explain why he was so critical of an effort he appeared, with his "aye" vote in 2002, to have supported only two years earlier.

Similarly, on Afghanistan the GOP would be squeezed into a tight position: support the President of the United States or renege on its rhetorical support for the increase in soldiers urged by McChrystal. If instead no authorization is requested, and the President decides to embark on this course in Afghanistan and our effort backfires, Repubs will in all likelihood desert him, denounce him, and pretend they had never pushed the increase at all. (This strategy would pose a challenge for Democrats also, but not as great a one: support the President of their party or be more attuned to the interests of their base. And in either case, they, too, should not be held immune from taking a stand.)

In the great health care debate, President Obama has raised the pursuit of bipartisanship to a fetish, elevating the profile, prestige, and power of a single Repub Senator, Olympia Snowe, to nearly unfathomable heights. Partisanship, once said to "stop at the water's edge," is surely more important when facing a foreign enemy, the Taliban or Al Qaeda. And the GOP already has urged the President to ramp up the war in Afghanistan. Now is the time to demand that it show its cards.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

And Now, Reverend Richard Land

Reverend Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, on September 26 at a Christian Coalition of Florida banquet in Orlando declared

What they are attempting to do in healthcare, particularly in treating the elderly, is not something like what the Nazis did. It is precisely what the Nazis did….

The Nazis said people should be euthanized when they had lives unworthy of life. … Well, at the very least Dr. Emanuel, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, [Sen.] Max Baucus and President Obama are saying that some people have lives less worthy of life. And the older you are, the sicker you are, the less valuable your life is and the more likely they want to terminate your care.

After Abe Foxman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League termed the Nazi analogies “inappropriate, insensitive, and unjustified,” Land wrote

It was never my intention to equate the Obama administration's healthcare reform proposals with anything related to the Holocaust,….Now that I have had the opportunity to speak with you personally and reflect on my words, I deeply regret the reference to Dr. Josef Mengele,…. I was using hyperbole for effect and never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration with Dr. Mengele. I will certainly refrain from making such references in the future. I apologize to everyone who found such references hurtful. Given the pain and suffering of so many Jewish and other victims of the Nazi regime, I will certainly seek to exercise far more care in my use of language in future discussions of the issues at stake in the healthcare debate.

But on October 21 in the Baptist Press, Dwayne Hastings reported that in an interview with the publication

Land said there are some involved in the health care debate who appear to believe some lives are less valuable and less worthy of medical treatment than others.

In noting he had previously used "imprecise language," Land said he should have said some of the philosophies that are being espoused "bear a lethal similarity in their attitudes toward the elderly and the terminally ill and could ultimately lead to the kinds of things the Nazis did."

"To equate expressing concerns that such a mindset could be carried to such an extreme at some time in the future as the equivalent of saying the Obama administration is like the Nazis or that Barack Obama is Hitler is either delusional or deliberately misleading," Land said.

Steve Benen, who has blogged on Land’s remark on October 3, October 17, and October 24, charges that the claim “health care reform bears a "lethal similarity" to Nazi tactics is obviously crazy” and invoking the Third Reich in referring to health care reform is “completely insane.”

Well, no. It is inaccurate, offensive, and incendiary. But it is not insane A fellow can make a ridiculous comment but have a rational, strategic motive in going beyond the pale. On August 6, Rush Limbaugh claimed “And if you go and take a look at this, you will find that the Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo. I'm going to show you people watching on the Dittocam this, and there you are. The middle frame is the Obama health care logo. At the bottom is an official Nazi logo, eagle and everything, spread wings, or bird with spread wings” The same day, Glenn Beck compared health care reform to the eugenics program of Nazi Germany.

Such comments by Beck, Limbaugh, and Land are ludicrous and meant to delude listeners and followers of the demagogue. But the men themselves men are not insane- and probably not ignorant- but are attempting to divide the American people (further) for their own strategic interest.

Normally, the media reports a story excessively at first, then proceeds to ignore it, even if details later emerging lend the story greater urgency and relevance. Consequently, in following the story in its twists and turns, Benen is truly performing a valuable, and unusual, service, even if he does miss a subtle, backhanded swipe made by Dr. Land in his initial non-apology apology.

Land had slyly remarked “Given the pain and suffering of so many Jewish and other victims of the Nazi regime.” It is literally true- many groups other than Jews suffered at the hands of Hitler and his henchmen. But it is misleading, as George F. Will argued in 1989, coincidentally during the controversy over the establishment of a Catholic convent on the site of the Auschwitz death camp. A delegation met representatives of the Polish government there and at other Holocaust sites to obtain artifacts which would be exhibited at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which would open in Washington, D.C. in 1992. Writing from Treblinka, Will noted

Yes, others were killed. But if there had been no Jews in Euroe, there would have been no Holocaust. There would have been no Hitler. No Treblinka…

But here you also see everything. Treblinka is the starkest testimony to the radical evil that gives the Holocaust its stunning uniqueness, its apartness from all other human experiences. The radicalism was in its furious focus on Jews.

Comparisons of health care reform, the Democratic Party, or Barack Obama to fascism, Nazism, or Adolph Hitler do not demonstrate the madness of the opposition, but rather its extremism and utter lack of decency.

Friday, October 23, 2009

They're Criticizing Lou Dobbs

On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was, understandably, a little proud of himself when he identified John Stossel as one of his "Best Persons In The World"

for his best responsible comment from a guy I bash now, John Stossel, now Fox News. He says he won‘t vote Republican if “conservative means stop all immigration and some other things that conservatives say. If it means the Lou Dobbs kind of rants about immigrants wrecking America, I don‘t subscribe to that. I think immigrants, by and large, do good things for America.”

I don‘t think Mr. Stossel cares what I think. But I think he deserves applause for that.

Olbermann ‘s applause was echoed by, the blog of the Center for American Progress , albeit primarily by way of an attack on Dobbs. Welcoming Stossel to GOP TV, Glenn Beck on his radio show on Wednesday discussed (audio below) immigration with him:

STOSSEL: But if it means the Lou Dobbs kind of rants about immigrants wrecking America, I don't subscribe to that. I think immigrants by and large do good things for America.

GLENN: I think immigrants I think we need more immigrants, ones that want to be Americans because those immigrants are the only ones that are reminding us that we better get off our ass, we've got liberty here and we forget about it all the time.

STOSSEL: That's very true. When they were passing all these antismoking rules and I wanted to make the argument that, gee, don't we have freedom of association? Can't the guy who smokes who owns a bar have smoking in his bar? Can't the smokers have some bars? And I went on the street and I asked smoker after smoker, what do you think? Oh, okay, I guess we're just going to have to stand outside. Nobody was outraged except the immigrants. And they would say, I thought America was the land of the free. So you make a good point there.

If we are to believe Stossel, immigrants are good for the U.S.A. because they’re the only people who support unrestricted smoking in public. It skillfully combines two bad arguments: uninhibited smoking, anywhere and everywhere, is really good policy; and immigrants are good because they understand this.

It’s unsurprising that the former ABC correspondent would advance this spurious argument for supporting immigration, apparently of both the legal and illegal variety. It would be a little more jarring to hear the conservative libertarian Stossel ‘fess up: “I support increased immigration because it expands the labor pool and exerts downward pressure on wages and benefits.”

Such candor would not be very sophisticated. But harboring little respect for the American worker fits neatly into the worldview of someone with little respect also for American schoolchildren. And it would hardly disturb corporate interests, which always have been paramount in Stossel’s thinking and commentary, disguised as reporting.

Dobbs has been wrong frequently the past year (especially on ACORN), owing partly to his avid distaste for Barack Obama. Still, on the matter of legal/illegal immigration, his signature issue, he has been largely correct, as when he told an interviewer at his network in 2007

we bring in more than two million immigrants into this country lawfully each and every year? Has anybody on this broadcast, any news organization in the country, said, wait a minute, why in the world are we worrying about illegal immigration into this country and their -- and their situation, before we're worrying about how long it takes to become a lawful immigrant in to this country and what we're doing with people who are playing by the rules? This is upside down. It's wrongheaded.

Often blasted as anti-immigrant and even racist, Dobbs here is urging greater attention to effecting the citizenship of legal immigrants, shortening the time between entrance to the country and full status as Americans. This remains one of the best ways to ensure full rights and privileges for all individuals here legally, advantaging both those who have decided to do it the right way and America.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Representing The Left

Where do they get these guys? Where does the mainstream media find these "liberals," who, where it really counts, sound like Republicans?

Oh, yeah. In one case, it would be "a Clinton administration political appointee and an adviser to the Democratic National Committee and the Obama-Biden campaign in 2008," as Jamal Simmons' 3/30/09 article in Politico describes him. In this article, Simmons sympathetically recommends

banking executives should follow Obama’s lead by explaining the connection between the health of the banking system and the health of their employer. A Bank of America executive told me recently that the company’s leadership began creating in-house videos for associates in banking centers to explain the bank’s position and offer its perspective on the news. Put these videos on YouTube for the rest of us.

Finally, the financial sector as a whole has a lot of making up to do with its customers and its taxpaying investors, but not all executives behaved like Bernie Madoff. While avid readers of the business press may know that some bank CEOs — such as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and John Mack of Morgan Stanley — did not take bonuses this year, the rest of America does not. Highlighting responsible actions that contrast with the current narrative may not generate the kind of cheering that occurs in a Final Four game, but at least the crowd might stop throwing eggs at all the players on the court.

(By the way, how endearing to refer to the American people as a mob "throwing eggs at all the players on the court.")

The thrust of this Obama admirer seven months ago was a plea to the financial industry to manipulate its message more effectively. At least, though, Simmons does commend the executives in the financial industry who "did not take bonuses this year."

Apparently, not anymore. The Treasury Department next week will announce a plan to limit total compensation of top executives of the seven firms which received the amount of TARP money. In a characteristically brilliant post on Wednesday, Digby presents the transcript of tht day's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, in which Simmons and Repub strategist Mary Matalin warn against provoking the altruistic banking executives into leaving their current companies to work where they can make real money. Simmons claims

The thing is, I've talked to a lot of people in New York about this and people who are on Wall Street and what they will tell you is, if they can't work someplace and get rewarded, they'll go work someplace else.

Working on Wall Street in the financial service industry is neither brain surgery nor rocket science nor, for that matter, civil engineering. Memo to Simmons and Matalin: A lot of people can do the work they so admire, probably a few in your neighborhood or development alone. They, too, could drag the international banking stystem and world economy to virtual collapse. Or maybe not.

But if Simmons is nearly the most egregious example of the kind of liberal Democrat (chummy with people of wealth and power) the media brings on the air, the practice is fairly widespread.

Take Eugene Robinson. Please. Why, just last night Mr. Robinson and Mr. Matthews were on Hardball admiring the machismo demonstrated by President Reagan when he fired a bunch of middle class workers:

MATTHEWS: But presidents tend, if they are lucky, to get opportunities to show their strength and do it.

Ronald Reagan, whatever you think of union rights and collective bargaining, scored a big one when broke the PATCO strike, because it was a government employees union that broke its contract. It was a wildcat. And he fired them all.


MATTHEWS: And, in the Soviet Union, I understood they said, this guy is different.


MATTHEWS: So, the word went out, this guy is somebody to deal with.

ROBINSON: Mm-hmm. No, that's true. It was-and it happened early in Reagan's administration, right at the beginning. And it did set a certain tone, like, we don't know what this guy is going to do.

Breaking the back of a union and tossing workers onto the unemployment line, the move started the spiral of declining wages and decline of the middle class in the U.S.A. From that point on, employers were emboldened to resist union organizing and wage hikes and encouraged to cut health and other benefits. However, that history is neglected by two of Barack Obama's greatest admirers, often identified as "liberals," who ignore the crushing burden of totalitarianism, the favorable impact of the Solidarity labor movement and of the Polish Pope John Paul II, and the policies of nine postwar presidents (including Reagan) in bringing down the Soviet Union and ending the Cold war.

We have heard this before from Eugene Robinson, who on January 30 pretended "The point isn't to revisit the merits of the strike or the wisdom of Reagan's hard-line stance" and then went on to praise it:

The point is that the controllers' union failed to realize that the dawn of the Reagan administration represented a rare fundamental shift in American politics. Under Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford or even Richard Nixon, the controllers might well have won their strike. Under Reagan, they had no chance -- not only because of his stubborn resolve but also because American voters had given him a broad mandate for change.

But posing as a Democrat, allowing the media to feign balance, goes back even further for Mr. Robinson (and Mr. Matthews). As Bob Somerby repeatedly has noted, Robinson stood by for years as Bill Clinton and Al Gore were savaged by the mainstream media, including Robinson's own Washington Post and Chris Matthews.

The list of liberals, including Thomas Frank, Robert Reich, David Sirota, and Dean Baker, who are willing and able to support progressive economic ideals is long. Resorting to pundits who have gotten too cozy with the corporate elite is damaging. But maybe that's the idea.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not Only Marriage

Honestly (though usually when someone says that, you ought to grab hold of your wallet): this is not intended to offend some liberals and most conservatives.

But it's not just interracial marriage. When news arose of the refusal of Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell in Louisiana's Tangihopa Parish to perform the wedding ceremony for an interracial couple, reaction was swift.

Governor Bobby Jindal asserted "This is a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law. Mr. Bardwell’s actions should be fully reviewed by the Judiciary Commission and disciplinary action should be taken immediately — including the revoking of his license.”

Senator Mary Landrieu, one of the two moderate-conservative Democrats representing the state in the U.S. Senate, declared “Not only does his decision directly contradict Supreme Court rulings, it is an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long.”

Posting on, twolf1 quoted Bardwell and remarked sarcastically "Nope, no racism there. None at all. Just trying to protect future children."

Jindal correctly argues that the apparent legal violation committed by Bardwell should provoke consideration of disciplinary action, though his remark that "disciplinary action should be taken immediately" suggests that he already has his mind made up. Nevertheless, his comment and those of Landrieu and the bloger have something unfortunate in common- the Justice of the Peace should be punished because he is a bigot.

Oddly- because the issue is a little more personal for a civil rights organization- the local NAACP has it right, arguing "We recommend the most severe sanctions available be imposed against Mr. Bardwell in his continuing to disobey the law he is sworn to uphold.”

In this country, we don't- or shouldn't- punish individuals for their political views or sociological perspective, no matter how noxious. Nor should we carve out in law special exemptions based on one's political views or sociological perspective.

Except that we do. On October 15, Bardwell complained about his practice of refusing to perform marriage ceremonies for interracial couples

No one’s ever complained about it before. I do it to protect the children. The kids are innocent, and I worry about their futures.

(I know, I know. Others have quipped "yeah, they may grow up to be President." A good line, but.... no, just a good line).

I don't know whether children bred of interracial couples face obstacles children of same-race couples do not. But Bardwell claims that they do, might actually believe they do, and given continuing racial bigotry in this country (and elsewhere), it's hardly inconceivable.

Which shouldn't matter. Neither Bardwell's sociological perspective nor any observations he may have made about human behavior should determine the nature of his continuing employment as a Justice of the Peace. Rather, it should be his apparent refusal to perform the tasks required by someone in his position, "the law he is sworn to uphold."

But if this point is obscured in a rush to brand Bardwell a racist (or, more accurately, a bigot), it is understandable given that not everyone is required to perform the functions of a job that other individuals in the same line of employment are expected to discharge.

I speak, unavoidably, of the "conscience exception" in abortion law. As summarized by the Archdiocese of New Orleans

For decades, Congress has respected the right of health care providers to decline involvement in abortion or abortion referrals, without exception. Since 2004 the Weldon amendment, approved annually as part of the Labor/HHS appropriations act, has forbidden any federal agency or program (or state or local government receiving federal funds under the act) to discriminate against individual or institutional health care providers and insurers because they decline to perform, provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion. Programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, which fund the rare “Hyde exception” abortions, respect the conscience rights of providers who decline to provide any abortions at all. Other laws respect conscience rights on sterilization and other procedures to which providers may have a moral or religious objection.

Notwithstanding the language of the Weldon Amendment, there is no issue of discrimination because there is no constitutional right to a government subsidy. If a medical procedure, normally performed by health care providers, is considered legal and a provider refuses to perform that function and still retains a government subsidy, a special exemption has been carved out to accomodate that individual's perspective. Performance of the duties of the job is, well, negotiable.

Preference is clearly given to an individual or institution with a determination not to perform abortions even if that act is said to "shock the conscience" of such provider. Make no mistake about it- interracial marriage, albeit unjustifiably, shocks the conscience of Justice of the Peace Bardwell, who maintains "There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage. I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

This suggests another parallel with abortion. The emotional burden Bardwell believes the offspring of a mixed marriage carry would result not from an inherent disadvantage, but rather from the reactions of others who find mixed marriage disagreeable. Similarly, one pro-life website which welcomes the guilt many women are said to experience after having an abortion claims "For the woman who comes to believe, at some point after the abortion, that she has consented to the killing of her pre-born child, the burden of guilt is relentless." Difficult it is not to feel guilty if half the country believes you have murdered a child while half of that contingent will not let you forget it.

The professional choosing not to perform an abortion may, or may not, be on solid ethical footing. Bardwell is wrong, though his job security, barring resignation, presumably will be determined by the Judicial Commission to which Governor Jindal refers. And that is how it should be, a legal matter in which the individual's willingness to fulfill his job duties should be paramount. Elsewhere, however, other issues intervene.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Anderson, Open Thine Eyes

Back from an extended vacation on another planet, CNN's Anderson Cooper (10/16 on 360Degrees) says

Tonight: It is hard to believe this can still happen in America. An interracial couple tries to get married, but the justice of the peace says no.

As everyone knows now, it (video below) is

the story of Beth and Terence McKay, an interracial couple who just wanted to get married, and the justice of the peace in southeastern Louisiana who refused to perform the ceremony. He refused because merely Beth is white, and Terence, her former fiance, now her husband, is African-American.

And as almost everyone knows, the younger generation is more tolerant of races other than their own and are more likely to find relationships, romantic and otherwise, with individuals of other races reasonable, normal and ordinary than have the older (or previous) generations. For that and other reasons, such relationships are now more widely accepted in the U.S.A.

Up to a point. This shouldn't be necessary to point out, and- arguably- most Americans understand this, but the election of Barack Obama as President did not nullify human nature, or even radically alter the relationship of blacks to whites.

Admittedly, this is a surprise to some: 1) liberals (with the mainstream media sometimes getting into the act), who understandably implied during the presidential election campaign that election of the first black would bring about a whole new country ("Morning In America," anybody?- video way below), a minority of such progressives actually believing it; 2) conservatives, who have a vested interest since the inauguration of a black President to argue that, hey, all our problems now are solved and the need for government action abolished- "nothing to see here, just move on"; and 3) Independents, who generally not as ideologically motivated as liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, might have been looking around last fall for a reason to vote for either John McCain or Barack Obama- and found it in the opportunity to be part of "history." (Barack Obama's margin of victory slightly exceeded that suggested by pre-election polls.)

With society moving in a more tolerant direction, it may be "hard to imagine this could still happen in America." But whether in 1959, 1979, or 2000, there always have been Justices of the Peace like Louisiana's Keith Bardwell, which should have been as expected as it is unacceptable.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Next: It's not just interracial marriage.
Health Care Fantasy

If the mainstream media were not dominated by a lust for superficial bipartisanship and dominated by corporate interests, the mainstream Republican position on health care would not be termed "conservative." But it is, clearly extremist, as indicated by the stance of South Dakota Senator Jon Thune, a major threat to be the GOP's next vice-presidential nominee.

Appearing yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Thune- without clarification, detail, or growth of nose to Pinocchio-size proportions- claimed

If you look at some of these other countries around the world -- and frankly, for that matter, a lot of the states that have tried to implement some sort of government-run health insurance plan -- it has been a disaster. And you can look at some examples of that here in our country.

This is the "disaster" that is France, which has a multi-tiered system comprised of both private and public insurance, in which

Patients can pick their own doctors, who can prescribe any treatment or drug without having to ask the health care authorities. That's more freedom for patients and doctors than most private insurance plans allow in this country (and which) closed down maternity wards that handled fewer than 300 births a year.

Moreover, "there are no waiting lists for elective procedures and patients need not seek pre-authorizations" and "It's not uncommon to visit a French medical office and see no nonmedical personnel.... who do daily battle with insurers' arcane and constantly changing rules of payment."

What a nightmare. And all while (2003 figures) spending $2663 less per capita on health care than does the United States. And 10.4% of gross domestic product on health care, while the U.S.A. spends 15.2%. Quite a disaster in France.

Closer to home, Canada also is living through a nightmare, with a single payer system in which the government pays for all core health services, though not for physician salaries. And all while spending $2913 less per capita on health care than does the United States. And 9.9% of gross domestic product on health care. The nation reels.

The United Kingdom, unlike Canada or France, has a socialist health care system. The National Health Service directly employs health care professionals and is the fifth largest employer in the world. All the while spending less than half as much per capita as does the United States. And 7.8% of gross domestic product on health care. A socialistic catastrophe, obviously.

Jon Thune says government-run health care is a disaster. Chris Wallace neglected to ask him how he came to that conclusion. But someone needs to challenge this disinformation so the public can determine whether ignorance or intentional deception is at work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Most Patriotic Person In America

Yes, it's true. As a Wall Street Journal blog recently reported, Sarah Palin soon will announce formation of a new organization, apparently distinct from SarahPAC. It will be called, oddly enough, "Stand Up For Our Nation."

On August 7 Sarah Palin stood up for our nation and demonstrated her patriotism by claiming on her Facebook page:

And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

After being criticized for making an obviously ludicrous charge, Palin on August 12, again on Facebook, contended

The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context. … These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in health care spending.” Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care?

Here is what had to say about this charge:

The fact remains that the bill wouldn’t require patients to receive counseling sessions, nor would it require a doctor to offer one. Rather, it modifies Section 1861(s)2 of the Social Security Act, defining what services Medicare will pay for. So if a patient receives a counseling session from a doctor or health care practitioner, he or she doesn’t have to pay for it – Medicare will. As we pointed out in our earlier story, Medicare will also pay for prosthetic limbs, but that doesn’t mean that every recipient gets those, too.

And the concern that these sessions are "part of a bill whose stated purpose is ‘to reduce the growth in health care spending,’ " while true, is hardly the whole story. One of the bill’s other goals is to "provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans." analyzed Palin's first statement:

We agree with Palin that such a system would be evil. But it's definitely not what President Barack Obama or any other Democrat has proposed.

We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person's "level of productivity in society" to determine whether they are "worthy" of health care....

Palin also may have also jumped to conclusions about the Obama administration's efforts to promote comparative effectiveness research. Such research has nothing to do with evaluating patients for "worthiness." Rather, comparative effectiveness research finds out which treatments work better than others....

We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no "death board" that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. Conservatives might make a case that Palin is justified in fearing that the current reform could one day morph into such a board.

But that's not what Palin said. She said that the Democratic plan will ration care and "my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!

The former Repub vice-presidential nominee is merely making things up, you say. Kind of like the "socialism" tag she so effectively hung around the neck of Senator Barack Obama that he won by only 7.2% of the popular vote and 192 votes in the Electoral College.

But it really is more than that. Back before then-Governor Palin had to watch what she said, back when she could be a little more free-wheeling and express her true sentiments- only three years ago- her video greeting (below) to the annual convention of the Alaska Independence Party contained this memorable wish:

Good luck on a successful and inspiring convention. Keep up the good work, and God bless you.

Not only "good luck on a successful and inspiring convention" (upbeat and safely vague) and "God bless you," but also "keep up the good work." The work of the Alaska Independence Party was pushing a referendum which would have Alaskans vote on whether to secede from "our nation," as Governor Quitter would put it.

Mrs. Palin never was a member of the AIP, unlike husband Todd. And it is not illegal to run for vice-president of a nation which you've implied should consist of 49, rather than 50, states. Nor is it treasonous to try to inflame tensions with outlandish statements about a health care bill supported by your President, or to do so by using your disabled child as a political tactic. Still, it would demonstrate a little public integrity for the ex-Governor to refrain from inferring that she has a special claim on patriotism, that she especially will "Stand Up For Our Nation."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Those Liberal NFL Executives

Now it's not only Rush Limbaugh. The controversial talk show host on Thursday giddily quoted Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, about the interest of an ownership group including Limbaugh to bid for the St. Louis Rams:

You know, I guess it bothered a lot of people, it really didn't bother me. I think anybody should have the right to pursue whatever they want, they should go through the process just like anyone else and there would be 28 owners that would vote and I think the process should be able to go forth. I don't like it when people say "because of this he shouldn't be allowed to do that." We don't have any minority ownership in the NFL right now, and I think, you know, that just strikes me as the same thing, because of the way this guy looks, because of the way he sounds, because of his political bent, that he shouldn't be allowed to own a team, I think that's something that the 28 owners should decide and not the general public.

Rush was oh, so excited that a black man would come to his defense. Of course, Dungy (who is wrong about Michael Vick, too) was confused when he equated rejection of El Rushbo because of his controversial statements, past, present, and future, with that of minority ownership. Dungy's suggestion that Limbaugh was eliminated from consideration in part "because of the way this guy looks, because of the way he sounds" is passing strange, if not ignorant. Rush (yet again) has taken off a lot of weight- for which he deserves credit- and looks relatively good; and his voice is certainly entertaining, if not pleasing.

But if Dungy's remarks about Rush Limbaugh were surprising, or at least unexpected, not so the editorial comment of the Wall Street Journal. The unofficial, though nearly official, voice of unregulated corporate power in America wrote

We suspect Mr. Limbaugh during his broadcast yesterday put his finger exactly on what is going on here. He said that NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith was using Mr. Limbaugh's controversial status as leverage against the league owners in the union's difficult negotiations over a collective-bargaining agreement....

What happened here, and is happening elsewhere in American life, is that Mr. Limbaugh's outspoken political conservatism is being deemed sufficient reason to ostracize him from polite society.

It's those and narrow-minded and intimidating liberals again, the National Football League being, according to Limbaugh, "an outpost of racism and liberalism." It is, of course, the profit motive- never questioned by Limbaugh or The WSJ- at work. Still, let's look at those "liberals"- the NFL owners- who didn't want any part of Rush Limbaugh. No, not at their statements- but at their actions, as reflected by campaign contributions. (Note to U.S. Supreme Court- giving money is behavior, not speech. Please use a little common sense.) In this piece, which includes an interesting chart (but the Los Angeles Rams?), Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News and World Report reports the Center for Responsive Politics

combed through contributions to federal candidates and political committees from 1989through 2009, and tallied all contributions from NFL team owners, executives, players, coaches, and so forth (the teams themselves are of course legally forbidden from making contributions). According to the center's figures, NFLers contributed $6.9 million during that 20-year span, of which 78 percent ($5.45 million) went to Republicans and 21 percent to Democrats ($1.48 million).

The team most generous to Democrats was, ironically, the team- the St. Louis Rams- which Rush wanted to be a part of owning. However, most teams, including the five largest overall givers, contributed more to Republicans than to Democrats.

Liberals, indeed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Limbaugh, Confused About The NFL

Sports Illustrated has reported that Rush Limbaugh, reportedly a minority (strange word, here) partner in a potential bid to buy the St. Louis Rams, is out:

In a statement released Wednesday evening by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts -- who is heading the group that hopes to buy the Rams -- he announced Limbaugh's official exit from the bid. It is believed that Limbaugh's controversial participation would have doomed the group's effort in the eyes of NFL owners. League sources told that Limbaugh's candidacy in any Rams bid had "zero chance'' of being approved by the league's owners. In his statement, Checketts said Limbaugh's participation had become "a complication and a distraction'' to the group's efforts.

According to league sources, Limbaugh comes with too much troubling baggage in terms of his outspoken views that often intersect the divisive issues of politics and race in America. In a time when the NFL is hoping to have complete uniformity among its team owners in anticipation of the tough collective bargaining negotiations to come with the players union, there was little interest within the league to associate with an owner who is paid to give his highly charged opinions on the radio for hours each week....

There was swift reaction to the idea of Limbaugh being involved in NFL ownership, and much of it was not favorable. NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith last weekend sent a letter to the group's board urging players to voice their opinion of Limbaugh's participation. And on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that Limbaugh would face a high bar regarding approval of his potential stake in the Rams.

"Divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about,'' Goodell said at a two-day NFL owners meeting in Boston. "I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here. I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL -- absolutely not.''

Shortly before the apparent rejection of Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host on his radio program contended

This is not about the National Football League. It's not about the St. Louis Rams. That's just a subset. This is the latest in a long line of attempts by the left to discredit any of us who believe what we believe. Sarah Palin, the list is as long as I wanted to make it. And I wanted to make sure that I thank you all for your support, and I wanted to make sure you understood that I know exactly what this is all about, and I want you to also understand, I'm not even thinking of exiting. I'm not even thinking of caving. I am not a caver. None of us are. We have been betrayed by too many who have caved. Pioneers take the arrows. We are pioneers. It's a sad thing that our country over 200 years old now needs pioneers all over again, but we do.

The day before, Limbaugh singled out a particular group of "left-wing radical activists":

These are left-wing radical activists who are sports groupies so they become journalists, so they get to hang around with players and all that. And they're nothing but left-wing ideologues. So they try to make this racial stuff stick.

If an ownership group headed by principal Chip Rosenbloom and including his sister Lucia Rodriguez had decided definitively to sell the St. Louis Rams and had accepted a bid from the Checketts group, three-fourths of the NFL owners would have had to approve a sale.

They would not include CNN's Rick Sanchez, whom Limbaugh excoriated today. Nor MSNBC's David Shuster or Tamron Hall, criticized yesterday, along with James Carville. Nor would it include Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, with whom "the State-Controlled Media (has lost) its journalistic character to hop on board with."

It would include Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay, who stated definitively "I would not be in favor of voting for him.....Sometimes when there are comments made that are inappropriate, incendiary, insensitive ... it's bigger than football." And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Tuesday "Divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about. I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here. I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL -- absolutely not.''

Notice Irsay did not charge that Limbaugh's statements about Donovan McNabb or about gangs in the NFL were racist- or even inaccurate. They were "inappropriate" (not sure what that means), "incendiary," and "insensitive." Nor did Supreme Leader Goodell, about whom one might recall this line from the legendary Animal Farm, accuse El Rushbo of bigotry- only being "divisive."

Which is not to suggest that Limbaugh's famous remarks, these and others, weren't racist. Or were racist. Rather, neither Goodell nor the owners care a whole lot whether Rush Limbaugh is a bigot. No, the concern was simple: Limbaugh would have been bad for business. The risk to the league's enormous profit would have been immense. The owners would have voted the Limbaugh group down because, ultimately, the bottom line of the National Football League would have suffered.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh would never admit this. It would be awfully tough for a guy to go on the radio three hours a day, five days a week, 40-50 weeks a year extolling the virtues of unregulated capitalism and concede that he was the victim of very wealthy individuals pursuing the profit motive he worships above all else. (Yes, worship.)

It's ironic that Rush Limbaugh would be tarred, justifiably or otherwise, by the implied accusation of racism. Aside from naked partisanship, the driving force behind the Limbaugh philosophy is furthering the hegemony of the wealthy. Everything pales in comparison to the evil of government involvement in the economy or regulation of business. Corporations are never too large; multimillion profits of chief economic officers, of health insurance companies or otherwise, are never excessive; whatever is done to labor unions or employees is always in the service of freedom and liberty.

We won't hear over the next two, or several, days that Limbaugh's bid to become part-owner of a professional football team was stymied by multi-millionaire owners or a league which has escaped government regulation by virtue of an anti-trust exemption. It will be the union, blacks, white liberals, the "state-controlled media," and all his other enemies, the ones who don't accept the Limbaugh dream of a nation completely controlled by those who have at the expense of those who haven't.

Blaming Workers

If you're going to be chairman of the Party of No, inevitably you're going to contradict himself.

Rush Limbaugh tried hard on Tuesday to pretend that he wants Americans to be employed, remarking

The truth is you can't have a recovery if there aren't any jobs being created. You can say you have a recovery, but try telling that to people who aren't working, who want to work. You try telling them that the economy is coming back. And then at 10%unemployment, America still doesn't have enough workers.

But his apparent* concern was short-lived, as you can see if you wade throught this nonsense:

There was a story in the Wall Street Journal, I think it was in yesterday's stack, I didn't have a chance to get to it, but I remember enough of it. The Wall Street Journal was very happy that the Obama administration's finally figuring out here that the job situation is serious. And the Obama administration has floated something that they were talking about during the campaign and then shortly after President Obama was inaugurated, and it's this. A $3,000 tax credit or cut for every employee hired. Now, it's good that the administration is starting to float around the idea of tax cuts, and, you know, I don't want to sit here and besmirch tax cuts, but this is not why people hire people. They hire people 'cause they have work that needs to be done.

To say that somebody's going to go out and spend whatever it's going to cost to hire somebody, plus the benefit package, health care, and all that, for $3,000 tax break? When sales are down? It just isn't going to happen. If you're gonna cut taxes, cut their income tax! Don't gove tax credit stuff. Cut their income, corporate tax, small business tax, whatever it is, reduce the cost of doing business that is slapped on them by the government. Now, the Obama administration is not going to do this because they don't want that kind of independence and freedom and liberty. What they want, at the end of the day, is if enough businesses take this deal, to be able to say, Obama created jobs, Obama created jobs, came up with this big deal, give every business three grand essentially for every new hire.

Short Rush: Obama wants to give businessess a tax cut for hiring people, but that won't be effective because businesses hire individuals only when "they have work that needs to be done." Better to cut the corporate tax or small business tax, which Obama won't do because he wants to take credit for creating jobs.

Ignore for a moment that Limbaugh says the President's plan won't create jobs and that he's pushing it so that he can get credit for creating jobs. (Honestly- that's what he said.) More significant is the avoidance of fact:

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales in August bounded higher by a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent over the previous month, surpassing economists’ expectations of 1.9 percent. It was the largest monthly increase since January 2006....

Excluding sales of vehicles and auto parts, retail sales rose 1.1 percent in August.

A reasonable observation: the private sector is benefiting as the demand for its goods and services is increasing, however modestly. But employment has not responded, whether because of the typical lag between an increase in consumer demand and employment or, more ominously, businesses have decided that their profits will increase if more workers are not hired.

In either case, the answer to joblessness is not giving employers the "independence and freedom and liberty" they already enjoy as American citizens. The answer, obvious to the vast majority of the American people, is to match potential employee with employer. Obama's concept of a tax break for every new job created is, at least on its face, sensible.

*But wait! Rush really wasn't trying hard to feign interest in job creation. After citing the unemployment rate of 10% (actually, 9.8%- accuracy is immaterial in the world of right-wing radio), he claimed

What is amazing here, when I dig deep is, even with the economy in the straits it's in, there are still businesses that need work to be done. They are still in business, and they're trying to stay in business, and they're even trying to grow in this cesspool of an environment. And even with all the millions of people looking for work, businesses say they can't find enough highly qualified. Now, that, folks, is a slap upside the head.

The problem, folks, isn't that Americans can't find jobs. It's that, well, they're not capable. With nearly 10% unemployment, gosh darn it, those executives just can't find Americans who can do the job. Somehow, the economic climate under President Obama is sufficiently improved that businesses have "work to be done" (with no thanks to Obama- it's a "cesspool of an environment, doncha know) but our fellow citizens are inadequate.

Rush is carrying water for the business owners who "say they can't find enough highly qualifed." We've heard this slander of the American worker before (video below). It's the nonsense that helps lay the groundwork for the job-killing practices of outsourcing, offshoring, privatization, and a guest worker program (a slightly different concept, but reprehensible in its own way).

The question that needs to be asked: why do conservatives always blame Americans first?

next up: Rush confused about the NFL.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Home Town Hero

But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.

Common wisdom had it that President Ronald Reagan, delivering a speech in Orlando, Florida to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983, was describing the Soviet Union. We since have learned that he was referring to the New York Yankees, who have swept the Minnesota Twins in the American League divisional playoff series, with a little help from umpire Phil Cuzzi, who

knows what you were thinking. He was standing right there, barely 10 feet away, with an unobstructed view. He saw the ball curve down the left-field line and bounce. He is an umpire with decades of experience, working at the highest level in his sport.

How the heck did he miss that call?!

“Unless you umpire, you can’t possibly understand,” Cuzzi told The Star-Ledger in a phone interview Saturday night. “It happens. It happens at the worst possible time. And it happened to me....

He is not making excuses for what happened in the 11th inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 victory in Game 2. He missed the call. He had no idea until after the game, when he arrived back at the umpire’s room and a supervisor was waiting for the crew. He watched the replay, just like everyone else, and saw Twins catcher Joe Mauer’s line drive had bounced eight inches fair.

Cuzzi had called it foul, negating a leadoff double, and he spent much of the next 24hours trying to figure out what happened. Part of it, he thinks, was playing an unnatural position — baseball only uses umpires along the outfield foul lines in the postseason and for the All-Star Game.

The temptation, of course, is to assume that Major League Baseball is eager to have the Yankees, who had the best record in baseball this season and (with the N.Y. Mets) play in what is by far the largest media market in the U.S.A., represent the American League in the World Series. And no doubt that is true.

It's much more fun, however, to speculate further about this remarkably bad call in a crucial situation. Where does the 54-year-old Cuzzi, who says no one "on that field.... had a worse night's sleep than I did," hail from?

It might be New England, home to the Yankees' rival, the Boston Red Sox. Or perhaps the ever-growing Southeast, in Florida or perhaps the deep South. Is it the Midwest, maybe the Rust Belt or further down in the rural mid-section of the country? Perhaps it is out west, on the coast, whether California- the largest state of them all- or the Mountain West.

Cuzzi could have been from any of, say 47 states where the Yankees, who play in the borough of the Bronx, are just another baseball team, albeit a great baseball team.

But no. Phil Cuzzi, who played a pivotal role in keeping the New York Yankees from playoff elimination, hails from New Jersey. Northern New Jersey. Specifically, he is a Belleville (approximately 24 miles from the Bronx) native who lives in Nutley, approximately 13 miles from the Bronx.

Don't blame Phil Cuzzi for, intentionally or not, doing a "solid" for the home team. If he can hold down an enviable job, make an egregious error at a critical time and not even face discipline, he should not be pitied, patronized, or ridiculed. Merely envied.
The Republican Media- No. 23

David Broder was once a good political columnist, and the Beltway insiders blogger Digby refers to as "the Villagers" still respect him, for some reason. As a columnist, he's entitled to his biases. But what's The New York Times' excuse?

Broder wrote yesterday about the gubernatorial race in New Jersey between incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine and Repub challenger Christopher J. Christie. Not about the issues of taxes, education, or health care, but instead

As the Times pointed out, a television ad for Corzine, "about as subtle as a playground taunt," shows Christie "stepping out of an SUV in extreme slow motion, his extra girth moving, just as slowly, in several different directions at once. In case viewers missed the point, a narrator snidely intones" that Christie, the former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, "threw his weight around" to avoid several traffic tickets.

As if that were not enough, Corzine, who is 62 and conspicuously fit, has been running weekend five- and 10-kilometer races in cities around the state to demonstrate that he has kept himself in much better shape than Christie despite the 15-year difference in their ages.

I have no rooting interest in the New Jersey race, but the ad hoc Committee of Journalistic Ethics Enforcers has authorized me to condemn this advertising tactic. I very much fear that if Corzine pulls out a victory next month after trailing Christie for months in the polls, the precedent will be set for a really distasteful tactic -- the "fat boy" ploy.

If you believe, as I do, that the beautiful people already have enough of an advantage in this age of television politics and cable trivia, then the last thing we need is a wave of ads highlighting the fact that others are really ugly.

There are several things wrong with these claims:

- The ad (video below) does not suggest, infer, or imply that Chris Christie is "really ugly." "Fat," if that is what is insinuated here, is not "ugly." The latter refers to something that generally is considered to be overwhelmingly a matter of heredity, and largely beyond one's ability to correct. "Fat" is, well, something else.

- It's not unusual for a candidate to get himself photographed running or engaging in some active exercise- think Reagan riding a horse, GW Bush cutting brush, Obama playing basketball (golf, once the Democratic primaries ended).

- Broder has "no rooting interest in the New Jersey race?" That's arguable, given the parallel he draws between Corzine's ad and Representative Joe Wilson's shout of "you lie" to the President of the United States during a joint session of Congress- and between Chris Christie and Abe Lincoln.

For its part, The Times, in what remarkably was not labeled an "editorial" or "analysis," said:

But the unflattering depictions of Mr. Christie, a Republican who has long struggled with his size, have been the talk of the political world in New Jersey, with Democrats snickering and Christie supporters privately complaining. The governor’s latest ad, which featured the “threw his weight around” line and was expected to be seen by some viewers as many as 10 times, brought sharp reaction, even from those who like Mr. Corzine.

“There’s no subtlety there,” said Bill Baroni, a Republican state senator from Hamilton who lost 130 pounds starting 15 years ago. “That’s not a randomly chosen phrase. It’s purposeful. And it’s offensive.”

Of course, we're not supposed to note that the quote "from those who like Mr. Corzine" came instead from a GOP state legislator, possessing a keen interest in the election of his fellow Republican to the Statehouse. But neither the "old grey lady" nor Broder (no crack here about "grey" in light of David's age) recalled

In 2005, Christie was pulled over for speeding in Lambertville, New Jersey, and was cited for speeding and for driving in an unregistered, uninsured vehicle. The car belonged to Christie's wife, but the registration had expired about two months before.

Lambertville police director Bruce Coccuzza told the radio station that Christie's position as a U.S. attorney was discussed: "He identified himself." Christie's campaign says the candidate does not recall how it came up.

In the car with Christie, according to his campaign and the local police director, were his wife, children, and Michele Brown -- the friend and then-subordinate of Christie's in the U.S. Attorney's office, who has recently resigned because of an undisclosed $46,000 loan that Christie extended to her in 2007. The group was on its way to a football game that night at Christie's alma mater, the University of Delaware.

Normally, it is a strict policy in New Jersey to tow an unregistered car -- and in fact, a tow truck did arrive at the scene, according to the campaign. However, Christie was ultimately allowed to drive home. Coccuzza told the radio station: "From what I recollect I think she (the officer) even said at the time, 'If wasn't for the fact that you had a car full of children this car would be towed.'"

The tickets were marked "NO DEAL," which is traditionally used by police when they feel a driver behaved badly, and that the judge should not go easy in the case. Christie eventually paid a $250 fine, and the registration ticket was dismissed after he produced proper documentation -- though again, Christie's campaign has conceded that the car's registration was expired at the time.

Phone calls to the Coccuzza for further clarification were not returned, and we were later told he was not taking any more calls for the day.

A lot of people are bad drivers. But Christie, who apparently "identified himself" as a U.S. attorney to police who found himself somewhat uncooperative, is used to "throwing his weight around." As in this incident, posted in a blog written by New Jersey Network News reporter Zachary Fink:

On July 26, 2002 Christie was driving a leased BMW in the city of Elizabeth.

He was on his way to a swearing in ceremony for the Union County Prosecutor. But Christie apparently got a little lost. When he got to the intersection of Murray street and Clinton, he edged out and made a partial right turn the wrong way on a one way street.

Enter Andre Mendonca. The motorcyclist was riding down Clinton street (the right way ) and when he saw Christie in the intersection, the bike fell on its side and slid into Christie’s car, according to the accident report filed by the officer on the scene.

Mendonca was injured and taken by ambulance to the hospital. Not nearby Trinitas, but UMDNJ in Newark which has a trauma center. Reached by telephone this morning, Mendonca said he had no idea his collision was with the man who is now the Republican candidate for Governor. When I started to ask him questions about the accident, he said he “shouldn’t be talking about it.” Mendonca did say that Christie seemed very concerned for his well being and blamed bad signage at the intersection for what happened. Then he hung up on me.

Christie identified himself as the US Attorney to the officer who did not issue Christie a ticket. One Elizabeth official said that the officer then drove Christie to the swearing in ceremony.

News of this accident comes on the heels of an earlier story about Christie being pulled over for speeding in Lambertville ( see earlier posts).

We asked Christie about the accident in Atlantic City Friday and he was very curt with his answers. NJN South Jersey Bureau Chief Kent St. John asked if there was a lawsuit. Christie said “no” then “nope.”

But actually there was. According to the Superior Court Record Center in Trenton, Mendonca filed suit in 2004. The complaint filed in Essex County was later dismissed, indicating ( according to the Clerk ) an out of court settlement.

So Christie "identified himself as the US Attorney to the officer who did not issue Christie a ticket." Sounds a little like "throwing his weight around." (And claiming there was no lawsuit when one was settled out of court- apparently it depends on what the meaning of "lawsuit" is.)

Describing the more recent lying motor vehicle incident, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted

Some of his comments yesterday contradicted earlier accounts. Lambertville Police Director Bruce Cocuzza had reported that Christie got loud during the stop, but Christie described his demeanor only as "affirmative."

He's a former United States Attorney, with little else to qualify him to run one of the largest states in the nation. Not only does he- yes- throw his weight around, Chris Christie challenges the description given by a law enforcement official of a motor vehicle stop, implying that he was far more forthcoming than did the Police Director. That would seem to be cause for concern for New Jersey residents. And perhaps that's why an esteemed columnist, claiming objectivity, and the country's foremost newspaper don't want to look too closely at the incidents the Jon Corzine campaign has highlighted.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More Jeb

Jeb Bush was on GOP TV's Fox and Friends on Thursday morning and claimed

I was on the plane yesterday coming up to Washington and I heard someone complain that their child's acne was because of George Bush. Of course last week the Olympics didn't come to Chicago, that was my brother's fault.

Bad enough to suspect that the former Florida governor was making something up. His brother played fast and loose with the facts generally, so it's not shocking that Jeb is cut from the same cloth. (On the plus side, at least it's as significant as making a false connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.)

But J. Bush said also during that interview

And at some point people are going to have to put on their big-boy pants and assume responsibility for the great challenges and opportunities our country has...

Great. Another tough-guy, macho Bush. But as to the substance of his remark, the inference that at least GW Bush wore "big-boy pants," Blue Texan that same day posted a great response on, noting these news items:

President Bush on Friday put responsibility squarely on the CIA for his erroneous claim that Iraq tried to acquire nuclear material from Africa, prompting the director of intelligence to publicly accept full blame for the miscue.
"I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services," Bush told reporters in Uganda.

"Nobody organized this country or the international community to fight the terrorist threat that was upon us until 9/11. … We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida," saith the President.

"When I took office, our economy was beginning a recession," Bush said in a speech at a Mississippi high school. "Then our economy was hit by terrorists. Then our economy was hit by corporate scandals."

I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived," he [Bush] said.

It appears that President Bush spent eight years failing to fit into those "big-boy pants."

Mr. Bush is right when he says "a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street" preceded his administration. But not all of them, and the "I blew it, but so had they" excuse doesn't quite cut it. And despite continual claims by former members of the administration- rarely if ever challenged by the media- that Mr. Bush inherited a recession, the recession did not begin until March 2001. A minor point, perhaps- but Republican loyalists, were they concerned about the truth, would argue that the seeds of recession already had been planted, rather than dishonestly claiming that it was inherited by their guy.

The most interesting claim made by the President, oft repeated by Condoleezza Rice, is that the incoming administration was "not left a comprehensive strategy to fight" Al Qaeda.

Apparently, that depends on what the meaning of "comprehensive" is. In the first week of January, 2001 Richard Clarke, chairman of the inter-agency Counter-Terrorism Security Group, gave a briefing on terrorism to smooth the transition between the outgoing and incoming administrations. As Time Magazine reported in August, 2002

....Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice. A senior Bush Administration official denies being handed a formal plan to take the offensive against al-Qaeda, and says Clarke's materials merely dealt with whether the new Administration should take "a more active approach" to the terrorist group. (Rice declined to comment, but through a spokeswoman said she recalled no briefing at which Berger was present.) Other senior officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, however, say that Clarke had a set of proposals to "roll back" al-Qaeda. In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, "Response to al Qaeda: Roll back." Clarke's proposals called for the "breakup" of al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of their personnel. The financial support for its terrorist activities would be systematically attacked, its assets frozen, its funding from fake charities stopped. Nations where al-Qaeda was causing trouble—Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Yemen—would be given aid to fight the terrorists. Most important, Clarke wanted to see a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" where al-Qaeda had its terrorist training camps and bin Laden was being protected by the radical Islamic Taliban regime....

The proposals Clarke developed in the winter of 2000-01 were not given another hearing by top decision makers until late April, and then spent another four months making their laborious way through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by President Bush.

By then it was too late- except for George W. Bush himself, who was able to parlay the events of September 11, 2001 into a successful election re-election bid.

The Bush Administration- at least the George W. Bush Administration- is now history, of course. But that apparently hasn't stopped his self-serving brother, himself dreaming of the presidency, from attempting to rewrite the record of that period, of the term of a president who was remarkably unwilling to concede fault or failure.


This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...