R.I.P.

“This is the cause of my life. New hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American – north, south, east, west, young, old – will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.”

- Ted Kennedy, exactly one year ago today

Another Way of Saying “No”

We’ve got a poorly-regulated economy that’s stuck in an endless boom-bust cycle, which means we spend a majority of our time either in an economic downturn or slowly coming out of one.

We’ve also got a political system that’s so fractured by partisan rancor that it’s impossible to get anything meaningful done in an even-numbered year due to the overwhelming pressures of midterm and presidential elections.

Something to keep in mind when you hear “sensible” Democrats like Joe Lieberman say things like “I’m afraid we’ve got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession.” If not now, when?

“Discredited”

David Kurtz at TPM found this revealing bit from a Politico article on health care :

And this week, he returned to an argument Democratic strategists said shouldn’t be part of the pitch this year — trying to convince Americans they have a “moral obligation” to help people without insurance, a discredited argument from the reform effort under President Bill Clinton.

Yes, if the failure to achieve healthcare reform in 1993 taught us anything, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with letting people die because they’re too poor to go to the doctor. Thanks, Politico!

Notes from when we accidentally went to a wine bar on “comedy” night.

Comedian 1) Have you ever noticed gay people are like…?

Comedian 2) Have you ever noticed Asian people are like…? “Have you ever noticed black women never date asian men?” Uses this as an excuse to break out an offensive “Yo yo yo…” African-American imitation.

Comedian 3) Started slightly funnier. Best joke : “It’s okay for me to make an abortion joke. I was half-aborted” Descended into “white guy talks about rap” cliches. Would be more offensive if it wasn’t following (2).

Comedian 4) Just what (1) was missing…a British accent. Using too many “funny” voices. Mentions being Persian so he can tell five minutes of “Persians are covered in hair” jokes. And therapy jokes? Really?

Comedian 5) Tired “it’s hard to be a single girl in the big city” jokes and an extended porn story that was sorta funny. Best delivery of the night, but that’s not saying much.

Comedian 6) Joke about blowing a cop to avoid a ticket that drags on forever. A million little jokes that were so groan-worthy they make Laffy Taffy seem like George Carlin in comparison.

Let Joe Be Joe

You know what the healthcare debate could use right now? Profanity.

Seriously. I’m not kidding.

The debate over healthcare has become so poisoned with lies and bitterness, we need something to really shake it up. Something that really grabs attention and is a game changer media-wise. If I were in charge of media strategy for the White House, I’d get Joe Biden on a high profile interview show and when the subject turns to the townhall protests/death panels/etc., I’d have him say that it’s “bullshit”.

Do it on a Monday and the VP’s potty-mouth will be the trivial topic du jour for the entire week. Republicans will spin up the faux outrage machine, reporters will pepper Robert Gibbs about whether or not Obama would repudiate Biden, and news outlets across the country would report the story and its various twists because, like it or not, it would be one of those silly little news stories they can’t help but obsess over.

Sure, there’s downsides. Biden looks like a jackass (again), it would distract from the White House’s wonkish healthcare messaging (that people aren’t really following anyways), but there are two huge upsides.

One, it energizes the base. When Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy to fuck himself, liberals nearly passed out from all the faux outrage, but at the end of the day Cheney refused to apologize and conservatives respected him all the more for it. With liberal enthusiasm pretty much at a nadir, we could use a galvanizing middle-finger like gesture to feel more empowered (because our majorities in both houses of Congress don’t seem willing to stand up for anything).

Secondly, if Joe Biden calls protester bullshit for what it is, every mention of the story just repeats the association. Death panels, bullshit, pulling the plug on grandma, bullshit, euthanasia, bullshit, socialism, bullshit, Hitler, bullshit. It’s a seed that needs to be planted in the minds of every uninformed person who’s seeing footage of these rabid townhall protests and thinking “If they’re THIS mad, there must be something wrong.”

Ummm…no, it’s just a bunch of bullshit.

The Current Status of Healthcare Reform

A couple of excellent posts from Ezra Klein this week really help filter out the noise that’s been dominating the public conversation. First this post which explains the actual debate that’s happening in D.C.

Here are the things that, broadly speaking, legislators agree about: insurance market reforms, including community rating, guaranteed issue, an end to rescission, an end to discrimination based on preexisting conditions, and an individual mandate. Subsidies for low-income Americans. Delivery system reforms. Health insurance exchanges. An expansion of coverage to about 95 percent of legal residents. Prevention and wellness policies. Retaining and strengthening the employer-based insurance market. Creating some kind of incentive for employers to offer, and keep offering, health benefits. Expanding Medicaid to about 133 percent of poverty.

Here are the things that legislators disagree about, but are discussing, and will probably figure out: whether subsidies should reach 300 percent of poverty or 400 percent. Whether there should be an employer mandate or something milder. Whether medium-size employers should be eligible to enroll in the health insurance exchanges. Whether health reform should cost $1 trillion over 10 years or $1.4 trillion over 10 years. Whether it should be paid for through new taxes on the wealthy or a change to existing tax subsidies in the health-care system.

Here are the things legislators don’t agree about: whether we should have a public option that is open only to the minority of Americans on the exchanges or a co-op option. How to handle abortion. How to handle geographic disparities in insurance costs.
. . .
The Democrats conceded so much up-front that the actual range of debate is strikingly slim. The public option attracts most of the attention, but the reality of the policy, even in the liberal House bill, is that it’s limited to the insurance exchanges and isn’t expected to serve more than 12 million people by 2019.

In part, that’s why the debate has had to move toward fear-mongering and lies: There just aren’t that many scary elements in the bills, because the legislation is oriented toward preserving the existing system and avoiding points of controversy.

This explains what’s so ridiculous about these townhall protests. The various plans that have come out of the House and Senate committees are shockingly centrist. No single-payer, no “socialized” or “government-run” system, simply some no-nonsense, “I can’t believe it’s taken this long to implement” insurance industry reforms and some haggling about cost-cutting measures. Calm down, guys.

Which leads me to this other great post from Ezra. Elaborating on earlier remarks in which he stressed how townhall protesters have an unhealthy view towards our political system (ie. that conservative protesters believe that Democratic healthcare reformers are willing and eager to ensure the deaths of fellow citizens through legistlative loopholes is madness), Ezra laid down a good case against inaction :

[T]here’s no evidence for madness in government health-care systems. Medicare does not have death panels. Medicaid does not promote euthanasia. Dozens of other countries have universal health-care systems, and none of them approaches the health of its citizenry with a tenth the cruelty and capriciousness on exhibit in our system.

Indeed, if any of them made a conscious decision to let 20,000 of their citizens die because the government judged them too poor to deserve health-care insurance and then made a further decisions to force millions of families into bankruptcy because a loved one got sick and cost the state money, that would be an excellent example that nations can indeed lose their minds and do terrible things. But that describes a single year in our system, not in theirs. And we escape judgment because we haven’t made a decision to kill those people or rip through their savings. We have simply made a decision not to stop it from happening.

And unfortunately, that’s where we stand. Despite the fact that serious people are engaged in the actual parameters of the healthcare reform debate (public option, cost, reach of exchanges), the polarization of the debate via the townhall protests has become so heated that there’s a growing portion of the electorate who is vocally supporting the truly despicable status quo.

“Click your heels together three times…”

I’ve got some bad news, everybody. It turns out that New Age jackassery doesn’t actually work. Case in point, this Reuters article from July 27, 2007 :

U.S. stocks had a tough week with the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering its worst one-week point drop in five years, but a group of meditators promise their good vibrations will send the index past 17,000 within a year.

A group called the Invincible America Assembly made that claim and more on Friday, insisting they have America’s prosperity under control and their positive vibes will bring fewer hurricanes and better U.S.-North Korean relations.
. . .
Hagelin compared the Assembly’s use of transcendental meditation to the invention of electricity and other advances.

“We have control over things we didn’t have control over before. That’s the progress of science,” Hagelin said.

That was two years ago. How well did it work out?


dji

Trancendental meditation has destroyed the economy.

Laws & Sausages

Did you know that there are actually twenty three members (thirteen Democrats and ten Republicans) of the Senate Finance Committee? Crazy, huh? The way the media is being spun, you’d think it was just Max Baucus and his five “centrist” BFFs. Also, did you know that the so-called “Gang of Six” (who have decided that they alone should determine how and whether healthcare reform should go forward) doesn’t include either ranking member from the Finance Committee’s own Subcommittee on Heath Care (Sens Jay Rockefeller & Orin Hatch). So not only are the Senators who are supposed to have jurisdiction over heath care reform being shut out of the process, but the bipartisan clique that’s holding back reform doesn’t even accurately reflect the partisan makeup of the committee itself (which, by virtue of the fact that Democrats have won more elections, would reflect the will of the voters).

Something to think about the next time you hear some beltway insider whine about liberal activism.

Forefathers of the TeaBirther Movement

Telling “jokes” about murdering your political enemies, inciting riots at public townhalls, a consistent pattern among Republican leaders comparing democratically-elected officials to Nazis, misinformation so egregious and widespread that it makes reasonable debate impossible…this is terrifying. There is no longer a discussion between liberals and conservatives, but between the ambitious and the sociopathic, between those who are trying to accomplish what they were elected to do and the anarchists who will tell any lie, stoke any hatred, and go to any length to destroy the other side.

Let’s just hope history doesn’t repeat itself :


1999.023.0017

This original flyer, one of about 5,000 distributed in downtown Dallas a day or two prior to the Kennedy assassination, was the creation of Robert Surrey, an associate of Major General Edwin Walker, Retired. Unknown persons placed these anti-Kennedy handbills on car windshields and tucked inside racks of the two Dallas daily newspapers.

(via)

Faux News vs. CNN’s Twitter Guy

I’ve always thought Rick Sanchez was a douche (note to self : find a better word to overuse than “douche”), but he’s one of the few people at CNN still willing to call bullshit on ridiculous right-wing fantasies. Lately he’s gotten into a mini-feud with Fox News after slamming the network on his Twitter feed. Their (childish) response :

A Fox News spokesperson tells Mediaite: “Everyone knows that Rick is an industry joke, he shows that he’s a hack everyday. And he doesn’t have to worry about working at FOX because we only hire talent who have the ability to generate ratings.”

I can’t help but wonder if Fox is only hiring people “who have the ability to generate ratings”, maybe the reason Sanchez is an “industry joke” is because he’s in the news industry, not lightweight, anger-fueled info-tainment.

LOLcist Friday

01_white_cat_in_ia

It’s been said by more people that one can count that it is simply not possible to satirize Conservatives. Any exaggerated quality you can think up, they’ll have topped it by tea time (usually while fellating an underage goat). This tendency reaches baroque levels of complexity with their sex lives, but with the increasingly frequent outbursts of un-self aware racism, we’ve moved past baroque, past Roccoco, past even the entirety of Europe’s 19th century. We have now reached postwar Abstract expressionism. Case in point, Congressman Steve King, who cast a solitary “no” vote this week on a House resolution to honor the slaves who built the Capitol.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably can’t come up with a plausible reason to vote against recognizing the slaves on whose backs the FREEST COUNTRY EVARZ was built. That’s because you don’t have the benefit of evolved Republican biology. Or, because you’re reverse-racist (except on opposite days, when you become regular racist.) Fortunately, Congressman King offered not 1, but 2 equally plausible reasons for opposing this bill. First, he explained in thoughtful, rational language how honoring slaves gives Jesus a wicked case of testicular tortion:

“Last night I opposed yet another bill to erect another monument to slavery because it was used as a bargaining chip to allow for the actual depiction of ‘In God We Trust’ in the CVC. The Architect of the Capitol and liberal activists opposed every reference to America’s Christian heritage, even to the extent of scrubbing ‘In God We Trust’ from the depiction of the actual Speaker’s chair in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is just the latest example of a several year effort by liberals in Congress to scrub references to America’s Christian heritage from our nation’s Capitol. Liberals want to amend our country’s history to eradicate the role of Christianity in America and chisel references to God or faith from our historical buildings.

“Our Judeo-Christian heritage is an essential foundation stone of our great nation and should not be held hostage to yet another effort to place guilt on future Americans for the sins of some of their ancestors.” (emphasis mine, by decree of my liberal overlords).

Now, never mind the fact that his assertion that this recognition was somehow connected in any way to yet another In God We Trust assertion is just kind of crazy. And never mind that there’s no such religion as “judeo-christianity”, particularly since the Christianity part has spent the better part of the last 2000 years trying to ixnay the Udeaojay part. And never mind that “holding hostage” is kind of a weird word choice, when referring to the victims of slavery as somehow being unfair to other people. And never mind that fuck this guy for being an insufferable whiny little dickhole. The problem, clearly, is that America is a Christian nation that is somehow also filled to bursting with paganliberalhomos who hate the Lord. Which means nobody believed, or even understood what the hell he was saying.

Smith seems to have recognized that getting totes butthurt about the fact that not everyone thinks slavery was no biggie, and then blaming his glutial soreness on Racism Magic Jesus, is kind of a bad play. So the next day, he went on the radio to offer up a much more sensical, reasonable explanation for his heroic opposition to the tyranny of not being able to ignore horrifying truths anymore:

KING: I would just add that there were about 645,000 slaves that were brought to the United States. And I’m with Martin Luther King, Jr. on this. His documents, his speeches – I’ve read most of them. And I agree with almost every word that came out of him. Slavery was abhorrent, but it was also a fact of life in those centuries where it existed.

And of the 645,000 Africans that were brought here to be forcibly put into slavery in the United States, there were over 600,000 people that gave their lives in the Civil War to put an end to slavery. And I don’t see the monument to that in the Congressional Visitor Center, and I think it’s important that we have a balanced depiction of history.

Okay, now, first, we need to stop the funny for a few facts.

1) Starting your argument against [whatever policy would benefit or simply pay attention to slaves, slavery, or the descendents of slaves] by saying “I’m in agreement with Dr. King” is the 21st century version of “I’m no racist, but there are black people, and there are n******.” So fuck you.

2) He keeps repeating that number – 645,000. And wow, when you consider how many people lived in the US between the beginning of slavery and the end of it, it just must not have been very many of us who were slaves, right? Except, no. Turns out that there were 697,681 total slaves in 1790, and by the Civil war, almost exactly half of the entire population of the south were slaves.

3) “Slavery was abhorrent, but it was also a fact of life in those centuries where it existed. ” Okay, since we’re making this kind of argument, will Southerners shut up too? Sure, Sherman’s march was “abhorrent”*, but killing people who went into open rebellion by starting a war to preserve the institution of slavery was a fact of life in those days.

4) “over 600,000 people… gave their lives in the Civil War to put an end to slavery.” Actually, over half of those people were actually killed defending slavery. So in a sense they gave their lives to end slavery. Because we had to kill them in order to end slavery. What’s that old Southern expression? Oh yeah. Fuck you.

It’s simply astonishing to me that the Party of Lincoln has morphed wholeheartedly into the Party of Jefferson Davis. Then again, I’m surprised that Transformers 2 was a massive hit. So I don’t really get the way idiots’ brains work.

Meanwhile, we have a rare TV LOLcist outburst. On Wednesday morning’s Fox & Friends, during a discussion of a Scandinavian study linking marriage to lower rates of aging diseases and health problems, Brian Kilmeade revealed the curious fact that he recieved a Masters in Biology during the 1890s:

Kilmeade: Leave it to the Finns and Swedes to come up with something. Because that’s a — we are, we’re a, we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other —

[Crosstalk]

Kilmeade: I mean the Swedes — the Swedes have, uh, pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes. Because that’s the rule. Finland — Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody. So we marry Italians and Irish and –

Dave Briggs: OK, so this study does not apply.

Kilmeade: It does not apply to us.

Just to be clear, this study didn’t mention anything about genetics. It mentioned behavior. So, way to make a creepy, unrelated point Brian. Also, is he accidentally letting it slip that he hates the Irish? I mean, wow, I was kidding earlier when I said he went to college in the 1890s, but now I’m not so sure. That’s the kind of out-of-print racism you can only find via torrent!

This situation reminds me of my dad, who I love, but who in his old age has developed into a charmingly angry combination of Abe Simpson and John Birch. During a recent conversation with him, the subject of Health Care came up and he proceeded to mention last year’s hottest trend in wingnut opposition to universal health care: health care costs are spiraling out of control because of illegal immgrants! He insisted he had a personal anecdote proving the disastrous impact of underpaid sweatshop workers on The World’s Greatest Health Care System, and then proceeded to tell me a story of his wife’s elderly aunt:

It seems said elderly aunt had her health insurance badly managed by a relative-caretaker. Insurance lapsed; she had to go to the hospital for treatment of a condition, at which point this lapse in coverage was discovered. Fortunately, after some back and forth with the Medicare people, coverage was restored, treatment paid for and voila! Problem solved, and she’s fine and getting her meds and financial assistance right on schedule.

By which I mean that my dad seemed to realize that he’d forgotten to say anything about how some cheap jerk’s gardener caused this to happen, so he hastily added “and Mexicans keep going to the ER!”, in his delightful Oklahomish grumble. And to his credit, this rambling non sequitor-laden narrative actually works as a better explanation for Sarah Palin’s resignation than her speech did. Ditto Kilmeade’s eugenics lesson. Which proves, possibly, that Conservatives have also mastered hive-mind technology.

Finally, it wouldn’t be LOLcists Friday without a follow up on woman who helped define the genre, the ever adorable Audra Shay. The Daily Beast actually went through he facebook history and tracked down several more heartwarming Gems from this 38 year old vice chair of the Young Republicans**. Home girl has been spinning Facebook into gold for quite the time, as it turns out:

In October 2008, in the wake of news that an effigy of Sarah Palin was being hung outside an affluent Hollywood home as an offensive Halloween decoration, Shay replied, returning to the “LOL” style that she employed after the “coons” comment: “What no ‘Obama in a noose? Come on now, its just freedome [sic] of speech, no one in Atlanta would take that wrong! Lol.”

She picked up the thread again the next morning with a clarification and a new insight. “Apparently I could not spell last night. I am wondering if the guys with the Palin noose would care if we had a bunch of homosexuals in a noose.”

Actually, Audra, the correct grammar is “I could not has spellin.” But we digress.

Posting and endorsing a conspiracy-theory video that attempts to prove that Obama believes he can only “ensure his own salvation” and “fate” if he helps African Americans above whites, complete with Barnum-esque captions (“LISTEN AS HE ATTACKS WHITE PEOPLE”).

Numerous posts in which Shay says that President Obama is “anti-American” and has “disdain of this country.”

It only gets better so hurry over to read the whole thing for yourself. Punchline? Despite this, she is still heavily favored to become the Chair of the Young Republicans in tomorrow’s election.

LOL!

*not really. Sorry, you start a war to defend your ownership of other people, you don’t get sympathy from me when you lose badly.
**I told you it’s impossible to satirize these people didn’t?

Sarah Palin is dumber than a sack of George Bushes

I know I probably shouldn’t be writing this since Sarah Palin is set to become a private citizen again and thus, above criticism, but there have been multiple times in the past week in which I read/heard a Palin story that had me shaking my head thinking “What a $@%& dumbass”.

Case in point, the leaked email exchange between Palin and McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt over Todd Palin’s association with the Alaska Independence Party :

Palin blasted out an e-mail with the subject line “Todd” to Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis and senior advisor Nicolle Wallace, copying her husband on the message (all of the e-mails are reprinted below as written).

“Pls get in front of that ridiculous issue that’s cropped up all day today – two reporters, a protestor’s sign, and many shout-outs all claiming Todd’s involvement in an anti-American political party,” Palin wrote. “It’s bull, and I don’t want to have to keep reacting to it … Pls have statement given on this so it’s put to bed.”
. . .
Schmidt hit “reply to all” less than five minutes after Palin’s e-mail was sent. “Ignore it,” he wrote. “He was a member of the aip? My understanding is yes. That is part of their platform. Do not engage the protestors. If a reporter asks say it is ridiculous. Todd loves america.”

This clear cut response from the campaign’s top dog carried an air of finality, but it did not satisfy Palin. She responded with another e-mail, adding five more names to the “cc” box, all of whom traveled on her campaign plane.
. . .
Clearly irritated by what he saw as Palin’s attempt to mislead her own campaign and apparently determined to demonstrate that the ultimate authority rested with him, Schmidt put the matter to rest once and for all with a longer response to everyone in the e-mail chain.

“Secession,” he wrote. “It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site. Our records indicate that todd was a member for seven years.”

What kind of fool lies to their own campaign manager?! Schmidt’s job was to lie for Palin, yet she was such an amateur that she really thought she could bullshit a bullshitter.

Then there’s this doozy from her recent “Oh, I didn’t know the media would be here!” fishing trip-cum-press conference (via Steve Benen):

As to whether another pursuit for national office, as when she joined Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the race for the White House less than a year ago, would result in the same political blood sport, Palin said there was a difference between the White House and what she had experienced in Alaska. If she were in the White House, she said, the “department of law” would protect her from baseless ethical allegations.

“I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out,” she said.

There is no “Department of Law” at the White House.

Where the heck would someone get the idea that there’s a “department of law” that protects the executive branch? Did she sleep through the 90s? It’s one thing for Palin to think the Vice President is “in charge of the U.S. Senate“, but this is dumb, even for her.

Yeah, I’ll admit that writing about Palin is fun (her speech on Friday was a surrealist masterpiece that stands alongside the works of Luis Buñuel), let’s not forget that she almost became the Vice President of the United States. Dick Cheney was evil, but at least he had a post-Schoolhouse Rock understanding of how our government works. The thought of Sarah Palin being one of the most powerful people on Earth is enough to turn your hair grey with fright.

Why California Deserves The Bailout It Doesn’t Deserve

California’s economic troubles are the direct result of a severely disfunctional political system. A 2/3 budget requirement in the legislature that empowers Republicans to stymie every meaningful attempt at a solution, and a populace that doesn’t think twice about passing endless bond measures that tie the hands of legislators and irresponsibly borrow money, and relatively low taxes all fit together to irrevocably screw up our state. The only real long-term solution is a dose of maturity and political courage, but that’s asking too much of a state that twice chose the Terminator to be the governor.

But having said all that, my inner lower-case “d” democrat wants to remind the rest of the country of something : Since at least 1981, Californians have paid $489 BILLION more in federal taxes than we’ve received in federal spending. For decades, while being derided as little more than out-of-touch coastal elites who look down on “real” Americans, we’ve been picking up the bill and seeing our tax dollars get disproportionately funneled to smaller, redder, more “fiscally conservative” states like Alaska, Montana, the Dakotas, and Mississippi. I’m not saying these states are undeserving of their federal hand-outs (or over-representation in the Senate for that matter), but…well…you’re welcome, America. Can we plleeeeeaaasseee have a bailout?