Saturday, June 6, 2009

Health Care

Jay Ackroyd: Who Counts?
77 members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. They support a single payer health care plan. 51 Blue Dogs. They don't. Who is on your teevee? In your news weekly?

"Not on the table."
Karen Tumulty: Single Payer

Every time I write a story about the state of the health reform debate --like this one--commenters here want to know why I don't include an extensive discussion of a single-payer option, which essentially would be a government-financed program like Medicare for everyone. The reason is that it is not going to pass. The House is not going to pass one; the Senate is not going to pass one; President Obama is not pushing for one.

The most die-hard single-payer advocates insist this means that health care reform is already a failure, and no improvement on the status quo in their eyes. But is that really true? Ezra Klein has an interesting interview with the leading supporter of single-payer in the Senate, Vermont's Bernie Sanders. He sees some paths where it might happen--eventually--within the context of the kind of health reform effort that has a more realistic chance of reaching Obama's desk:

You've implied here that single payer may be the long-term goal. In the shorter-term, what should single payer advocates be looking to get out of the health care process Baucus is running? Are there any concessions that could make that a win?

I am sure that there are some single payer advocates who think the only thing worth fighting for is single payer. What I have also introduced, which we will be fighting for, is a five-state option. That would mean five states would have the option of running pilot programs in universal health care but one would have to be single payer.

I think it's possible this will never happen in DC, but that this country will join the rest of the industrialized world when a state, maybe like Vermont, implements single payer and does it well. And then New Hampshire will be looking over our shoulders, and they will adopt that, and so on through the country. That's in fact how national health care came to Canada, it started in the Saskatchewan province.

The second area of less importance, but important nonetheless, is the fight for a strong public option. In my view, if you had a level playing field and a pubic program and a private insurance program providing the same level of benefits, people would come into the public program because the public program would be substantially more efficient. I think we can make that case, and I will advocate for it in the legislation.

  • jayackroyd Says:

    The reason is that it is not going to pass.
    There is incessant coverage of any number of policies that are not only not going to get passed, but have also been covered so thoroughly that there is nothing new to be said. SS "privatization," overturning Roe v Wade, a "flat tax," deficit reduction, and on and on.
    The constant reprisal of these right wing issues has the effect of shifting the Overton Window. The refusal to air left wing policy issues like single payer health plans, dramatic reductions in military spending, termination of covert CIA operations that undermine governments, an end to warrantless wiretapping, anti-trust actions against telecom and other colluding oligopolies et alia means that these issues,and their merits, are never discussed in public spheres. Air and print is used to push President Gingrich's positions, and for Cheney's daughter to repeat her father's lies.

Sully: You're Doing Better Than You Realize

Ezra Klein makes an interesting point:

[M]ost workers think stagnant wages mean their employer is paying them less. They don't know that the main reason for stagnant wages is that their wage increases are going to pay for their health insurance premiums. If they did -- if they realized that compensation is pretty much a zero-sum endeavor and their employers don't so much buy them health insurance as garnish their wages to pay for their health insurance -- you'd probably see a lot more general anger at rising health care costs.

Krugman: Keeping Them Honest

“I appreciate your efforts, and look forward to working with you so that the Congress can complete health care reform by October.” So declared President Obama in a letter this week to Senators Max Baucus and Edward Kennedy. The big health care push is officially on.

But the devil is in the details. Health reform will fail unless we get serious cost control — and we won’t get that kind of control unless we fundamentally change the way the insurance industry, in particular, behaves. So let me offer Congress two pieces of advice:

1) Don’t trust the insurance industry.

2) Don’t trust the insurance industry.

The Democratic strategy for health reform is based on a political judgment: the belief that the public will be more willing to accept reform, less easily Harry-and-Louised, if those who already have health coverage from private insurers are allowed to keep it.

But how can we have fundamental reform of what Mr. Obama calls a “broken system” if the current players stay in place? The answer is supposed to lie in a combination of regulation and competition.

It’s a sign of the way the political winds are blowing that insurers aren’t opposing new regulations. Indeed, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobby known as AHIP, has explicitly accepted the need for “much more aggressive regulation of insurance.”

What’s still not settled, however, is whether regulation will be supplemented by competition, in the form of a public plan that Americans can buy into as an alternative to private insurance.

Now nobody is proposing that Americans be forced to get their insurance from the government. The “public option,” if it materializes, will be just that — an option Americans can choose. And the reason for providing this option was clearly laid out in Mr. Obama’s letter: It will give Americans “a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep the insurance companies honest.”

Those last five words are crucial because history shows that the insurance companies will do nothing to reform themselves unless forced to do so.

Consider the seemingly trivial matter of making it easier for doctors to deal with multiple insurance companies.

Back in 1993, the political strategist (and former Times columnist) William Kristol, in a now-famous memo, urged Republican members of Congress to oppose any significant health care reform. But even he acknowledged that some things needed fixing, calling for, among other things, “a simplified, uniform insurance form.”

Fast forward to the present. A few days ago, major players in the health industry laid out what they intend to do to slow the growth in health care costs. Topping the list of AHIP’s proposals was “administrative simplification.” Providers, the lobby conceded, face “administrative challenges” because of the fact that each insurer has its own distinct telephone numbers, fax numbers, codes, claim forms and administrative procedures. “Standardizing administrative transactions,” AHIP asserted, “will be a watershed event.”

Think about it. The insurance industry’s idea of a cutting-edge, cost-saving reform is to do what William Kristol — William Kristol! — thought it should have done 15 years ago.

How could the industry spend 15 years failing to make even the most obvious reforms? The answer is simple: Americans seeking health coverage had nowhere else to go. And the purpose of the public option is to make sure that the industry doesn’t waste another 15 years — by giving Americans an alternative if private insurers fall down on the job.

Be warned, however. The insurance industry will do everything it can to avoid being held accountable.

At first the insurance lobby’s foot soldiers in Congress tried to shout down the public option with the old slogans: private enterprise good, government bad.

At this point, however, they’re trying to kill the public option in more subtle ways. The most recent ruse is the proposal for a “trigger” — the public option will only become available if private insurers fail to meet certain performance criteria. The idea, of course, is to choose those criteria to ensure that the trigger is never pulled.

And here’s the thing. Without an effective public option, the Obama health care reform will be simply a national version of the health care reform in Massachusetts: a system that is a lot better than nothing but has done little to address the fundamental problem of a fragmented system, and as a result has done little to control rising health care costs.

Right now the health insurers are promising to deliver major cost savings. But history shows that such promises can’t be trusted. As President Obama said in his letter, we need a serious, real public option to keep the insurance companies honest.
Chris in Paris (AmBlog): GOP more concerned with insurance industry than consumers
But since when did they ever care about consumers? Their arguments about driving private insurance out of business is laughable and so far from reality. I know Republicans don't like to travel beyond their little world, but they might look into a little provincial company called AXA that somehow survives with operations throughout Europe where national health care systems exist. The little venture somehow - who knows how - managed to buy a US insurer despite being headquartered in France. How a business could prosper in socialist central and then manage to expand and buy into a capitalist market is a mystery because we all know that only brave, hot dog and apple-pie eating American capitalists can build world business empires. The plucky little upstart has also managed to be the 15th largest company in the world. Go figure.

Maybe before the Republicans start crying about their friends going out of business they ought to look around and see what is happening in the real world. They are being drama queens when they make such silly statements about driving the insurance business out of business. This is going to be a brutal confrontation and it's clear the GOP will stop at nothing to block reform and change. Telling lies is all they have so more will come but their starting point is completely false and typical scare-mongering.
Opponents say private insurers could not compete with a public plan that didn't have to make a profit. They argue that private health plans would end up going out of business, leaving only an entirely government-run health care system.

There appears to be little room for compromise, with Republicans contending that no matter how a public plan is designed, it would inevitably balloon and crush the private market.

"It's kind of a litmus test sort of thing," Grassley said. "It's just very, very difficult, but I suppose that somewhere out there there's something that's politically realistic that's not a public option that satisfies Republicans and Democrats. But it isn't a government-run system," Grassley said.
What exactly is so difficult about improving health care for Americans? Maybe Grassley and the GOP can temporarily give up their health care program while working through this problem and see what a great system is out there for everyone else.
Ezra Klein: The Health Care Debate Made Very, Very Simple

Matt Yglesias's post on the Blue Dogs' public plan principles is an interesting example of one of the central ironies of the health-care debate. In most cases, individuals arguing that health reform is too expensive are dead-set against policies that would make it cheaper. It's a neat trick: Their opposition to real cost controls makes health-care reform pricey, and then they attack it on grounds of cost. Conversely, the folks willing to accept a pretty costly version of health reform would also be happy to embrace cost control policies like a public plan able to set Medicare rates.

Or look over here: Virginia Postrel is upset that Barack Obama isn't basing his cost control strategy around Medicare reforms. She doesn't appear to have bothered to learn that Barack Obama is basing his cost control strategy around Medicare reforms. Weird!

What you're seeing here are people who fundamentally don't want a universal health care system, and are willing to be flexible in how they argue and advocate for that goal, fighting with people who fundamentally do want a universal health care system, and are willing to be flexible in how they argue and advocate for that goal. A lot of these relatively esoteric policy disputes are simply manifestations of those two underlying impulses.

Wingnuts: A Field Guide

See if you can read this collection without being blown away by the sheer magnitude and breadth of wingnut venality, stupidity, and sheer delusion. Consider me stunned . . .

ChrisinParis (AmBlog): Burger King franchise responds to "global warming is baloney" controversy
Basically, they're freedom lovin', God fearin', Fox News watchin', Bush-lovin', Obama hatin' folks. Basically. Every country has their crowd of idiots and this is certainly an American classic. While the franchise, Mirabile Investment Corporation, is enjoying the controversy, the good news is that they're obviously fuming over Obama being in the White House. They even regurgitate the right wing "Obama's apology tour" line that is making its way around in those circles. The question now is how much or how little support they receive from their community who now have a clearer understanding of what they're all about.

The environmental journalist from The Guardian (UK) phoned the business and managed to speak with the franchise. It's a strange interview but you have to love a restaurant owner throwing in a story about cockroaches. That always inspires confidence in an operation selling food. I'm smellin' a pro-Sarah Palin post on that board sometime soon, if it hasn't been posted already.
C&L: Pat Buchanan's race-based diatribes on Sotomayor a sight to behold

We've been doing a lot of posting on Pat, but Media Matters put together a cool mash up.

  • Yglesias: NR’s Sotomayor Cover

    So National Review decided to run this very odd cover image of Judge Sonia Sotomayor:


    It seems that what happened was that, as conservatives are wont to do, they tried to do something that would be racist, but also arguably not racist. Hence, instead of depicting a Latina with a racist stereotyped image of a Latina, they depicted her with a racist stereotyped image of an Asian. It’s hard to know exactly what to make of that. But National Review editor Rich Lowry seems to have known exactly what to make of it since as this post makes clear he was anticipating people criticizing the imagery.

    At any rate, then he waited around a bit, got the accusations of racism he was waiting for, and then got to engage in every white conservative’s favorite passtime of wallowing in self-pity and calling his accusers humorless.

    Unfortunately, there’s not a good shorthand term for the psychology behind this kind of behavior. “Racism” doesn’t, I think, capture it. But there’s this deranged fascination with walking up to the line and dancing around there in hopes of getting called on it. Then you get to become indignant. Because, again, the contemporary right’s main view on race is that actual racism against non-white people is only a tiny problem compared with the vast social crisis that allegedly exists around people being vigilant against racism.

    Hat tip on this to Brian Beutler who adds a funny unrelated joke “Also featured on the cover in the current issue: ‘Jonah Goldberg On His Critics.’ That better be a long article.”

There was a fascinating exchange the other night on Fox News between Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove, with the two evaluating President Obama's speech in Cairo. It was brief, but helpful.

O'Reilly, wearing his devil's advocate hat, lauded President Bush's counter-terrorism successes, but argued that the former president simply wasn't credible in "the Muslim world." Rove said he "totally" disagreed. When O'Reilly pressed the point, Rove replied:

"You know what? Who cares about whether or not they approve or like the president of the United States? The question is do they respect the policies of the United States government? And you bet they did. Because we showed strength and power and influence."

Remember, Rove was the deputy White House chief of staff, and one of the former president's top advisors.

And as far as this guy is concerned, looking back over the last eight years, Muslims throughout the Middle East "respected the policies" of the Bush administration, and whether people in the region admire the U.S. president is entirely irrelevant.

He was serious.

In our reality, al Qaeda is scrambling to tarnish President Obama's reputation in the region because, as Richard Clarke explained last year, the last thing terrorists want is a popular U.S. president who enjoys respect and support on the world stage.

Once in a while, it's worth taking a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that loyal Bushies are no longer running the government.
Think Progress: Inhofe Rips Obama As ‘Un-American,’ Suggests He’s On The Side Of Terrorists
Reacting to President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world yesterday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) decried the president’s speech as “un-American” and even suggested Obama might be on the side of terrorists:

Sen. Jim Inhofe said today that President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo was “un-American” because he referred to the war in Iraq as “a war of choice” and didn’t criticize Iran for developing a nuclear program.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, also criticized the president for suggesting that torture was conducted at the military prison in Guantanamo, saying, “There has never been a documented case of torture at Guantanamo.”

“I just don’t know whose side he’s on,” Inhofe said of the president.

Unsurprisingly, actual Iraqis and Iranians — a couple of the key audiences for Obama’s speech — viewed it far more favorably than Inhofe. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the speech reflected greater understanding of Mideast culture and “reduces the chance of growth of extremist ideas that are trying to tarnish the image of Islam in the world.” “Obama’s speech was extraordinary. I loved it,” said 24-year old Iranian Morteza Sinaie. “I wish every Iranian would hear it. I think it would dramatically change their opinion about Obama and the United Sates.”

Reporting from Iraq, NPR correspondent JJ Sutherland noted one family said they wished Obama’s words “to be real. We wish what he’s saying to be real.” Reporting from Iran, Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson wrote, “Mr. Obama’s pledge that America was ‘ready to move forward’ with ‘courage, rectitude, and resolve’ will be welcome in Tehran.”

One of the important goals of Obama’s speech was to stop creating an “us versus them” mentality with the Muslim world, the very approach that Inhofe is still espousing. In his speech, Obama tried to end language that suggests the Muslim world and the U.S. are on competing sides:

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised U.S. President Barack Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday.” Al-Jazeera, the Arab world’s leading satellite channel, celebrated the speech as “an attempt at forging a new relationship between Washington and the Muslim world.” If the Muslim world is on America’s side, whose side is Inhofe on?

UpdateThe Financial Times reports, “Even Saudi Islamists expressed their satisfaction after Mr Obama spoke on Thursday. ‘It is a beautiful speech in general,’ said Mohsen al-Awaji, an activist. ‘He talked about peace in Islam and we are saying yes, Islam is a religion of peace towards those who are peaceful with us but a religion of war for those who are fighting us.’”
UpdateMore Iraqi reaction. The Washington Post reports, "[F]or many Muslims, Obama's nearly hour-long address at Cairo University was a much-welcomed clearing of the air."
Liz Cheney made four television appearances yesterday, showing up on all three major cable networks. She's made seven national appearances since Monday. Media Matters updated its comprehensive list, and found that Liz Cheney has been on national television 22 times in the last 24 days.

Mind you, Liz Cheney is not a journalist or a media professional. She's not a celebrity or a candidate for public office. She doesn't work for a news outlet, government agency, party, think tank, or activist organization. She isn't known for saying anything especially provocative, amusing, counter-intuitive, or thought-provoking.

Liz Cheney is given a media platform, over and over again, to defend her father, attack the president, and repeat transparently ridiculous Republican talking points. None of the networks that has featured her on-air "analysis" seem to find it at all strange that they're seeking political commentary on Dick Cheney's national security efforts from his own daughter.

Greg Sargent chatted with MSNBC this afternoon about the odd trend.

MSNBC is shrugging off the growing criticism of the extensive airtime the network has granted Liz Cheney to mount a political defense of her father and a political offensive against the Obama administration, with a network spokesperson saying, "Liz is a great guest."

As more critics are beginning to notice, Liz Cheney is not an ordinary GOP commentator. She is an active spokesperson on her father's behalf at a time when questions about how to handle the Bush torture program are actively being debated by the White House and Congress. Her appearances are not comparable to those of conventional GOP guests.

Yet ... Liz Cheney has been granted a near-constant platform on MSNBC to act as her father's chief defender and go after Obama, often without meaningful challenge from either a co-guest or from anchors. They also note that it's unclear what makes her newsworthy enough, in and of herself, to merit all that airtime.

The whole of the defense is, "Liz is a great guest."

Except, that's not at all true. Liz Cheney not only lies routinely on national television, she occasionally even repeats bogus arguments that even her father won't say. My friend Rachel Maddow joked last night, "Liz Cheney is still on TV -- making news by apparently making stuff up."

This isn't to pick on MSNBC, which has featured Liz Cheney's on-air attacks four times in the last eight days, and six times in the last 24 days. The other cable nets are just as bad.

There's no modern precedent for such a ridiculous arrangement. Dick Cheney launches a crusade against the White House, and to supplement his attacks, the networks turn to his daughter -- 22 times in 24 days?

This isn't journalism. It's just crazy.

Think Progress: Coleman urges Republicans to be more tech-savvy by competing on the ‘ethernet.’

Over the past few months, improving their web presence has become a hot topic for conservatives. At a debate earlier this year, candidates for the chairmanship of the RNC boasted about the number of followers they had on Twitter and friends on Facebook. Yesterday, in an interview at the Conservative Heartland Leadership Council in St. Paul, former Minnesota Republican senator Norm Coleman inadvertently highlighted the “tech gap” between conservatives and progressives when he encouraged conservatives to compete with progressives on the “ethernet“:

“In the end, we need to compete, as I’ve said before, we need to compete in each and every kind of forum,” said Coleman. “And whether it’s on the ground traditionally, or today it’s in — it’s in the ethernet. It’s in the — you know, it’s online. It’s in the blogs, it’s Twitter, it’s Facebook, and the next iteration.”

Watch it:

(HT: Minnesota Independent)

Ben Bergmann

sgw: "And That's Called Reporting"

Bill O'Liely has shaken up a hornets nest with Rick Sanchez. I don't think he will be making shit up about CNN again any time soon.

Many of Sonia Sotomayor's less responsible detractors have been throwing around careless (and baseless) accusations of "racism." Today, CNN ran an unbelievably forgiving piece on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who CNN suggests was unfairly painted with the same brush.

The headline reads, "Key senator knows what it's like to be called 'racist.'" (via TPM)

When greeting Judge Sonia Sotomayor this week, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama made sure to tell her something loud enough for the assembled reporters to hear.

"You will get a fair hearing before this committee," Sessions told President Obama's Supreme Court nominee with emphatic gestures and tone.

That greeting wasn't just pleasantries. It was a promise born out of his own experience.

From there, CNN reports on Sessions' 1986 judicial nominee, which was defeated, with bipartisan opposition, due in large part to the Alabama Republican's record on race. The piece characterizes Sessions as a victim of painful attacks -- which makes it easier for him to relate to Sotomayor.

Characterizing these as relative equivalents is silly. The attacks on Sotomayor are baseless and easily debunked. The charges against Sessions 23 years ago were based on extensive facts, an outrageous pattern, and were bolstered by a lengthy record.

As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama, Sessions' most notable effort was prosecuting three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

Also during his illustrious career in Alabama, Sessions called the NAACP "un-American" because it, among other groups, "forced civil rights down the throats of people." A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance when he referred to a white attorney as a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but claimed to have been joking.

What's more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers." Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him "boy," and once warn him to "be careful what you say to white folks."

How is this in any way similar to the attacks on Sotomayor? It's not. The CNN report, which includes extensive quotes from poor Sessions, and precious little about why he was accused of racism in the first place, is woefully incomplete.

  • from the comments:

    Hillary Clinton was accused of killing Vince Foster.

    Jeffrey Dahmer was accused of murder.

    Hillary Clinton = Jeffrey Dahmer.

    Man this is a fun game...

    Posted by: sven on June 5, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Think Progress: South Carolina Supreme Court orders Sanford to accept stimulus funds.

After waging a months-long war against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) lost his final battle yesterday, when the state supreme court ordered him to accept the $700 million in stimulus funds he had opposed. The court, in a unanimous decision made “with blazing fast speed,” took extra steps to try to ensure Sanford obeys their ruling:

The S.C. Supreme Court also took the rare step of issuing a writ of mandamus, which orders the governor to apply for the money. [...]

As for issuing the writ of mandamus, the other four justices said that “while we recognize and respect Governor Sanford’s sincerely held beliefs concerning (the federal law), those convictions do not alter the ministerial nature of the legal duty now before him.”

The justices added that the decision to issue a writ is “an extremely delicate one.”

$185 million will go to K-12 education this year, on July 1, and $100 million will go to state colleges. “I’m very excited that our schools and our teachers and our education system will be getting the funds that are so desperately needed here in South Carolina, and I’m glad the court case went our way,” said 18-year-old South Carolina student Casey Edwards, who filed the lawsuit.

UpdateTeachers across the state are expressing a "sigh of relief."

Sully: Call Me When You Are Serious

Derek Thompson checks out the GOP's spending cut proposal:

At nearly $2 trillion, the deficit is a monster. So the GOP has proposed $375 billion of budget cuts to pare it down. That's the good news. The bad news is that when you peak under the hood of the engine, you see two big wrenches. 1) $317 billion of the estimated cuts is just a cap on discretionary spending, which is a make-believe item that will never pass Congress. 2) The new, actionable ideas amount to only $5 billion a year, which is a hardy 0.3% of the estimated deficit.

As the Cato Institute blog points out, if you're aiming to amputate billions of dollars off the budget, why keep defense spending off the operating table

Derek also writes about some of the non-crazy ideas in the proposal.

Think Progress: Burr Defends Mint-Flavored Suckable ‘Tobacco Lollipops,’ Claims They’re Not Being Marketed To Children

On May 27, CNN’s Carol Costello reported on tobacco company R.J. Reynolds new dissolvable “smokeless products.” Noting that critics call them “tobacco lollipops” that are aimed at getting “kids hooked on nicotine,” Costello reported that “R.J. Reynolds will soon test three new products — Camel sticks that dissolve as you suck them, minty tobacco strips that look like breath strips, and orbs — flavored, dissolvable tablets that some say look and taste exactly like candy.”

On the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) came to the tobacco company’s defense, claiming that it wasn’t trying to deceive anyone; it’s CNN’s fault for labeling Camel Orbs as candy. Burr charged that CNN “mischaracterized the product” because “it’s not candy flavored”:

BURR: But when CNN did their story. Take a guess on the angle that they took. They labeled it as candy. Candy! Even though it’s not candy flavored. They said it was candy. … No, they said it was candy. That’s where they labeled it. … They portrayed Reynolds America as being deceptive and luring children. No candy. It’s not going in the candy section. It’s in the tobacco section where smokeless and stick products is.

Later in his speech, Burr responded to Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) criticism that some of the dissolvable tobacco products are in containers shaped like cell phones to attract kids. “Let me assure you, Mr. President, if a cell phone doesn’t work, children don’t want it,” said Burr. Watch it:

While Burr might claim that the Orbs aren’t “candy-flavored,” the fact is that they come in “mint and cinnamon flavors” known as “fresh” and “mellow.” Additionally, the tobacco industry has a well-documented history of using flavored tobacco to market their products to children:

Documents from the tobacco industry also contradict these claims. A report from R.J. Reynolds in 1985 stated: “Sweetness can impart a different delivery taste dimension, which younger adult smokers may be receptive to, as evidenced by their taste wants in other product areas.” A Brown & Williamson report from 1972 suggested consideration of developing cola-flavored and apple-flavored cigarettes. The report also suggested a sweet-flavored cigarette and stated: “It’s a well-known fact that teenagers like sweet products. Honey might be considered.” If flavored products were appealing to youth then, what has changed to make them less appealing to youth now?

Burr’s speech today follows his earlier claims that regulating tobacco by the FDA would contradict the agency’s mission to protect public health since there is no healthy way to use tobacco. Burr, whose hometown Winston-Salem is also the home of R.J. Reynolds, is the second-highest recipient of campaign contributions from Big Tobacco.

Ben Bergmann

Friday, June 5, 2009

Useless Wingnut Gimmicks

Atrios: How Stupid Are We?
I know given my background and peer and social group (largely humanities academics) I tend to spend a lot more time talking about this stuff than most people, but I'm still shocked that presumably non-ignorant people might be troubled that the non-majority (in terms of power, not numbers) perspective might be flawed simply because it differs from the majority one.

This isn't a surprising vote, but it tells us quite a bit about what to expect going forward.

Obama nominated David Hamilton to serve on the Seventh Circuit court of appeals back in March, and, thanks to a number of Republican delays, he has only today been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line 12-7 vote.

If you're just joining us, in March, Obama nominated Hamilton for the 7th Circuit. Given Hamilton's record of moderation, the White House said the nomination was intended to send a signal that this process need not be contentious. "We would like to put the history of the confirmation wars behind us," one aide said.

And what happened? The right-wing base flipped out and one far-right senator, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, soon after announced he will filibuster the nomination. (That Inhofe argued filibusters of Republican judicial nominees are "unconstitutional" apparently doesn't matter.)

And today, how many Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were willing to support this moderate, chosen specifically to signal the White House's desire to avoid a bitter process? Zero. Not one.

This is what happens when Obama goes out of his way to avoid a fight.

Given this, I'd just remind the administration that there's no real reward for nominating moderates. If the president selects obvious centrists, Republicans will label them unacceptable ideologues, and oppose their nomination. If the president selects unwavering liberals, Republicans will label them unacceptable ideologues, and oppose their nomination.

Obama might as well pick the best available people for the federal bench, without regard for the GOP reaction, because it's likely to be the same, no matter who he chooses.

Yglesias: House GOP Proposes Hundreds of Billions in Useless Budget Gimmicks

CNN reports on House Republicans’ efforts to get serious about cutting the budget:

The House Republican leadership upped the ante Thursday in the ongoing debate over the size and scope of the federal budget, unveiling a proposal to cut spending by $375 billion over the next five years. [...] President Barack Obama “challenged us to come up with budget savings, and today House Republicans encourage him to not only look over our proposed … common-sense taxpayer savings, but to join our effort,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, said in a statement.

It turns out, however, that there’s no real proposal here. Instead, “The bulk of the GOP’s proposed savings would come from capping non-defense discretionary spending at the level of inflation.”

A blanket cap in spending is not a good idea. For one thing, it’s incredibly indiscriminate. For another thing, it’s oddly un-inclusive. If we’re just going to reduce outlays in an arbitrary, across-the-board way, why should defense and Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid be left off the table? Well, presumably they don’t want to cut the defense budget because they think it’s important. But isn’t the FBI important? Prisons? If Medicare’s important, isn’t the CDC important? What would be helped by slashing Pell Grants? When the Obama administration proposed $17 billion in federal spending cuts, the announcement was generally met with mild derision at what a small share of the overall pie that is. But the point is that they found $17 billion dollars worth of cuts that there are actual reasons to believe are worth making. It’s easy to generate a high headline number by being arbitrary. But it’s also easy to do devastating damage to the country.

A much better AP story gets that there are only about $5 billion a year in actual cuts here. And just to piss me off personally, one of the the specific items they want to cut is federal support for bicycle routes. I’ll be the first to admit that not that many people use a bicycle as their primary means of conveyance, but there are about fourty times more of us than George Will realizes, and we’re using a commuting method that’s good for the environment and helps reduce traffic congestion for everyone else. Conservatives seem to have decided that bicycles are funny and un-American, like Puerto Rican food and volcano monitoring, but I don’t really see what their reasoning is.

Liz Cheney's media tour June 4: Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is continuing her media blitz, defending Bush administration policies. MSNBC analyst Michael Isikoff joins Rachel Maddow to talk about her latest comments.

  • Kurtz (TPM): Please Make Her Go Away

    Liz Cheney is blanketing the airwaves again today, and as is more often the case than not, she's the lone guest, unchallenged by someone with teeth from the reality-based community -- a privilege usually reserved for high officials or newsmakers. Obama hand-holding terrorists? Check. Saddam connected to Al Qaeda? Check.

    It's an example of what E.J. Dionne was writing about in today's column:

    A media environment that tilts to the right is obscuring what President Obama stands for and closing off political options that should be part of the public discussion. ...

    The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis [I would add the Cheneys] means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. ...

    Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

    Amen to that.

Aravosis: The blithering idiot is back

Now the lady who thought Africa was a country is an expert on economics. Her quotes speak for themselves:

"We need to be aware of the creation of a fearful population, and fearful lawmakers, being led to believe that big government is the answer, to bail out the private sector, because then government gets to get in there and control it," she said. "And mark my words, this is going to be next, I fear, bail out next debt-ridden states. Then government gets to get in there and control the people."

"Some in Washington would approach our economic woes in ways that absolutely defy Economics 101, and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own accord," she said. "Those principles it makes you wonder what the heck some in Washington are trying to accomplish here."

Though the bulk of her remarks focused on government encroachment into the private sector, and praise for former President Reagan's views on limited government, the former vice presidential candidate briefly touched on national security. She told the crowd that "the terrorists are still dead set against us" and that her son Track is still deployed in Iraq.

"It is war over there, so it will not be war over here," she said. "And it had better still be our mission that we win, they lose."
Apparently she still hasn't learned proper English. The folksy stuff is cute, but makes her sound like an uneducated neanderthal. She's never going to understand that only 20% of the population (i.e., Republicans) find the dumb beauty queen schtick an asset for leading the country (or being a TV commentator).

DemFromCT's Roundup - Nearly Perfect

This is wonderful. LOL!

Here's the Friday OMG He's not Bush! edition, after Obama's tour de force Cairo speech.
WaPo Editorial: OMG! He's not Bush!

PRESIDENT OBAMA was the first to say yesterday that one speech cannot erase the accumulated hostility and mistrust between many of the world's Muslims and the United States. But his address in Cairo offered an eloquent case for American values and global objectives -- and it looked to be a skillful use of public diplomacy in a region where America's efforts to explain itself have often been weak.

NY Times Editorial: OMG! He's not Bush!

When President Bush spoke in the months and years after Sept. 11, 2001, we often — chillingly — felt as if we didn’t recognize the United States. His vision was of a country racked with fear and bent on vengeance, one that imposed invidious choices on the world and on itself. When we listened to President Obama speak in Cairo on Thursday, we recognized the United States.

Margaret Coker, WSJ: OMG! He's not Bush!

Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised U.S. President Barack Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday, but they had more of a mixed reaction to the substance of the address.

Mr. Obama won over many Muslims for delivering what many viewed as a respectful address -- peppered with the moral message Muslims receive at weekly homilies and the straightforward talk they rarely get from their own leadership.

Nick Baumann (Mother Jones): OMG! He's not Bush!

Obama's Nine Hard Truths
In Cairo, Obama challenges all parties involved in the clash between the West and the Muslim world.

Michael Crowley:

One year ago today, Barack Obama clinched the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. In doing so, he defied Hillary Clinton's criticism that his candidacy amounted to little more than shallow and flowery speeches. Change, Clinton argued, comes from hard work--not pretty words. Today, in the Grand Hall of Cairo University, Clinton listened from the front row as Obama gave his most elegant speech yet. Perhaps it dawned on Clinton, if it hadn't already, that a great speech can do a lot of the hard work for you.

Charles Krauthammer: OMG! He's not Bush! Grumble... tells' Israel what to do... growl... settlements... blame Israel... still mad as hell that Obama won... what's this neocon world coming to? He's undoing everything!

Grabbing the Third Rail - 8 Times

Perceptive, as always . . . .
Brave new words June 4: President Obama delivers a major speech in Egypt and tackles Middle East issues head on. Could it help improve U.S. relations in the Middle East? Rachel Maddow talks to former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

NYTs Editorial: The Cairo Speech

When President Bush spoke in the months and years after Sept. 11, 2001, we often — chillingly — felt as if we didn’t recognize the United States. His vision was of a country racked with fear and bent on vengeance, one that imposed invidious choices on the world and on itself. When we listened to President Obama speak in Cairo on Thursday, we recognized the United States.

Mr. Obama spoke, unwaveringly, of the need to defend the country’s security and values. He left no doubt that he would do what must be done to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban, while making it clear that Americans have no desire to permanently occupy Afghanistan or Iraq.

He spoke, unequivocally, of the United States’ “unbreakable” commitment to Israel and of why Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. He was also clear that all of those listening — in the Muslim world and in Israel — must do more to defeat extremism and to respect the rights of their neighbors and their people.

Words are important. Mr. Obama was right when he urged leaders who privately speak of moderation and compromise to dare to say those words in public. But words are not enough. Mr. Obama, who, after all, has been in office for less than six months, has a lot to do to fulfill this vision. So do others.

Like many people, we were listening closely to how the president would address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He did not shy away from pressing Israel’s new government, insisting that the construction of settlements must stop, the existence of a Palestinian state cannot be denied, and “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.”

In the same stern tone, he pressed the Palestinians to reject violence and said that Arab states must stop using the conflict “to distract” their people from other problems. They must recognize Israel and do more to help Palestinians build strong state institutions.

We couldn’t have agreed more when he said that the elements of a peace formula are known. We are now waiting to hear his strategy to move the process forward.

On Iran, Mr. Obama warned that its pursuit of nuclear weapons could set off a dangerous arms race in the Middle East. He also renewed his offer of serious negotiations. We are waiting to see what Mr. Obama will propose and how he plans to persuade Russia, China and the Europeans to support a credible mix of punishments and enticements to try to change Tehran’s behavior.

Mr. Obama challenged the conspiracy-minded who questioned, and those who justified, the Sept. 11 attacks. He said the war in Afghanistan was one of necessity and insisted that despite the high cost, in lives and treasure, America’s commitment will not weaken.

At the same time, Mr. Obama said the war in Iraq was a war of “choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world.” Mr. Obama, who said Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein, missed a chance to urge Iraq’s neighbors to do all they can to help hold the country together as American troops withdraw.

The audience was undoubtedly waiting to hear how Mr. Obama handled the issue of democracy — and its depressing scarcity in the Islamic world. He avoided President Bush’s hectoring tone and did not confront his host, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. But we suspect everyone in the hall knew whom he was talking about (they applauded at key moments) when he said that governments must maintain power “through consent, not coercion” and that “elections alone do not make true democracy.” We hope he made those points directly when he met Mr. Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Before Thursday’s speech, and after, Mr. Obama’s critics complained that he has spent too much time apologizing and accused him of weakening the country. That is a gross misreading of what he has been saying — and of what needs to be said. After eight years of arrogance and bullying that has turned even close friends against the United States, it takes a strong president to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. And it takes a strong president to press himself and the world to do better.

hilzoy had a series of superb posts about Obama's speech, starting with The Cairo Speech,

And the thing is: when you don't tell the truth, when you allow yourself to assume a predictable, scripted role in a charade, there is no earthly reason for anyone to listen to a word you say. You act like a caricature or an automaton, not like a human being addressing other human beings; and thus there is no reason for anyone to attend to you the way we normally attend to one another.

That's what made Obama's speech so powerful. He broke out of the script. He didn't say what he might have been expected to say.
The script is comfortable for some people on both sides. Not all, of course; most notably, not the people on both sides who have been killed, or who live in fear or poverty. But for others, it provides a convenient way to act tough while avoiding the really hard issues. Breaking through it and speaking like a human being who says what everyone knows to be true is not comfortable. But it is the right thing to do, and I respect Obama immensely for doing it.

followed by The Cairo Speech: 2

The normal criticism of Palestinian violence is moral. That is as it should be, and Obama does not slight that: "That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered." But that criticism leaves open the possibility of framing the debate over Palestinian violence as one of principle versus effectiveness. As long as it is framed that way, one can understand (though not agree with) Palestinians who say: you'd think differently if you didn't have a state; if it was your land that was constantly being seized, and your pregnant wife who had to wait for hours at a checkpoint to see a doctor. You'd put aside your principles and do what works.

That's why it's immensely important to say, clearly, that violence is not just wrong, but ineffective. This has always seemed clear to me: of all the ways to try to achieve Palestinian statehood, why on earth would you pick violence, where the difference between Israeli and Palestinian strength is greatest? And why would you not begin to wonder, after decades of violence with nothing to show for it besides blood and bitterness, whether some other approach might be better?

One reason is that violence is both easy and gratifying, especially to people who have been humiliated and feel that they need a way to strike back. That's why it's also very important that Obama said this:

"It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus."

People who shoot rockets at sleeping children and blow up old women on busses are heroes in parts of the Arab world. Obama is directly challenging their courage. He is calling them out, and asking: what's so heroic about that? How does that show how powerful you are?

He's casting violence as a form of weakness. Again, that is both true and very powerful. And it badly needed saying.

And ending with "Natural Growth"

One Congressman seems to be confused about what freezing "natural growth" in West Bank settlements would mean:

"Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House foreign affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said focusing on settlement activity "detracts" from top U.S. goals in the region. However, he added: "I do not support a settlement freeze that calls on Israeli families not to grow, get married, or forces them to throw away their grandparents. Telling people not to have children is unthinkable and inhumane.""

Asking Israelis not to have kids, or to throw away their grandparents, would be inhumane. That's probably one reason why no one has proposed any such thing. A settlement freeze would just prevent Israel from building any new houses in West Bank settlements. If anyone could explain to me why a ban on construction would require not getting married, or not having children, or putting your grandparents on whatever the Israeli analog of ice floes is, I'd be fascinated to hear about it. (I'd be even more fascinated to learn how such a ban could be, as one Israeli cabinet member put it, "akin to Pharaoh's demand that all firstborn sons be thrown into the Nile River." Who knew?)

A construction ban might, of course, mean that a settler's house could get crowded as his or her family grew. In that case, that settler might have to, well, buy another house. And if no new houses were going up in settlements, houses there might get more expensive. Settlers could then choose between paying the extra money and moving back to Israel. Horrors!

Gershom Gorenberg has an article in the Prospect about shopping for houses in the West Bank. You might wonder: if Israelis need to build new houses on the West Bank so as not to throw away their grandparents or toss their firstborns into the Nile, how is it that Gorenberg, who does not live on the West Bank, can find them for sale? It's a good question. Gorenberg's answer:

"Settlements were established as part of a deliberate and controversial gambit, an attempt to lock Israel into keeping the occupied territories. A settlement freeze or evacuation has always been a possibility. "What will we say to a family living with one child, which now has four or five children? That the children will move to Petah Tikva?" asked Hershkovitz, referring to one of Tel Aviv's large satellite cities. Well, yes. The whole family, or any grown children, could move inside Israel.

But focusing the argument for settlements around expanding families is itself a very deliberate distraction. Construction in settlements is not aimed only at accommodating children of settlers. It's aimed at drawing more Israelis across the Green Line boundary between Israel and the West Bank. When I spoke to the Amana office, the sales rep didn't ask me whether I'd grown up in a settlement or where I currently live. She offered me real-estate deals. Were I a right-winger, were I someone who preferred not to think about the disastrous implications of permanent Israeli rule of the West Bank, were I not me, her offers would have been very tempting. Instead of the apartment in which I've raised three kids in Jerusalem, I could get a house, a yard, and considerable change.

Settlement homes aren't quite the giveaways they were a few years ago. But they are still cheap, subsidized housing that continues to draw Israelis to move to the West Bank. In 2007, the last year for which there are official figures, the settlement population (not including annexed East Jerusalem) grew by 14,500 people. Of that growth, 37 percent was due to veteran Israelis or new immigrants moving to occupied territory. The "natural growth" argument is intended to cover up the continued, state-backed effort to encourage this migration. (...)

Netanyahu and his partners don't want any of this to stop. They want settlements to keep growing, in order to block an Israeli withdrawal and a two-state solution. Obama wants a freeze as the first step toward a solution. The natural-growth argument is worse than a distraction; it's a scam. Let the buyer beware."

The settlements need to be dismantled, not expanded. And letting buyers from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv find houses in settlements that are cheaper than those they could buy in Israel proper is not "natural growth".

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Sargent: Politico: The Word Most Associated With Islam Is “Terrorism”

There’s lots to like about The Politico — the bloggers, the newsbreaks, the big-picture pieces that can change the conversation, etc.

But this is the current lede on the Web site’s lead story on Obama’s Cairo speech:

In a nearly 6,000-word address Thursday extending an olive branch to the Muslim world, President Barack Obama managed never to utter the one word that comes to mind most often when many Americans think about Islam: terrorism.

Now, there may well be a poll somewhere finding that the word most associated with Islam is “terrorism.” Even so, it’s an awfully weird news judgment to lead with a formulation this crass on a day as historic as this one.

The story — which is presented as a look at Obama’s efforts to pull off a rhetorical shift — also says the omission of the word “terrorism” is “sure to draw fire from conservatives.” Translation: Links! Links! Links!

The idea, as it happens, echoes almost word for word what Rush Limbaugh said yesterday: That the “terrorist wing of Islam” is what Islam “is most known for today.”

For what it’s worth, Obama did use the phrase “violent extremists” or its variants six times.

The comment thread to this op-ed is to die for . . .

E.J. Dionne (WaPost): Rush and Newt Are Winning

A media environment that tilts to the right is obscuring what President Obama stands for and closing off political options that should be part of the public discussion.

Yes, you read that correctly: If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. Steve Forbes, writing for his magazine, recently went so far as to compare Obama's economic policies to those of Juan Peron's Argentina.

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

This was brought home at this week's annual conference of the Campaign for America's Future, a progressive group that supports Obama but worries about how close his economic advisers are to Wall Street, how long our troops will have to stay in Afghanistan and how much he will be willing to compromise to secure health-care reform.

In other words, they see Obama not as the parody created by the far right but as he actually is: a politician with progressive values but moderate instincts who has hewed to the middle of the road in dealing with the economic crisis, health care, Guantanamo and the war in Afghanistan.

While the right wing's rants get wall-to-wall airtime, you almost never hear from the sort of progressive members of Congress who were on an America's Future panel on Tuesday. Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Raul Grijalva of Arizona all said warm things about the president -- they are Democrats, after all -- but also took issue with some of his policies.

All three, for example, are passionately opposed to his military approach to Afghanistan and want a serious debate over the implications of Obama's strategy. "If we don't ask these questions now," said Edwards, "we'll ask these questions 10 years from now -- I guarantee it."

Polis spoke of how Lyndon Johnson's extraordinary progressive legacy "will always be overshadowed by Vietnam" and said that progressives who were challenging the administration's foreign policy were simply trying to "protect and enhance President Obama's legacy by preventing Afghanistan and Iraq from becoming another Vietnam."

As it happens, I am closer than the progressive trio is to Obama's view on Afghanistan. But why are their voices muffled when they raise legitimate concerns, while Limbaugh's rants get amplified? Isn't Afghanistan a more important issue to debate than a single comment by Judge Sonia Sotomayor about the relative wisdom of Latinas?

Polis, Edwards and Grijalva also noted that proposals for a Canadian-style single-payer health-care system, which they support, have fallen off the political radar. Polis urged his activist audience to accept that reality for now and focus its energy on making sure that a government insurance option, known in policy circles as the "public plan," is part of the menu of choices offered by a reformed health-care system.

But Edwards noted that if the public plan, already a compromise from single-payer, is defined as the left's position in the health-care debate, the entire discussion gets skewed to the right. This makes it far more likely that any public option included in a final bill will be a pale version of the original idea.

Her point has broader application. For all the talk of a media love affair with Obama, there is a deep and largely unconscious conservative bias in the media's discussion of policy. The range of acceptable opinion runs from the moderate left to the far right and cuts off more vigorous progressive perspectives.

Democrats love to think that Limbaugh and Gingrich are weakening the conservative side. But guess what? By dragging the media to the right, Rush and Newt are winning.


Hearing conservative Republicans whine about the "liberal media" is more tiresome than anything else. The accusations are obviously false; the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming; and the charges themselves are a reminder that the GOP's rhetorical and/or policy agenda hasn't progressed at all in many years.

And yet, the right isn't just clinging to this discredited idea, it's apparently launching some kind of congressional caucus to talk about it some more.

The GOP has been getting a lot of bad press recently, but Republicans in Congress are convinced that it's not because of their obstruction or lack of ideas. Rather, they say, it's all the media's fault.

As reported by Newsmax, House Republicans are set to form a new caucus devoted to fighting "liberal media bias." The group will be led by Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, who calls media bias "the greatest threat to our democracy today."

That's obviously silly hyperbole, but Smith seems to mean it. Without realizing the irony, the Texas Republican appeared on Fox News this morning to argue, "The greatest threat to America is a liberal media bias." Fox News' Bill Hemmer, equally oblivious, seemed to agree with the argument.

Smith will apparently join other far-right lawmakers in forming the "Media Fairness Caucus." It's task will be to work as a media watchdog of sorts -- politicians monitoring news outlets which are monitoring politicians -- in order to "highlight media bias."

In fact, Smith claims to have already been at this for a while, and has documented evidence to bolster his claims: "For example, Smith is outraged that news outlets dare to acknowledge President Bush's role in creating the economic crisis, rather than blaming President Obama for an inherited situation he's had just a few months to address. When April's unemployment numbers were better than expected, Smith complained that the media's coverage wasn't negative enough."

Well, I'm convinced.

Ali Frick added, "Smith must be concerned about a media system that hosts Liz Cheney a dozen times in ten days, or invites twice as many Republicans on as Democrats to discuss the stimulus package, or consistently favors conservative commentators and politicians on the Sunday political talk shows. Not to mention an entire cable network that blatantly cheer-leads for the far right."

As for a member of Congress arguing publicly that news outlets are a bigger threat to the United States than terrorists, global warming, economic collapse, poor infrastructure, energy needs, and a broken health care system, it seems Lamar Smith has some pretty twisted priorities.

Wingnutty Wingnuts

As much as I can't stand watching or hearing Khmer Rush, this is worth watching . . .
Think Progress: Limbaugh: ‘I do want and I still want Obama to fail.’

On Hannity’s America tonight, host Sean Hannity interviewed conservative talker Rush Limbaugh. In one of his first questions, Hannity attempted to portray the media as being unfair to Limbaugh by characterizing him as wanting President Obama to fail as president. Limbaugh, however, quickly corrected Hannity, insisting that he does indeed want Obama to fail:

HANNITY: Last time I’m here, I ask you…do you want [Obama] to succeed. You gave a very long answer that got reduced to Rush wants Obama to fail. Which wasn’t what you said.

LIMBAUGH: Well, in a sense it was. It was. I don’t hide from it, I do want and I still want Obama to fail.

Watch it:

Later in the interview, Limbaugh reiterated his belief that Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Obama only because of his race and that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a racist. Limbaugh, however, said that he may be able to “overlook” her racism and support her nomination if he comes to believe that Sotomayor is anti-choice.

sgw: A Rare Moment Of Truth From Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham admits what we on the left always knew, Bush and Cheney were cowards.

It is remarkable to me that Lindsey Graham says here unequivically that what President Bush and Vice President Cheney did with respect to torture and GITMO was not something borne out of rational thought. When he says these things were done out of fear that necessarily means that what they did was irrational. And he obviously knows what was done was wrong but tries to excuse it because Bush et al were afraid. Well I would love to see a murder suspect try to use that defense in court.

"Your honor I only killed that guy because I was scared someone else was going to kill me."

I am sure that would turn out fine.

But I once again raise the point Richard Clarke made the other day. If these people were operating out of fear, then why didn't they consult with people who weren't afraid about what kind of interrogations we should be engaging in and how we should be treating our detainees? We now know that at least one person, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, disagreed with some of these choices made out of fear and let them know he disagreed. Yet they allowed fear to overrule the courage of sticking to our values. And in the end they put the country at risk and for that they should be held accountable.

Sargent: Liz Cheney: Obama Wants To Hold Hands With Terrorists

That’s not really an exaggeration! On an appearance on MSNBC, Liz Cheney appeared to say that Obama’s speech in Cairo today showed that he wants to deal with terrorists by “hand-holding.”

Check out what she said starting around 30 seconds in…

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Here’s a transcript:

“I think that if we lived in a world where terrorism, and the slaughter of innocents, and Iran’s hegemonic hopes for the Middle East could be met, could be defeated, could be dealt with by sort of hand-holding going forward, then we’d be in a much simpler environment. But these are very, very tough issues. And I was troubled by the extent to which I heard moral relativism.”

That’s some highly suggestive language coming from Ms. Cheney, isn’t it?

In reality, in his speech today, Obama strongly denounced 9/11-denial to an Arab audience, said American troops are in Afghanistan out of “necessity,” because terrorists are “determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can,” and said America’s commitment to destroying terror networks “will not waver.”

    After Obama's speech in Cairo this morning, the "Morning Joe" crew began its analysis. Apparently concerned that Liz Cheney hasn't been on the cable networks nearly enough lately, "Morning Joe" invited the former Bush administration official to offer more obligatory criticism of the president.

    Former VP's daughter tells MSNBC she "was troubled by the extent to which I heard moral relativism."

    Whatever. Liz Cheney's disappointment is of no real consequence. It's neither surprising nor interesting. Concerns about "moral relativism," coming from a Bush administration official, are a little too ironic, anyway.

    And therein lies the point: why is Liz Cheney on television every day? Are we approaching the point at which every important presidential speech requires a Cheney response?

Yglesias: Pat Buchanan Back in the Conservative Mainstream

As I think everyone knows, Pat Buchanan became pretty estranged from mainstream conservatism over the past few years. On the one hand, the conservative mainstream spent some time trying to distance itself from its historical embrace of white pride politics. On the other hand, Buchanan doesn’t really share conventional conservative views about Iraq, Iran, or Israel. But with the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, there’s been a real Pat Buchanan renaissance where he’s everywhere, loud and proud, standing up for the white man. And as Eric Alterman and Danielle Ivory point out, everything’s coming up racialism these days on the right:

For once, got it right. “Dems Now Get Taste of Being Called ‘Racist,’” said a screaming headline, and there’s no denying it was true. How else to characterize a story in which ex-Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo and radio host Rush Limbaugh compared Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions on race to those of the Ku Klux Klan.

David Duke found this to be a bit much. After all, he wrote, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, while Hispanic, was actually part and parcel of a Jewish conspiracy. Subsequently, Tancredo was asked if he wished to reconsider his KKK analogy. Alas, he declined. He also mentioned that he wasn’t sure if the Obama administration hated white people.

I was going to say something about the political consequences of all this, but actually Obama’s approval rating is frighteningly stable which reminds me that probably normal people are paying no attention and are basically unfazed by all of this.