Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wingnuts: "Who, us?" Edition

Sully: Malkin Award Nominee 
"I killed the Kentucky Census worker — along with every man and woman in America who is guilty of having said or written anything critical of government. The criminalization of conservatism continues," - Michelle Malkin. Many of the details she pooh-poohs have now been confirmed. In fact, the murder seems even grislier the more you examine it.
By the way, there is nothing conservative about Southern populism.
  •  Think Progress: Flashback: Bachmann Spread Fears Of Scary Stalking Census Workers  Bill Sparkman, the 51-year old Census worker who was hanged to death in Kentucky, was found “naked, gagged and had his hands and feet bound with duct tape.” A witness reports Sparkman also “had duct tape over his eyes, and they gagged him with a red rag or something.” The word “fed” was scrawled on his chest in a felt-tip pen, and his “Census ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area.” The gruesome lynching of this Census worker seems to bear a disturbing similarity to some of the worst hate crimes committed across this country. Regardless of what the motive for the killing may have been, why would a murderer(s) take such pains to so blatantly convey anger, fear, and vitriol towards a Census employee? Perhaps because some on the right have created an impression that Census employees are terrifying.
    Earlier this summer, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) waged a high-profile, wildly-dishonest campaign against the Census. The Minnesota congresswoman said she was so worried about the threat of the government asking “very intricate questions” and collecting information that she would illegally refuse to fill out the form. “They will be in charge of going door to door and collecting data from the American public,” she said. “This is very concerning.” She repeatedly used inflammatory and fear-mongering rhetoric against the Census:
    – “I think there is a point when you say enough is enough to government intrusion.” [6/25/09]
    – “If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps.” [6/25/09]
    “You will receive approximately six contacts from them [Census workers], either through phone calls or they will knock on your door. If you still do not give them the information, they said they’ll contact your neighbor to the left of you, to the right of you to get information.” [6/25/09]
    Bachmann’s irrational diatribes about scary stalking Census workers quickly spawned a right-wing movement. During an interview with Bachmann, Fox News’ Glenn Beck said, “Ok, so let me talk about the Census because there’s a lot of people that are concerned with it because they don’t want to fill it out, they’re not comfortable with ACORN members coming to find out all this information, they don’t want to give the government all this kind of information.”
    Conservative radio host Neal Boortz told a caller, “Most of the rest of the [Census] information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.” Boortz urged his listeners to resist the Census workers. “If somebody comes to my — if a burglar came to your house, are you going to show him where the silverware is?” he asked. “Maybe you will if he pulls out a gun.”

From time to time, if Democratic Party leaders/officials appear at a progressive event, there will be pushback from the right. Democratic VIPs, the argument goes, shouldn't associate themselves with the likes of, Democracy for America, or Yearly Kos.
It's amusing, of course, because the left's agenda tends to be pretty mainstream, and there's no reason for Dems to keep the progressive base at arm's length. But it also raises a related point: it's exceedingly difficult for a conservative to be too crazy for the Republican Party.
Take the big right-wing gathering St. Louis today, for example.
For weeks now, we have been posting on the How To Take Back America Conference and the utter insanity that has long plagued the hosts of the conference, wondering why on earth Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee or Reps. Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Tom Price, Tom McClintock and Trent Franks are inexcusably lending credibility to this event and to its organizers.
To put this upcoming conference into perspective, let us put it this way: If you thought last week's Values Voter Summit -- where speakers called for public abortions, claimed that pornography turns you gay, proclaimed that gays and liberal Christians are enemies of God who deserve to be struck down, and announced that they had been chosen by God to stand for truth and suffer the consequences - was crazy ... well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
And so we have pulled together our years of monitoring of the people and organizations behind the upcoming How To Take Back America Conference and put it all together in our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus, entitled "Why Are GOP Officials Embracing Extremists at Upcoming 'How to Take Back America' Conference?"
Why, indeed. The radicals running the How To Take Back America Conference are so nutty, you'd think GOP lawmakers and leaders would want nothing to do with them.
Take Janet Folger Porter, for example, who's helping run the event. Porter, a leading right-wing activist and talk-show host, believes the United States is "cursed" for having elected President Obama, who took office as the result of a communist conspiracy. She's told her audience that the H1N1 flu vaccine is really a nefarious plot by the government to kill millions of Americans, and that the Obama administration is creating internment camps for conservatives.
Porter is just one of the truly unhinged conservatives who helped make this weekend's event a reality, along with other nutty activists like Phyllis Schlafly, Joseph Farah, Mat Staver, and Rick Scarborough.
Are Republicans keeping their distance? Some are, some aren't. Four sitting Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Steve King (Iowa), Tom Price (Ga.), and Tom McClintock (Calif.) -- will be addressing the conference today. Former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will headline the event this evening.
And no one seems to think much of it. There's an odd expectation that Republican officials will hang out with obviously insane right-wing activists, so it's not at all controversial for members of Congress to show up at an event like this one. Indeed, it's entirely ignored by the media because it seems so routine.
The How To Take Back America Conference doesn't have a liberal equivalent, but I suspect if radicals on the left threw a shindig like this one, and four Democratic members of Congress and a Democratic presidential candidate showed up, it'd generate a little more interest.
DougJ: Malkin is at it again 
I wonder if we will find out what kinds of countertops these kids have.
Honestly, the level of sociopathy among the wingers stuns me. Death threats against children, fantasies about beating up children on the subway….family values, I guess.
  •  Larisa: Glue Sniffers = death threats to elementary school

    So I am sure that by now you have heard of the "praise Obama" video. The Malkinites are making wild use of this to get the psychotics all fired up and ready for an attack on... an elementary school:
    "The tension at B. Bernice Young Elementary School escalated to such a degree Thursday that the school was placed temporarily on lockdown after its principal received death threats over a YouTube video that showed nearly 20 children being taught songs lauding the president, though back-to-school night events continuing as planned Thursday night at the school."
    Death threats over a YouTube video. And how did people find out which school to threaten? Well from stalker of small children Michelle "shiksa" Malkin of course. Now this idiot is a mother. I wonder how she might feel if the school that her child/children attended went into lockdown because of death threats? Might she be very upset and worried? I would wager yes.
    That is what these people now do when they cannot find a doctor to murder or a hate-crime to commit. This is the story, not the stupid YouTube video which clearly had nothing to do with Obama or his administration or government or anything other than some stupid individual doing a very stupid thing. Moreover, Fox News  removed the above death threats and school lockdown from their story. Why?
    Well if you are trying to sell hate, you certainly don't want to include the consequences of your product in the brochure.
    The police better arrest whomever it was that made these threats and put them away for a good long time. Remember, this is an elementary school, not a political carnival, complete with AK47s.
    Oh and in case that teacher who taught those kids that song is worried, let me be the first to tell her to arm herself quickly. Malkin and others like her are busy digging into the woman's life and posting her private information on the Internet.
    Remember that poor university chancellor that Michelle Malkin stalked, whose private information she put online and told her gang to "badger?" And what did the freaks do? They stalked and threatened the woman until Denice Denton killed herself.
    How many more people have to be murdered and/or stalked into suicide before Malkin and her brood are finally seen for what they are? What are they? A gang of racist, ultra-nationalistic, hate-pushing thugs. Or for short - terrorists.

  •  Think Progress: Children sang Bush’s praises, but conservatives now call such behavior ‘indoctrination,’ ‘propaganda.’ 

    Conservatives have been up in arms over a tape showing schoolchildren in New Jersey singing a song in praise of President Obama. Glenn Beck said the tape showed “indoctrination that is going on.” Sean Hannity ranted, “This video makes me mad…Mao would be proud.” Typical of this overblown outrage was this statement from RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
    Friend, this is the type of propaganda you would see in Stalin’s Russia or Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. I never thought the day would come when I’d see it here in America.
    But as Huffington Post recalls, “back in 2006 children from Gulf Coast states serenaded First Lady Laura Bush with a song praising the President, Congress, and Federal Emergency Management Agency for their response to — of all things — Hurricane Katrina.” Back in April 2006, ThinkProgress reported that Bush was treated with lyrics that extolled the administration: “Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in-hand!

In the ongoing contest to see which House Republican is the single nuttiest, Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa is making another run at the title.
The Madman from the Heartland has had quite a week. On Monday, King told The Hill that the best vote he ever cast was to deny emergency aid to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
On Tuesday, he appeared on a conservative talk show and said marriage equality is part of a broader "push for a socialist society." King added, "Not only is it a radical social idea, it is a purely socialist concept in the final analysis." I guess that means gay bureaucrats control the means of production?
He kept things going yesterday on the House floor, standing alongside Socialist Realist art to argue that President Obama is the leader of ACORN.

Today, however, was my personal favorite. King is apparently angry -- it's not clear why -- that President Obama is changing U.S. missile-defense policies in Europe. The White House is scrapping a Bush-era policy that didn't make sense, for a more effective anti-missile technology, with a better track record, and more flexibility, which will be implemented sooner. The move was endorsed by the Secretary of Defense and backed by the unanimous judgment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
King initially said the president is honoring the "Neville Chamberlain school of diplomacy or capitulation." The Iowa Republican added, "I was thinking about the situation of how it was that Hitler actually negotiated with the Russians for a while. It ended up with Poland being divided and a global war as a result."
So, as far as King is concerned, Obama is both Chamberlain and Hitler?
For that matter, if negotiating with Russia makes one Hitler-like, what does King have to say about Reagan holding talks with Russia -- when it was the Soviet Union?
Look out, Michele Bachmann. Steve King has his eyes on your crown.
Just five days ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told a group of constituents that his caucus agrees with 80% of the Democrats' health care reform plans. Four days later, however, he returned to the old, standard talking points.
[L]et's reset the health care debate and start from scratch. I believe this would help Washington regain the public's trust and would produce real and substantive health care reform. It would be foolhardy for the majority to continue to sidestep this important obligation.
Remember, Cantor is supposed to be one of the sharper minds in the Republican caucus.
That said, the befuddled Minority Whip is in a tough spot. At the same event in which he expressed four-fifths support for health care reform, Cantor was confronted by a constituent. She noted that she has a close relative in her early 40s. The friend had a lucrative career and great insurance, right up until she recently lost her job. A couple of weeks ago, she was diagnosed with stomach tumors and needs an operation soon, but she's no longer covered.
Cantor encouraged her to look to "existing government programs," adding, "No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed."
Except, whether Cantor realizes it or not, he and his caucus are opposed to "existing government programs," and are fighting like crazy to make sure Americans don't have quality, affordable options. It's impossible to reconcile the GOP leader's rhetoric and policy positions.
Kevin Drum explained Cantor's insurmountable hurdle, and why the Minority Whip isn't following through on his promises to produce a Republican reform alternative.
...Cantor's problem is obvious: He can't provide a full-scale Republican plan because it's simply not possible to provide universal coverage without the government taking a big role in things. So he's stuck.... [T]hat's where we are these days: an awful lot of our most pressing problems simply can't be solved unless you accept that the government has to be involved. So conservatives are stuck.
The idea of "starting from scratch" is absurd, but even if policymakers were to consider it, the circumstances wouldn't change -- policymakers would still realize that a government solution is needed to address a pressing national challenge, and Cantor & Co. -- who's ideological opposition to government action outweighs practical solutions and common sense -- would still balk at the idea for philosophical reasons.

Chapter & Verse

If you aren't angry about the attacks on ACORN, you aren't paying attention. Or you are a republican or a spineless Dem congressperson.  I think this is worth a letter writing and emailing and callign campaign.

How did ACORN become a target?

Sept. 25: Rachel Maddow is joined by The Nation correspondent and author, Jeremy Scahill, to look at government contractors who are guilty of far worse than ACORN and yet have suffered none of the persecution in the media or Congress. What's really behind the attacks on ACORN?

Health Care Saturday: It is Obvious! Edition

Jay Ackroyd: Policy and Politics
These things do not always line up.

But I have been finding it very strange that the obviously good tactical political position ("People don't want to be forced to buy shitty, expensive health insurance") corresponds to the obviously good policy position ("Everybody should be able to get sick and not go bankrupt.") creates difficulties for our elected officials.

FWIW Joan has been great on this. The proper policy decision has been clear, for some time.
McJoan (DK): Public Option Action 
The Senate Finance Committee will take up the Rockefeller and Schumer amendments which were supposed to have been debated today, on Tuesday. The reasons for the delay are unclear, but it gives us a few more days to impress upon those Democratic Senators who haven't been as helpful on creating real, comprehensive reform. As of now, we know of three public option amendments that will be offered. The first is from Rockefeller, and it fairly closely follows the public option House version, which is stronger than the Senate HELP version. The other two are from Schumer, one that would add the same language as is in the HELP bill, and one that would create a "level playing field" option, thhe weakest of the three amendments.
Make no mistake, the public option in this committee is facing an uphill climb. But it's not impossible. The second Schumer amendment is likely the only one that has much of a chance of making it out of commitee. If it should, and if all three of these amendments get at least majority support among committee members, the chances of the public option making it into the final bill out of the Senate are significantly increased. So an action effort on this is worth our while.
Jane has been in touch with Hill sources, and reports on the usual suspects of Dems on the committee.
  1. Max Baucus -- has said he supports a public plan, despite the fact that his bill doesn't contain one.
  2. Bill Nelson -- acknowledges that a public option would address lack of competition in the health care industry, but said he was against it, then he was "open" to it, and most recently says it must be subject to triggers.
    Bill Nelson -- says emerging public option is "attractive."
  3. Kent Conrad -- Has always said that "there aren't enough votes for a public option," but wouldn't say if he was one of them.  Told Ezra Klein today he would only be open to one that wasn't tied to Medicare rates -- which Schumer's "level playing field" isn't.
  4. Blanche Lincoln -- said in July that a public insurance option should be included in any health care bill, but since then has changed her position like some people change their hair color.
  5. Tom Carper -- thinks the job of the Senate Finance Committee is to honor back room deals with PhRMA.  Won't say how he feels about a public option.
There are 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans on the committee, which means they can only lose two Democratic votes and still pass the amendment.   So, in order for a public plan to come out of Finance, three of these are going to have to get off the fence.
Contacting these, and all of the Dem members of the committee would be worth our while. It would help to remind them of a few factors:
Contact info for all of them is below the fold. The focus should be on those five Jane identified: Baucus, Nelson, Conrad, Lincoln, and Carper. But if you live in any of the states represented by the Senators below, calls to them certainly won't hurt, as well as "thank you" calls to Rockefeller and Schumer, in particular, for their efforts.
  • ::

Max Baucus MT (Committee Chair)
Phone: (202) 224-2651
Fax: (202) 224-9412
John Rockefeller WV  
Phone (202) 224-6472
Fax (202) 224-7665
Kent Conrad ND
Phone: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776
Jeff Bingman NM
Phone: (202) 224-5521
TDD (202) 224-1792
Toll Free (in NM) 1800-433-8658
John Kerry MA
Phone (202) 224-2742  
Fax (202) 224-8525
Blanche Lincoln AR
Phone: (202) 224-4843
Fax: (202) 228-1371
Ron Wyden OR
Phone: (202) 224-5244
Fax: (202) 228-2717
Charles Shumer NY
Fax: (202) 228-3027
TDD: (202) 224-0420
Debbie Stabenow MI
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4822
TTY: (202) 224-2066
Maria Cantwell WA
Phone: 202-224-3441  
Fax: (202) 228-0514  
TTD: (202) 224-8273
Bill Nelson FL
Phone: (202) 224-5274
Fax: (202) 228-2183
Robert Mendez NJ
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4744
Fax: (202) 228-2197 fax
Thomas Carper DE
Phone: (202) 224-2441
Fax: (202) 228-2190

By John Amato Friday Sep 25, 2009 5:00pm

In a new poll done by CBS and the NY Times shows that not only do Americans want a public option, they want it BIG TIME. These are numbers that the White House and Rahm can't ignore anymore.
65% of Americas do favor a government administered health care plan like Medicare that would compete with private insurance companies. That's something the Baucus Dogs and Republicans do not want to see after the mark ups have just completed. I'm sure they thought the teabaggers spoke for America, but as any informed person would know, they do not.
CBS NY Times poll 65%_2a387.jpg
Adam Nagourney of the NY Times explains some of the poll results and the only reason that Adam finds the answer to the public option interesting is because the Villagers have spoken and said that the public option is dead and they get confused when Americans voice a different opinion than the one they think Americans should have.
He does make sure to highlight the parts that Obama is struggling with, but when it comes to the public option, there is no conflicting results, right Adam? On the question asked on this page, the public option shows the most clarity of any question asked.
Q) is interesting that in spite of those numbers, in spite of the confusion there is also some clarity forming in what people want because what the poll also reveals that as far as the public option is concerned, 65% favor that, 26% oppose it.
Adam: Yes, that was kind of an interesting finding particularly considering that the fact that the public option I think appears dead at least in the form that we were asking about. There's still a lot of support for it...The poll had a lot of interesting and I think in some ways---conflicting messages....
I think the public opinion as measured in polls is very important because it shows that people want something done. I don't know how it can affect them on thing s like the public option for example, but I think there's a sense in Congress, at least among Democrats that this is a big issue and people expect them to get something done and there sort of credibility is going to rest on less they succeed or not.
Adam says that the Obama administration is closely watching the polls, but still throws the public option under the bus. Isn't it always a left wing priority that is A-OK to chuck overboard by the pundits and reporters, but other facets of the Baucus Bill are quite OK to negotiate around. How about Conrad's co ops get jettisoned in a swamp?
We're keeping up the pressure on the public option and until we see an actual bill come out of committee we do not know what we're actually debating about.
Adam's article in the NY Times about the poll is interesting and does mention the public option which is a huge story unfolding on Capitol hill and in his own poll.
On one of the most contentious issues in the health care debate — whether to establish a government-run health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurers — nearly two-thirds of the country continues to favor the proposal, which is backed by Mr. Obama but has drawn intense fire from most Republicans and some moderate Democrats.
mcjoan at KOS has a good post about the public option in Blue Dog districts: Public Option Popular in Blue Dog Districts

Friday, September 25, 2009

No, YOU Beware.

Thought of the day:
Next fall, the Dems will want to say to the voters, "Look what WE've done FOR you," and the GOP will want to say, "Look what THEY've done TO you."
That will be the 2010 midterms in a nutshell. So the Dems had better make sure they pass a bill that gives them the better end of that argument.
Posted by: low-tech cyclist on September 25, 2009 at 10:50 AM
Aravosis: Dem activists aren't complacent, they're pissed
Democrats are worried that their fundraising is going down. And they should. But the reason isn't because Democratic activists have become complacent. Democratic activists are pissed, and see no reason to fund a party that doesn't have a backbone or the desire to keep its promises.
Democrats said a struggling economy is only partly to blame for the poor fundraising performance and acknowledged a more perilous problem: satisfaction among activists that the party now holds the White House, 60 votes in the Senate and 60 percent of the House.

"There was a little sense of complacency that set in despite our best efforts to warn people," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "We made it very clear: Beware."
You beware.
 JedL (DK): Baucus delays public option amendments
Yesterday, Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer said they planned to push the public option during today's Finance Committee health care markup session -- but today, Max Baucus says there simply isn't enough time. It'll have to wait:
Citing time restraints, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) just announced that the controversial public option amendments being offered by Sens. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will be pushed to next Tuesday, when lawmakers return to Washington after a long weekend.
Maybe Baucus really is just out of time. It's true that he's only had like eighteen kajillion months to work on his "bipartisan" bill (which doesn't have any Republican support). He could be running short on the clock.
Or maybe he's just not quite sure how to handle Rockefeller and Schumer. After all, he's spent most of his time recently with Kent Conrad, Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, and Olympia Snowe. He might've forgotten what it's like to deal with Democrats -- you know, the guys who actually won the last election.
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll offers quite a bit of discouraging news for Republicans hoping to defeat health care reform and undermine the Obama presidency. There's just one catch.
President Obama's approval rating remains quite strong at 56%, and his handling of health care has improved seven points since August. Nearly two-thirds of the country (65%) would like to see a public option as part of health care reform, which is up five points over the last month.
While the numbers for Democrats aren't as strong as they were, Republicans haven't been able to capitalize at all. For example, most respondents maintain a favorable impression of Democrats (47% favorable, 41% unfavorable), while the GOP fares far worse (30% favorable, 57% unfavorable). Asked who can be trusted to make the right decisions, President Obama's lead over congressional Republicans is nearly two to one (53% to 27%).
More than three out of four believe Republicans have not explained what they would do to improve the system, and while a clear majority believes President Obama has tried to work with the GOP, a clear majority believes the GOP has not done the same with the White House. What's more, 64% believe Republicans are fighting against health care reform for purely political reasons, not because of principle.
So, what's the catch? Americans don't like and don't trust the GOP, but they want to see Democrats work with them anyway.
The poll finds that an overwhelming majority of 64% think Republicans are opposing Obama's health care plans mostly for political reasons. But it also finds that an equally large number, 65%, say Democrats shouldn't pass a bill without Republicans -- even if they think it's right for the country -- and should instead compromise to win over some GOPers.
This shows, I think, that Democrats have convinced the public that the GOP wants Obama and Dems to fail at all costs. But they've failed to make the case to the public that GOP obstructionism may leave them no choice but to go it alone in order to realize reform.
This is the third major national poll to find the same result on this in the last couple of weeks.
It continues to put the majority in an awkward situation. Americans don't trust GOP lawmakers on the issue, and don't think Republicans have been acting in good faith, but the public can't quite shake the impression that good bills are "bipartisan" bills, and that legislative consensus may actually be more important than legislative quality.
My only advice to the governing majority? Ignore this. Americans are, for whatever reasons, predisposed to support bipartisan lawmaking. But this is an impossible task -- Republicans don't support reform and aren't willing to make concessions. If Dems make the bill worse, on purpose, just to pick up a few GOP votes, it's likely voters will be far less satisfied with reform when it's implemented.
Pass a good bill and let the policy speak for itself.
Aravosis: Health Care reform groups circulate memo on Hill warning of public ire if Baucus bill becomes law
Someone's gonna get yelled at by Rahm....

It seems our health care reform groups just developed a spine. They're circulating a memo on the Hill that includes polling data showing that people are opposed to an individual mandate to buy health insurance (i.e., they have to by law, or they get fined), unless the mandate includes a public option as one of the possible insurers they can go to. Baucus' bill, which Obama seems to be supporting as first among equals, doesn't do that.

It's a fascinating question: whether Democrats are walking into a trap here. If they pass the Baucus bill, or any other bill, and require people, by law, to buy insurance that's from the same old crappy private insurers who already milk us dry, and provide no viable alternative, in the future, every time Blue Cross or Humana or Kaiser screws one of us over, guess whose fault it's going to be? Every Senator and Congressman who votes for Baucus' and Obama's current plan.

And Baucus and Conrad's cute little co-op idea isn't expected by anyone to work. Even CBO agreed. That means every American is going to be stuck with the same crappy insurers they current have, and they're going to blame Democrats for it, thanks to Max Baucus and Barack Obama.

Should make for some exciting elections.
Hamsher: Accountability Now Targets Jim Cooper for Primary Challenge
Jim Cooper is out of step with his district. Barack Obama won 56% of the vote in 2008 to John McCain's 43%, so the typical Blue Dog trumpet that their corporatist-friendly vote is necessary to hold office in a heavily Republican district just doesn't apply.
He thus meets Accountability Now's criteria for a primary challenge. We're launching a blog today, Cooper Uncovered, which will chronicle Cooper's exploits on a daily basis. It will explore how Cooper's activities are at odds with the interests of his Nashville district:
From the Accountability Now press release:
According to a Research 2000 poll from August 24, 2009, Cooper’s approval rating has sunk to below 50 percent (47% favorable, 41% unfavorable). Even more telling, was that just 36% of likely voters stated they would vote to re-elect Congressman Cooper.
Ranking high among Nashville voters concerns was Cooper’s perceived obstruction of the “public option” during the recent congressional debate on health care. According to the poll conducted in August, 80 percent of Democratic voters and 64 percent of independents support a public option. 77 percent of Democratic voters and 60 percent of independent voters disapprove of Congressman Cooper’s actions on the health care issue.
"Cooper has spent so many years in Congress without being accountable, that he's forgotten how to represent his constituents," said Markos Moulitsas, owner of Daily Kos and the commissioner of the poll.. "He has a choice ahead of him -- continue representing the interests of his insurance company buddies, or those of the people who elect him."
Cooper, who has collected more than $1 million dollars from health care special interests and related political action committees, has come under fire in recent weeks for failing to represent Democrats in the 5th Congressional District.
Accountability Now has been working actively in Tennessee's 5th district to recruit candidates to run against Cooper in a Democratic primary next year. Communicating with Nashville voters about his activities on Capitol Hill, exploring his political history and highlighting the coverage of local Tennessee blogs will be the focus of Cooper Uncovered.

Banana Boy

Seems as if Kirk Cameron and Ray "the banana guy" Comfort are out and about again, offering a new version of Origin of Species with their own, very special, 50 page forward - and associated video.  So it seems to be a good time to have an "evolution disproven by the banana" thread.  And by peanut butter.  And, quite possibly, pasta.  Have fun - and see if you can separate the parodies from the fundies.

First, a lovely lady discusses Cameron's latest effort:

Here is the original stoopid banana bit:

And here is the banana "theory" debunked:

Here is the peanut butter theory of evolution:

Turns out the peanut butter evolves at night:

In defense of the Peanut Butter guy:

But what about pasta?

Checkmate Atheists, including a banana.

Health Care Friday:

Sully: Shrinking The Tent
David Frum continues his debate with David Horowitz:
I speak out against people like Palin, Limbaugh and Beck because in my estimation they do enormous harm to the causes in which I believe. In my view, the talk-and-Fox complex marginalizes Republicans – and backs us into demagogic and unsustainable political positions. David, do you really want to abolish the Federal Reserve? Do you think the United States should have allowed Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks to follow Lehman into bankruptcy in October 2008? Do you think that any cuts to Medicare amount to a death panel for grandma? Do you think we can sustain an adequate military – never mind finance future tax reductions – if we allow healthcare to continue rising from its current 16% of GDP to a projected 20% of GDP a decade from now if nothing changes?
I can’t believe you do. And if you don’t believe these things, is it not dangerous to have talk-and Fox whipping a couple of million conservatives into frenzy over things that are not true?
David has ammunition in the latest NYT poll. It shows some cooling on Obama - but only from ridiculously high levels. But the verdict on Republicans is devastating:

76 percent said Republicans had not even laid out a clear health care plan. And by a lopsided margin, respondents said that Mr. Obama and not Republicans had made an effort to cross party lines and strike a deal that has the support of both parties. ... Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believed Republicans in Congress were opposing Mr. Obama’s bill only for political gain, rather than because they believed it was bad for the country; just over half said Democrats in Congress backed the bill for political reasons.
Just 30 percent said they had a favorable view of Republicans in Congress. By contrast, 47 percent said they had a favorable view of Congressional Democrats.
In stoking the base, the GOP has persuaded the center that they are not a serious party interested in governing.
During yesterday's Senate Finance Committee debate on health care reform, a frustrated Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) noted that the private insurance industry is "running certain people" in the Senate.
It's demonstrably true. Consider this week's controversy surrounding Humana, one of the nation's leading private insurers. The company opposes policymakers finding cost savings though reducing unnecessary spending in Medicare Advantage -- it would undermine their profits -- so it began lobbying its customers with misleading propaganda. Because Humana receives a whole lot of public funds, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructed Humana to stop its taxpayer-subsidized misinformation campaign.
Republicans threw a fit on Tuesday, and ratcheted things up late yesterday.
The rhetorical war over an alleged attempt by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the Obama administration to "muzzle" insurance companies critical of their health care plan intensified Thursday, with Republicans accusing Democrats of violating federal guidelines and threatening to filibuster a host of executive branch nominations. [...]
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, top Senate Republicans demanded that HHS immediately lift the "gag order" and warned that they would filibuster any HHS nominees until she does so.
According to Roll Call, the administration has five pending HHS nominees awaiting Senate approval, and five more vacancies awaiting nominations. The entire Senate Republican leadership team wants to block any and all consideration of these nominees until Humana is allowed to start using tax dollars to mislead seniors again.
"This is pretty simple," a senior Democratic Senate aide said. "All the GOP spinning in the world can't hide the fact that Republicans continue to protect big insurance companies who mislead seniors. This latest attempt is bizarre and untrue pushback -- CMS has always said providers can communicate with their beneficiaries as long as it's done in an accurate and truthful way. The letter from Humana clearly wasn't -- it was both false and misleading. CMS did the right thing protecting seniors from these scare tactics."
GOP lawmakers generally avoid acting like they've been bought and paid for, which makes this week's tantrum in support of Humana propaganda so foolish. We're talking about an insurer, which has seen its annual profits soar nine-fold this decade, and which recently had to settle fraud and racketeering cases. McConnell & Co. are going to the wall to fight for its ability to engage in publicly-funded lying?
As of last night, the Obama administration said it's ignoring the Republican leadership's demands. Here's hoping officials stick to their guns on this.

Taking a stand on a public option  Sept. 24: Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, tells msnbc's Rachel Maddow that he and Senator Rockefeller will insist on a roll call vote for public option Friday.

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), two of the leading proponents of an ambitious and progressive health care reform effort, will be leading the charge today in the Senate Finance Committee on a public option. On a conference call yesterday, they sounded surprisingly optimistic.
"The health care bill that is signed into law by the President will have a good, strong, robust public option," Schumer said.
How that will happen remains an open question. But the Senators assured reporters on the call that we're all going to get a taste of their passion and persuasiveness on this issue at the ongoing Senate Finance Committee hearings on Friday.
"I think it's a great idea," Rockefeller said of the public option. "Chuck Schumer thinks it's a great idea. And we're going to be all over it tomorrow."
Schumer said there will be a "full-blown debate" and that "even though the public option might be the underdog in the Senate Finance Committee, don't count it out."
"Tomorrow is the opening day in our big fight," he said.
That sounds pretty exciting, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn't put money on the public option getting out of the Finance Committee. Rockefeller said there's a "good shot" that the panel will approve the measure. I'm not sure how -- Dems have a 13-10 margin on the committee, but at least two Dems (Conrad and Lincoln) oppose the provision, and even Chairman Max Baucus is likely to vote against it. Indeed, it's long been assumed that the public option has no shot in the committee, and would have to be considered later in the process.
Nevertheless, spirited support for the measure is welcome, and if/when it falls short today, we can expect Schumer and Rockefeller to push even more aggressively if/when the bill progresses.
What's more, they certainly won't be the only ones. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said on MSNBC yesterday that he, too, is optimistic about the public option's chances. "Not every Democrat right now would prefer the public option in the Senate," Brown told Ed Schultz, "but no Democrat in the end is going to vote against a procedural question to kill the health care bill." I wish I could say I share his confidence.
As for the House, the leadership is still in an awkward spot -- keep the public option and lose Blue Dogs, scrap the public option and lose the left. Ryan Grim had a very interesting report late yesterday on the Blue Dog whip count, which showed many center-right Democrats with higher priorities than this one provision.
"Blocking a public health insurance option is a relatively low priority for conservative Blue Dog Democrats, according to an ongoing survey of its members," Grim reported. "The fading House opposition could clear the way for the public option to move through the chamber."

What Rachel said . . .

 Here Rachel is again, doing what the media is supposed to do.  Actual facts and all that.

The media fails ACORN

Sept. 24: Rachel Maddow is joined by Occidental College politics professor Peter Dreier, who authored a study on how myths about ACORN were manufactured and how easily the mainstream media - not just the right wing media - was led into reporting falsehoods.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

President McCain & the Media

ABC News announced the guest list for Sunday's episode of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," and you'll never guess who's going to be on. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will go first, followed by the guy who didn't win last year's presidential election.
Then, an EXCLUSIVE interview with Republican Senator John McCain, who is leading the call to send more troops to Afghanistan. Senator McCain has been supportive of the President's Afghanistan policy, but lately he's expressed concern about the current strategic review and says now is not the time to pull back.
Really, an exclusive interview with John McCain? What a rare occurrence!
Or not. For those keeping score at home, this will be McCain's 13th Sunday morning appearance since President Obama's inauguration in January. That's 36 Sundays, for an average of a McCain appearance every 2.7 weeks.
Since the president took office, McCain has been on "Meet the Press" twice (July 12 and March 29), "Face the Nation" three times (August 30, April 26, and February 8), CNN's "State of the Union" twice (August 2 and February 15), and "Fox News Sunday" three times (July 2, March 8, and January 25). His appearance on "This Week" on Sunday will be his third visit in five months (September 27, August 23, and May 10).
I can appreciate the fact that Stephanopoulos may perceive McCain as having a unique perspective and/or expertise on Afghanistan, but he doesn't. For one thing, there are plenty of other congressional Republicans who've supported the president's policy, but are worried about a shift in direction. For another, when it comes to U.S. policy in Afghanistan, McCain is frequently confused.
But it's the Sunday shows' obsession with McCain that continues to be so absurd. The Arizona Republican, after a wildly unsuccessful presidential campaign, is just another conservative member of a 40-seat minority. McCain isn't playing a role in any important negotiations; he hasn't unveiled any significant pieces of legislation; he isn't being targeted as a swing vote on any major bills; and he's not a member of the GOP leadership. He's just another far-right senator, with precious little to say that couldn't have been predicted in advance. Indeed, we already know exactly what he's going to say this week.
And yet, the networks can't seem to help themselves.
Eric Boehlert recently checked and found that John Kerry, in the eight months after Bush's second inaugural, made three appearances on the Sunday morning shows. McCain's total, obviously, more than quadruples that number.
As Boehlert concluded, "[A]fter Kerry lost in November, the press walked away from him. After McCain lost in November, the press still crowds around him."

Health Care Thursday: Making tea partiers retch Edition

Ezra Klein: Lessons From the French Health-Care System
The graph above comes from Edward Cody's overview of the French health-care system. Compared with the U.S. health-care system, the French system covers everyone, spends less, and sees its costs rise more slowly. It's a pretty impressive performance. Even Kent Conrad thinks so.
But we've worked extremely hard during this debate to ignore all of its lessons. It's a bit weird: If the French medical system developed a cutting-edge treatment that proved to be the best approach to, say, late-stage Parkinson's disease, we wouldn't dismiss it as a French treatment. We'd use it. Which is exactly what we do with deep-brain stimulation. But when their health-care system develops a better, cheaper, fairer, more effective way of structuring health-care delivery and financing, we dismiss it.
People sometimes ask what the lessons of other country's health-care systems are. The lessons are twofold. First, they're better. Second, we're stubborn.
 Ezra Klein: Kent Conrad Hearts the French Health-Care System?
From Sen. Kent Conrad's remarks at Tuesday's Finance Committee hearing:
Let me just conclude for my progressive friends who believe that the only answer to getting costs under control and having universal coverage is by a government-run program. I urge my colleagues to read the book by T.R. Reid, "The Healing of America."
I had the chance to read it this weekend. He looks at the health-care systems around the world. And what he found is in many countries they have universal coverage. They contain costs effectively. They have high-quality outcomes, in fact higher than ours. They're not government-run systems in Germany, in Japan, in Switzerland, in France, in Belgium -- all of them contain costs, have universal coverage, have very high quality care and yet are not government-run systems.
Germany, Japan, Switzerland, France and Belgium have a level of government intrusion in their systems that would make the average tea partier retch. In France, for instance, the government provides all basic insurance coverage directly. In Germany, insurers aren't permitted to make a profit. In Japan, health insurance is publicly provided, and private insurance is available only to ease co-payments or cover services that the government leaves out. This stuff makes the shackled public plan look downright objectivist.
That said, I think France, Germany, and Japan offer excellent models, and their low costs, universal coverage, and impressive outcomes back up that contention. But they're not a rebuke to the progressives in this debate. They are confirmation of the argument that systems with more government-intervention offer lower costs and better outcomes. And either way, my sense is that Kent Conrad stands more firmly between this country and the French health-care system than does Barbara Boxer, but I'd certainly be glad to learn I was wrong on that.
 Attaturk (FDL): Matlock!!!
David Broder once again read some conservative bloviators about how Obama's too gosh darn ambitious. Stop the Presses! And with editorials like this, that'll happen at the Washington Post soon enough. Yes, Obama needs to be -- even more, Republican! Poor Rahm, he's been working so hard, but it's never good enough for "the Dean".
The progressives believed that the cure lay in applying the new wisdom of the social sciences to the art of government, an approach in which facts would heal the clash of ideologies and narrow constituencies...
Historically, that approach has not worked. The progressives failed to gain more than brief ascendancy
Somehow David Broder ignores the three most successful legislative Presidents of the 20th century were the policy-ambitious FDR, LBJ, and a progressive Republican, Theodore Roosevelt. Apparently he does this so he can kick Clinton and Carter a few more times.
Franklin Roosevelt made sweeping policy changes that put one party in control of Congress for the longest period in American History, more than sixty years. During that time it managed to pass strong civil rights laws; sweeping securities, labor, and financial reforms; social security and medicare. Even Republican presidents avoided significantly altering its fundamental accomplishments.
It won THE war, it made the peace, it created the middle class and the longest period of prosperity in American history. It started by burying the depression and ended by burying the Soviet Union, in between it only beat Hitler and Jim Crow. What a fucking failure! Thank goodness we finally decided it had to change because rich peoples' taxes were too high.
But David Broder, can take comfort in his apparently belief the last great Democratic President was Grover Cleveland, with whom he probably ate quail.
 Slow and steady passes the legislation?  Rachel Maddow is joined by MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman to discuss the slow progress by the Senate Finance Committee on health care reform legislation and the tactics some members are trying to employ to delay the bill further.

This video does have a strong health care focus . . .

Cantor obtuse on violent rhetoric Sept. 23: The Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas discusses the willful ignorance of Rep. Eric Cantor's disagreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement that heated political rhetoric may result in violence.

Deeply Satisfying

Play "Whack-A-Wingnut"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wingnuts Athwart

John Cole: A Thought Experiment
If you ever wondered how the rest of the world views our wingnuts when they speak on the global stage, you should turn on CNN right now and watch Gadhafi’s rambling and incoherent speech.
Kurtz: Fox News Can't Help Itself 
The big news from the United Nations today? According to Fox News, it was Qaddafi praising President Obama as a "son" of Africa. Watch.
Josh Marshall: Commando
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is leading a special "truth squad" delegation to the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen to tell the foreigners Obama doesn't know what he's talking about. And they shouldn't listen to other members of Congress saying the US is going to pass legislation.
Josh Marshall: Guess He's a No on Reform 
Georgia congressman says US already has "soviet-style" health care system.
Only he's a Democrat.
publius: Afghanistan As Therapy
One unfortunate aspect of today's political conservative movement is that much of it is defined entirely by opposition -- and contempt -- for liberals.  That's the ideological glue that holds many otherwise inconsistent policies and coalitions together.
Another dynamic is simply that frustrations with the Bush administration led to massive amounts of cognitive dissonance.  In the age of Bush, what exactly did "conservative" mean? 
Enter the new Obama administration.  What's frustrating is not so much the GOP's opposition to everything, but that the opposition seems more about reaffirming ideological views and healing cognitive dissonance than about articulating actual policy disagreements.  In short, conservatives are using opposition to Obama to reaffirm their ideological glue and conservative bona fides -- it's a form of therapy.
For instance, on the domestic front, the stimulus saved a lot of jobs -- and helped stop the bleeding.  But the opposition was fueled by an ideological aversion to government.  Opposing the stimulus was the GOP's chance to show that they actually believe in "small government," even if it made very little policy sense.
But whatever, that's part of the game.
Afghanistan, though, is different.  It's frustrates me on a far deeper level to see people advocate for wars just to make themselves feel better.  With Obama wavering on troop escalations in Afghanistan (good!), the old poisonous Kagan nationalism is creeping back out -- along with the same vague "goals" that generally emerge when wars lose their purpose.  And now we're supposed to raise troop levels just to show how tough we are.
It's important to remember, however, that troops aren't "resources" -- they're real humans, with real families, with real children, and with real friends.  If we're going to escalate in Afghanistan, we deserve to give them defined goals. 
You can play therapy session all day with the stimulus opposition if you want.  But not with the lives of troops -- they didn't sign up to make the Kagan family feel good about themselves.
There are plenty of discouraging poll numbers for Democrats that have been released lately, but there's little evidence that Republicans are capitalizing in any meaningful way. The party is still less popular than the Democratic majority, and the GOP is still less trusted on most of the major issues of the day.
On health care, for example, the new NBC/WSJ poll shows 45% of Americans approving of President Obama's handling of the issue. For the Republican Party, the number was 21%. The GOP has done wonders raising doubts about Democratic reform plans, but it's not exactly persuading anyone that Republicans offer a superior alternative.
With that in mind, Ezra Klein had a good summary of the bigger picture.
The Republican Party's strategy against health-care reform has been something of a kamikaze mission: destroy the bill through a strategy that also destroys the party, at least in the short-term. The hope is that if they win the war, they'll be in better shape come the 2010 midterms. Maybe that'll work. Maybe it won't.
But if it does work, it won't leave them in a better position to govern. What Republicans -- and, when they're out of power, Democrats -- are doing is essentially discrediting the political process. Piece by piece, bill by bill. The argument, essentially, is that politicians are untrustworthy and Congress is corrupt and interest groups are trying to do horrible things to you and problems are not being solved.
All these thing might be true, but they're being said, in this case, by politicians who want to take back Congress and start negotiating with interest groups to solve problems. That's not going to work terribly well, and for obvious reasons. Republicans may think they've found a clever strategy in making it hard for Democrats to govern, but what they're really doing is making it nearly impossible for anyone to govern. American politics is trapped in a cycle of minority obstruction, and though that's good for whomever the minority is at the moment, it's not particularly good for making progress on pressing issues.
I think this is almost entirely right, except for one point -- Ezra described congressional Republicans as "politicians who want to take back Congress and start negotiating with interest groups to solve problems." I don't mean to be cute here, but I see things slightly differently.
In fact, I'm not sure Republicans are interested in problem-solving at all. They want to take back Congress for the express purpose of stopping the White House from passing a progressive policy agenda. GOP leaders don't want to govern or "make progress on pressing issues"; they want to stop the process of governing and let the status quo linger.
To be sure, I think Ezra's entirely right about the consequences of Republican tactics -- they paralyze our system of government. The key, though, is that the GOP is almost certainly okay with that.
Put it this way: when was the last time the Republican Party, on the national level, had a coherent policy agenda? It wasn't 2002 ("9/11, 9/11, 9/11"); it wasn't 2004 (the bulk of George W. Bush's stump speech was about John Kerry); it wasn't 2006 ("9/11?, 9/11?, 9/11?"); and it wasn't 2008 ("maverick" is not a plan).
The same will be true in 2010 -- there's nothing in particular the GOP wants to do with government, other than to say "no" to those who do have an agenda. And with that in mind, making it impossible for anyone to govern suits Republicans just fine.
Columbia Journalism Review: Q & A: Rick Perlstein
Greg Marx: I’m interested in your thoughts on Marcus Brauchli’s comments about mainstream coverage of conservative concerns in particular, and also in this issue more broadly.
Rick Perlstein: I read what Brauchli said, and what he was paraphrased as saying, and it almost suggests to me that Matt Drudge is becoming his assignment editor. I mean, why would a newspaper like the Post be training its investigative focus on ACORN now? Whether you think well or ill of ACORN, they’re a very marginal group in the grand scheme of things—and about as tied to the White House as the PTA.
The real story is that millions of Americans don’t consider a liberal president legitimate, and they’re moving from that axiom to try to delegitimize the president in the eyes of the majority. And one of the ways they do that is, frankly, by baiting the hook for mainstream media decision-makers who are terrified at the accusation of liberal bias. It really looks like Brauchli is falling for that.

Our Media

DougJDay six of the Kaplan Daily’s silence on the Norton story
As I said before, I think the Gale Norton investigation is pretty serious stuff:
The criminal investigation centers on the Interior Department’s 2006 decision to award three lucrative oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary. Over the years it would take to extract the oil, according to calculations from Shell and a Rand Corp. expert, the deal could net the company hundreds of billions of dollars.
The story was first reported on September 17 in the LAT and Chicago Tribune (there’s some form of joint operating agreement and are owned by the same company). The NYT and WSJ did stories on it shortly thereafter.
It is now nearly a week later and the Washington Post has yet to mention aside from an item in one of Howie Kurtz’s blog piece, and a link to an AP piece. This may be why:
Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he worries “that we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It’s particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view.”
To guard against it, he said, “I challenge our reporters and editors with great frequency to look at what is going on across the political spectrum . . . at the extremes, among the rabble-rousers, as well as among policymakers.” He said he pressed the National desk this week to provide more ACORN coverage.

I realize I’ve touched on this before, but it’s remarkable: the Post, in effect, pulled reporters off of a story involving criminal misconduct at the cabinet level involving hundreds of billions of dollars to put more reporters on a story about a gag video involving kids dressed up as pimps and hos. And now we know that the evil ACORN worker who played along with them later spoke to the police about the incident.
It’s Glenn Beck’s world, we’re just living in it.

Health Care Wednesday

They do polls: NBC/WSJ 
And who will get blamed if health care doesn't get passed this year? Per the poll, 10% say Obama, 16% say congressional Democrats, and 37% say congressional Republicans.

The matter of choice in health care 

Sept. 22: Rachel Maddow reviews the eyebrow-raising financial relationship Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., has with the health care industry and is then joined by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, to discuss the renewed energy in the Senate in support of the public option.

Humana, among the nation's leading private insurers, is not at all pleased that policymakers intend to pay for health care reform by reducing unnecessary spending in Medicare Advantage. Humana, after all, makes an enormous amount of money through the program.
So, the company, which has already spent $1.2 million on lobbying on health care, initiated a new mobilization campaign, contacting its customers with frightening and misleading letters to try to scare them about reform, and creating a website to send form emails to lawmakers. (The emails identify the sender as Medicare Advantage members, whether they are or not.) This came to the attention of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which began investigating Humana's lobbying efforts.
More importantly, at the request of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the CMS asked Humana to stop the misleading mailings and shut down the form-email website. The agency has authority on the matter, given all the taxpayer money Humana accepts, and the marketing limits Humana accepted as part of the program.
Republicans aren't happy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Humana's home state of Kentucky, and has received tens of thousands of dollars from the company over the years, called the CMS actions a "gag order" -- a characterization that has been echoed by House Minority Leader John Boehner and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) -- ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee -- who fired off an angry letter to CMS acting administrator Charlene Frizzera.
"In light of CMS' seemingly uneven and potentially politically-motivated use of its regulatory authority," Camp writes, "I therefore request that...CMS immediately suspend this virtual gag order on efforts by an MA plan to let its enrollees know how they could be hurt by the health reforms plans being pushed by President.
Just so we're clear, Republican politicians, some of whom get plenty of money from Humana, are defending an insurer misleading Medicare recipients with taxpayer-subsidized communications.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said he's only looking out for free-speech rights. "You don't lose your rights because you happen to sell insurance for heaven's sake," he said.
That is, of course, a foolish argument. The government is paying the bills here. Humana accepted lobbying and marketing limits when it started collecting tax dollars. As Ryan Grim noted, "Communication between the private Medicare Advantage providers and beneficiaries is strictly regulated because the private companies are using public dollars."
Republicans shouldn't decry the attached strings simply because Humana and the GOP have the same goal -- attacking health care reform.
In the meantime, Democrats on the Hill were quick to note the background of the company Republicans were desperate to defend: "Humana was recently featured in a HuffPost story for denying health care due to lack of an enema. In 2005, it settled a racketeering suit for $40 million. It settled a fraud lawsuit in 2000 for $14.5 million. Since 2000, its profits have soared from $90 million to $834 million."
Republicans often pick the wrong friends, don't they?
Chris in Paris (AmBlog): Democrats to end anti-trust exemptions for insurance industry 
This is exactly what we need to see from Democrats. Let the GOP defend their friends in the insurance business and see what the public thinks about it. (h/t Cat)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Energy and Commerce Committee Vice-Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) today introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, legislation to end the broad antitrust exemption enjoyed by health insurance companies.

Both the House and Senate today have introduced identical language to reduce insurance prices for consumers. This legislation would extend antitrust enforcement over health insurers and medical malpractice insurance issuers, which currently enjoy broad antitrust immunity under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. This immunity can serve as a shield for activities that might otherwise violate federal law.

"This legislation would specifically prohibit price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation in the health insurance industry," said Conyers. "These pernicious practices are detrimental to competition and result in higher prices for consumers. Conduct that is unlawful throughout the country should not be allowed for insurance companies under antitrust exemption. The House Judiciary Committee held extensive hearings on the effects of the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. It became clear then that policyholders and the economy in general would benefit from eliminating this exemption.

At a forum this week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) heard from a constituent about a serious health care dilemma. Her question was sad but common, and Cantor's response was illustrative.

The constituent noted that she has a close relative in her early 40s. She had a lucrative career and great insurance, right up until she recently lost her job. A couple of weeks ago, she was diagnosed with stomach tumors and needs an operation soon, but she's no longer covered.
Cantot encouraged her to look to "existing government programs," or perhaps "charitable organizations." He added, "No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed."
That's worded rather awkwardly, but it's a sentiment I can agree with. Americans who need care should have "options." There should be "government programs" to provide coverage to those who don't have it.
The problem, which Cantor fails to appreciate, is that he and his colleagues are opposed both to giving Americans "options" and creating "government programs." If he meant what he said, Cantor wouldn't be leading the charge against health care reform.
Indeed, the follow-up question is obvious: what is Eric Cantor doing to help provide "options" and strengthen "government programs" for those Americans who need help?
As for relying on charities and the kindness of strangers to save those facing life-threatening illnesses, what Cantor may not realize is that these charities, through no fault of their own, necessarily have to ration care and force patients to endure long wait times -- there are fewer resources than patients.
In other words, Cantor's warnings about the perils of a reformed system are already a reality.
Ezra Klein: Delivery System Day: Peter Orszag
You all know who Peter Orszag is. So rather than wasting time on an introduction, I'll just jump right into our interview on the delivery system reforms.
You’ve been in a lot of these internal discussions. How much of the work here has focused on reforming the delivery system?
The Finance Committee mark includes most of the proposals that have been put forward. That’s why folks from Mark McClellan on the right to lots of folks on the left have said the mark is impressive. You don’t get to that point without having done a lot of work ahead of time.
Why do they get less attention than insurance market reforms?
For a few reasons. Insurance market reforms are more immediately salient., Everyone knows what it means to say no more preexisting conditions in terms of affecting coverage. What exactly you mean by accountable care organization, or bundled payments, is more esoteric. People don't really see the plumbing beneath the system.
Many of these changes seem modest. As opposed to the insurance market, where we ban practices we don't like, or add structures we do like, the delivery system side of things seems concentrated around pilot programs and demonstrations and experiments.
I’d say it’s a mixture. But yes, what needs to happen is we need to put into place the infrastructure to aggressively experiment with what works and what doesn’t, and a lot of what this bill is doing is putting that infrastructure in place, through the Innovation Center and the demonstration projects. But don’t forget that there are direct and immediate changes taking place to provider payment updates and home health reimbursements and so forth.
Which of the policies strike you as most promising?
Let me answer that by harkening back to what I think is the key to a higher-value, lower-cost system over time. The first is we need to digitize the system, and that was part of the Recovery Act. We need a lot more evidence on what works and what doesn't, and Recovery Act had some of that, and the Mark goes further. The third is we need to move away from fee for service and towards fee for value, and the Chairman’s Mark does a lot of that through bundled payments and medical homes and value-based payments for hospitals and accountable care organizations.
I would also include in that bucket the Innovation Center and the Medicare Commission. Both are aimed at trying lots of things, seeing what’s working and what’s not, and having policy adapt to what’s working immediately. This allows for the dynamic and iterative nature of cost containment over time. We don’t know exactly how to get from here to a high value, low cost system because the health-care sector dynamic. So you need a process.
What's the Innovation Center?
The Innovation Center is a $6.6 billion fund to test out different ways of linking payments to quality. The key is that they’re creating a structure in which you can try out different things. That then feeds into the commission that will help expedite changes in Medicare policy. You can go from aggressively testing something out to implementing it quickly.
That's a point I hadn't heard before about the MedPAC proposal: that it's part of a whole chain. In that telling, it sounds like much of this is providing support for MedPAC's work.
Exactly. You need these feedback loops. You can digitize medical records, so then you have much more information on what outcomes are. That gets fed into experiments to see what works and what doesn’t. Which gets fed into policy changes. And hopefully, the electronic health records system will also have decision-making tools so the doctor has research at his fingertips helping show what's best for the patient.
It's like a Google brain for doctors.
Right. This is building out the Google brain for the medical system. And just like with Google, we can’t just put in an IT system where physicians scroll through 30 pages of data. Doctors are people too. The system needs a simplified template. Your patient seems to have the following conditions, you might want to test for x. And you can click through for more.
I'd heard that the IT system was still troubled, as crucial decisions about standards and interoperability hadn't been put into place.
David Blumenthal is now in place as the Health IT coordinator over at HHS. A lot of progress is being made. There’s a process.
How do the delivery-side reforms interact with the insurance market?
Several ways. Perhaps most immediately, your premiums will ultimately be driven by the underlying cost of health care. To the extent these reforms help to contain costs over time, they have a significant influence in the insurance market through the level of premiums. It’s also the case that Medicare can lead the private insurance market in terms of moving towards a value-based system, and we’ve seen that in past examples. In the ’80s, Medicare moved towards fixed payments for each hospital stay, and that created an incentive for hospitals to reduce the length of stays. The result was shortened stays for everyone and not just Medicare patients. And many of the changes floating around with regard to Medicare in this bill have similar potential.
In many cases, Republican lawmakers asked Democratic leaders to make specific concessions on health care reform. When Dems like Max Baucus agreed, the GOP balked anyway.
But there are other areas in which Democrats simply embrace policy ideas endorsed, or even created by, the right. For quite a while, conservatives liked the idea of giving an Independent Medicare Advisory Council more power to determine what the program should pay for. It's a straightforward, money-saving measure. When the Obama administration agreed, Republicans decided they didn't like their own idea anymore.
The same thing is happening with an individual mandate, which Republicans trashed during the first day of Senate Finance Committee debate yesterday.
Advocates of a coverage mandate say it is needed to ensure that young, healthy people get insurance and contribute to the system. They say this will ease costs associated with an influx of less-healthy people who are expected to get coverage under the Baucus legislation.
Republicans, who are trying to slow Democratic efforts to pass a health overhaul by the end of the year, rushed to criticize the proposal.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Finance Committee's senior Republican, said the mandate is among the reasons that he couldn't support the bill despite months of negotiations with Mr. Baucus. "Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not," he said.
"This bill is a stunning assault on liberty," said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's second-ranking Republican.
That's pretty strong rhetoric under any circumstances, but it's especially striking since the GOP used to think individual mandates were fine. Indeed, Sam Stein noted yesterday that the idea was "once considered so non-controversial that it was endorsed by several major Republican officials."
As recently as a month ago, Chuck Grassley, the same senator bashing the idea of a mandate yesterday, announced that the way to get universal coverage is "through an individual mandate." He told Nightly Business report, "That's individual responsibility, and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility." Earlier this year, Grassley told Fox News that there wasn't "anything wrong" with mandates even if some may view them "as an infringement upon individual freedom."
Now, apparently, he disagrees with himself. There's a lot of that going around.
Congressional Republicans could probably save themselves a lot of trouble by simply saying, "Whatever Democrats are for, we're against," in response to every question.