Thursday, December 10, 2009

Journamalism: In What Respect, Charlie? Edition

BarbinMD (DK): Politico's Process: It's All In How You Tell The Story

Yesterday, Greg Sargent at The Plum Line ran a story that said:

Is Blanche Lincoln going to face a primary from her left over health care?

In a step in that direction, Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who’s widely rumored to be mulling a challenge to Lincoln, came to Washington D.C. to huddle with a group of labor officials and liberal bloggers to discuss possibly making the race, two sources who were there tell me.

And here's Politico's Josh Kraushaar's version of the Sargent's article:

The Washington Post’s Plum Line is reporting that Arkansas lieutenant governor Bill Halter, one of the most liberal statewide elected officials in the state, is mulling over challenging Lincoln in the primary. He’s met with leading labor officials and progressive opinion leaders on a trip to Washington in his role as chairman of the Democratic Lieutenant Governor's Association.

That's some serious color commentary, isn't it? Kraushaar drops the part about it being a rumor that Halter is considering a run, tags him as "one of the most liberal" officials, elevates labor officials and liberal bloggers to "leading labor officials and progressive opinion leaders" -- and says this is what The Plum Line is reporting.

Kraushaar, a bona-fide, mouth-breathing movement conservative, takes a straightforward report and turns it into a cudgel for the opposition to attack Halter as a pawn of the far left.

That's quite a trick. Or quite the agenda. You make the call.

John Cole: In What Respect, Charlie?

No wonder they support Palin so much. Much like their goddess, they don’t know what the Bush doctrine is, either:



The Bush doctrine isn’t about the President unilaterally defending the country. The problem with the Bush doctrine is that it upended years of practice and established a policy of preventive war, which means that it is just kosher to invade anyone you perceive as a threat, so long as you can get five Weekly Standard interns together in the Office of Special Plans to agree a country was a threat and needed to be invaded because they might do something to us one day. Or Saddam looked at us funny.

No wonder these guys love Palin. It’s the blind leading the stupid.

And while we are at it, let me remind you all that Bill Kristol is still on the Washington Post payroll but they didn’t have the funds for Dan Froomkin.

John Cole: E & P Closing

Editor and Publisher, around since 1884, is closing:

Yes, it’s true, my magazine, E&P, axed today, out of job. At office until end of year—and here, of course.

You would think that would be a brand that one of the new media sites would want to snap up ala Froomkin.

Meanwhile, the Politico is still on the Pulitzer board.


About a month ago, CNN conducted a poll and asked respondents, "As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would make major changes in the country's health care system. Based on what you have heard or read about that bill, do you generally favor it or generally oppose it?" The results were pretty evenly split -- 49% opposed the bill, 46% supported it.

Today, CNN released a new poll, asking about the Senate bill. The results were painful.

"As a result, more than six in 10 say they oppose the Senate health care bill," [CNN Polling Director Keating Holland] said. "Republicans obviously don't like the bill, but two-thirds of independents also say they are against it."

One of the main sticking points, a public option administered by the federal government that would compete with private insurers, wins support from 53 percent of the public.

Now, the poll doesn't reflect the proposed compromise being considered in the Senate, but it's unclear if it would make any difference to the overall results -- the part that's being negotiated is more popular than the bill itself.

It's unclear how many of the 61% of opponents are on the left -- they oppose it because it's not liberal enough -- but looking through some of the internals (pdf), it's clear that much of the opposition is the result of the public believing the lies they've been told. For example, a whopping 79% of those CNN polled believe that the federal budget deficit would be even higher if reform passes, despite all the evidence pointing to the exact opposite conclusion. What's more, 85% believe their taxes would go up, which is also clearly not true.

The moral of the story, then, is to lie like crazy during all policy debates. An apprehensive public is likely to believe bogus claims, and the media will simply pass blatant lies along with "he said, she said" reporting. Treating voters like grown-ups will only lead to punishment when tackling the major issues of the day.

For what it's worth, Americans still trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle major changes to the country's health care system, but the gap has all but disappeared -- the Dems' lead is down to three, 43% to 40%. This, despite the child-like absurdities of GOP arguments and tactics throughout the year.

Falsifying the news
Dec. 9: Keith Olbermann names ABC News producer David Wright Worst Person in the World for presenting a segment of The Daily Show with JOn Stewart out of context to make Stewart appear to be a climate change denier when in fact he said the opposite.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Getting Warmer. No Cooler. No, ...

DougJ: Contemporary politics, described up in a single sentence

Steve Benen:

This morning, Gore appeared on MSNBC, where Andrea Mitchell read from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page to ask the former vice president questions about climate change.
QOTD, Al Gore:
If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now.
Aravosis: Number of Americans who believe in global warming plummets

A new poll from PEW:

The percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence the earth is warming has fallen sharply over the last year. In an April 2008 survey, 71% said there was solid evidence of global warming, and almost half of Americans (47%) said it was the result of human activity. In an October survey, however, just 57% of Americans said there was solid global warming evidence, and only 36% of the public said it was the result of human activity. While the declining acceptance of global warming evidence has come from across the political spectrum -- even among Democrats the percentage seeing strong evidence of global warming has fallen from 91% in 2006 to 71% in 2009 -- the decline has been precipitous among independents in the last year. While 75% of independents said there is solid evidence the earth is warming in 2008, only a small majority (53%) continue to see such evidence now. Republicans have always been more cynical about global warming evidence but doubters have mounted quickly in recent years, after a very slight increase in support of global warming evidence in 2007. Fully 62% of Republicans said there is solid evidence the earth is warming in 2007, but currently just slightly more than a third (35%) agree.
I've never understood why there would be a global conspiracy promoting global warming when there would be more money (via Exxon et al.) in denying global warming.
Four more words: Barnum low-balled his estimate.

John Dickerson chatted with Al Gore this week. The Nobel laureate and former vice president was apparently not in the mood to tolerate stupidity.

"[W]e're putting 90 million tons of it into the air today and we'll put a little more of that up there tomorrow. The physical relationship between CO2 molecules and the atmosphere and the trapping of heat is as well-established as gravity, for God's sakes. It's not some mystery. One hundred and fifty years ago this year, John Tyndall discovered CO2 traps heat, and that was the same year the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania. The oil industry has outpaced the building of a public consensus of the implications of climate science.

"But the basic facts are incontrovertible. What do they [global warming deniers] think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto! -- physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn't trap heat anymore? And when we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it? The scientists have long held that the evidence in their considered word is 'unequivocal,' which has been endorsed by every national academy of science in every major country in the entire world.

"If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now."

This morning, Gore appeared on MSNBC, where Andrea Mitchell read from Sarah Palin's Facebook page to ask the former vice president questions about climate change.

"Well, you know, the global warming deniers persist in this air of unreality," Gore explained. "After all, the entire north polar icecap, which has been there for most of the last 3 million years, is disappearing before our eyes. Forty percent is already gone. The rest is expected to go completely within the next decade. What do they think is causing this?

  • digby adds:
    That Sarah Palin is just a little bit too quick for that old plodder Al Gore. From her Facebook page:
    The response to my op-ed by global warming alarmists has been interesting. Former Vice President Al Gore has called me a “denier” and informs us that climate change is “a principle in physics. It’s like gravity. It exists.”

    Perhaps he’s right. Climate change is like gravity – a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before, and will exist long after, any governmental attempts to affect it.

    However, he’s wrong in calling me a “denier.” As I noted in my op-ed above and in my original Facebook post on Climategate, I have never denied the existence of climate change. I just don’t think we can primarily blame man’s activities for the earth’s cyclical weather changes.

    Former Vice President Gore also claimed today that the scientific community has worked on this issue for 20 years, and therefore it is settled science. Well, the Climategate scandal involves the leading experts in this field, and if Climategate is proof of the larger method used over the past 20 years, then Vice President Gore seriously needs to consider that their findings are flawed, falsified, or inconclusive.

    Vice President Gore, the Climategate scandal exists. You might even say that it’s sort of like gravity: you simply can’t deny it.
    Boy, she got him good. He is so, like, pwnd!

    In truth, the "Climategate" scandal doesn't really exist. TP has put together an essential primer on how the scandal was manufactured. It's just as one might have expected.

    As someone who hails from a state that is one of the places on earth where this rapid change is manifesting itself before our eyes, Palin taking a leading role is probably no accident. There's big money to be made in climate change denialism.
Kevin Drum: Quote of the Day: Climate Denialism
From Al Gore, on why climate deniers get so much attention:

If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now.

I just happen to have a good example of this on tap. Last night I read a post over at Volokh about how climate data was being faked. I sighed and moved on. Then, about an hour ago, I got an email from a conservative reader asking if the Volokh post undermined my faith in global warming. I told him it didn't. Then, a few minutes later, I noticed Megan McArdle linking to the same post. Obviously this thing wasn't going to go away quietly.

Basically, the Volokh post (by Jim Lindgren) passes along an analysis by Willis Eschenbach claiming that the instrument data for Darwin Airport in Australia shows flat or declining temperatures if you look at the raw data, and only shows an increase if you "homogenize" it. Conclusion: the evidence of warming isn't from the data at all, but only from the manipulation of the data! But via Tim Lambert, here's an excerpt from the original NOAA paper that explains how the homogenization was done:

A great deal of effort went into the homogeneity adjustments. Yet the effects of the homogeneity adjustments on global average temperature trends are minor (Easterling and Peterson 1995b). However, on scales of half a continent or smaller, the homogeneity adjustments can have an impact. On an individual time series, the effects of the adjustments can be enormous. [Italics mine.]

So, if you're a climate denier, what would you do? You'd look for local effects and you'd look for an individual time series. Look hard enough and you're bound to find some with large changes due to the homogenization. And then you'd cry foul. The books are being cooked!

Well, as I told my emailer, I'm not qualified to judge this stuff. Neither is he. Neither is Willis Eschenbach. But it's easy to make a pretty graph that looks damning and then demand that the scientific community address it. And when they don't — because it's amateur crap and isn't worth anyone's time — the deniers have a scalp. Look! The scientific community is so corrupt they won't even look at our evidence! And Fox and Drudge and the Wall Street Journal all merrily pass it along.

Rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, it's working pretty well. More from Tim here. Chris Mooney addresses the larger problem here.

Think Progress: A Case Of Classic SwiftBoating: How The Right-Wing Noise Machine Manufactured ‘Climategate’
In mid-November, thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit webmail server — a top climate research center in the United Kingdom — were hacked and dumped on a Russian web server. Polluter-funded climate skeptics, along with their allies in conservative media and the Republican Party, sifted through the e-mails, and quickly cherry picked quotes to falsely accuse climate scientists of concocting climate change science out of whole cloth. The skeptics also propelled the story, dubbed “Climategate,” to the cover of the New York Times and newspapers across the globe. According to a Nexis news search, the Climategate story has been reported at least 325 times in the American press alone.

While the hacked e-mails may reveal that scientists might not have nice things to say about climate change deniers at times, they do nothing to change the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are raising temperatures and making oceans more acidic. As the right attempts to use the Climategate story to derail the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference this week, arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels, Australia is still on fire, the northern United Kingdom is still underwater, the world’s glaciers are still disappearing and today NOAA confirmed that not only is it the hottest decade in history, but 2009 was one of the hottest years in history. But how did the right-wing noise machine hijack the debate?

The methods for the right-wing political hit machine were honed during the Clinton years. Columnist and language-guru William Safire, a former aide to actual Watergate crook President Nixon, attached “-gate” to any minor post-Nixon incident as a “rhetorical legerdemain” intended “to establish moral equivalence.” (See phony manufactured scandals “Travelgate,” “Whitewatergate,” etc.) A right-wing echo chamber — including the Rev. Moon-funded Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, talk radio, and the constellation of various conservative front groups and think tanks — would then blare the scandal incessantly, regardless of the truth. But the more troubling aspect of this gimmick is the increasing willingness for traditional media outlets, from the Evening News to the Washington Post, to largely reprint unfounded right-wing smears without context or critical reporting.

One of the most successful coups for right-wing hit men was the “SwiftBoat” campaign, a well financed effort orchestrated by lobbyists and Bush allies to smear Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) war record. But “Climategate” is no different, with many of the same conservatives actors playing their respective roles:

(Cross-posted from the Wonk Room. Click MORE to read the Wonk Room’s timeline of Climategate)

Nov. 17:

– RealClimate blogger Gavin Schmidt realized that someone was hacking his computer and downloading 160MB of files from a Turkish IP address. About an hour after the intrusion, a mysterious commenter at the climate skeptic blog Climate Audit posted a link to the hacked files with a note reading: “A miracle just happened.” Schmidt noted that, “four downloads occurred from that link while the file was still there (it no longer is).”

Nov. 19:

– Hackers then used a computer in Saudi Arabia to post the stolen e-mails, stored on a Russian server, on the climate skeptic website Air Vent.

– Skeptic blog “Watts Up With That” curiously is among the first blogs to posts the hacked e-mails.

– Chris Horner, an operative of the Koch Industries/ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, blogged giddily at National Review that although he had not been “able to fully digest this at present,” “the blue dress moment may have arrived” on climate science.

– Sarah Palin appears on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor to discuss her new book. Palin and O’Reilly compare a young man who briefly hacked into her e-mail account in 2008, calling the incident “extremely disconcerting and disruptive” and “Watergate-lite.” O’Reilly and Plain do not discussed the hacked climate e-mails.

Nov. 20:

– In a front page article, the New York Times’ Andy Revkin reports that the e-mails “might lend themselves to being interpreted as sinister.”

– Myron Ebell, of the Koch Industries/ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, releases a statement pointing to the stolen e-mails to conclude that global warming science is “phony.”

– Reading reports on right-wing blogs on air, Rush Limbaugh dedicates a segment to the hacked e-mails, claiming they vindicate his belief that global warming does not exist.

– Conservative Ed Morrissey concluded the e-mails prove global warming is “not science; it’s religious belief.”

– Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin cheers “the global warming scandal of the century,” adding: “The Chicago Way is the Global Warming Mob Way.”

– ExxonMobil-funded front group FreedomWorks blasts out an e-mail asking “Has the Global Warming Lie and Conspiracy Been Truly Exposed?”

– Marc Morano, a former Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) staffer who helps to distribute climate change denying propaganda to a network of news outlets and conservative organizations, broadcasts Climategate to talk radio.

— The Wall Street Journal’s environmental blog publicizes the conservative blogosphere’s furor: “this should get interesting … Maybe this will spice things up.”

Nov. 22:

– Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) staff distributes a letter claiming the stolen e-mails reveal what “could well be the greatest act of scientific fraud in history.”

Nov. 23:

– Heralding the stolen e-mails, infamous climate science skeptic Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) call for congressional investigations against climate scientists.

– Fox News’ Fox Nation headlines the e-mails: “Global Warming’s Waterloo

– Glenn Beck devotes both his radio and Fox News program to covering Climategate, claims the e-mails show a “brand new reality” on climate science.

– Investors’ Business Daily editorializes that the e-mails show that global warming is “junk science.”

– The ExxonMobil-funded Heritage Foundation publicizes the stolen e-mails.

– Right-wing activist Viscount Monckton says climate scientists are “criminals.”

Nov. 24:

– Fox News’ Stu Varney begins his daily coverage of Climategate. He continues to attack global warming science, using the e-mails, on both the Fox News and Fox Business network.

– Washington Times editorial board, Drudge Report, both chime in to claim hacked e-mails show global warming is not real.

Nov. 29:

– Fox News regular Andrew Breitbart calls for climate scientists to be killed over Climategate.

Nov. 30:

– Rep. Candace Miller (R-MI) issues a statement to demand for an investigation of Climategate, and begins speaking about it on the floor of the House. In the following week, Reps Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), John Linder (R-GA), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Joe Barton (R-TX), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Dan Burton (R-IN), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) begin blasting press releases on the subject.

Dec. 1:

– Newt Gingrich, who only 2 years ago said America must act “urgently” to address climate change, seizes on the stolen e-mails to spread skepticism of global warming science. Gingrich’s political attack group, ASWF, is heavily funded by coal interests.

Dec. 2:

– Right-wing billionaire David Koch, of the oil empire Koch Industries, sends his front group Americans for Prosperity to attend the Copenhagen conference to attempt to hijack the debate. AFP intends to “expose” the science using the stolen e-mails.

Dec. 3:

– Canada’s National Post reports that burglars and hackers have been attacking the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. In the lead up to the Copenhagen conference, Andrew Weaver — a University of Victoria scientist and key contributor to the Nobel prize-winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — noted that his campus office was broken into twice and that a dead computer was stolen and papers were rummaged through.

– Saudi Arabian climate negotiators for the Copenhagen summit endorse Climategate, charging that the e-mail show “there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change.”

– Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade says “damning” e-mails show scientists who “think … Antartica is becoming like the Bahamas.”

Dec. 4:

– NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams adopts right-wing Climategate smear: “Have the books been cooked on climate change?”

Dec. 7:

– ExxonMobil-funded think tanks the Heartland Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis publicize the e-mails to “discredit” global warming science.

Dec. 8:

– The Wall Street Journal accuses climate scientists of being Stalinists.

– Fox News devotes a segment to a right-wing Rasmussen poll with a graphic that claims 120 percent of the public believes scientists falsified global warming data.

Dec. 9:

– Sarah Palin, who only weeks earlier decried the hacking of e-mails, writes in an op-ed that the Climategate e-mails are proof that anthropogenic global warming does not exist. The Washington Post publishes Palin’s op-ed, despite the fact it is riddled with errors and outright falsehoods.

Marshall: Junk Science

I was raised by a scientist (life sciences) and then studied some history of science in graduate school. And because of both I approach all scientific knowledge with what I think is a healthy measure of skepticism. Because our understanding of the natural world is often very different from one decade, certainly from one century, to the next.

But to maintain a skepticism which is rooted in the inherently tentative nature of all scientific knowledge is quite different from assuming that the science is wrong and that what's right is what I'd prefer to be true even though I don't know anything about the science at all -- which is where a lot of the public discussion of climate change seems to occur.

What I've been thinking about for a while is how it is that very few people doubt physicists or oncologists when it comes to their areas of specialty even though theories come and go in those fields and as well. There's little doubt, for instance, that physicists at the end of this century will know a lot of things today's scientists got wrong or don't know. And they'll know how many things today's physicists believe that are just wrong. Still, I'm pretty confident nuclear warheads will go off, even if, as far as I know, one's never been tested on the tip of an ICBM. Perhaps more to the point, medical science today clearly has only a very limited understanding of cancer. But how many oncology skeptics do you know who choose to take a pass on chemo or radiation if they get sick?

Admittedly these are not perfect analogies. Nuclear warheads and clinical oncology have both in different ways been shown to work. And that's a basic difference. You don't have the same ability to run tests in geo- or climate sciences.

I can't say that I really have any sophisticated understanding of the science of climate change. I don't think that most people I know who are pro-cap and trade do either. For me, the fact that the vast majority of people with specialized knowledge in the field think there's a problem is good enough for me.

I would not be shocked if the predictions we're getting today about the climate turned out to be dramatically off. (Of course, it could be dramatically worse as well as dramatically better.) But in our own lives, in the real world, we live in a science based world. It's the premise on which almost everything rests. And pretty much everyone assumes that cell phones will work, bombs will go off, medical treatments will give us the best chance of survival. Only this one example is different.

Pushing Back

QOTD, Mark D (in response to this question from Steve Benen: "I wonder what the weather is like in their reality."

Today it will be bitterly stupid with a chance of dumbassery, with winds of obstruction coming in out of the south.

The seven day forecast is pretty much the same, but with less bitter and more just plain stupid.

Back to you, Steve!

Sully: Nobel Day

A reader writes:

Just wondering if anyone on the right is admitting they were wrong when they insisted - do they even remember? - that the President would have to back off doing much of anything in Afghanistan because he wouldn't want to disappoint the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

Fallows's analysis of the speech:

As with his Philadelphia speech, he made the speech about the most awkward issue of the moment, rather than trying to avoid it. (In Philadelphia, the racially inflammatory rhetoric of Rev. Jeremiah Wright; in Oslo, his predicament as a war president getting a peace price.) I don't think he provided even a five-second passage of the speech that could be isolated by U.S. opponents to show that he was "apologizing" for America

James Fallows found
a fascinatingly direct touch in the "presentation speech" by the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee. With Obama sitting next to him, he said:

"Commenting on the award, President Obama said he did not feel that he deserved to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honoured by this prize, and whose courageous pursuit of peace has inspired the world. But he added that he also knew that the Nobel Prize had not just been used to honor specific achievements, but also to give momentum to a set of causes. The Prize could thus represent "a call to action".

"President Obama has understood the Norwegian Nobel Committee perfectly."

Main point, which is consistent across Obama's major addresses and different from most presidential discourse: this will probably seem better, on re-reading and with passage of time, than it did when coming across live.
Kevin Drum: Tired of Bankers?

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt spoke at West Point today:

I think we are at the end of a difficult generation of business leadership, and maybe leadership in general. Tough-mindedness, a good trait, was replaced by meanness and greed — both terrible traits. Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability. In too many situations, leaders divided us instead of bringing us together. As a result, the bottom 25% of the American population is poorer than they were 25 years ago. That is just wrong.

John Gapper comments:

Mr Immelt’s remarks are the latest — perhaps the strongest — among business and financial leaders calling for self-restraint and a change in attitude. Such appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

....Many people — probably most — believe that bankers’ bonuses are profoundly unfair, especially since they were not curtailed in the wake of the financial crisis. Meanwhile, bankers regard themselves as victims of populism kindled by politicians and the media.

The significance of Mr Immelt’s speech, I think, is that the leader of one of the biggest companies in the US is willing to say publicly what many non-business people feel. Leaders in non-financial industries have worried since last year about being tainted by the behaviour of bankers. Now, it seems, they are running out of patience.

Well, we can hope. But I hope Immelt keeps in mind that it's not just bankers. They may be the worst offenders, but they're not the only ones.

John Cole: How We Roll in the US of A

Bart Stupak and Sarah Palin get to take to the NY Times and the Washington Post to lie through their teeth, while those trying to correct the record are left struggling to get the word out on blogs and any old way they can.

Here is Rep. Lois Capps with a point by point evisceration of Stupak’s lies.

(via Amanda Marcotte)

John Cole: I Don’t Get This At All

Kos is pissed:

Obama spent all year enabling Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe, and he thinks we’re supposed to get excited about whatever end result we’re about to get, so much so that we’re going to fork over money? Well, it might work with some of you guys, but I’m certainly not biting. In fact, this is insulting, betraying a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform. The administration may be happy to declare victory with a mandate that enriches insurance companies, yet creates little incentive to control costs or change the very business practices that have screwed so many people. But I’ll pass.

Democrats are demoralized, and have little incentive to turn out next year. The teabaggers will turn out. If this is how the Obama camp thinks we can energize the base—by promising them a health care pony for $5 to the same Democratic Party that is home to the likes of Baucus, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman, and the rest of the obstructionist gang—then we’re in for a world of hurt in 2010.

Look, I understand that things are not moving the way many people want them to and with the speed that some desire, but as far as I am concerned things are a HELLUVA lot better than last year. I think in all the doom and gloom, we forget that our President can now speak in full sentences, has not invaded Russia, and is not ducking shoes everywhere he goes.

I’ve been as disgusted and let down as many people by some decisions, but I look at where we were and where we are now, and there is no chance in hell I am going to be demoralized come November 2010. I’ve been watching the wingnuts- we need to keep them as far away from power as is legally possible. They are dangerous, and this Obama fellow, despite some letdowns, ain’t half bad.

  • Cole might have flagged this post as a reminder of what Obama, and we, are up against. Steve Benen: THE ALTERNATE REALITY
    By most measures, congressional Republicans have spent 2009 executing a scorched-earth strategy. The GOP has moved sharply to the right, has abandoned even the pretense of bipartisan cooperation, has embraced and elevated some of the more radical elements of the party's coalition, and recommended policy proposals that even some conservatives described as "insane."

    And yet, there are still some Republican officials who are outraged by their party's moderation.

    Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Wednesday called out the leadership of the Republican Party for straying too far from conservative principles.

    DeMint, in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, also said that he is trying to recruit a new crop of GOP lawmakers to challenge the party establishment.

    "The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left," he said. "I need some new Republicans."

    DeMint's comments coincide with Rush Limbaugh lashing out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for -- I hope you're sitting down -- the lack of obstructionism among Senate Republicans.

    What's more, the Gun Owners of America said the GOP leadership is helping advance the "ObamaCare legislation." The Tea Party and the conservative Social Security Institute sent out 1.5 million email messages earlier this week that read, "Shame on Republican Senators! They are paving the way for ObamaCare to be enacted into law this year because they want to go on Christmas Vacation." The email added that the GOP is "collaborating with the enemy."

    I wonder what the weather is like in their reality.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" last night, and Chris Matthews asked the freshman lawmaker to comment on Dick Cheney's suggestion that President Obama might be guilty of giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy.

"You know, on the Internet there's an acronym that's used to apply to situations like this," Grayson said. "It's called 'STFU.' I don't think I can say that on the air, but I think you know what that means."

Matthews asked for a hint, before figuring it out and urging Grayson to avoid "crude language." (If you find it hard to believe that Chris Matthews has never come across "STFU," then we're on the same page.)

Whether lawmakers should make remarks like these is open to debate, but Grayson's on-air comments are a reminder that we're just not accustomed to liberal Democrats playing by these rules. It's jarring because it's so unusual.

Matt Yglesias recently argued that Grayson is "breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don't. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms.... [M]oralism from the left is very unfamiliar to American political debates."

I suppose everyone has different expectations and preferences when it comes to the standards of the political discourse. But Rep. Barney Frank's (D-Mass.) recent assessment of Grayson sounded about right: "I welcome Grayson's taking the fight to them. I think he has got to be a little more careful about his punches, but I am glad he's throwing them."

There's room on the rhetorical spectrum from staid, clinical wonkery to unapologetic firebrands. Grayson, love him or hate him, is filling a niche.

Kurtz (TPM): Flip-Flop-Flip

For most of the past 40 years, the Republican Party has wanted to kill Medicare (drown it in the bathtub even). Then over the summer, the GOP suddenly became the party that wanted to "save" Medicare from some of the retooling of the program that health care reform would entail (including funding cuts). But now that a compromise proposal has emerged that would expand Medicare, Republicans have reverted to their true selves.

Joe Klein: A Jobs Speech with Elbows

The President gave a terrific economic speech today, proposing some new jobs-creating initiatives, one of which--a 0% capital gains tax rate for small businesses--seems a Republican dream, but was hilariously opposed on deficit cutting grounds by Senator Mitch McConnell...whose votes on a range of budget items during the Bush presidency created the bulk of the current deficit.

Indeed, my favorite part of the speech came when the President, in an uncharacteristic display of spit, lambasted the Republicans for their sudden interest in budget-balance:

Despite what some have claimed, the cost of the Recovery Act is only a very small part of our current budget imbalance. In reality, the deficit had been building dramatically over the previous eight years. We have a structural gap between the money going out and the money coming in.

Folks passed tax cuts and expansive entitlement programs without paying for any of it -- even as health care costs kept rising, year after year. As a result, the deficit had reached $1.3 trillion when we walked into the White House. And I'd note: These budget-busting tax cuts and spending programs were approved by many of the same people who are now waxing political about fiscal responsibility, while opposing our efforts to reduce deficits by getting health care costs under control. It's a sight to see...

In the end, the economic crisis of the past year was not just the result of weaknesses in our economy. It was also the result of weaknesses in our political system, because for decades, too many in Washington put off the hard decisions. For decades, we've watched as efforts to solve tough problems have fallen prey to the bitterness of partisanship, to prosaic concerns of politics, to ever-quickening news cycles, to endless campaigns focused on scoring points instead of meeting our common challenges.

We've seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility. The American people have paid a heavy price. And the question we'll have to answer now is if we're going to learn from our past, or if -- even in the aftermath of disaster -- we're going to repeat those same mistakes. As the alarm bells fade, the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish.

It's nice to see this President throw an oratorical elbow every once in a while--apparently he does it on the basketball court. The craven duplicity of some of his opponents make it a necessary tactic in the arena as well.


Sounds like a lively gathering at the White House today.

President Obama told House Republican leaders on Wednesday that he is open to their proposals on job creation. But their meeting at the White House included several testy exchanges, including one in which the president accused Republicans of undermining public confidence in the economy by scaring the American people.

"The president said he would look at some of our proposals,'' Representative Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, told reporters after the session. But, he added, "there is a stark contrast between what the president is proposing and our no-cost jobs plan.''

Actually, that's true, there is a start contrast. On the one hand, we have Cantor's demonstrably ridiculous "jobs plan," built on discredited ideas that have already failed.

One person familiar with the meeting said that the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, began the session by pushing back against Mr. Obama's assertion that Republicans are concerned about jobs because they are worried about their own electoral prospects.

"Mr. President, we do a lot of politics in this town, but we are committed to working together in areas where we agree to get the American people back to work,'' this person quoted Mr. Boehner as saying.

I find it hard to imagine that anyone seriously believes this. Republicans spent a fair amount of time this year debating whether it's acceptable to publicly root for failure. The notion that they prefer national suffering in the hopes of electoral advantages is not exactly far-fetched. (Besides, there's hardly any point in trying to talk to these clowns -- we're talking about a congressional caucus that, at the height of the economic crisis, demanded a truly insane five-year spending freeze, and still think, nearly a year later, that they were correct. Between reason and insanity, there is no common ground.)

Later in the session, Mr. Obama complained that Republicans, who have cast his health care policies as a "government takeover'' and his jobs ideas as tax increases, are using scare tactics and undermining confidence in the economy.

That concern has the added benefit of being true. The president has helped pull the economy back from the abyss caused by the Republicans' recession, but the public's confidence is still rattled. It doesn't help to have an entire political party committed to terrifying as many Americans as possible.

By one account, President Obama also "challenged congressional Republicans to back up their criticism of his economic recovery plans with academic expertise." In other words, since every credible expert thinks congressional Republicans are hopelessly foolish about every aspect of economic policy, the president would like to see Boehner, Cantor, & Co. back up their inanities with some evidence. Research. Scholarship. Something.

No, GOP leaders, Sarah Palin's Facebook page and Glenn Beck's books don't count as academic expertise.

  • sgwhiteinfla adds:
    And what exactly is their "no-cost jobs plan"?


    Of course.

    But here is the thing, tax cuts actually, you know, cost money. Any cuts in revenue will have a negative effect on our deficit. Now sometimes that is necessary, like now, when you have an economy that is faltering. But make no mistake about it, when the CBO scores any tax cuts that are proposed and or are eventually implemented, it will affect our bottom line and add to our deficit. That the GOP is still classifying tax cuts as "no-cost" tells you everything you need to know about their mindset. Not only did they learn nothing about how the economy over the previous 8 years of big tax cuts to the wealthy, they seem to know absolutely nothing about what adds to the deficit.

    Now again, in this case some targeted tax cuts will probably be beneficial in the short term to get our economy back on track. But to try to say that they will be free is just another sign of how dumb the GOP's leading figures really are. It ain't rocket science. Hell even a high school economics student would recognize that tax cuts cost money.

    But this is your Republican Party these days, and that's why there is no reason to really take them seriously.

    It is what it is.
John Cole: Don’t Know Much About… Anything

This Patrick Ruffini tweet made me laugh out loud:


The New Yorker:

O’Neill watched all this with anguish. Shortly before he was fired, he confronted Cheney about the Administration’s latest proposal to cut taxes by another six hundred and seventy-four billion dollars over ten years, pointing out that the country was “moving toward a fiscal crisis.” The Vice-President stopped him. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said. “We won the midterms. This is our due.” In fact, Reagan didn’t prove anything of the kind. Early in his first term, Congress was forced to adopt emergency tax increases and spending cuts to restrain the ballooning budget shortfall. Despite this remedial action, it wasn’t until the early nineties, when George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton raised taxes, that the nation’s finances were put in proper order, opening the way to the longest economic expansion on record.

And because I am +4, I’m not even going to go into the role that Gramm, of Gramm/Rudman/Hollings, played in the repeal of Glass-Steagal and the meltdown of last year that has led the way in getting us to where we are now.

But yeah. Republicans are all fiscal conservatives now.

Sully: No Options Are On The Table

Frum is frustrated by the GOP failing to negotiate over health care or a carbon tax:

We’re getting worse and less conservative results out of Washington than we could have negotiated, if we had negotiated.

As is, we’re betting heavily that a bad economy will collapse Democratic support without us having to lift a finger. Maybe that will happen. But existing party strategy has to be reckoned a terrible failure. Most Republicans will shrug off that news. If polls are right, rank-and-file Republicans feel little regard for the Washington party, and don’t expect much from it. But it’s the rank-and-file who are the problem here! Republican leaders do not dare try deals for fear of being branded sell-outs by a party base that wants war to the knife. So we got war. And we’re losing. Even if we gain seats in 2010, the actions of this congressional session will not be reversed. Shrink Medicare after it has expanded? Hey- we said we’d never do that.

I hear a lot of talk about the importance of “principle.” But what’s the principle that obliges us to be stupid?

A new Bloomberg poll points to public attitudes on economic growth. It seems the Neo-Hooverite agenda isn't gaining steam.

Americans want their government to create jobs through spending on public works, investments in alternative energy or skills training for the jobless.

They also want the deficit to come down. And most are ready to hand the bill to the wealthy.

A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Dec. 3-7 shows two- thirds of Americans favor taxing the rich to reduce the deficit.

Cuts to Social Security and Medicare were wildly unpopular.

In other words, here's a poll showing widespread support for the Democratic economic agenda. Let's hope it makes the rounds on the Hill.

Think Progress: Beck: We Should ‘Just Abolish Medicare’

Yesterday, Senate Democrats working on health care reform reached a compromise on the public option that will create a network of nonprofit insurers and allow Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare. The right has hypocritically opposed a government-run public-option while simultaneously defending Medicare. On his radio show today, Fox News host Glenn Beck called Medicare what it is — a “government-run health care plan.”

Beck attacked the new compromise and proposed a simple solution of his own — “abolish Medicare”:

CO-HOST: This is unbelievable, because the whole thing with the public option, is we were saying this is going to be like Medicare, they just want to make a big — make another Medicare program. And then they said no, public option is just competition.

BECK: And, wait wait wait. And I also said why don’t you just abolish Medicare, because it’s so wildly corrupt and out of control. It’s so inefficient, it is so bad and there’s $47 billion in suspected wrong payments, okay, in Medicare. So what are they saying — now remember, what we’re going to do — the compromise is we’re going to expand Medicare. That way there won’t be a public option, we’ll just — which doesn’t make any sense — we’re going to expand Medicare.


Medicare is actually more efficient than private health insurance and would be better at controlling costs than weaker public option plans. And while Republicans strongly opposed Medicare when it was created under President Johnson, it has become popular over time. When Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY) introduced an amendment to eliminate Medicare in July — urging conservatives to “put-up or shut-up” about their objection to government-run health care. Not a single member of Congress voted in favor.

Moreover, Medicare is hugely successful. Before it came into being, more than one in four seniors lacked health care and a third lived in poverty. Now every American over 65 has access to quality care. A Commonwealth Fund study found that people with Medicare “report fewer problems obtaining medical care, and less financial hardship due to medical bills, and higher overall satisfaction with their coverage,” compared to people with employer-provided care. 56 percent of Medicare beneficiaries rate their coverage a 9 or 10 on a scale of 10 while only 40 percent with private insurance do so.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Health Care: Racism/Viagra/Deal Edition

QOTD, shortstop:
Joe Lieberman will officially begin his insurance/pharma lobbying career in January 2013. Unofficially, he's already started it. Everything -- EVERYTHING -- he does between now and then is a big wet kiss for the signers of his future paychecks and a big fuck you to the Democrats he thinks have betrayed him.
Aravosis: Rockefeller lets Conrad have it over health care reform

Rockefeller, good guy. Conrad, bad guy. Both Dems. From Ryan Grim at Huffington Post:

Rockefeller is leading the push for opening Medicare. When HuffPost told him of Conrad's objections, the West Virginia Democrat let loose.

"That's fine," said Rockefeller. "He probably ties it to everything he talks about. I mean, I'm really very tired of hearing about that from him. And it's always about North Dakota and it's never about any other part of the country. And I thought that, you know, that's what we were trying to do, we were trying to do the best thing for the country."
We are. Others aren't.
Shocking ad: "I guess I'm racist" Dec. 7: Rachel Maddow talks about a bizarre new anti-healthcare ad campaign with Princeton University's Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Think Progress: Boxer’s message to men who support abortion riders: How would you like it if we singled out Viagra?

Today, the Senate began debate on Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) amendment to prohibit federal funds from being used for abortions or for plans that include abortion services. Igor Volsky notes that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stepped up and drew a parallel to help the amendment’s male co-sponsors better understand its repercussions. Since Nelson’s measure forces women to purchase special abortion riders — which require women to plan for unplanned pregnancies — Boxer challenged “the men who have brought us this” to “single out a procedure that’s used by a man or a drug that is used by a man that involves his reproductive health care and say they have to get a special rider”:

BOXER: There’s nothing in this amendment that says if a man some days wants to buy Viagra, for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider. I wouldn’t support that. And they shouldn’t support going after a woman using her own private funds for her reproductive health care. Is it fair to say to a man you’re going to have to buy a rider to buy Viagra and this will be public information that could be accessed? No, I don’t support that. I support a man’s privacy, just as I support a woman’s privacy.

Watch it:

John Cole: What Is The Next Step

Steve Benen, when discussing the fact that Democrats are looking at expanding Medicare, states the following:

The story of the day is not Ben Nelson introducing a Senate version of the Stupak language—the smart money is on it failing (I’d put the over/under at 43)—but rather a “sweetener” for the left, to make another public option compromise more palatable.

While Steve is focused on the Medicare angle, I think he is missing something rather big. What on earth can drama queens Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman do to get in the news tomorrow?

If the two are feeling creative, I’m predicting a candlelight vigil with Nelson and Stupak on the Capitol steps complete with prayer beads, Randall Terry, and placards of fetuses. Because if we have learned anything, Ben Nelson doesn’t give two hoots in hell about health care reform, all he cares about is his name in the news and that sweet, sweet, succulent insurance industry money.

If they are not feeling creative, probably just another filibuster threat, which, after the first fifteen of them, have become rather passé.


The story of the day is not Ben Nelson introducing a Senate version of the Stupak language -- the smart money is on it failing (I'd put the over/under at 43) -- but rather a "sweetener" for the left, to make another public option compromise more palatable.

Sam Stein, Ezra Klein, and Brian Beutler are all reporting the same thing: an expansion of Medicare eligibility is on the table.

Senate Democrats are discussing the idea of expanding Medicare by lowering the age at which the elderly could enter the government-run insurance program, Democratic sources on the Hill tell the Huffington Post.

The proposal would lower the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 55, though an age limit of 60 has also been suggested. Crucial details -- such as the timing of the implementation of such a reform -- were not provided due to the sensitivity and ongoing nature of the deliberations. A high-ranking Democratic source off the Hill confirmed that such discussions are taking place.

Lowering the floor for Medicare is one of several ideas being discussed as a way to pacify progressives upset over the potential elimination of a public option for insurance coverage, one of the sources added.

Negotiations are, of course, still very much in flux, and all kinds of details would have to be worked out -- most notably, financing -- but in general, this will be appealing to many progressive lawmakers. After all, Medicare is a socialized, single-payer system that Americans know, love, and trust. Indeed, the starting point for many liberals is "Medicare for all." This, obviously, doesn't go nearly that far, but expanding eligibility brings that many more Americans into the system.

Ezra also helped connect this to the larger context of the talks: "The broader point is that the public option compromise is increasingly becoming a health-care reform compromise, and the focus is returning, usefully, to the goals of the bill. That's good for both moderates and liberals, as everyone who votes for this bill has a stake in seeing it work, and the intense attention to the increasingly weakened public option had begun to distract from the need to improve other elements of the legislation."

Think Progress: Howard Dean Pushes Medicare Buy-In Proposal: It ‘Must Be Available To Americans From Day One’

The Senate is considering expanding the Medicare program to Americans under 65 years of age alongside a public option compromise that would allow the Office of Personnel Management to regulate competition among private nonprofit insurers. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean “injected the buy-in concept back into the negotiations two weeks ago,” Politico reports. And “the turning point in the debate occurred over the past few weeks, as some progressives began to question whether the public option had been watered down too much for it to even be effective. Dean called Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to suggest that they revisit the Medicare buy-in proposal, which he pushed during his 2004 campaign.”


Benen (Tuesday): ON THE VERGE OF A DEAL?..

A group of five center-left Dems and five center-right Dems -- they're apparently now called the "Team of Ten" -- began working in earnest over the weekend on striking kind of deal on the public option. The issue has proven to be the most contentious element of the health care debate, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the members engaged in the talks, "Time to get this done."

Any number of outcomes are still possible, but as of now, the participants are nearing a deal. As the framework takes shape, the public option is out -- but progressives have gotten quite a bit in exchange (no pun intended).

A potential deal took shape Monday that could eliminate the public option from the Senate health reform bill, as Democrats weighed big expansions of both Medicare and Medicaid in a bid to break an impasse over the government insurance plan. [...]

After five days of intensive talks among five moderates and five liberals, the outlines of a compromise aimed at appeasing both ends of the Democratic political spectrum were emerging: a plan designed to expand insurance coverage without creating a new government-run program.

Details, not surprisingly, are still rather elusive, but the deal would reportedly include the "OPM Plan," a national, non-profit health plan along the lines of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, administered by the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the plan for federal employees and has experience negotiating with private plans. This would, in effect, replace the public option.

But there would also be a Medicare "buy-in" for Americans 55 and older, and expanding Medicaid to cover people with incomes 150 percent above the poverty line.

Specifically on Medicare expansion, eligibility would likely be limited to those who would otherwise get their coverage through an exchange, but this is a key group -- as Jonathan Cohn explained, "People between the ages of 55 and 64 have a notoriously hard time buying coverage on their own, since their age and higher incidence of disease makes them the sorts of high medical risks insurers don't want to cover."

Could the deal fall apart? Of course it could -- these are Democrats we're talking about. But most of those involved seemed optimistic late yesterday, and even Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) conceded that the "discussions are going in the right direction.... To the extent that they continue to go in that direction is obviously very positive."

The Senate leadership wants to see a deal struck by this evening. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the group may reach a compromise as early as this afternoon. Stay tuned.

Negotiating the public option
Dec. 7: The New Republican's Jonathan Cohn talks about the compromises Senate Democrats are considering as alternatives to a public option.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A few days ago, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was putting together the "Team of Ten," he specifically extended an invitation to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), making him one of the five center-right members of the caucus in a position to shape a public-option compromise.

Lieberman decided not to show up. Roll Call reports that the Connecticut senator just doesn't want to get in the game.

Senate Democratic centrists and liberals have been working feverishly since last week to craft a compromise on the public health insurance option, but one invitee has been curiously absent. [...]

Senate Democratic aides said Monday that Lieberman's decision to skip meetings that could prove crucial to Reid's ability to pass a bill may suggest that Lieberman's vote is out of reach.

Lieberman's office said Monday that the self-described Independent Democrat has not attended in person because he feels he has been unambiguous about where he stands.

But that's not much of an explanation -- nearly all of the other nine senators have also been unambiguous about where they stand. But they agreed to show up, engage in good-faith talks, search for common ground, and work on a solution. It's what lawmakers do.

It's always best to keep expectations low when it comes to Lieberman, but I am a little surprised about his refusal to engage. Part of his schtick is his alleged ability to leverage his independence to "bridge the gaps" and "bring disparate people together." But in the biggest policy fight of the year, Lieberman has decided he prefers the sidelines.

This not only undermines his image, it also denies Lieberman a chance to grandstand. The 10 senators doing the heavy lifting are the ones who'll get the credit for resolving the problem (if they're successful, that is), while Lieberman will be remembered as the one who decided not to try.

Meanwhile, as talks continue, it's unclear how Lieberman feels about the state of the debate. Maybe he'll like the proposed compromise -- it lacks a public plan that he finds so offensive -- or maybe he'll find new reasons to justify his opposition. (Lieberman's good at that.)

Either way, there's growing talk that the 60th vote may come from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), not Joe Lieberman. One senior Democratic source told Roll Call, "Snowe's all about the policy, but she's aware of the politics. Lieberman is all about the politics, but he doesn't seem to be consistent on policies considering where he was in the past."

Ezra Klein: Freshmen senators spending too much time on issues, not enough time chasing headlines


Though there haven't been any impressive coalitions of Republicans and conservative Democrats coming together to improve the bill's cost savings, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has rallied his fellow freshmen behind a set of common-sense improvements to the delivery system side of things. You can download the full list Frosh Package Section-by-Section (12-6-09).pdf (pdf), but I want to focus on Section 10004: "Revisions to National Pilot Program on Payment Bundling."

This section would modify the new CMS pilot on Medicare bundled payments created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It would expand the number of health conditions tested under the pilot and give the Secretary authority to expand the duration or scope of the pilot after January 1, 2016 if the CMS Chief Actuary determines it would reduce Medicare program spending while maintaining or improving the quality of care.

In other words, this helps the Medicare bundling pilot become a policy. And that's a big deal: The bundling efforts might be the most unjustly neglected element of health-care reform. The graphic above comes from the New England Journal of Medicine (pdf), and shows the consensus of most experts I've spoken to: Bundling has more potential to lower costs and improve care than any other delivery-system reform in the bill.

Lots of people say they want to move past the fee-for-service paradigm, in which hospitals are paid for selling you more procedures just as Best Buy salesmen are paid for selling you more televisions, but bundling is the bill's most direct step in that direction. The way it works is simple enough: If I come down with something or other, the hospital that treats me gets a lump-sum payment for, say, 60 days of treatment for all issues related to something or other. If they treat me, and 15 days later, I'm back in for complications relating to something or other, they don't get more money.

"It's a big deal because you're trying to take a fragmented delivery system and force it to work together," says health economist Kenneth Thorpe. "In today's world, hospitals don't need to worry about re-admissions. It's just more revenue for them. When the patient leaves the hospital, the hospital’s job is to wait for the next person to come in."

"But this says if you're readmitted, we're going to ding you. So one thing to lower re-admissions is to have a transitional nurse working with the patient to implement the care plan. Right now, the hospital isn't linked to that nurse. This gives the hospital an incentive to pay more attention to what happens to the patient when they leave the hospital." Accelerating this transition is a good idea, and props to Warner for taking the reins on it. Health-care reform needs more legislators interested in bearing down on the dull guts of the policy, the stuff that doesn't get you quotes in the paper but will decide the success of the policy.
Sudbay: Catholic Bishops had sign-off on Senate abortion amendment

The Catholic Bishops really do have a lot more influence in Congress than they do over their parishioners. The Bishops got to approve the abortion amendment being offered today by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE):

Casey, Nelson and other lawmakers worked closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to come up with language that would meet the church's requirements. In a letter sent to all 100 senators Monday, the bishops endorse the Nelson amendment.

The Nelson amendment is based on language authored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and attached to the House-passed healthcare reform bill.
Most American Catholics ignore their bishop. Most Catholics around the world ignore their bishops. Yet, members of Congress kowtow to them. Amazing.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put opposition to health care reform in a historical context. Conservatives' approach -- which he labeled "Slow down, stop everything and start over" -- isn't new, Reid said. We saw the same attitude from the right during the debate over the Family and Medical Leave Act, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, and slavery.

Republicans are picking up on that last one and doing a fine job of pretending to be upset.

Republicans on Monday were quick to pounce on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for comparing the battle over health care to the battle over the legacy of slavery.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee purchased a Web ad on the popular Drudge Report asking readers: "Do you agree with Harry Reid?"

Those who click on the ad are taken to an NRSC Web site called "Health Care Task Force," which asks readers to sign a petition and "stand up to Harry Reid and his insulting remarks."

Atrios noted last night, "Hey, Republicans throw hissy fit. Media covers hissy fit. You'd think this would get old."

We should be so lucky. That Republicans aren't really offended, and are only throwing a tantrum because it's easier than debating health care policy, never seems to enter the picture.

If we're to believe the faux-outrage, the reference to slavery was the rhetorical element that went too far. But this, apparently, is a new concern -- the right has been far more direct in making the same comparison. Harry Reid was talking about key moments in history in which the right was wrong, but Michele Bachmann recently called the Democrats' legislative agenda "nothing more than slavery," and no one said a word. Indeed, conservatives routinely insist that the left is trying "enslave" America, and the political mainstream just shrugs its shoulders in response.

This is not uncommon. In 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration's torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of "Soviets in their gulags." At the time, the media and Republicans were apoplectic about Durbin's remarks, sparking a week-long frenzy. Several conservatives called on the Senate to censure Durbin, and Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin's quote was evidence that liberals are traitors. Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

But notice that just a few days ago, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, called Medicaid a "health care gulag." Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) recently called Dems' health care reform efforts "Soviet-style gulag health care." Neither reporters nor other members of Congress batted an eye.

Also note, when Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Republicans are promoting lethal health care policies, it was a huge national controversy. When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the same thing, no one seemed to care.

Part of the IOKIYAR phenomenon is the media's willingness to embrace the double standard, and part of it is the result of Republicans' more aggressive media operation.

But I also wonder if the instances of the GOP's rhetorical excesses don't generate as much attention because Democratic officials just don't care the same way. Isn't it at least possible that Dems just have other things they want to talk about, and Republicans don't?