Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hey, Ben Nelson!

Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, on whether he'll join the Republicans in a filibuster against reform legislation that includes a public insurance option with an opt-out provision for states (radical, ain't it?):

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another public option foe, wouldn't commit when asked last week. "I believe in playing chess, but that's about three moves ahead of me, and I'm not prepared to make those moves until I see some other moves in between," he told HuffPost.

Hey Nelson, here's a concept for you: Maybe the life, health, and security of the citizens you work for isn't a f***ing chess game.

"I use silly, insensitive metaphors!"

Line of the Week

A great opening line, from Steven Wishnia today at Alternet; aspiring journalists take note:

"More members of Congress have publicly questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii than have endorsed legalizing marijuana."

Well done sir.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Highest Ranking Drug Smuggler on the CIA Payroll Is...

By now you may have read this.

Keep in mind that the drug trade in Afghanistan fuels the insurgency in Afghanistan. Viewed from some angles, that insurgency may have a right to exist and be insurgent, and I'm not calling out "Law and Order" or anything. Just saying that this is an example of how utterly ass backwards the foreign policy of the ruling class can be--and that it's going on right now. This isn't a history class where we learn how the U.S. stumbled and overplayed and got its ass kicked in Vietnam, or a story about George H.W. Bush's directorship of the CIA. This is now. Our tax dollars are propping up a drug-smuggling gangster, the brother of the Afghan president now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

excellent reading on LDS-Skouson-Beck

"For me as a Mormon, Glenn Beck’s invitation to return to childish things forces me to confront anew the unsavory aspects of my religion’s past, and all the things we Latter-day Saints are now attempting to heal."

This post, written by a creative writing instructor at BYU and cross-posted at Kos, Street Prophets and TPM Cafe, through a solid, enlightening narrative testimony (and testimony is important to Mormons), offers a context for the Cleon Skouson-Glenn Beck connection. I think it also calls on my LDS friends to renounce Beck, although such a message is derivative and soft advice, rather than the kind of screed I would probably write.

Reading and discussing this post would be a great use of your time. If enough people are interested, I'd gladly facilitate a podcast conversation on it.

Why did Beck’s infantile sneer matter? Because Beck is a Mormon. Because his mocking presence in the small town of Marshall, Missouri meant he was sticking his tongue out at patrons in every library in the nation. Because the city of Provo, Utah — where I still live and now teach — sometimes invites him to be part of our Freedom Festival and host our "Stadium of Fire," as though his ultra right, self-assured conviction and his simplistic view of contemporary issues comprise a worthy résumé. Because he is a disciple of W. Cleon Skousen, whose conspiracy theories resulted in students spying on each other and on their professors at BYU and fomented terror and suspicion throughout Provo — even at Provo High — and created a climate which made Darius fear for his family’s life. Because Beck has said such race-baiting things as, "This president has exposed himself as a guy ... who has
a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture" (July 28). (What on earth does he mean by "white culture"? Is it in the tradition of the Coen Brothers’ white supremacists in O brother Where Art Thou?: "We have gathered here to preserve our hallowed culture and heritage...") Because on Fox News he loops a tape of Reverend Jeremiah Wright saying "Not God bless America...", as though it were something new and newsworthy, and as though Wright had never said anything else. And because people think he represents me and even Darius, inasmuch as we all call ourselves Latter-day Saints.

property thought for the day

The power over the production and distribution of material things is the power over life and death. Property rights, however, are derivative. Individual sovereignty doesn't so much arise spontaneously from God, but emerges, derives, from the breakdown of divine, feudal, and finally aristocratic sovereignty. A man's home is his castle--just like the castles of the sovereigns of old. As property itself is considered the province of princes in feudal relations, the use of force --and in the larger sense, in myriad other ways, the control over life and death--is also the exclusive province of the prince. Market relations render both man's castle and his ability to use force contingent on his share of, and role in, production and distribution.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Madisons and the Riot Act, part one

Elliott and Elena Madison are in trouble, and if you're an anti-capitalist activist in particular, their trouble is your trouble--because police presence at economic summit demonstrations, WTO conferences, and sites of confrontation between capital and the anti-capitalist movement are always heavy-handed (there's a reason for this, folks). For starters, Elliott "was arrested on September 24 at a motel room for allegedly listening to a police scanner and relaying information on Twitter to help protesters avoid heavily-armed cops -- an activity the State Department lauded when it happened in Iran."

It got worse. And more surreal. An interstate rioting law?
Prosecutors revealed yesterday that Elliott Madison, 41, and his wife, Elena, 39, are under investigation for allegedly violating a little-used interstate rioting law. FBI anti-terror agents raided the couple's Jackson Heights home on Oct. 1 and seized riot gear, including a dozen gas masks, fireworks, books, photographs and electronic equipment.

I assume it's this interstate clause of the Federal Riot Act. When does a demonstration become a riot? Rhetorically, when the state has an interest in disrupting it. I am contacting Martin Stolar, the Madisons' attorney, who, in his motion to throw out the search, said
In this day and age, federally authorized agents entered the private home of a writer and urban planner and seized their books and writings. The warrant's vagueness and lack of specificity encouraged the agents to use their own discretion and their own views of the political universe to seize, or not to seize, items which they thought were evidence of a violation of the federal anti-riot statute. The law and the Constitution do not allow this. If there really is a grand jury investigation with possible future prosecution under [a federal anti-rioting law], the use of this statute as applied to demonstrations, demonstrators, and their supporters has profound 1st Amendment implications.

A nod to an "Examiner" -- Milwaukee Progressive Examiner Jerome McCollom -- who while disagreeing with the tactics and possibly even the message, nevertheless recognizes how an injury to one is an injury to all.

An individual, Elliott Madison, who used twitter to inform fellow protestors of police movements during the arrest has been arrested. Weren't we in the US (rightly) praising Iranian protestors who used twitter in Tehran when their rights were violated? The "rationale" of this arrest is that he was interfering in prosecutions. But that rationale assumes that those who are engaged in exercising their fundamental free speech rights are guilty of some crime. That is and should not be the mentality of a law enforcement arm in a free nation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are Progessives Overconfident? Shared Sacrifice Nightly

Are Progessives Overconfident? Shared Sacrifice Nightly

Join us tonight at 8PM mountain time!

Hmm? Interesting.

Iran denies secret nuclear talks with Israel: official

Israeli media reported earlier in the day that an IAEC representative met with a senior Iranian official last month in Cairo to discuss nuclear-free issue in the Middle East. Meirav Zafary-Odiz, director of policy and arms control for IAEC, and Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), met several times in Cairo at the end of September, with the representatives from other countries joining in, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported. The newspaper referred it as "the first direct meeting between official representatives of the two states" since 1979.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Live Blog: University of Wyoming Health Care Debate

Here I am at the health care debate between the UW College Republicans and Democrats. I'll be posting updates on this post throughout the evening. If you're following this blog during the debate, simply hit "refresh" every few minutes to see what I've added. Hopefully, readers can fact-check any controversial or questionable claims made tonight.

The program is sponsored by Kappa Kappa Gamma, AAPISA, UW Debate, Criminal Justice Club, Forensic Science Club, Cardinal Key, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Freshman Senate, Student Health Advisory Committee, and FaceAIDS.

Eric Blomfelt, director of Risk Management at UW, is moderating the debate. There are three debaters on each side. Curiously, nobody thought to ask representatives from the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, or other third parties.

I probably won't be able to designate each speaker by name. Instead, I will hold the entire GOP team responsible for everything said by that team, and apply the same standard to the Democrats.

As this debate begins, I wonder if someone will raise the point that, according to today's news, "57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it."

College Dems Opening Statement:
120 people die every day because of lack of adequate health care coverage. 62% of bankruptsies. 178,000 small business jobs lost to high health care costs. Insurance companies seeing record profits while the number of uninsured grows. This is due to seeing health care as a commodity. Motive of insurance companies is to increase profit for shareholders. Purchasing health care is not like purchasing a car. Sometimes the "rational economic choice" is to die. Alternate plans don't address uninsured. A public health care option "is the only way to provide for the public good." No system will be perfect, but can't keep leaving health insurance to private market. "Public health is public good."

College GOP Opening Statement:
Our founding fathers built a system that did not require large government. U.S. Constitution limits the government's authority. "Do you believe you know how to best spend your money, or should the government spend it for you? We believe in personal responsibility."
46 million uninsured figure is inflated: 10 million of those are illegal, 18 million have a yearly household income of 50,000 or more. It's their choice; they buy other things like cell phones and internet and cable TV.
We can have reform without an increase in the size and scope of government or deficit. 4 key strategies:
1. Tort reform
2. Portability from state to state.
3. Health savings accounts.
4. Preventative care provision in all health insurance plans.

Dems are questioning GOP on exaggerated savings of tort reform, in light of CBO report. GOP responds it's only one component [a little evasive here] GOP questioning the CBO report's accuracy.
GOP says "would you agree that our healthcare system is the best in the world." Dems respond by saying insurance companies do the scary things the anti-reform crowd says the government will do.

GOP says we should require insurance because it's not like cars: "Health insurance only affects yourself." This isn't true. Other people's sick kids make my kids sick, etc.

Dems say we need a mandate: People need basic coverage and safety net. This is a weak response: the Dems need to unapologetically point out that we all affect each other. The Dems correctly point out that mandating health insurance WITHOUT a public option just gives insurance companies the right to raise their prices to a captive market. Emergency room visits cost a lot because you're paying for other people.

Dems ask: how can market cover everyone if it's profitable to drop people. GOP replies that their 4-step program will lower costs. Some debate over what the CBO says concerning the deficit.

Dems re-state that "public health is a public good." They concede that people make bad choices (eg smoking) but that there are other genetic problems that aren't fairly distributed.

GOP woman: Let's place responsibility where it belongs, on the individual. According to National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 60-80% of health problems are due to personal choice (did I hear those numbers right?). GOP side favors raising premiums on smokers.

Exciting exchange: Dems are pressing GOP on exactly how their proposals would actually INCREASE coverage. One GOP person sarcastically says poor people are already covered by medicaid and "we've seen how good those programs are" (sarcasm? and if so, how does that help their side?)

The GOP doesn't really answer the question because covering all Americans isn't on their moral radar.

GOP says we can decrease costs by "standardizing care for all." Standardized medical forms too. Price disclosure for procedures and drugs. [Should these all come in the form of regulations?] Currently insurance companies negotiate with drug companies, meaning different people get different prices. We need to standardize prices. [So the GOP is calling for standardized prices? Really? How? Government intervention, certainly...]

Dems concede the need for standardization of care--but says market can't do it. Dems would, it seems here tonight at least, be in favor of a single payer system. But Dems basically concede this very curious admission that prices must be standardized. They point out that people are left out of the negotiation process between insurance companies and drug companies--another curious GOP admission.

So as of now, the GOP seems like they're conceding a lot of points that they don't understand hurt their argument, and making a lot of vague references to cost-cutting without taking a position on the imperative of universal coverage. Although the audience may not necessarily agree, so far the Dems seem much more together, and less doctrinaire, than their GOP opponents.

GOP says: Bureaucracy. Dems reply: Bureaucracy is a "buzz word." A GOP guy says "I agree that there needs to be work done with insurance companies." What does that mean?

Dems switched one of their speakers mid-debate, and this guy seems a little late to the game; he's sort of bringing up a bunch of stuff that was already hashed out before he arrived.

GOP: CBO report was flawed: Didn't include payment increases planned for doctors who treat medicare patients. Policy won't kick in until 2019 anyway, meaning plan might lower the deficit before the policy kicks in, but might increase it later.

GOP says the government will tax "Wall Street stock transactions" which they see as unacceptable.

Dems respond that "every legislator in congress" trusts the CBO report. [Is this true? It doesn't seem like this is true?]

The GOP has tagged a new guy in too. As a debate coach, I don't think this is a good strategy.

GOP says a public option will only increase access at the expense of everyone else.

GOP now says that the public option will push private insurance out of business. There will be no private insurance companies left.

Dems: Millions are uninsured or underinsured now. GOP cost-cutting measures don't go anywhere near covering people. The new guy on the Dem side says insurance companies won't be driven out of business.

GOP says "It's not government's job to cover everybody." The person in poverty "made a lot of bad decisions that everyone else in this room shouldn't have to pay for." We shouldn't establish a precedent like that.

Dems respond: Some things are important enough to be a public good. Police example.

The GOP is concerned about privacy. Cited Canadian wait lists--average time of 17.3 weeks over 12 areas of specialization. Canada's "priority list" means this will violate privacy, as well as letting the government decide who should get care. We SHOULD be afraid of government bureaucracy, GOP says. Will lose privacy if we adopt any plan. Then he says "it'll be just like Canada" after prefacing their point by saying "I'm not trying to say that what you're proposing will be just like Canada."

Dems say to GOP: tell me how your 4 point plan will cover every American. GOP replies "we don't need to cover every single American."

Somebody asked a lame question: "Although facts play an undeniable role in policy propositions..." how do each sides' proposals reflect "values."

GOP answers: "To a degree, we need to take care of the poor." The choice to help people should be individual, not governmental. Support programs like medicaid, but Constitution was written as "protection from big government." Anothert GOPer "where does that stop? does government control stop?"

Dems: This is a slippery slope argument. Right now, the market system doesn't provide health care to individuals. Everyone must be covered. [I still don't think they are making the public good argument very well] Majority support the public option.

Lots of back and forth on most of the points I've already listed. I might not update again until the summary statements.

GOP rightly points out that Baucus bill leaves 25 million Americans uninsured.

Dems are spanking GOP in crossfire section--that insurance companies will continue to cut people from their coverage in the status quo.

Closing statements:

GOP: This debate comes down to the question "what is the role of the government?" Democratic proposals will "increase people's taxes exponentially" [really? "exponentially?"] We should make healthy lifestyle decisions.

Dems: Do we believe in the social contract? We have fire protection, military protection, police protection, etc.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It is difficult to articulate the case against the occupation of Afghanistan if one is not ready to accept some stark and unpleasant realities. Top shelf: (1) that whatever the ideals of liberal internationalism, or neoconservatism, or any arguments for nation building, this sort of thing doesn't "work" without a great deal of innocent blood, and seldom works at all in the long run; (2) that a withdrawal will result in large sections of Afghanistan being run by fundamentalist totalitarians who keep women in a state of permanent servitude, enforced with floggings and occasional executions--though there's no guarantee our continued occupation will prevent that or not result in equivalent brutality.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Perry stays secret on many things, including forensics files"--Dallas Morning News

"Many believe he is the most secretive modern-day governor Texas has seen." He's certainly dropping the ball on the Cameron Todd Willingham case, records of which he refuses to release.

Perry stays secret on many things, including forensics files
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Lamentation

My friend Russell Fox makes a reasoned case that Barack Obama doesn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. I would have liked to see Russell attend to the more obvious reason why Obama doesn't deserve a peace prize: He's a corporate-supported warmonger who campaigned on a promise to "win" the war in Afghanistan: a war inspired not by the attacks of 9-11 (which were not carried out by Afghans, after all) but by U.S. aspirations for oil and regional hegemony.

Unfortunately, the characteristically immature, racist, and hysterical reaction to the award on the part of many conservative pundits has put Americans who pay attention to these issues in the position of feeling as if they have to choose sides. Criticizing Obama for accepting the award is now, for all intents and purposes in this strange-bedfellows state of politics today, tantamount to hopping in bed with birthers and McVeighites. So even if I don't think he deserves the award, I don't see a whole lot of public space from which to criticize the choice. Not when the alternative is to give aid and comfort to incipient fascists who fantasize about Obama being assassinated or thrown out in a military coup.

public service follies

I see Facebook is running ads for Partnership for a Drug-Free America (which, as others have pointed out, should be called "Partnership for a Truth-Free America"). Facebook is probably running the ads for free, too, since that's how PDFA usually operates--and is part of the reason why they get away with using fallacious data. (EG, their "flatliners" commercial, which "showed an EEG "flat-line" of someone supposed to be on some kind of drug. What was actually being displayed were brain-waves of a person asleep or in a coma.")

More conservative garbage

"I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota."
~ Erick Erickson: RedState blogger, conservative, racist moron.

It's really tough to criticize Obama in nuanced, intelligent ways when people like Erickson are spewing such excrement.

It speaks volumes about the decline of conservatism that a leading blogger on a leading right wing blog could find no better method of criticism than appealing to a race meme.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

More numbers and faces

Now we know more about the cost in sheer body count of being in the middle ages concerning health care coverage. In fact, we now know that 3,000 Americans die every two months because of inadequate or non-coverage. People like beautiful Nikki White...

Nikki White died at the age of 32. She had lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that was untreated because she could not afford health insurance. ...if Nikki had been a felon, the problem could have been averted, because courts have ruled that prisoners are entitled to medical care.

Hyperbole? "When Nikki White died at the age of 32, her doctor boldly stated that the young woman didn’t die of lupus but of 'complications of a failing health care system.'"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Washington Times and Fox News now unleashing mobs on private citizens (including kids)

Stay classy, dying right wing...

Wash. Times and Fox News now unleashing mobs on private citizens (including kids)

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A note from Jim Hightower this morning:
corporations are even offshoring America's debt collectors. The LA Times reports on a call to a hard-pressed woman in Fort Worth. "Hello, Ma'am, how ya doin' today?" asks the caller in down-home American accent. "My name is James Harold," he says, "and you owe us $11,000." James' name and accent are fakes. His real name is Sharoon Hermoon, and he's sitting in a cubical 8,000 miles away in Islamabad. He's part of a Pakistani crew of a dozen twenty-somethings working on what's called the "deadbeat beat" for Touchstone, a call center owned by a U.S. corporation. These long-distance arm twisters don't merely have accents, they have something else, too: a wealth of personal information on the American people they're dunning. Working for U.S. finance firms, they not only have details of the person's debt, but also things like the person's income and how much they spend. And when debtors don't respond to their calls, the Islamabad center use tracking software to contact the person's co-workers, neighbors, and relatives to apply even more pressure – and embarrassment.

Let them eat dirt

Chuck Todd reported on Facebook and Twitter that the lunch for the Geneva talks between the U.S., Iran and others featured the following delectables: "Buffet style: Trout almondine, Sablefish, Assorted cheeses, Choc mousse, Creme brulee, coffee and wine."

Meanwhile, The Observer reports that "The sale of coffins has dramatically risen in Uganda in the last few weeks, following reports of a looming famine in the East African region."