Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rightwingnut John Perry Fantasizes About a "Military Coup" to Eliminate President Obama

Rightwingnut John Perry fantasizes has written a column about a possible "military coup" to remove President Obama from office. What terrible thing has Obama done to merit Perry's column? Perry lists a parade of horribles lies, including the patently false notion that Obama has "nationalized" "American institutions."

Some of Perry's grievances should have led to the ouster of President Bush. For example, Perry warns of the "horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time." Earth to Perry: Iraq + Afghanistan = Wars Bush started.

Perry also complains "that the economy — ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation — is financially reliant on foreign lender governments." Earth to Perry: The economy became a severe problem long before January 2009.

Also, I suspect that most foreign lending comes from private investors. In addition, debt is debt regardless of whether foreign or domestic investors own it. The only thing that makes domestically owned debt more attractive is the relatively greater control the government has over the owner. Exercising that control, however, sounds like something Perry would call "Marxist."

What Happened to Elections?
Perry only contemplates a "nonviolent" or "bloodless" "military" coup (oxymoron?). Dr. King would be proud!

In an August 3, 2009 column, however, Perry advocated old-fashioned, democracy-based regime change. He argued that Republicans should endeavor to find candidates with the "qualifications and vision" to "outshine" Democrats. I wonder whether Perry believes this task remains attainable.

Finally, in the same August 2009 article, Perry lauded Sarah Palin as a possible presidential candidate for the GOP in 2012. This endorsement probably damns his political judgment more than his proposed fictional coup de tat:


Someone will emerge from the current funk and fog as the most-attractive Republican presidential nominee. If Sarah Palin can help boost enough conservatives into office by next fall, she will be well-along the road to the 2012 GOP nomination — regardless of whether or when she’s a declared candidate.

Right now, she appears to outclass other potential Republican candidates. Better than any, so far, she fits the formula for not reelecting Obama.
Palin for President? Precious.

UPDATE: A reader (Eric) notes that Newsmax has removed Perry's essay. Being too extreme for Newsmax is pretty extreme. If anyone finds a cached version of the page, please let me know.

UPDATE II: A rightwing website has reprinted the coup essay. See here.

Senator Grassley Forced to Admit that Medicare Is "Government-Run" Healthcare

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee voted to reject two separate healthcare reform measures introduced by Charles Schumer and Jay Rockefeller respectively. Both proposals would have added a public plan option to a pending bill.

During the hearing, Republican senators, undaunted by truth and consistency, blasted "government-run" healthcare. Apparently tired of the hypocrisy, Schumer asked Senator Grassley (the King of Hypocrites in this area) whether he supported Medicare - which is a public (i.e., government-run) health plan.

Initially, Grassley tried to obscure the governmental nature of Medicare by describing it as "part of the social fabric of America." That is a patently weak answer. Medicare only became a part of the "fabric of America" due to federal regulation, and conservatives opposed the implementation of Medicare by describing it as "socialized medicine." Grassley, however, eventually conceded that Medicare is a government-run plan.

Thanks to TPM, here are Grassley's comments:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Tit Exposures: Janet Jackson, President Obama, the FCC, and Gender






Five years ago much of the nation erupted into an extreme panic after viewing a portion of Janet Jackson's right breast; her nipple was concealed. This was a classic moment of "Americans are from Mars. . .Darren is from Venus." I simply could not understand the (fake) outrage -- especially with so many partially and fully uncovered nipples brazenly presenting themselves daily on television and in the print media. The anti-nipple protests were also louder than criticism of the still ongoing and still unnecessary war in Iraq.

Gender and Toplessness
Many feminists have explored the gender dimensions of toplessness, and American nipple-hysteria has presented many occasions for engaging in critical analysis of this issue. Breastfeeding is probably the most intriguing example of nipple hysteria. Women who publicly feed their kids the "natural way" have caused moral outrage across the country. Based on some of the reactions, I fear that many people who apparently could not resist watching public breastfeeding before complaining about it will undoubtedly become blind or even serial killers. We should definitely stop this breastfeeding menace before it gets out of control!

The FCC's recent decision to re-investigate Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction -- after a string of court losses -- leads me to ask the following question: How can the FCC honestly go after CBS and Jackson again when President Obama's nipples have provided the stimulus for millions of magazine sales? A gendered approach to the issue clearly exists. Women's nipples are indecent unless they are in porn videos or feeding babies in a remote location unknown to other Americans. By contrast, men's nipples are not smutty. In fact, they are presidential. Why?

PS: Of course, Obama is not the only male to go topless without offending the nation, but I think it is interesting that the FCC is investigating female nipples while the executive head of all federal agencies (including the FCC) has gone topless in the media without incident.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NY to Obama: Get Outta Here!

Earlier this week, I wrote two blog entries that criticize President Obama's decision to push New York Governor David Paterson out of the 2010 election. Paterson has very low approval ratings, and polls show that he would lose to virtually every Republican contender.

Although many of my liberal colleagues disagree with my assessment of the situation, New Yorkers share a similar view. According to a newly released Marist College Poll, 62% of New York voters say that the White House was wrong. This sentiment exists across party affiliation: 51% of Democrats, 77% of Republicans and 64% of Independents believe Obama was wrong to inject himself into the state election. Furthermore, even when pollsters told voters to consider that Paterson could hurt the Democratic ticket, more voters -- including more Democrats -- still believed that Obama acted inappropriately.

Ta da. It is clear. New Yorkers might hate Paterson, but they get to decide whether to keep or discard him.

See: Marist Poll Summary; Marist Poll Data.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage: The New Socialism!

For months, conservatives have equated healthcare reform with socialism. Now, one conservative has moved on to a more comprehensive analysis. Representative Steve King of Iowa argues that same-sex marriage is an essential step on the road to a socialist takeover of the United States:
If there's a push for a socialist society where the foundations of individual rights and liberties are undermined and everybody is thrown together living collectively off one pot of resources earned by everyone, this is one of the goals they have to go to, same sex marriage, because it has to plow through marriage in order to get to their goal. They want public affirmation, they want access to public funds and resources. Eventually all those resources will be pooled because that’s the direction we’re going. And not only is it a radical social idea, it is a purely socialist concept in the final analysis.
Huh???

Thanks to Alex Koppelman of Salon.com for this story.

Update: Think Progress has now covered the issue and provided a longer quotatation.

Eric Cantor Says Cancer Patient Should Get Help From "Government Program" or "Charity"

Republican Eric Cantor's response to a constituent's question regarding health insurance exposes the hypocrisy and absolute lack of knowledge among many opponents of proposed healthcare reforms. Think Progress uncovered the story.

A woman attending a town hall meeting told Cantor that a family member who has cancer and needed surgery recently lost her job and health insurance. Cantor's response is unbelievable, sad and funny:
First of all I guess I would ask what the situation is in terms of income eligibility and the existing programs that are out there. Because if we look at the uninsured that are out there right now, there is probably 23, 24% of the uninsured that is already eligible for an existing government program. . .Beyond that, I know that there are programs, there are charitable organizations, there are hospitals here who do provide charity care if there’s an instance of indigency and the individual is not eligible for existing programs that there can be some cooperative effort. No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed (ellipses in original).
Okaaaay.

First, I will give Cantor credit for mentioning that there are "government programs" -- like Medicaid -- that cover the medical expenses of poor people. Medicaid, however, is a public plan, which Republicans equate with socialism, Nazism and totalitarianism. Also, because the woman lost her job only recently, it is unclear (perhaps unlikely) that she qualifies for Medicaid. Furthermore, since she needs surgery immediately, it is unclear, even if she qualifies for Medicaid, whether her application could be processed in time.

Finally, the notion that people can simply rely upon charitable assistance for medical expenses is laughable. According to Cantor's "logic," a lack of information about "existing" governmental and charitable programs is the only barrier to affordable medical services -- including extremely costly oncological surgery. This argument is so unbounded from reality that it does not even merit engaged analysis. I would love to see Cantor post some information about "free" cancer surgeries on his website.

Here's the Youtube footage, which includes an interview with the constituent (conducted by Think Progress):


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama: War Is Still Hell

In February, President Obama authorized 17,000 additional troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. At the time, the Pentagon wanted 30,000 more soldiers, but the president said that he would revisit the issue later.

Later has arrived, and Stanley A. McChrystal, Obama's choice to wage war in Afghanistan, says that many more troops are needed. According to a New York Times article, McChrystal will ask for 10,000 to 45,000 additional troops.

With public support for the war on the decline, Obama faces a potentially volatile situation if he agrees to an additional troop surge. Obama, who ran as the "anti-(Iraq)War" candidate, has always advocated the rightness of the war in Afghanistan. But his liberal base has begun to question the war. According to recent polls, a slight majority of the country believes that the war has not been worth the costs. These numbers do not bode well for decisions to prolong the operation into its ninth year.

The Hard and Bitter Truth
On a more human touch, Bob Herbert's latest column reminds us that war is still hell. I particularly found the following passage of "The Hard and Bitter Truth" moving:
A friend of mine. . .sent me an e-mail about a young serviceman in civilian clothes whom she and her husband noticed as he talked on a public telephone in the Atlanta airport last week. He was 19 or 20 years old and quite thin. His clothes and his shoes were worn, my friend said, but the thing she noticed most “was the sadness in his eyes and his sweet demeanor.”

The young man was speaking to his mom in a voice that was quite emotional. My friend recalled him saying, “We’re about to board for Oklahoma for the training before we move out. I didn’t want to bother Amber at work, so please tell her I called if you don’t think it will upset her too much. . . .I miss you all so much and love you, and I just don’t know how I’ll get through this.”

At the end of the call, the serviceman had tears in his eyes and my friend said she did, too. She wrote in the e-mail: “I stood up and wished him good luck, and he smiled the sweetest smile that has haunted me ever since" (ellipses in original text).

Read the full column here: The Hard and Bitter Truth.

NYT Publishes White House "Talking Points" Justifying Paterson Move

The New York Times has published an article that seeks to justify and contextualize President Obama's request that New York Governor David Paterson not seek election in 2010. The article, written by Jeff Zeleny and Adam Nagourney, portrays Obama's move in New York as part of a national strategy of deep White House involvement in local political contests:
The president’s top strategists have recruited candidates — and nudged others to step aside — in races in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. They said they intended to continue this practice heading into the 2010 midterm elections, as well as with an eye to the redistricting fights that will go on within states early in the next decade.
The article also suggests that Rahm Emanuel orchestrated this strategy: "The intense involvement reflects the tactics and style of the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. . . ."

Two Major Distinctions: Paterson Is An Incumbent; Paterson Defied Obama on Senate Appointment
The article seeks to draw parallels between Paterson's treatment and the White House endorsement of candidates in other contests. Two major distinctions, however, are Paterson's status as an incumbent and his failure to abide by Obama's "request" that he appoint Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's vacated Senate seat.

Publicly instructing an incumbent not to run is an extraordinary tactic. Yesterday, former New York Governor George Pataki criticized the decision as dangerously weakening Paterson and thus threatening the state. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, quoted in the New York Times article, makes a similar assertion:
The president is the head of the party, and he has a right to express his opinion . . . . The only thing I would have done differently is not let it become known. This can’t be helpful to the governor.
The article fails to discuss Paterson's refusal to appoint Kennedy to the Senate. This fact, however, also distinguishes the Paterson case from the ordinary situation where a president chooses to get involved in local races. It looks more like a political "payback," rather than a legitimate political move. The fact that Obama has not acted the same way towards other embattled candidates (like Jon Corzine and Deval Patrick) undermines the involved leader narrative that the White House has evidently floated.

The Bottom Line: I have no problem with presidents trying to influence local politics behind the scenes. But even Obama's supporters should admit that this public display does not represent the "graceful" politics that he promised. Instead, it looks very messy.

Telling an incumbent to drop out of a race matters. Telling a person to drop out after he declined to deliver a huge political favor also matters. And if having "diversity" in public life matters -- as many of Obama's supporters zealously advocated in 2008 -- then telling only the fourth black governor in the nation's history to step aside matters. Saying this does not mean that Paterson must get elected or that Obama or others cannot oppose him. Instead, it means that his race is not a neutral category. Supporting Obama should not require liberals to abandon their so-called principles.


Related articles:

Republicans Making Better Arguments Regarding Obama and Paterson

Obama Is Pathetically WRONG: Paterson Should Run!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Republicans Making Better Arguments Regarding Obama and Paterson

Although they are clearly self-interested, some Republicans are making better arguments regarding President Obama's "dissing" of New York Governor David Paterson. Recently, Obama asked Paterson, who has low approval ratings, not to run for election in 2010. Paterson was previously the Lt. Governor, but he replaced Eliot Spitzer who resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal.


Five Issues That Obama's Supporters Fail to Address
I have discussed this issue at length with many liberal-identified friends, and they have defended Obama almost exclusively. Most of them deny that race has anything to do with this issue and that Obama has the "right" to tell weak candidates not to run. Although these arguments have marginal merit, they miss more compelling issues. Here are five points Obama's supporters fail to analyze:

First, Obama strongly encouraged (warned?) Paterson to choose Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton. Paterson did not. If Paterson had followed his marching orders, I seriously doubt that Obama would have told him not to run. Obama is punishing Paterson for acting independently.

Second, other incumbents are also facing tough races, and they have poor approval numbers. Jon Corzine and Deval Patrick come to mind. Yet, Obama has not rebuked them. Instead, he recently praised Corzine, who trails his competitor. This disparate treatment suggests that Obama singled out Paterson because he did not choose Kennedy. If Paterson selected Kennedy, I suspect that Obama and Kennedy would be praising him to the high heavens. Paterson did not "pay" so he cannot "play."

Third, during the Democratic primaries, most of Obama's supporters waxed poetically about the prospect of electing "the first black president" and how this would indicate racial progress. When I suggested that his success would represent a symbolic racial victory, they disagreed. But now, some of these same people deny the presence of even symbolic racial concerns regarding Obama's demand that the fourth black governor in the country's history move aside for another political dynasty to regain control in New York.

Andrew Cuomo would likely win the nomination (whether Paterson runs or not). Ironically, Cuomo was a surrogate for Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries. He provoked the wrath of Obama's supporters when he said that Obama would be unable to "shuck and jive" his way through a press conference. Now, some of the same individuals who said that Cuomo was a racial pariah and that Clinton was a racist by association are saying that removing a black governor to open the door for Cuomo has no racial meaning whatsoever. The contradictions are dizzying.

Fourth, Paterson's numbers declined dramatically after he declined to appoint Kennedy as Clinton's successor. Paterson, however, says that race motivates some of his opponents; he also predicted that race would motivate Obama's opponents.

Some of the same people who blast Obama's opponents as racists deny any racism regarding Paterson. Ironically, Obama -- unlike Paterson -- rejects efforts to unveil the racism of his opposition. Despite this fact, Obama's supporters continue to view him as a racial victim -- but deny that race has impacted Paterson. The contradictions are dizzying.

Fifth, During the Democratic primaries virtually all of Obama's surrogates and endorsers demanded that Clinton drop out of the race. The parallel is too blatant to deny. This seems to be a signature maneuver by Obama: Disparage the "opposition" by portraying him or her as unworthy of even running for office.

Republicans Are Offering Better Commentary
Unfortunately, my liberal colleagues are sounding weaker than Republicans (again). I have not been able to make that claim for several months, but the shoe definitely fits.

Former New York Governor George Pataki, for example, offered the following observation:

New York state is facing very difficult times. We're going to have an extraordinarily difficult challenge in dealing with the state's financial situation. . . .To weaken and undermine the governor beyond the weakness that already exists, at a time when he will be the governor for the next 15 months, to me just doesn't serve the interests of the state, doesn't serve the interests of our country (ellipses in original text).
Michael Steele, whom I recently described as an "idiot," also raises good points. Steele wonders why Obama did not ask Corzine not to run, given his abysmal approval numbers. Here's the Youtube video of Steele's interview with Face the Nation:




Bob Schieffer looked bewildered by Steele's insinuation that either by intent or impact race matters. Of course, liberals (myself included) have blasted Justice Thomas' racial jurisprudence since the time he first became a Supreme Court justice. Accordingly, the notion that Obama cannot treat blacks differently than whites (and in a bad way) is preposterous. I, like Steele, wonder how this will play out among black politicians.

Update: The Editorial Board of the New York Times has criticized Obama's action. See: With Friends Like These.

Obama Is Pathetically WRONG: Paterson Should Run!

While some liberals are complaining about the obvious racism among conservatives who oppose President Obama, another, more interesting, race issue has emerged. President Obama has asked Governor David Paterson of New York -- one of two sitting black governors and only the fourth in United States history -- not to run in the 2010 election. Paterson has rejected Obama's request -- good!

Paterson replaced Eliot Spitzer, who resigned following a prostitution scandal. Paterson was seemingly a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination until he made a major misstep. Earlier this year, he declined overtures from many people -- including Obama -- to choose Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's vacated senate seat. Caroline Kennedy and her deceased uncle Ted Kennedy were key endorsers of Obama during the Democratic primaries.

Obama openly supported Kennedy, but he suddenly stopped speaking about the subject after the "pay-to-play" scandal involving his own senate seat erupted. Remarkably, many people in the media openly suggested that Paterson should choose Kennedy because she and Obama could do wonders for his fundraising efforts. Yet, these were the same type of issues that shaped the Blagojevich scandal.

Also, polls showed that a substantial number of New York voters did not even want Kennedy to take the seat. Her numbers worsened after an unimpressive speaking tour. But many Kennedy backers complained about Paterson's "handling" of Kennedy's "candidacy." Apparently, he treated her like any other potential appointee and asked tough questions. Ultimately, he chose Kirsten Gillibrand, an upstate moderate, for the position. This choice caused Paterson's approval numbers to skid.

Today, Paterson's approval ratings remain low. Paterson attributes some of the anger to race. This reason sounds more plausible than the fact that he decided not to appoint someone whom many New Yorkers did not want to hold the office.

If New Yorkers want people from political dynasties to lead them, they can choose Andrew Cuomo, who once warned Democratic primary voters that Obama would be unable to "shuck and jive" through a press conference. The New York Times predicts (or maybe hopes) that Obama's request that Paterson step aside should "neutralize any criticism [Cuomo] may face among the governor’s prominent black allies" for running against a black incumbent. If Paterson's "prominent black allies" are beholden to the White House, rather than their own principles, then the New York Times is correct.

The Bottom Line: Obama is absolutely, indisputably and shamefully wrong for doing this. While many liberals are attacking the racism of Obama's opponents (just as they did with Hillary Clinton -- but with far less damning material), Obama is "paying back" a black governor who refused to engage in nepotism and appoint the wealthy, white, privileged Carolyn Kennedy who campaigned for Obama, to the Senate. I see no reason why Obama deserves antiracist advocacy -- which he says is not even warranted -- while he is trying to push out a black candidate who has lost popularity seemingly for the mere fact that he stood up to Obama and the Kennedys.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Still Wrong: David Rivkin and Lee Casey

Conservative lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey are at it again -- arguing that a healthcare mandate would violate the Constitution. Last month, the duo wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that made the same arguments. That essay failed to take hold among among constitutional law theorists. Now, they are trying again. Unfortunately, they are still wrong.

I have addressed this issue in two blog essays:

Is Healthcare Reform "Unconstitutional"? No -- Why Rivkin and Casey Are Wrong

More Hot Air from "Hot Air": Implies Healthcare Reform Unconstitutional

Conservative Jonathan Adler has reiterated his disagreement as well:

Is Obama Care Unconstitutional? - Part Deux.

Media Is More Interested in Rightwing Racism Than Rightwing Distortion, Deception, Lies, and Hypocrisy

I am a law professor who teaches Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, Race and the Law and other areas related to equality. I have spent nearly two decades researching and writing about race relations and public policy. With respect to the rightwing attacks on President Obama, however, I find the issue of race largely uninteresting.

I think it is safe to say that most Tea Party marchers, rightwingers, Joe Wilson, and many other anti-Obama types are not progressive on issues of race. Indeed, many of the participants in the protest marches have carried signs or made statements that show racial hostility. So -- yes -- some of Obama's critics harbor racial bias.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to psychoanalyze the entire opposition to Obama. Discussing this issue will do nothing but take the public's attention away from more important public policy concerns. Race is definitely an important social, political and legal concern, and the issue of race and access to healthcare is extremely important. But in this setting, there are far more pressing matters than the racial motivation of Obama's opponents.

Furthermore, even though racism informs some of the opposition to Obama, rightwingers have exhibited lunactic opposition to liberal and even moderate policies in the past (think Bill Clinton). Glenn Greenwald (of Salon) and I have both analyzed this topic.

What to Talk About Instead of Race
For over a month, conservatives have advanced gross distortions regarding healthcare reform. They have described it as socialism, Nazism, and totalitarianism, and they have argued that it would establish "death panels" to decide whether to "pull the plug on grandma." They have portrayed healthcare reform as an effort to harm seniors -- even though Republican John McCain proposed the very same cuts to Medicare that Obama has proposed. They have also condemned "government-run" healthcare, while pretending to support Medicare and TRICARE; these two programs, however, are forms of government-run healthcare.

Moreover, many of Obama's opponents have blasted "big government," but they want the federal government to reform tort laws in every state and to veto a doctor and patient's decision regarding abortion. Many of them also supported the unnecessary war in Iraq and the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan. They also endorse governmental regulation of some of the most intimate human relations, such as sex among consenting adults.

Conservatives blame Obama for the financial sector and auto industry bailouts -- even though the Bush administration proposed both bailouts and ushered the legislation through Congress. Bush also sharply increased the rate of government spending -- while cutting taxes. That disastrous fiscal policy turned a surplus into a record deficit.

I am not even intrigued by Joe "You Lie" Wilson's racial mindset. His prior work for Strom Thurmond and his reaction to the "unseemly" possibility that Thurmond had a "black" daughter indicate that Wilson is not the most advanced mind on issues of race and sex. But focusing on this obvious fact detracts from the content of Wilson's own "lies."

Wilson, for example, has rallied his conservative constituents against the inclusion of a public plan option in healthcare reform. Wilson makes typical Republican arguments regarding this issue, claiming that a public plan would interfere with doctor and patient relationships and reduce the level and quality of care. Wilson, however, has spoken quite fondly of TRICARE -- the government-run health system for military personnel, veterans and their families. Wilson and his children and their families are all on TRICARE. Wilson has said that TRICARE delivers "world class" medical care. Wilson has also noted that TRICARE receives high marks from participants.

TRICARE also establishes treatment options (just like private insurance) that define the contours of a doctor-patient relationship for patients who lack private insurance or the ability to self-pay. Wilson's contradictory positions on this subject are far more important than whether he hates Obama because he is black.

Conclusion
The issue of race has become the latest nonpolicy distraction for the media. Earlier, the media covered violence and mayhem at healthcare town hall discussions -- rather than the substance of reform. It then covered the conflicts between moderate and liberal Democrats (rather than the substance of reform). Now, it is exploring whether the opposition to Obama is racist (rather than the substance of reform).

Here's a thought: Analyze the substance of reform -- rather than the subjective emotions that shape its opposition. The media cannot tell us whether most of Obama's opponents are racist, but it can certainly unveil the hypocritical and deceitful nature of that opposition.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hypocrisy Alert: Protesting "Big Government" While Using "Socialized" Transportation and Medicine

Representative Kevin Brady (R-Tex) wrote a letter to the DC Metro system complaining about what he describes as less than a "basic level of transit":

These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration. . . .These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.
Oh, boo hoo. Rapid transit is a wonderful service "up here" in Northern cities. But this isn't really the hotbed of Tea Party activity challenging government programs that improve society -- rather than those which start unnecessary wars.

Hypocrisy Alert: Protesting "Big Government" While Using "Socialized" Subway Transportation and Medicine
Brady also laments the fact that elderly marchers -- including veterans -- had to take taxis. But isn't this better than using socialized subway transportation? As David Kurtz at TPM observes, the taxi users were simply relying on "free market solutions." I guess the personal isn't political after all.

Also, why are elderly people who are (very likely) on Medicare and TRICARE (government healthcare for seniors and veterans) protesting government-sponsored healthcare while demanding more services from a government-run transportation system? Perhaps they oppose big government unless they need big government.

Finally, Brady voted against the stimulus, which included money to make improvements to the DC Metro system. The irony, contradictions and hypocrisy continue!

Inspiration from Whitney Houston

This blog covers politics and law almost exclusively. Nevertheless, with socialism, Nazism, totalitarianism, death panels, and evil people waiting to pull the plug on innocent grandma taking over the country, I believe that readers could probably use some inspiration.

If you find inspiration through music and personal triumph (who doesn't?), check out this video footage from Oprah's show earlier this week. After spilling her guts to Oprah about drug use, emotional abuse, interventions, rehab, etc., singer Whitney Houston performed the single "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" from her new album "I Look to You." Rolling Stone even praised Houston's "emotional performance."

Note: The video is no longer available.

Two New Blog Discoveries: "The Middle of Nowhere," "Hellooo.....Mr. President, Are You Listening??"

Life is busy, and I already spend much of the day researching and reading. So, it is hard to believe that I have added two new blogs to my reading agenda -- but they are both worth it. Both of the blogs lean left, and they discuss politics, politics and politics:

The Middle of Nowhere

Helloooo...... Mr. President, are you listening??

Stop by and see what Elizabeth and Sue are saying!

Edit: Earlier, I stated that both bloggers were from New Jersey. Not true: Elizabeth is from Chicago, while Sue is from New Jersey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Investor's Business Daily: Shoddy Healthcare "Poll"

Today, Investor's Business Daily released a poll that purports to demonstrate that 2/3 of doctors oppose healthcare reform and that 45% of them would consider closing their medical practice if the reform passes. The poll contradicts many recent surveys that show strong support among doctors for healthcare reform -- including passage of a public plan option.

Why does the IBD poll differ so greatly from other recent polls? The problem lies in the pollster's methodology.

Earlier today, a reader sent me a copy of the poll, but I was too busy to write a response. Fortunately, Nate Silver and Media Matters have taken up the task, which minimizes the amount of time required to dissect this partisan hatchet job.

Here is Silver's analysis:
1. The survey was conducted by mail, which is unusual. [Dissenting Justice: It is also unreliable. With a mail-in survey it is more difficult to prevent multiple responses from one individual or to make sure that only the target sample (doctors) complete the survey.]

2. At least one of the questions is blatantly biased: "Do you believe the government can cover 47 million more people and it will cost less money and the quality of care will be better?" Holy run-on-sentence, Batman. A pollster who asks a question like this one is not intending to be objective.

3. As we learned during the Presidential campaign -- when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 -- the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they're doing. . . .

4. They say, somewhat ambiguously: "Responses are still coming in." This is also highly unorthodox. [Dissenting Justice: It also makes the poll unreliable. No one knows how the full tally will look without a basis for projecting the results.]

5. There is virtually no disclosure about methodology. For example, IBD doesn't bother to define the term "practicing physician". . . .Nor do they explain how their randomization procedure worked, provide the entire question battery, or anything like that.

Media Matters adds some other tidbits about IBD:
Reading Investor's Business Daily editorials can have something of a cathartic effect. After doggedly researching and fact-checking the dubiously nuanced claims of more sophisticated misinformers, it can be sometimes fun to take a (brief) dip into their troubled fantasy land where even the most fevered conspiracy theories can leap from the pages of FreeRepublic and get their brief, shining moment in the sun. Consider that IBD has implausibly claimed that the House health care bill would outlaw private insurance, absurdly claimed that Colombian terrorists had an inside line to President Obama's campaign, and outright racistly claimed that Obama would put the interests of his "tribe" ahead of national interests.

Be careful reading. And as always, consider the source!

Tea Party Movement, Desperate for Power, Fakes Pictures and Numbers at Protest March

The Tea Party "movement" is so desperate to create the notion that it is a large and powerful voice that it has engaged in deceitful methods. First, following its march last weekend in Washington, DC, organizers stated that DC Police and ABC News had projected that 1.5 to 2 million people attended the march. ABC News issued a sharply worded rebuttal. It seems that the organizers simply lied about the numbers. ABC News reported that tens of thousands of people attended the march. All other media outlets -- except for conservative blogs -- reported the same amount of attendees.

A Picture Is Worth 2 Million A Thousand Words
PolitiFact (a St. Petersburg Times blog) has dropped a new bombshell regarding the Tea Party movement. If this is true, then the organizers will apparently do anything to claim influence.

On the day of the recent march, supporters circulated a picture around the Internet that a showed marchers sprawling all over downtown DC (see below). Apparently, the photo is a fraud. It was not even taken during the recent Tea Party march. Instead, the photo captures the much larger 1997 gathering of the Promise Keepers.

PolitiFact asked Peter Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, to comment on the crowd and the photo. Piringer said that “It was an impressive crowd. . . .[but it] only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street. . . .”

As PolitiFact reports, the widely circulated picture shows a completely different scene:

[T]he photograph. . .showed the crowd sprawling all the way to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

There’s another problem with the photograph: It doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. . . .That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. . . .

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”

It appears that the photo was actually taken in 1997 at a rally for Promise Keepers, a group for Christian men. According to the group’s Web site, nearly 1 million people attended the event. Photos of the Oct. 4, 1997, event that were posted on various Web sites in 2003, 2008 and earlier this year show either the same picture or a similar photo that has identical tents and what appear to be TV screens in the same locations.
So, in addition to distorting the substantive issues surrounding healthcare reform -- by calling it socialism, Nazism and totalitarianism -- the Tea Party critters are also blatantly lying about their own size. They are also exhibiting remarkable hypocrisy by reacting so strongly to deficit spending under the Obama administration, while most of them undoubtedly supported Bush.

It is time for the media to expose the hypocrisy and deceit of the anti-reform movement. I completely respect the group's right to speak. I also respect the right of critics to respond forcefully to their errant speech.

Solution: Leave Snowe in the Snow

Republican Senator Olympia Snow of Maine says that she cannot agree to a healthcare proposal made by Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The Baucus plan would eliminate the public plan option and replace it with co-operatives designed to assist people finding low-cost health insurance. The plan would mandate coverage.

The plan would seek to avoid deficit spending by applying a tax on the most expensive health plans. The vast majority of these plans are employer-sponsored, and they currently receive favorable treatment under federal and state tax laws. Even though an employer's payment of premiums represents "income," the government does not tax these payments.

Snowe believes that the tax would hurt Maine residents because insurance policies in Maine are among the highest in the country. The Baucus plan, however, would utilize a gradual phase-in period for high cost states like Maine. By contrast, premium payments would eventually finance the public plan, which would potentially make it revenue neutral (unlike moderate and conservative plans).

Snowe's disagreement means that no Republican Senators currently support the Baucus plan (which was supposed to represent the compromise plan). And????

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Poll: 73% of Doctors Favor Socialized Medicine, Rationing of Care, Death Panels, Nazism, and Pulling Plug on Grandma

A new poll conducted by researchers at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York shows that 73% of doctors favor socialized medicine, rationing of care, death panels, Nazism, and pulling the plug on grandma. Actually, they favor some type of public plan option as a part of healthcare reform. 10% of doctors want a public-only format, while 63% favor a public-private mix. Only 27% want a private-only system.

Conservatives have described a public plan option as socialized medicine, a governmental takeover of healthcare, Nazism, and several other horribly deceptive labels. The providers of medical care, however, overwhelmingly support a public plan option.

It is time for the country to listen to medical professionals, rather than angry and uninformed people marching around with disgusting and tasteless signs (suggestive of racism and violence) and shouting deceptive propaganda while returning home to worship Jesus. I certainly trust doctors more than this motley crew.

What Recession? Bernanke Says Recession "Very Likely Over"

While conservatives have screamed that socialism and Nazism have taken over the United States, the nation's capitalist economy has quietly improved. Today, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said that the recession is "very likely over" and that he expects 3 to 4-point growth in GDP for the third quarter (which ends September 30).

Last week, the Federal Reserve released the "Beige Book," which consists of anecdotal evidence regarding the pace of economic activity across the nation. The report states that in virtually every region of the country, the economy is stabilizing and that "the outlook for economic activity among . . . business contacts remain[s] cautiously positive." Furthermore, while retail sales and housing prices remain flat, the "cash-for-clunkers" program has boosted economic activity. In most districts, manufacturing has improved.

The stock market has also shown signs of improvement. Today, as of 12:45 EST, the Dow Jones Industrial average is up 9.91%, the S%P 500 is up 16.28%, and the NASDAQ Composite Index is up a whopping 33.06% (quotes obtained from Google Finance).

Although some economic data show better returns, the unemployment rate continues to hover around 10%. Bernanke says that even if the recession has ended, this would not lead immediately to improvement in unemployment data.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taking Conservatives Seriously: There Are So Many Socialist, Nazi, Totalitarian Regimes in the World

I never knew there were so many socialist, Nazi, totalitarian countries. After listening to conservatives discuss healthcare reform, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the United States is about the only place on the planet without a socialist, Nazi healthcare system. Even Israel has become a Nazi nation. Thanks, Tea Party movement. Your knowledge of world economies is stupendous!

Applying the Tea Party "logic," here is a list of socialist, Nazi, totalitarian regimes (i.e., countries with universal healthcare). Many of these countries use single-payer systems. Shockingly, many of these countries are also allies of the United States. Why is the United States friends with so many "evil" countries?

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Bahrain
Belgium
Brazil
Brunei
Canada
Cuba
Cyprus
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Iceland
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Japan
Kuwait
Luxembourg
Mexico
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Russia
Saudi Arabia
Seychelles
Singapore
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom

There are a lot of articles on this issue. I used many different sites to compile this list. Here are links to two of the more helpful ones:

Universal health care - a quick overview around the politics of providing universal health care

List of Countries with Universal Healthcare « True Cost – Analyzing our economy, government policy, and society through the lens of cost-benefit

Saturday, September 12, 2009

By Conservative Logic: Israel = Nazist Socialist Empire

A motley crew of tea-baggers, birthers, conservatives, and anti-healthcare reform protestors (among others) have made some pretty outlandish claims about President Obama. In particular, they have described Obama's proposals for healthcare reform (and other policies) as "socialism" and Nazism. Although I feel odd paying attention to these silly "arguments," I also believe that taking illogical positions to their patently absurd and illogical conclusions can help illuminate a discussion. So here goes.

The Skinny: Israel = Nazist Socialist Empire
Applying conservative logic regarding healthcare reform would lead one to conclude that Israel is a Nazist socialist empire. Why? Israel has universal healthcare. Everyone is insured by nonprofit plans funded by the government. Insurance is mandatory, but participants have a access to a full range of plans. Progressive income taxes fund the system, and the government pays for care received by patients. The World Health Organization rated Israel's healthcare system 28th in the world in 2000.


Don't Get Too Excited
Last month, an anti-reform protestor yelled "Heil Hitler" at a Jewish man who praised Israel's healthcare system during a Las Vegas town hall meeting. Apparently, illogic (and bigotry) persists even when it is too blatant to deny.


For an analysis of healthcare in Israel, see: Health Systems in Transition: Israel.

Being Right About the Right

Glenn Greenwald's latest column places some perspective around the latest clashes between liberals and conservatives. Although Greenwald acknowledges that "some people react with particular animus towards the first black president," he contends that "there is nothing new about the character of the American Right or their concerted efforts to destroy the legitimacy of Obama's presidency."

To support his claim, Greenwald chronicles some of the nasty, partisan attacks on Bill Clinton. The Monica Lewinsky drama is obvious, but some people may not remember many of the other unsubstantiated and totally lunatic allegations against Clinton. Visit Greenwald's page on Salon.Com (or see Dissenting Justice) for a list of some of these outrageous assertions.

Being Right About the Right
I completely agree with Greenwald. In fact, back in October 2008, I saw this happening already with respect to Obama. I used the moment to "school" some of the younger voters who mistakenly believed that Obama would unify the nation, the world, the parties, etc., but that Hillary Clinton was too divisive for the Democratic Party. I am probably understating things by saying that I found this argument utterly annoying, naive, and misguided.

Although I am modest, I love being right. Here's a snip from Dissenting Justice, 10/18/2008:

One of the things that perplexed me the most during the Democratic primaries was the portrayal of the Clintons as "divisive," a charge that made Hillary Clinton unfit for the presidency. Many of Obama's younger supporters, following his lead, said that Clinton represented "failed politics" of the past, that she would just bring "more of the same" and that all she knew how to do was fight. Obama, they said, offered a "fresh face" and practiced a new form of politics that would unify the country and the world. Recently, Obama himself said he would, in fact, change the world. . . .

[T]he notion that Obama could somehow escape Republican attacks and bring unity to the two parties seemed like a dubious claim. Some of my closest friends labeled me "too cynical" for making that argument, but in political analysis, I take the cynicism charge as a compliment rather than a slur. . . .

Many of Obama's supporters are voting and paying attention to politics for the very first time. . . .But I wonder whether these young and excited O-voters. . .know that division is a natural part of our two-party system? Have they come to grips with the reality that if Obama wins, the smearing will only get louder and the digging deeper? Do they now realize that political work is often messy -- even dirty -- and that meaningful, large scale change only comes through contestation and battle?
For the full read, check out: Look Who's "Divisive" Now: The Anti-Obama Attacks Similar to Republican Smearing of the Clintons.

Fuzzy Math: Are Conservative Bloggers Lying About the Size of DC Protest March?

Some of the images from today's conservative anti-imaginary-socialism/pretend-governmental-healthcare-takeover protest march are absolutely disturbing (see, e.g. Think Progress). Perhaps, the rest of the country can take solace in the fact that the latest news reports indicate that a much smaller number of protestors attended the event than many conservative bloggers have reported.

Several conservative websites have stated that between 1.5 million and 2 million people attended the march. Some of these blogs cite ABC News as a source for the 2 million figure (see, e.g., Michelle Malkin). ABC News, however, says that conservatives are misquoting its reports and has released a statement reiterating that 60,000-70,000 protestors attended. Here is a snip:

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally that ABC News was reporting that 1 million to 1.5 million people were in attendance. At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large.

ABCNews.com reported an approximate figure of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters, attributed to the Washington, D.C., fire department. In its reports, ABC News Radio described the crowd as "tens of thousands."

Malkin also reports that the DC Police Department estimated that 1.2 million persons attended the march. Most of the major news outlets, however, are reporting the same range of attendees as ABC News (see, e.g., New York Times).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Joe Wilson: Healthcare Hypocrite

Two words -- You Lie! -- have brought Representative Joe Wilson greater national scrutiny than anything he has previously said or done. Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, shouted disagreement with President Obama during his recent speech to Congress regarding healthcare reform.

Healthcare Hypocrisy: Wilson's Contradictory Stances on Governmental Health Plans
The most intriguing and relevant news regarding Wilson surrounds his hypocritical stances on "government-run" healthcare. Wilson argues that "[a] government-controlled system would limit choice and quality by letting politicians and bureaucrats determine your level of care in order to bring down costs. That is unnecessary and unacceptable."

In July 2009, however, Wilson spoke very glowingly and intimately about TRICARE, the government-administered and funded health plan for military personnel, veterans and their dependants:

As a 31-year Army Guard and Reserve veteran, I know the importance of TRICARE. I know it is important for the military personnel and families at the bases I represent . . . .I am grateful to have four sons now serving in the military, and I know that their families appreciate the availability of TRICARE.

Currently, TRICARE provides world class health care to 9.4 million beneficiaries. . . .TRICARE. . .is a low cost, comprehensive health plan. . . .[I]n 2008 TRICARE was rated the best health care insurer in the nation according to the Wilson Health Information survey of customer satisfaction. TRICARE also received stellar marks on the 2007 annual federal government report from the 2007 American Customer Satisfaction Index. . . .

I believe that TRICARE is one part of our health care system that’s working. . . . I believe that our military personnel and their families. . .like what they have. . . .
As a veteran, Wilson qualifies for TRICARE. According to his own words, his four sons and their families and many of his constituents rely upon TRICARE. Although Wilson offers high praise for TRICARE, he argues that allowing "politicians and bureaucrats" to determine the level of care in order to lower costs is "unnecessary and unacceptable." Politicians and bureaucrats, however, administer TRICARE and determine the level of care for participants. Also, federal law makes cost-effectiveness a primary goal of TRICARE administration.

Earth to Wilson: TRICARE = Public Plan = Government-Run Health Program = Government-Sponsored Health Plan
Congress created and funds TRICARE. The Secretary of Defense administers TRICARE. Although Congress has mandated that TRICARE cover certain broad categories of medical services, the Secretary of Defense issues the specific plan materials, which establish covered and excluded treatments under the various available plans as well as the obligations of participants. Like all other federal regulations, TRICARE policies are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (or CFR).

Because the government has the exclusive authority to determine the treatments covered by TRICARE:

Unless TRICARE participants have other health plans or the money to self-pay, then the scope of their allowable medical treatment is determined by "politicians and bureaucrats" -- not by doctors and patients. The government does not mandate that individuals participate in TRICARE, but if they do, they can only receive services authorized by the federal government (unless they have another plan or elect to self-pay).

Government health plans, however, are typically very comprehensive and usually less expensive than private insurance plans. Wilson does not explain why only military personnel (or seniors) should benefit from comprehensive and relatively inexpensive medical services.

TRICARE "Death Panels" and "Interference With the Doctor and Patient" Relationship
The CFR contains TRICARE plan materials. A review of the regulations demonstrates the close involvement of the federal government in the medical services of plan participants. The discussion below provides examples of some areas of covered and excluded services.

1. Federal regulations allow reimbursement of costs associated with the provision of counseling to terminally ill patients, including counseling "for the purpose of helping the individual and those caring for him or her to adjust to the individual's approaching death" (see pg. 137).

2. Federal regulations, however, disallow reimbursement for "unnecessary diagnostic tests," which the government defines as "X-ray, laboratory, and pathological services and machine diagnostic tests [except for certain cancer screenings] not related to a specific illness or injury or a definitive set of symptoms."

3. Federal regulations do not permit reimbursement for "unnecessary postpartum inpatient" treatment of a mother or newborn -- when only one of the two needs extended hospitalization (e.g., will not pay for mom to stay in hospital when newborn needs hospitalization). This includes stays to allow the mother to breastfeed the infant (see pg. 147).

4. Federal law does not permit TRICARE to pay for the use of an "unproven" "drug, device, or medical treatment or procedure." This prohibition covers any drug or device that lacks FDA approval or clearance (see pg. 148) and any treatment or procedure that has not been subjected to a sufficient number of well controlled clinical studies (see pg. 149).

The multiple-page partial list of excluded drugs, devices, procedures and treatments includes in utro fetal surgery, treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, gastric wrapping/banding, intestinal bypass, and "high dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue" to treat breast cancer (with limited exceptions), ovarian cancer, or testicular cancer (see pp. 149-151).

5. Federal regulations provide that "[TRICARE] benefits for rare diseases are reviewed on a case-by-case basis" (see pg. 149).

6. Federal law requires participating medical providers to accept as full payment for TRICARE-covered services the co-pay and/or deductible, plus the amount that the government establishes an allowable expense for the particular service category (see pg. 167).

This short list represents just a few ways in which the government shapes the terms of the doctor-patient relationship for people who choose TRICARE as a service payer. For example, doctors cannot cannot collect more than the allowed amount for any services. Also, psatients cannot elect to undergo excluded services -- unless of course the individual has supplemental coverage or can self-pay.

Furthermore, as the statute and administering regulations state, cost-effectiveness is a central goal of the program. Conservatives, however, argue that cost-effectiveness is impossible without compromising care. If that is the case, then to the extent that TRICARE is cost-effective, it does so by compromising the care of participants.

Finally, the Democrats' reform proposals would not curtail services covered in private health insurance policies. Instead, the proposals would augment the rights of policyholders by prohibiting denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, the cessation of coverage after the insured has reached a lifetime maximum level of benefits, and the canelation of policies if individuals develop a particular illness. The government would determine the specifics of a public plan option, but Medicare and TRICARE demonstrate that the government can perform this function and maintain comprehensive coverage. If Wilson wants to challenge liars, he can start at home.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Heckler Apologizes for Outburst

Last night, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina apparently believed he was attending a townhall meeting on healthcare, rather than a special session of Congress. While President Obama disputed the persistent claim that healthcare reform would cover illegal immigrants, Wilson shouted "you lie." Wilson subsequently apologized, but stood by his repudiated position:

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.
Awful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Bloggacuda Returns: Sarah Palin and the Problem With "Common Sense"

The Bloggacuda is back with a new (ghostwritten?) op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that laments the prospect of healthcare reform proposed by "the Democrats." Palin's "new" essay offers more distortions and more hypocrisy.

Palin and the Problem of "Common Sense"
Palin describes the Democrats' proposals as resting on the notion that "increased government involvement" can fix the healthcare system. She then contests this view, arguing that:

Common sense tells us that the government's attempts to solve large problems more often create new ones. Common sense also tells us that a top-down, one-size-fits-all plan will not improve the workings of a nationwide health-care system that accounts for one-sixth of our economy. And common sense tells us to be skeptical when President Obama promises that the Democrats' proposals "will provide more stability and security to every American."
Adolph Reed, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, once said during a lecture that "the problem with common sense is that people use it as an excuse not to read." Apparently, Palin falls into this category. If Palin had actually read the various proposals, she would not have seen a "one-size-fits-all plan." But Palin and other conservatives have consistently resorted to deception when discussing Democrat-sponsored proposals for healthcare reform.

Palin Seemingly Unaware of Insurance Company Bureaucrats
Palin also cannot resist mentioning her infamous death panel distortion, proudly stating that the argument resonated with many Americans. True -- but many of the same people fell for the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That lie cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Palin argues that Obama wants to create a nongovernmental bureaucracy to make decisions regarding life and death Medicare treatments. Apparently, the Bloggacuda lives in a parallel universe where insurance company bureaucrats do not already determine the treatments that companies will cover for plan participants. Instead, in Palin's world, doctors and patients make these decisions exclusively. Insurance companies simply pay the bill.

Palin's argument rests on a stunningly inaccurate understanding of the nation's healthcare system. Private bureaucrats already determine what treatments to cover, and doctors who desire reimbursement (i.e., all doctors) comply with those guidelines.

Also, Palin seems to criticize the nongovernmental nature of a proposed Medicare advisory panel, but this objection conflicts with her "more government is bad" narrative. In any event, the advisory group would only "advise" the federal government; any actual changes in Medicare coverage would require the approval of Congress.

Palin Blames Democrats for Expensive Policies That Bush Created
Palin also accuses Democrats of creating the very "waste and inefficiency" and "unwarranted subsidies" that Obama has pledged to cut from Medicare. Palin's argument, however, proves that the "common sense" crowd does not read.

When Obama proposed cutting wasteful subsidies to Medicare providers, he was referring to President Bush's implementation of the privately administered Medicare Advantage program, which costs 13% more than the traditional governmental plan. A Republican -- not a Democrat -- introduced the Medicare subsidies that Obama has promised to cut.

Here's an even more stunning fact: Senator John McCain -- the leader of the McCain/Palin ticket -- also proposed reversing Bush and cutting these subsidies in order to reign in the expense of the program. During the presidential campaign, this proposal had wide bipartisan support. Palin's flawed analysis suggests that she did not pay attention to or did not understand the very issues she faced as a candidate for Vice President.

Palin's Shameful Cherry-Picking of Congressional Budget Office Reports
Palin continues to engage in blatant cherry-picking of data to support her claims. She cites a CBO study that shows the House proposal would add over $200 billion to the deficit over 10 years (but it would also insure 47 million more people). But as the Liberal Values Blog thoroughly details, Palin ignores a CBO study which concludes that tort reform -- something she has embraced as an essential component of healthcare reform -- will not reduce medical costs.

Palin's Contradictory Embrace of "Big Guv'ment"
Finally, while Palin's op-ed decries "big guv'ment," the Bloggacuda wants to expand the reach of the national government. Palin advocates tort reform, which, as I have previously argued, would add a new layer of federal control over the judicial systems in 50 states, constrain jury decisions, and limit the ability of private litigants to seek justice as they deem appropriate.

Palin also favors "giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers," but the favorable treatment of employer health plans already represents the largest tax expenditure. Palin's proposal would cause an even greater revenue loss and increase the deficit.

Palin also supports replacing Medicare with vouchers, a plan proposed by the conservative Cato Institute. Without the government or other centralized entity to negotiate cheaper costs, the price of health insurance for seniors would likely soar, causing them to exert their political power and demand annual voucher increases. The spending implications are tremendous. On the other hand, a refusal to support higher vouchers would sound a lot like the "rationing" of care, disguised as individual decisionmaking.

Palin's op-ed offers a more thoughtful approach than her previous commentary, but it does not provide any viable solutions to the problems that plague the nation's medical services markets.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vast Rightwing Conspiracy Theorists

Vast rightwing conspiracy theorists have taken over political discourse, and the results are absolutely disturbing. Rather than focusing on substantive matters, policymakers and analysts have expended precious time debunking the latest round of projectile vomiting over some imagined attempt by Obama/Pelosi/Democrats/Liberals/Communists/Socialists/Nazis to end life as "we" know it.

During the earliest part of Obama's presidency, Republicans lacked a coherent voice. They have found this voice, however, by organizing around rightwing conspiracy theories. Consequently, they have created some unity and garnered attention from the public. But they have accomplished these goals by embracing some of the most outlandish and deceitful "theories."

Here are just a few shameful items promoted by vast rightwing conspiracy theorists.

1. Obama is not a "natural-born citizen." The "birthers" are the only group of conspiracy theorists who can compete with the "truthers" (Bush knew about 9/11 before it occurred) in terms of utter creepiness. The birthers inexplicably and stubbornly believe that Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States and that he does not meet the constitutional requirements for President of the United States.

The birthers' belief is immune to facts but highly accommodating of blatant lies and inaccuracies. For example, birthers recently experienced a collective orgasm after they received "smoking-gun evidence" that Obama was born in Kenya -- rather than the United States. There was a terrible problem with the evidence, however: It was a web-doctored Australian birth certificate created and sent to birthers by a conniving liberal blogger. Despite numerous letdowns and no proof, the birthers continue to spread their conspiracy theory and to search for new believers. They have also managed to garner support and sympathy from Republican politicians.

2. Obama = Socialist. During the presidential campaign, the McCain team floated the notion that Obama is a socialist. Rightwingers jumped on board, perhaps because nothing else was helping to improve McCain's campaign numbers. Since the election, this conspiracy theory has reemerged with great force.

Unfortunately, the socialism conspiracy theorists are just as bankrupt as the birthers. First, the group fails to offer a coherent definition of socialism. As with many economic theories, including capitalism, socialists embrace varying policy positions. Typically, however, socialism involves the advocacy of government and worker ownership of the means of production and centralized planning of output. Rather than proving that Obama is a socialist, current White House policies place Obama strongly within the capitalism camp.

Karl Marx would probably roll his eyes in his grave if he knew that socialism involved dumping a trillion dollars into the United States banking system in order to save global capitalism. In addition, if the banking or automobile bailout makes Obama a socialist, then Bush is a socialist as well because he proposed and lobbied for the passage of TARP and interpreted it as covering auto manufacturers.

Furthermore, if the creation of a public health plan to cover a specific slice of the population that lacks insurance qualifies Obama as a socialist, then he is simply carrying out the socialist policies of his predecessors. Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and SCHIP are all public health plans for specific slices of the population. Moreover, because states co-administer Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP, then all 50 states are socialist economies as well. Also, because the GOP has been promising seniors that it will protect Medicare and the VA, then the GOP apparently supports socialism as well.

3. Death Panels. This idea has received a lot of respect from conservatives. The Bloggacuda Sarah Palin initiated this troubling discourse by attacking a provision in the House legislation that authorizes governmental reimbursement of end of life counseling for certain classes of people who hold public-sponsored health plans. The provision, however, only authorizes coverage; it does not mandate the counseling.

Medical groups -- including the American Medical Association -- endorse this type of counseling. Medical providers actually lobbied for the provision. Equating "coverage" of counseling with "mandatory" counseling is irrational and deceptive. Insurance policies list coverage of many procedures. Applying the logic of the death panel theorists, an insurance policy that covered abortion services would actually mandate abortion. But if the same policy covered childbirth services too, it would mandate childbirth and abortion for the same pregnancy! Perverse logic inevitably leads to perverse outcomes.

4. Government Is Taking Over Medicare. Conservatives have exploited Obama's proposed cuts in Medicare costs to scare some seniors into believing that the Democrats want to cut Medicare itself. This argument often gets collapsed into a general assertion that Obama wants to take over Medicare and make decisions on behalf of doctors and patients.

Ironically, this is one conspiracy theory that has some truth to it. The government does have its hands on Medicare. But there is a good explanation: Medicare is a government-run health plan! Despite spewing against the perils of "socialized medicine," Republicans have tried to portray themselves as the guardians of Medicare beneficiaries. These individuals, however, are covered by a public health plan -- which Republicans describe as socialism.

The Medicare conspiracy theories have led to some perverse results. For example, some angry conservative seniors have criticized "public plans," while benefiting from Medicare (the nation's largest public plan). Recently, a senior was violently injured (finger bitten off) while protesting healthcare reform. Although conservatives promoted the story as an example of the evils of socialized medicine/Obamacare, the injured man went to a hospital and received treatment. Ironically, the injured man was insured by Medicare, even though he came out to protest the creation of a public plan.

Furthermore, a recent poll shows that 62% of Republicans believe that the government should "stay out of Medicare," which is factually impossible. Facts and logic, however, are irrelevant to vast rightwing conspiracy theorists. To be fair, however, nutty leftwing conspiracy theorists do not prioritize facts either.

Final Take
This blog used to publish far more essays defending Republicans and criticizing liberals. But now that the Republicans have decided to embrace the partially successful -- yet intellectually bankrupt -- strategy of promoting rightwing conspiracy theories, I have had very little to offer in defense of Republicans. I suspect that if the public continues to shine light on these conspiracy theories and the media decides to tackle matters other than political strife, then the strategy will backfire. So long as these deceitful and factless theories define contemporary conservative discourse, serious analysts will not take conservatives seriously.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The "Socialist" President Tells Kids to Stay in School -- Just Like Other Presidents Before Him

I doubt that many of the people seen at rallies wailing about President Obama being a "socialist" even have a working definition of the word (or perhaps even the ability to spell it). Holding aside that gratuitous insult based on reality, their recent panic attack over Obama's fictional effort to bring his nonexistent socialist/fascist/radical/Nazist message to school children was exposed as (yet another) disparate reaction to Obama (as compared to other presidents).

Obama Leads to Panic Attack, But Other Presidents Did Not
The White House released a document which shows that several other presidents have delivered "back-to-school" speeches to students, without causing a severe clinically paranoid reaction among either the Right or Left. The document shows that George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan addressed school children in order to inspire academic achievement. I suppose it's one of those cheesy things that presidents do.

"First Ladies" have done this as well. Laura Bush, for example, had a literacy campaign for kids, and Nancy Reagan went around telling kids about the perils of drug use. Hillary Clinton said she was not going to sit around baking cookies, and conservatives treated the comment as treasonous behavior. I guess people expect "ladies" to nurture kids and give them warm cookies. When a man does it, perhaps he's up to something. Well, apparently, just some men.....

Content of Speech Also Released; Makes Critics Look Looney
The White House also released the content of the speech. Reading it makes the critics look "looney" (for lack of a nicer -- yet accurate -- word). Here is some of the socialist propaganda Obama is communicating to students:

[A]t the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. . . .

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

Isn't this exactly the stuff that conservatives say they want (poor) kids to hear? I certainly wish that I had heard this type of message from an authority figure when I was in school. And I am sure that some other kids from low-income backgrounds like myself will find inspiration in Obama's words. So: Let this go, people. An apology would be nice as well. But I will settle for a simple "We were wrong."
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