Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't Panic Over Iranian "Nukes"

Mideast expert Juan Cole explains to how tell if Iran is hiding nukes:

If Iran really does permit full, ongoing IAEA inspections of the facility, then it cannot be used for weapons production. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted Sunday that Iran cannot use the Natanz plant for bomb-making because it is being regularly inspected by the UN.

Scott Ritter, an experienced inspector himself, dispels the myths about the new Qom facility and urges against new economic sanctions on Iran as counter-productive. Greater transparency and more inspections should be the demand of the West, he says.

Read the whole thing.

Then check out Glenn Greenwald on on the similaries between the 2002 case against Iraq and the 2009 case against Iran - in the media, that is.

You're Too Good for WaPo, Gene

Much as I hate even acknowleding the existence of the repug-fellating, Froomkin-firing, waste-of-dead-trees-AND-electrons Washington Post, this is too good to ignore.

Eugene Robinson, one of the few real writers left at WaPo (no, Ezra Klein, you are NOT a real writer), has written a truly wonderful column on Roman Polanski. In this age of unlimited online space, the art of covering a subject fully and concisely in 800 words, in which every single word must pull its weight and do the work of 10, few masters remain. Robinson is one of them.

Read slowly. Savor. Pass it on.

h/t Lawyers, Guns and Money.

The Next Health Care Reform Non-Issue

First, a quick refresher:

The only interest the repugs have in health care reform is how it can be exploited to destroy President Obama and the Democratic Party and return themselves to dictatorial power. Even the high priorities of enriching their campaign contributors, protecting the wealthy and fucking over the poor come second to political victory.

To that end, they will lie about everything and anything. Now, health care reform gives them the opportunity to combine two of their favorite pasttimes: lying, and trying to control other people's sex lives.

The Rude Pundit explains:

There's plain facts in this nation. One of those is that abortion remains legal, despite the efforts of some states to regulate it to near-elimination, despite the efforts of individuals to intimidate or kill those involved in the procedure, despite the mewls of the religious that an invisible sky wizard is offended by it. It is still legal.

Yet, in this health care debate, it's not enough for anti-choice nutzoids that the federal government is banned from directly funding abortions. It's not enough that if any public option happens, abortions cannot be paid for by it. No, now anti-choicers want any insurance plan that is part of an "exchange" from which people can choose cannot have abortion coverage because people buying into those plans may be getting subsidies from the government to do so. Follow the bouncing ball to madness here: pro-choicers have already done financial contortions to please the anti-choicers, making it so any subsidies would not actually be used for abortions. But, see, that ain't good enough because, in the even more contorted logic of the conservative crazeratti, any money that's paid to insurers from the government frees up funds to pay for abortion.

Again, this is over a legal medical procedure that simply displeases a segment of the population. It's merely a back door way to outlaw abortions through a thousand cuts, it's another conservative assault on women, it's another hypocrisy in that the only time a business is regulated is to conform to some outdated notions of morality because it gets the yahoos out to vote. It is, ultimately, an argument over a pittance, and it's also another bullshit way to possibly derail reform.

How about this: ask how many people would rather that Iraq/Afghanistan budget go for health insurance for Americans. Then we're talking real money.

Today the fight in the Senate is over the public option. The abortion debate is coming. The landscape is strewn with mines set by the right. The only question is if Democrats are going to try to tiptoe around them or just bulldoze the shit out of them.

Read the whole thing.

Then get cracking:

Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

You can reach your members of congress by calling (202) 224-3121.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Number 82

Specialist Kevin J. Graham, 27, of Benton, Kentucky, died September 26 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when a insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

A western Kentucky pastor says a soldier who died when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle in Afghanistan believed he was doing his life's work in the Army.

The Rev. Jonathan Goodman told The Paducah Sun that 27-year-old Spc. Kevin J. Graham of Benton was honored to serve his country.

Graham died Saturday in Kandahar of wounds suffered in the attack by insurgents. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Goodman says Graham joined the Army in 2007, was married in Washington and had a stepson. The pastor says Graham's parents brought reports of their son to church often and that members of the church would pray for him.

The newspaper said Graham's parents, Dan and Sandy Graham, live near Fairdealing and were at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday when their son's body was returned to the United States. Graham has three older brothers.

Graham was an indirect-fire infantryman, was on his first deployment. He joined the Army in July 2007 and reported to Fort Lewis that December.

As of Monday, Sept. 28, at least 773 Americans have died in the AfPak clusterfuck, for no reason any rational person can discern.

Celebrate Blasphemy Day: Challenge Authority

The founders' description of International Blasphemy Day is a tad vanilla for my taste, so after the obligatory bland description, I'll appeal to your imaginations, you perverted dirty fucking hippies, you.

International Blasphemy Day is not just a day. It is a movement to dismantle the wall which exists between religion and criticism.


The objective of International Blasphemy Day is to open up all religious beliefs to the same level of free inquiry, discussion and criticism to which all other areas of academic interest are subjected.

Why September 30? The last day in September is the anniversary of the original publication of Danish cartoons in 2005 depicting the prophet Muhammad's face. Any visual depiction of Muhammad is considered a grave offence under Islamic law.

The fury which arose within the Islamic community following this publication led to massive riots, attacks on foreign embassies and deaths.

The newspapers which chose to publish these cartoons were in many cases blamed for the outpouring of violence which followed. This unfortunate yet inevitable sequence of events clearly demonstrated a dangerous misconception that had piggy-backed into the 21st century on the shoulders of ignorance, fear and apathy, that all religious beliefs and ideas deserve respect and are beyond criticism or satire.

International Blasphemy Day is a movement, not just a day, to remind the world that religion should never again be beyond open and honest discussion or reproach. Our future depends on it.

Now it's up to you to make it fun. It shouldn't take much. As PZ Myers notes, all it takes is a single mention of the holiday to send the freakazoids into orbit around Neptune.

So how about this? Starting tomorrow, greet everyone you see with a hearty, "Happy Blasphemy Day!" To the ones you know well, and who appreciate your twisted sense of humor, you should revise that to "Happy Fucking Blasphemy Day!" You'll know you've discovered a new friend when someone responds to your "Happy Blasphemy Day!" with a cheerful "Fuck you very much, and the same to you!"

And keep the spirit of Blasphemy Day throughout the year by greeting every mention of or reference to invisible sky wizards with a laughing "Bullshit!"

"Language is a Virus"

Big Day for Public Option

If you wonder why there's still any doubt a public option will be part of health care reform when President Obama claims to favor it, Congressional leaders claim to favor it, and two-thirds of Americans keep telling pollsters they favor it, Robert Reich explains:

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is a critical day in the saga of the public option. Democrats Charles Schumer (New York) and Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia) are introducing an amendment to include the public option in the bill to be reported out by the Senate Finance Committee -- the committee anointed by the White House as its favored vehicle for getting health care reform.

Before you read another word, call and email the Senate offices of Democrats Max Baucus (Montana), Tom Carper (Delaware), Robert Menendez (New Jersey), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico), John Kerry (MA), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Maria Cantwell (Washington), and Bill Nelson (Florida) -- telling them you want them to vote in favor of the public option amendment. And get everyone you know in these states to do the same. Hell, you might as well phone and email Republican Olympia Snowe (Maine) and make the same pitch.

Background: Every dollar squeezed out of Big Pharma and Big Insurance is a dollar less that you'll have to pay either in healthcare costs or in taxes to cover healthcare costs. The two most direct ways to squeeze future profits are allowing Medicare to use its huge bargaining leverage to negotiate lower drug prices, and creating a public insurance option to compete with private insurers and also use its bargaining clout to get lower prices and thereby push private insurers to offer lower rates.

But last January, the White House made a Faustian bargain with Big Pharma and Big Insurance, essentially scuttling both of these profit-squeezing mechanisms in return for these industries' agreement not to oppose healthcare legislation with platoons of lobbyists and millions of dollars of TV ads, and Pharma's willingness to cut drug prices by some $80 billion over the next ten years. The White House promised these industries they'd come out way ahead -- getting tens of millions of new customers who'd be buying private health insurance policies and thereby paying for an almost endless supply of new drugs. Healthcare reform would be, in short, a bonanza.

Big Pharma and Big Insurance have so far delivered on their side of the deal. In fact, Big Pharma has shelled out $120 million in advertisements in favor of reform. Now the White House is delivering on its side.


Big Pharma and big insurance hate the public insurance option even more than they hate big Medicare discounts. And although the President has sounded as if he would welcome it, political operatives in the White House have quietly reassured the industries that it won't be included in the final bill. At most, the bill would allow the formation of non-profit "cooperatives" that wouldn't have the scale or authority to squeeze the profits of private industry, or a "trigger" that would allow states to form public insurance options eventually if certain goals for cost savings and coverage weren't met.

But the public option lives on, nonetheless. It's still in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension bill. It still headlines the House bills, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's still committed to it. The latest Times/CBS poll shows 65 percent of the public in favor of it.

Now, Schumer and Rockefeller are introducing a public option amendment in the Senate Finance Committee. Carper, Menendez, Baucus, and other Dems on the Committee should vote for it, or be forced to pay a price if they don't.

Read the whole thing.

There are lots of steps left in Congress before the final bill emerges from a conference committee and heads for President Obama's desk. But that's all the more reason to keep pounding the message home.

Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

You can reach your members of congress by calling (202) 224-3121.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stay Classy, Mangy.

The shotgun alliance between Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo was bound to lead to some awkward moments, but this is beyond the fevered dreams of nihilists.

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo used profanity as he criticized Gov. Steve Beshear and his support of Mongiardo’s U.S. Senate candidacy in a recording posted last week on the Internet.

In the recording, which was placed on YouTube by someone using the name “senrace2010,” Mongiardo is heard saying he is so frustrated with Beshear that he is “close to saying f— it all. I do not need this job. I do not need the U.S. Senate.”

Mongiardo is also heard saying that Beshear, who has endorsed Mongiardo, will be remembered as the state’s “worst” governor and that a “blowup” is coming.

Mongiardo spokesman Kim Geveden said the audio tape was “edited” and that Mongiardo “strongly supports” Beshear.

“He supports him now and he supports him for reelection in 2011,” Geveden said in a statement. “He believes Governor Beshear has provided strong leadership and a steady hand during some of the most difficult times in our Commonwealth’s history.

Geveden declined to answer specific questions about the veracity of the tape, including when and where it might have been recorded.

Earlier Monday, the Mongiardo campaign released a video of Beshear praising Mongiardo at a Sept. 23 fund-raiser in Northern Kentucky.

In that tape, Beshear called Mongiardo “the next United States senator,” praised his knowledge of health care issues and lauded his work on an adventure tourism project.

The U.S. Senate campaign of Attorney General Jack Conway, Mongiardo’s chief rival in May’s Democratic primary election, said Monday that Mongiardo “has a lot of explaining to do to the governor and the people” about the anonymous tape.

Beshear spokesman Jay Blanton said Monday evening that “the Governor continues to strongly support Lt. Gov. Mongiardo’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate.” He declined to comment on the YouTube recording.


In the recording of Mongiardo, he is heard saying “the only difference between (former Republican Gov. Ernie) Fletcher and Beshear is Beshear has not had a blowup yet. But it is coming.”

Mongiardo is also heard saying he has “zero loyalties with Beshear” and criticizes Beshear for raising funds for his 2011 re-election campaign while Mongiardo is trying to raise money for his U.S. Senate campaign next year.

“He (Beshear) is screwing me every way possible … and what do I get out of it … We finally begged him to show up for one in Northern Kentucky. He is not going to lift a finger, he is not going to do a damn thing, he is just going to show up and his name is going to be on the … listen there is no love."

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Get Ahead of It This Time

This summer, Blue Girl and I discussed starting a feature that instead of making fun of the latest repug beyond-insane lie about President Obama, would try to predict the next inocuous thing Limpballs would freak out over.

Then came the Death Panels. And we realized the fatal flaw in our plan: We think. We simply could not force our rational, fact-loving, reality-based brains to operate like the gray sponges in the craniums of people who could interpret end-of-life planning as state-sanctioned murder.

But failing to anticipate those attacks on health care reform is exactly the huge mistake made by the Obama administration, Congressional Democrats and liberals, and that may still kill real reform.

Now the question is whether they have learned that lesson, and are preparing to launch a first strike on the next issue: climate change.

Steve M. doubts it.

I really appreciate today's Paul Krugman column ...

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you'll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change....

... because Krugman shows that he clearly understands the need to anticipate, rather than merely rebut, the arguments made by the right. He knows the real battle hasn't started yet -- and he uses this column to make the case for climate-change legislation before that happens. Would that the Obama administration understood the need to do the same. Would that Team Obama were setting the terms of the debate -- now. But I'm afraid I know what's going to happen: the we're all going to die or be rendered penniless at Obama's hands!!! lies are going to fly thick and fast as soon as Washington is focused on climate change, and the White House is going to have to play a desperate game of catch-up. I really hope I'm wrong about this, but I fear no one at the White House ever really expects the worst, therefore no one at the White House has a plan for fending off the worst in order to prevail, which is the point.

I'd just add that health care reform has the huge advantage of being something many millions of people know they desperately need, and that more than 70 percent of Americans want and feel strongly that the nation must have. We all know somebody who doesn't have insurance, or lost insurance, or had medical care coverage denied by an insurer.

Anybody know someone personally injured by climate change? If so, please send that person's phone number to the White House right away.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic....

"Roman Polanski Raped a Child."

I was horrified to discover this morning that people were using precious space in national publications to deplore the Roman Polanski arrest. Allow me to clarify: they were not deploring Polanski's horrible crime, to which he confessed and from punishment for which he ran away to Europe. They were deploring the fact that he was arrested in a country that will extradite him to the U.S.

In Salon, Kate Harding responds:

The point is that drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not -- and at least in theory, does not -- tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are, no matter how old you were when you finally got caught, no matter what your victim says about it now, no matter how mature she looked at 13, no matter how pushy her mother was, and no matter how many really swell movies you've made.

Roman Polanski raped a child. No one, not even him, disputes that. Regardless of whatever legal misconduct might have gone on during his trial, the man admitted to unlawful sex with a minor. But the Polanski apologism we're seeing now has been heating up since "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," the 2008 documentary about Polanski's fight to get the conviction dismissed. Writing in Salon, Bill Wyman criticized the documentary's whitewashing of Polanksi's crimes last February, after Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled that if the director wanted to challenge the conviction, he'd need to turn himself in to U.S. authorities and let the justice system sort it out. "Fugitives don't get to dictate the terms of their case ... Polanski deserves to have any potential legal folderol investigated, of course. But the fact that Espinoza had to state the obvious is testimony to the ways in which the documentary, and much of the media coverage the director has received in recent months, are bizarrely skewed."

The reporting on Polanski's arrest has been every bit as "bizarrely skewed," if not more so. Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

Read the whole thing.

State-Funded Religion Before Kentucky Supreme Court

The ways the freakazoids find to scarf up taxpayer dollars to fund their vicious, hateful crusade against everyone who doesn't follow their Bronze Age superstitions are manifold, thus we must ever be guard.

In 2006, the Snidely Whiplash of Kentucky politics, repug and Senate president David Williams, slipped $11 million into the state budget for the College of the Cumberlands, a private Baptist University in Eastern Kentucky.

He might have got away with it, too, except that shortly thereafter the college, in an excess of hubris, expelled an openly gay student. Because teh gay violated the school's Baptist code.

In Kentucky, we prefer our discrimination separate and equal; either public funding of religion or gay-bashing might pass, but the two together raised a firestorm. A coalition of civil rights and gay rights groups filed suit, and got the appropriation overturned.

On Friday the Kentucky Supreme Court heard the case.

In March 2008, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Roger Crittenden ruled that the 2006 appropriation — $10 million for a pharmacy building at the University of the Cumberlands and $1 million for a scholarship program — was unconstitutional and violated a provision in the constitution that does not allow state tax money to go to private, religious schools for educational purposes.

The case could have far-reaching implications for higher education in Kentucky. If the University of the Cumberlands wins its appeal, other private, religious-based schools could also be eligible for state tax dollars. It is unclear when the justices will rule on the case.


Kimberlee Wood Colby, a lawyer for the Eastern Kentucky Baptist-affiliated school, said that a 1949 Kentucky Supreme Court case held that two religious-affiliated hospitals could receive state dollars because it would serve the greater good.There is a nation-wide and state-wide shortage of pharmacists, Colby said. Colby also argued that the university would follow state and federal laws regarding admissions of students of all faiths. A memorandum of understanding between then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the school guaranteed that the university would follow state and federal rules regarding admissions, Colby said.


But Supreme Court Justice Mary Noble questioned whether a pharmacy school had the same type of public health benefits as a hospital. “If only 10 percent of your graduates stay in Kentucky…is it still a public health benefit?” Noble asked.


“Our biggest issue is that taking taxpayer dollars and funding private institutions is not legal,” said Michael Handley, co-chair of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance. “As a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender) community, I don’t want the state to use my tax dollars to discriminate against me.”

Read the whole thing.

Note that the getting-more-irrelevant-every-day ACLU of Kentucky is not part of the coalition. I just got a membership renewal notice from the ACLU and I'm not looking kindly on it at the moment.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic.

How Health Reform With No Public Option is Worse Than No Reform At All

The closer we get to the votes that really matter on keeping or rejecting a public option in health care reform, the more important it is to remember what the public option really is:

The only thing that makes any attempt to reform health care work.

Only a public option will reduce costs. Only a public option will avoid exploding the deficit. Only a public option will prevent a multi-trillion-dollar giveaway to insurance giants that will make the Wall Street bailout look like pocket change.

Jason Rosenbaum at Firedoglake explains:

The Los Angeles Times has a must-read piece today on the problems of an individual mandate without cost controls attached (emphasis added):

In the drive to bring health coverage to almost every American, lawmakers have largely rejected restrictions on how much insurers can charge, sparking fears that consumers will continue to face the skyrocketing premium increases of recent years.

The legislators' reluctance to control premium costs comes despite the fact that they intend to require virtually all Americans to get health insurance, an unprecedented mandate -- long sought by insurance companies -- that would mark the first time the federal government has compelled consumers to buy a single industry's product, effectively creating a captive market.

"We are about to force at least 30 million people into an insurance market where the sharks are circling," said California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a Democrat who served as the state's insurance commissioner for eight years. "Without effective protections, they will be eaten alive."

Soaring premiums coupled with millions of new customers forced to buy policies would likely mean higher costs for taxpayers to cover government subsidies for lower-income families and individuals.

"If the government is going to require people to buy an insurance policy, they have to guarantee it is affordable," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "It is unconscionable not to."

The Baucus bill is a mandate with no price controls, because it lacks a public health insurance option to increase competition with private insurance.


Without a public health insurance option to control costs, the Baucus bill gives private insurers license to raise their rates as much as they want. Families and taxpayers will have to keep up. Given the way private insurers raise their rates, this isn't right or sustainable.


I think Americans understand the policy. They get that if the Baucus bill passes unchanged, we will be bailing out the private insurance companies that have screwed us for years, and we all will be forced to buy insurance that we can't afford. They get that without a the choice of public health insurance option to keep the insurance companies honest and keep prices down, and without decent subsidies and an employer mandate, an individual mandate is unconscionable.

Don't let anyone tell you the public option is expendable, something to negotiate away from repug votes that no reform bill will ever, ever get.

The public option is the only part of reform worth keeping because it's the only thing that prevents "reform" from being worse - far worse - than what we have today.

Not News and That's a Crime

If only the story Zach Roth of TPM brings us were unique.

Kimberly Young of Oxford, Ohio, died Wednesday morning a few days short of her 23rd birthday. Hospital officials have said she appeared to have the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

But here's why Young's death is news beyond her southwest Ohio community: people who knew her are saying she resisted treatment that could have saved her life -- because she didn't have health insurance.

And adding to the political resonance: Young's member of Congress is Rep. John Boehner, who as the House Republican leader has led the effort against reform.

Young, a previously healthy 2008 graduate of Miami University of Ohio who lived in Oxford, was diagnosed with swine flu and pneumonia. A few days later, her roommate's mother told a local news channel, she went to an urgent care center. But as her condition continued to worsen, she was reluctant to go to Oxford's McCullough-Hyde Hospital to get proper treatment.

According to the mother, that was because Young "did not have insurance ... After she graduated, she was working a bunch of jobs, but none of them had insurance."

Eventually, after showing signs of kidney failure and dehydration, Young was rushed to McCullough-Hyde, then transferred to University Hospital in Corryville, where she died.


It's by no means confirmed that Young's death was caused by a lack of insurance. Even assuming the accuracy of what her roommate's mother said -- that she resisted treatment because of the lack of insurance -- there's no way to be sure that timelier care could have saved her.


Still, if Young's lack of insurance did contribute to her not seeking treatment sooner, it would be hard to find a starker or more compelling example of the need to fix our broken health insurance system. And the fact that she was a constituent of the man who's leading House Republicans' in their effort to block reform only underlines the point.

Look around: somebody you know - the server at your favorite lunch joint, the recent college graduate of whom your neighbors are so proud, the friend who just got laid off - is going to be the next victim of our refusal to make our health care system rational and effective.

Real Terror Fighters Don't Show Off

Back on the subject of Smirky/Darth's need to cover up their incompetence at capturing actual terrorists by screaming empty boasts, The Rude Pundit has, of course, the perfect sexual metaphor.

More mundanely, but no less accurately, Steve Benen notes the difference between people who scream terrorism but never do anything about it, and people who just quietly go about doing effective law enforcement without resorting to either torture or lies.

I used to maintain a list of the "thwarted" Bush-era terrorist plots that, as additional information came to light, were not even close to what they appeared to be initially. The plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. Jose Padilla was not actually prepared to detonate a dirty bomb in DC. The plot by the "Seas of David" cult in Miami -- billed by Dick Cheney as being "a very real threat" -- wasn't a very real threat. The facts of the British hijacking plot didn't stand up well to scrutiny, while the plot to attack Los Angeles' Library Tower turned out to be far less serious than we'd been led to believe. Eventually, I gave up -- there were just too many.

Periodically, the Bush administration would, to significant fanfare, claim to have made a major counter-terrorism breakthrough. They'd hold press conferences, and pat one another on the back. Invariably, the claims crumbled upon scrutiny, which only fueled cynicism....

I should add, of course, that it's certainly possible that the Zazi case may, in time, fall into the same category. The facts appear horrifying -- the suspect is believed to have the intent, training, and materials to launch a serious attack -- but time will tell. Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at New York University law school, said, the Zazi case "actually looks like the case the government kept claiming it had but never did." She added that "the ingredients here are quite scary."

But unlike the Bush era, the Obama team has skipped "the bombast and exaggeration" that was the standard operating procedure of the previous administration.

It's nice having grown-ups running the place for a change.

Kentucky Fall Festivals

UPDATED, Monday, Sept. 28, UPDATE II Wednesday, Sept. 30, UPDATE III Saturday, Oct. 3, UPDATE IV Monday, Oct., 5, UPDATE V Wednesday, Oct. 7, UPDATE VI Friday, Oct. 9, UPDATE VII Wednesday, Oct. 14, UPDATE VIII Friday, Oct. 16, UPDATE IX, Thursday, Oct. 22, UPDATE X, Friday, Oct. 23, UPDATE XI, Monday, Nov. 2, UPDATE XII, Thursday, Nov. 5, UPDATE XIII, Thursday, Nov. 19

I'm a little late this year posting on the autumn activities at Kentucky State Parks, but there is still October and November to enjoy:

Carter Caves State Resort Park continues to offer cave tours during the winter season in two caves. Tours of Cascade Cave are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily through April 2. Cascade Cave is one of the largest of over 200 caves in Carter County and is noted for its large chambers and numerous cave formations. Highlights of the tour include the reflecting pool in the Lake Room, the unique cave formations in the Cathedral Room, and an underground waterfall over 30 feet high. The tour lasts about 75 minutes and covers a walking distance of about ¾ of a mile.

It’s time for nature lovers to make plans for a Kentucky State Park tradition – Eagle Watch Weekends in January and February of 2010. American Bald Eagles will be gathering around the major lakes of Western Kentucky and South-Central Kentucky as they look for food during the winter. Kentucky State Parks will take you there to observe and learn about these beautiful birds of prey.

Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park will host a “Hike Within the Park” on Saturday, Nov. 21. This is an opportunity for guests to participate in a guided hike along the major trails within the park near Dawson Springs.

Salute military treasures and Kentucky traditions this fall during the Kentucky Historical Society’s Candlelight Tour events Nov. 12, 13 and 14 in downtown Frankfort. The events at KHS are part of Candlelight Tour weekend, presented by Whitaker Bank and Downtown Frankfort Inc.

Carter Caves State Resort Park is hosting a dinner theater that should bring back memories and a lot of laughs for guests. “The HoneyMurderers” – a spoof of the television show the “Honeymooners” -- will be presented Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the park near Olive Hill.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park near Corbin is sponsoring a special stamp cancellation with commemorative envelopes on Nov. 3 to honor the 85th anniversary of the Kentucky State Parks. The keepsake envelopes will be sold at the park gift shop and at DuPont Lodge. The special U.S. Postal Service cancellation stamps will be conducted from 8-10 p.m. All of those who attend on Nov. 3 will be eligible for a drawing for a free cabin rental. (Some restrictions apply)

The 19th annual Moonbow Trail Trek, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, offers nature lovers the opportunity to combine a challenging hike with a chance to view some beautiful scenery.

If you’re thinking about taking up spelunking as a hobby, consider paying a visit to Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park the weekend of Nov. 13-15. The park near Burkesville will be hosting its “Beginning Caving Expedition” that weekend for beginners and experienced cavers.

Lake Barkley State Resort Park is hosting an evening cruise Oct. 24 for a beautiful view of fall colors and sunset along the shoreline of Lake Barkley.

Three Kentucky scenic corridors — Lincoln Heritage Highway, Kentucky Great River Road and Woodlands Trace — have been elevated to National Scenic Byway designation by the Federal Highway Administration. Fall is the perfect time to tour them.

The William Whitley House State Historic Site will host a Living History Encampment on Oct. 24, featuring interpreters portraying figures from the early days of Kentucky’s settlement.

Fort Boonesborough State Park is offering visitors a chance to view its annual campground Halloween program for just $1. Now through Oct. 24, you can drive through the HalloweenFest XV at the park near Richmond to enjoy all the decorations, music and thousands of lights. The campground will be open for this special tour from 7-10:30 p.m. All proceeds go to the park and the Fort Boonesborough Foundation, a private organization that supports the park.

Kentucky State Parks restaurants are preparing for one of the busiest days of the year – Thanksgiving Day. All 17 resort park restaurants will be serving the annual Thanksgiving Day buffet on Nov. 26, a tradition for the parks and many families across Kentucky.

I'll put Kentucky's fall beauty up against anyplace in the country, and now's the time to get out their and enjoy it. Adventure tourism is alive and well during the fall months in Kentucky. There are plenty of outdoor opportunities ranging from hunting and fishing to hikes, wildlife viewing and canoeing and kayaking. Kentucky State Parks are sponsoring many outdoor events at this time of year. With a total of 52 parks that include 17 resorts, there is a park nearby with trails and other adventure tourism programming. Click here to learn more about outdoor events.

E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park has two seasonal events scheduled the weekend of Oct. 16-17. On Friday, Oct. 16, the park will host the “After Dark in the Park, Geo-Ghost Walk” from 8-11 p.m. The walk will begin at Shelter No. 1 and the fee is $10 a person. On Saturday, the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park Foundation will host the Fall Fest from 4-8 p.m. The event is free; parking is $5 a car.

The Kentucky State Parks 85th Anniversary Poetry Contest has three age categories – 11 and under, 12-18 and 19 and over. Any style may be used but poets are asked to use a theme that is some way related to the natural, cultural or historical aspects of state parks. The deadline for submitting an entry is Nov. 2, 2009, with the winners to be announced by the end of the year. The top prize in each age category is a $50 Kentucky State Park gift card. There will also be prizes for 2nd and 3rd place in each age category. All winners and honorable mentions ages 18 and under will receive a free admission coupon to a state park fort, museum or historic site of their choice.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park will host the 47th annual PhotoScenic Kentucky Workshop the weekend of Oct. 24-25.

Fall, the best time of year for stories of ghosts and other haunting, is upon us. From now through early November, take a trip to where your spine gets tingled by tales of paranormal activity throughout Kentucky.

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month in November, Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site has acquired a temporary exhibit from the Kentucky Historical Society called, “Of Father Sky and Mother Earth: Early Southeastern Indian Art and Culture.”

General Butler State Resort Park will be presenting the “Tony & Tina Murder Mystery” – an evening full of mystery, music and suspense – on Nov. 14. The dinner theater production includes audience participation, so bring your dancing shoes, too. Guests will love this fun-packed evening. First introductions to the final revelations, you’ll be transported into an amazing experience.

Big Bone Lick State Park will be hosting the annual Salt Festival during the weekend of Oct. 16-18 at the park in Boone County. The weekend will feature demonstrations of pioneer and Native American life, salt making, spear throwing, storytelling, music, crafts and more. Visitors can also see the park’s bison herd and newly-renovated nature center.

Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park is holding its annual Fall Photography Weekend Oct. 16-18. This weekend consists of a digital photography contest with point and shoot, intermediate, and masters divisions, evening programs, critique and award ceremony.

Halloween will be a real scream at Kentucky State Parks. "Many of the park system’s campgrounds will be having special activities for campers, including decorations, costumes, hayrides and games for the kids. And other resort parks, recreation parks and historic sites will also have special events in late October -- a great time to be outside with family and friends."

Kentucky Dam Village Annual Fall Arts and Crafts Show set for October 10-11.

Greenbo LakeAntique Car Show Oct. 10-11.

Cumberland Falls now offers overnight lodging packages for its Monday Night Jam Sessions.

E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park has mulitple activities celebrating Fall throughout October.

And don't miss "Second Sunday" throughout the state.

Several Kentucky State Parks will be participating in “Second Sunday” on Oct. 11, an event aimed at offering physical activities to Kentuckians.

Kentucky is consistently ranked among the top 10 states for obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service is the event organizer. Click here for more information about Second Sunday.

“Kentucky State Parks are proud to be able to offer so many opportunities to our citizens to get out in the fresh air and exercise,” said Parks Commissioner Gerry van der Meer. “The best thing about our parks is that they are free and located in all regions of the state.”

Kentucky State Parks have more than 250 miles of hiking trails with various levels of difficulty. Visit for more details. Here is a list of the state parks with activities planned for Oct. 11 (unless otherwise noted):

  • Barren River Lake State Resort Park, Glasgow Parks and Recreation, YMCA of Glasgow and Barren County Homemakers are teaming up to offer a variety of activities for all ages for the Second Sunday of October. There will be different activities for everyone to encourage physical fitness and activity. There will be an obstacle course, seated chair exercises, Zumba and running workshops. The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Beaver Trail Complex in Glasgow. 1-800-325-0057.
  • Blue Licks Battlefield, Mt. Olivet
    Please join us at 2 p.m. by the Pioneer Museum for a guided, interpretive walk along the Heritage Trail. It is a beautiful trek covering 3 ½ miles at a leisurely pace. There will be opportunities to discuss plants, animals and history since the trail winds around near the river and past Tanner Station (a replica of an 18th century fort). Free gifts will be given to participants courtesy of the Nicholas County Extension Office and Robertson County Extension Office. Enjoy viewing nature up close and personal instead of through a car window. Blue Licks has miles of easy to moderate walking and hiking trails open all year long. In addition to this walk, the Kentucky Llama & Alpaca Association will have a special trek on Oct. 11. Llamas and materials will be on display and the trek will begin at 1 p.m. This event is free and open to the general public. 1-800-443-7008.
  • Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, Buckhorn
    In an effort to get everyone moving, enjoy this walk, stroll or run around a 2-mile loop around the park. The walk will include the park’s “Trail of Scarecrows” and will feature health tips and suggestions from local health agencies. Meet at the lodge at 3 p.m. The park road will be closed during this time. 1-800-325-0058.
  • Carter Caves State Resort Park, Olive Hill
    A guided hike along Carter Caves State Resort Park’s Natural Bridge Trail will take place for Second Sunday. The hike is 1/2 mile in length will leave the Welcome Center at 2 p.m. and last about 45 minutes. For those looking for a longer venture, there will be a hike along the Horn Hollow Trail at 3:30 p.m. This hike is 2 miles in length and will take about 1 1/2 hours. There is no charge for the hikes. Arrive early and take a guided tour of X-Cave or Cascade Cave (admission charged). Tours start at 9:30 a.m. You can get more information and purchase tickets at the Welcome Center. 1-800-325-0059.
  • Columbus-Belmont State Park, Columbus (Oct. 9)
    During the weekend of the park’s Civil War Days event, a “Ghost Walk” will be held Friday, Oct. 9. The trail is about ¼ mile and goes through earthworks and trenches. Water will be provided by the local extension office. 1-270-677-2327.
  • Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Burkesville
    Meet at the Mary Ray Oaken lodge at 2 p.m. for a guided hike on one of Dale Hollow’s beautiful scenic trails. Enjoy this walk through the woods to admire the colorful fall foliage and to experience a breathtaking view from Eagles Point, the best overlook on the lake. This hike is a good opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air while getting some exercise. The hike will be approximately 3 miles over natural trails that vary in terrain with some steep inclines. Please wear comfortable shoes and clothing and bring water. For more information contact Jamie Avery at 1-800-325-2282 or
  • Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, Greenup
    Get outdoors and enjoy Second Sunday with a hike in the woods at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park. The hike will start on the Fern Valley Trail, then turn onto a portion of the Michael Tygart Trail and come out at the Lodge Road to return to the Jesse Stuart Lodge. Hike will be approximately 3 miles and leave at 10 a.m. from the parking lot at the Jesse Stuart Lodge. There is also mountain biking and horseback riding available for the beginner to the expert on the many multi-use trails at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park. 1-800-325-0083.
  • Green River Lake State Park, Campbellsville
    Meet at the Green River Lake Tailwater area for events starting at 2 p.m. Fishing, archery, hiking and paddling are among the events scheduled. 1-270-465-8255.
  • Levi Jackson State Park, London
    Levi Jackson will host a community event for Second Sunday from 2-6 p.m. Events include a rock-climbing wall, obstacle course, clogging, walking, games and more. The museum road will close at noon. The events are sponsored by local businesses and organizations. 606-330-2130.

Enjoy them all.

ACORN: What Really Happened

Before we lose track of the facts amid criticism of ACORN's lawsuit against the people who illegally taped ACORN employees - gasp! - trying to help poor people, let's take a closer look at what really happened in those supposed conversations.

Anonymous Liberal has a superb analysis:

As Jack Schafer correctly notes in his otherwise far-too-credulous piece at Slate, this is not a sting; it's the equivalent of a Sasha Baron Cohen sketch.

In a real undercover investigation, you catch people engaged in activity that, based on the circumstances, you can be confident they are inclined to commit on their own volition. In a prostitution sting, for example, an officer poses as a prostitute and arrests those who go out of their way to solicit her. In an undercover drug sting, you pose as a buyer or dealer and arrest those who take the initiative to engage in an illegal transaction with you. In both cases you can be fairly confident that the person you arrested would have attempted to buy sex or drugs from someone else if the police hadn't been there.

But you can't entrap people. You can't present them with unrealistic situations or go out of your way to get someone to do something that they might not otherwise do. You can't, for example, leave a $100 dollar bill on the ground and arrest people who, in a momentary lapse of judgment, take the money.

What O'Keefe and Giles are doing isn't quite entrapment, but it isn't remotely the equivalent of a sting either, unless you assume that ACORN employees are routinely confronted with fake-looking pimp and prostitute duos who come into the office asking for advice on how to set up a prostitution business. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that real pimps and prostitutes don't usually wander into the offices of community services organizations and explicitly ask for help in setting up their illegal businesses. It's a safe bet that none of the employees filmed surreptitiously in these videos have ever encountered a situation like this before. So all these videos really show are people's instant reactions to a situation far removed from their everyday experience and training.


The people caught in these videos were not engaged in deliberative activity, they were merely reacting to unusual provocation. The real test of their judgment was not what they said on the fly but what they did afterward, when the filmmakers had left the premises and they finally had a moment to process the encounter. Unfortunately, that moment is not on the tapes. We do know, however, that at least one of the employees captured on the video reported the duo to the police after they left the office (he was fired anyway). In another instance, the two were actually asked to leave and a police report was filed. Others undoubtedly concluded that it was a prank, either during the encounter or after having the chance to think about it for a while, and therefore shrugged it off and took no further action.


The other point that is not being made, but should be, is that these ACORN workers had absolutely nothing to gain from helping out this pimp and prostitute duo. In a typical sting, the subject of the sting has some plausible motive for committing wrongdoing; they want drugs or sex or money, etc. In a sting directed at an company or organization, the goal is typically to catch employees engaged in illegal behavior that benefits that company or organization (such as bribing public officials or deceiving customers). That's not the case here. No conservative has bothered to even offer a theory as to why it would be in ACORN's interest to assist people in setting up prostitution rings. How would ACORN benefit from such activity? How would these individual employees benefit? What's in it for them?

ACORN employees are trained to help poor people (the vast majority of whom are not criminals) deal with common problems. So, at worst, what you have here are examples of employees who, eager to help whomever comes through the door, offered to help people whom they should not have (and without a promise of anything in return). There's no quid pro quo even alleged. And again, what's captured on film are not final decisions, but instant reactions.

But based on these "stings" a number of employees lost their jobs and an entire community service organization has been vilified to the point where its future as an organization is severely threatened. Everyone should find that troubling, because it could happen to any organization or company.


And until the press realizes that this technique can be used to slime just about any organization or company, and starts ignoring it or exposing it for the nonsense that it is, they'll continue to do it, destroying people's lives and reputations in the process.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE, 9:11 a.m. I missed this Page One post from yesterday on how Trey Grayson thinks the biggest threat facing all true murkins is ACORN.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When Your Unemployment Runs Out, Thank Mitch and Jimbo

All six of Kentucky's House delegation voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits to people whose benefits are about to expire. The four republicans included, and even Mr. Fiscal Responsibility repug-fellator himself, DINO Ben Chandler.

What could have inspired loyal repugs Davis, Rogers, Guthrie and Whitfield to vote in favor of such a Democratic, ni**er-loving, welfare-promoting, tax-and-spend, dirry-fucking-hippie bill?

Maybe the accelerating unemployment rate in every single one of Kentucky's 120 counties? When the number of unemployed people in your district exceeds the margin of victory in your last election, some things lose their partisan taint.

But now the bill goes to the Senate, where everything good and pure and helpful to non-millionaires and beneficial to the nation goes to die.

So Governor Steve Beshear has publicly announced his plea to Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning that they vote in favor of the bill.

As the Commonwealth faces an 11.1 percent unemployment rate, Gov. Steve Beshear today sent a letter to Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning urging them to back a proposal designed to provide a temporary extension of certain unemployment benefits.

House Resolution (H.R.) 3548, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, will provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to Kentucky’s unemployed workers who qualify. This comes just as jobless rates have again climbed in each of the state’s 120 counties compared to last year.

In little more than a year’s time, nearly 123,000 Kentuckians have claimed emergency unemployment compensation after their regular benefit allowances expired. During this prolonged economic downturn, between 800 and 1,200 Kentuckians each week are now exhausting the emergency unemployment benefits provided by Congress. Additionally, more than 10,000 have been forced to rely further on the extended benefits provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Earlier this month, the governor asked Kentucky’s Congressional delegation to support H.R. 3404, a measure that would provide a yearlong extension of unemployment benefits. That proposal is still waiting for consideration.

“While I hold out hope that this longer extension may someday become a reality and provide a much-needed boost to Kentucky’s unemployed,” Gov. Beshear wrote, “your support of H.R. 3548 will certainly go a long way toward helping those Kentuckians who need it most.”

To contact your Senators in support of H.R. 3548, go online here.

Given that neither Mitchie-poo nor Rip Van Winkle giving a flying fuck about Kentucky or Kentuckians, anybody got odds on Steve getting his wish?

An American Statesman at the UN

Because the wingnuts and Blue Dogs are already calling him "Carter" for the unforgivable sin of speaking like a sane, responsible leader instead of a schoolyard bully making threats out of fear, maybe we should all take a good look and listen and judge for ourselves.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three

Part Four

Full text here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Repugs and Blue Dogs: Property Over People

Not that hypocrisy matters to that bunch, but the horrific flooding in the southeast has spotlighted the eagerness of the anti-government crowd to lavish flood insurance and disaster relief on even the most irresponsible of property owners, even while denying those same people similar coverage for their health.

David Cay Johnston at FireDogLake explains:

Unlike people without health insurance, homeowners have access to public option flood insurance.

Even those who fail to take personal responsibility to buy insurance to protect their property can get benefits, thanks in good part to politicians who are leading opponents of public option healthcare.

Consider the example of Trent Lott of Mississippi, who was that state's senior senator when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, flooding his home looking out on the Gulf. Lott had not exercised personal responsibility by taking out flood insurance even though it was available from the federal government at low cost. He did have private insurance, but his insurer refused to pay much of the claim, saying it was not wind damage (which was covered by the policy), but water damage (which was excluded).

Weeks later Lott introduced Senate Bill 1936, which would have authorized retroactive flood insurance. The idea came from Representative Gene Taylor, a Democrat who represented the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which should remind us that when there is voter demand for reform, and campaign contributions are not the driving force, the parties have worked together.

Lott's bill would have let flood victims pay 10 years of flood insurance premiums after-the-fact plus a 5 percent late payment penalty. Since this storm was rated a once in 500 years occurrence, even 10 years of premiums would not come close to covering the real costs, meaning a taxpayer subsidy was built into the Lott bill.

Instead of being laughed at by his fellow Republicans for promoting socialism, the concept of retroactive relief was warmly embraced, although not the idea for retroactive insurance. Instead the government went with handouts.

Read the whole brilliant thing.

h/t No More Mister Nice Blog.

Medical Giant Draws Line Against Insurance Giant

We've heard all the horror stories of private insurers condemning sick people to bankruptcy, suffering and death by denying them coverage or dropping them as policy-holders.

But private insurers have many ways to fuck over sick people, doctors, hospitals and communities, and one of those ways is playing out in Louisville right now.

The rift between health insurance provider Anthem and Norton Healthcare, Louisville’s largest health provider, has widened.

Norton officials on Friday announced the company would end financial accommodations extended to Anthem users and start billing at its regular rate for those out of its network, effective Jan. 1.


The feud has been waged publicly for months. Norton said it chose to terminate its contract with Anthem because Anthem has failed to process insurance claims properly and does not offer a rate comparable to other providers. Anthem, meanwhile, maintains Norton wanted too much money — to the tune of a 20 percent increase or more — which Norton has denied.

Read the whole thing.

Anthem's doing a pretty good PR job of making Norton sound like a greedy corporation willing to sacrifice patients for profit, but the truth is that Anthem and other private insurers have been slashing reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals for years, until the pittance they pay barely covers the cost of procedures. Norton is taking huge risks by courageously standing up and saying No More.

Proving this is also a story about the false equivalence fetish of the mainstream media, Gannett's pathetic local rag published an editorial that erroneously blames both sides equally.

"Irresponsible Feud"

Each party blames the other for the split. Boiled down, Anthem says Norton wants a more than 20 percent rate of increase in reimbursements. Norton says that's not true, but it wants Anthem to pay what other insurers are paying and, besides, it says Anthem is slow in making its claims payments. Anthem says that's not true and — well, you get the picture.

More important, at least 200,000 people have been stuck in the middle of this fiduciary food fight.

News stories have chronicled the worry, confusion and inconvenience added to the burden of patients facing everything from childbirth to cancer treatments. Which hospital should they go to? Which doctor should they see? How much more would it cost to keep using their old (now out-of-network) doctors and facilities?
Meanwhile, spokesmen for the companies have had their say in serial news articles following the mess, and the heads of both companies have written op-eds to present their sides of the story. While pointing fingers at each other, said company heads also patted themselves on the back and polished their community bona fides as solid corporate citizens who care deeply about the health and well-being of people and city.


If they cared so much, they would be locked in a room trying to hammer this out, and they are not doing that.


If both Anthem and Norton are as committed to the health care needs of the community they serve, as they insist they are, they will get back to the hard work of trying to come together again.

Hooey, to coin a phrase. If the Courier gave a flying fuck about the community it claims to serve, it would come out four-square in favor of the single-payer health insurance system that is the only way to stop abuses like this.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drawing the Progressive Line on Health Care Reform

Once the Senate votes on whatever health care non-reform piece of shit Harry Reid thinks will annoy repugs the least, the real fight is going to take place in the Conference Committee, where Democratic representatives chosen by Nancy Pelosi and repug-fellators chosen by Reid will hash out a compromise between the Senate's zillion-dollar giveaway to Big Insurance and Big Pharma and the House's public option.

Down with Tyranny explains that fight may come down to a brilliant freshman representative who won her seat by primary-ing a Blue Dog.

Donna Edwards (D-MD) has been one of the most outstanding organizers within congressional progressive circles in favor of holding leadership's feet to the fire when it comes to making sure health care reform is genuine and not just a sop to a confused electorate and a giveaway to the wealthy corporations who have financed the confusion. Recently I spoke to another member, a very senior member, of Congress who was getting a little weak-kneed about holding out for substance over form. He told me that when he was a freshman he was as idealistic and driven as Donna. "She's as pure as the first snow of winter," he told me... wistfully.

It probably isn't going to be easy for progressives after the House passes a strong bill with meaningful reform, including a public option, and then the House of Lords obliterates it at the behest of the special interests that run the show over there. Seven powerful senators have been tasked with killing meaningful health care and each has been paid a tremendous amount of money by the Medical-Industrial Complex and the Insurance Industry. These 7 senators will fight like vicious pit bulls to prevent meaningful health care reform from passing; together these 7 took in over $20,000,000 in thinly veiled bribes from the powers behind the status quo that will stop at nothing to squelch the kind of real reform Obama has been working to pass:

Max Baucus (D-MT) $4,087,094
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $3,713,625
Joe Lieberman (I-CT) $3,428,771
Chuck Grassley (R-IA) $3,025,103
Richard Burr (R-NC) $2,886,140
Ben Nelson (D-NE) $2,306,065
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) $2,154,492

So what's all this got to do with Donna Edwards, a forceful, intellectually powerful but very junior member of the House of Representatives? Good question; glad you asked. Most experts think that the Baucus Caucus (see above) will be able to kill any semblance of real reform in the Senate and report out something akin to the shameful Insurance lobbyist bill that Baucus' Finance Committee vomited out last week. It's likely that Pelosi will appoint compromisers to the House-Senate conference committee charged with bridging the gap between real health care and Baucus' corporate welfare for the Insurance Industry bill. Harry Reid will not appoint compromisers; he will appoint the worst of the insurance industry shills to the conference committee-- forgot to mention that Reid's role in all this has earned him a handsome $2,232,911 from his pals at the Medical-Industrial Complex and the Insurance Industry-- and most observers expect an especially bad bill that has no relation to what was passed in the three House committees or the Senate Health Committee (all 4 of which include a public option). At that point Democrats will have to make a decision-- to join the obstructionist Republicans, who just want to kill any kind of reform at all and vote against their own president's #1 domestic priority and a bill that achieves a few goals towards reform and will actually save the lives of thousands of poor working people by offering them some kind of subsidized, stingy coverage, or to say a half loaf (a quarter loaf?) is better than nothing and bite the bullet and vote for the crappy bill.

Donna has been one of the most vocal opponents of accepting Baucus' anti-family, pro-corporate approach, and she is working inside the Progressive Caucus, along with Raul Grijalva and several other stalwarts, to keep progressives who have vowed to oppose any bill without a public option together. Friday the Washington Post sat down with Donna in her office to talk about the battle over health care reform. The Post found that "the public option remains a line in the sand for Edwards, and she thinks the thud with which the much-anticipated bill by Sen. Max Baucus's committee fell this week helps the chances of including the option in a final bill." When asked what she thought about Baucus' horrible bill she was very direct:

Middle class and poor people are bearing the burden and the brunt of this failed health-care system, and in my view, the bill that Senator Baucus is introducing really cuts at the core of the very people we're trying to help. ... This idea of cooperatives as an alternative, I think most experts have completely debunked those as any kind of alternative to a robust public plan, and I agree with that. ... [The bill] has no Republican support, and it's bad policy. ... We have three bills in the House that are far stronger than the Baucus proposal. I think we're on solid ground here. ... Our job in the House of Representatives is to get our work done. We can't worry about what the Senate is doing. Our job for the people is to get the strongest bill possible out of the House. That's how we create legislation. ... One of the things about the president's speech last week [to Congress] ... and the town hall meeting speeches that he's held since then is the president has been very clear: "If you all have better options out there to alternatives to meet the goals of lowering costs and increasing competition and providing accountability for the insurance companies, I'm happy to hear them." The thing is, nobody has put any of those ideas on the table, and the idea that we have on the table that will meet those goals is the public option.

...I've joined with 60-some of my colleagues who signed a letter to the president and to our leadership saying very clearly that if there's not a public option in the final bill then I won't support that bill. I haven't changed my position.

Read the whole thing.

Then clone this woman. Clone her now.

Before You Freak Out, Give This Idea a Chance

Yeah, yeah, politically impossible, yeah, yeah, opposition will make anti-health-care-reform forces look like boy scouts, but Susie Madrak has an idea:

So I've been following the Tea Party objections to the health care reform efforts. They're worried about the deficit, they just want to be left alone without government interference, and they're especially angry at the government singling out some privileged groups for special subsidies. They're proud, self-sufficient patriots and they don't want handouts.

Kids, have I got a proposal for you.

I've discovered a regressive tax break that favors the wealthy and has no good rationalization for its continued use. (According to historians, it was an accident, anyway.) And oddly enough, it costs us about $100 billion annually, or $1 trillion over ten years - exactly the estimated cost of healthcare reform. Really, there's no other word for it but "pork."

It's the mortgage interest deduction.

No, it doesn't seem like a huge deal. (A lot of the people eligible for it don't even bother, because you have to itemize your tax return.) But man, it sure adds up:

But cumulatively, the deduction is a big deal. This year [Ed. note - in 2006, when this was written], it is expected to cost the Treasury $76 billion. And the rewards are greatly skewed in favor of the moderately to the conspicuously rich. On a million-dollar mortgage (the people with those really need help, right?), the tax benefit is worth approximately $21,000 a year. And according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, a little over half of the benefit is taken by just 12 percent of taxpayers, or those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

So clearly, this hits the sweet spot. Why insult people who are already doing well in the free market with this unnecessary and expensive handout?

And what better time to cut it, anyway? While housing prices are already dropping through the floor, this is when phasing out this deduction will have the least negative impact on housing prices. It will lower housing costs down to pre-speculation levels, and that means your paycheck will go farther. And it's something policy wonks on both sides can agree on.

Read the whole thing:

I think Madrak is grossly underestimating the size and power of the special interests protecting the mortgage interest deduction, which despite benefiting the wealthy almost exclusively, is broadly considered a middle-class entitlement on a level with Social Security.

Nevertheless, it's a great idea. So as one of the few non-wealthy who actually benefits personally from the mortgage interest deduction, mostly because I own way more house than I can afford, let me be the first: Even though it will cost me money, I say we do it.

John Yarmuth, Hypocrite-Humana


If you were still in any doubt about the power of the health insurance lobby to buy the obedience of even the most personally wealthy and politically liberal Democrats in Congress, know that none are not immune.

Here's Media Czech on Louisville's "proud liberal" John Yarmuth, who has earned the scare quotes for dropping to his knees and sucking insurance corporation cock:

A few weeks ago, as PageOne reported, Congressman John Yarmuth fired off a letter to Humana, the Louisville-based profit-driven health care corporation, expressing his profound regret over the tenor of the health care debate in Washington and congratulating Humana's CEO on his company's almost Christ-like record of good behavior.

Regrettably, with passions inflamed throughout the country, Speaker Pelosi recently made inflammatory statements that assailed the character of health insurers across the board. I unequivocally reject these misguided comments. Not only do such overtures distract from a constructive debate, they are simply untrue. That certain insurers have engaged in unscrupulous practices cannot be denied, but to paint an entire industry with a single stroke is unfair.

Humana has long acted in an upstanding, thoughtful manner and given Louisville one of America’s most exemplary corporate citizens.

Well, turns out that at the very moment John Yarmuth was licking his stamp, our upstanding and thoughtful corporate citizen was terrorizing senior citizens and the disabled.

Yes, Humana is being investigated.

The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.

The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a senior lawmaker usually viewed as a reliable ally of the insurance industry.

"It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject - particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform," Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation.

HHS says Humana's mailer was "misleading and confusing" and ordered them to cease and desist.

So far, John Yarmuth has remained silent. When will the Congressman come the defense of poor Humana from these latest totally baseless charges?

In his letter to Humana's CEO, Yarmuth concluded by promising:

I will continue to support and defend Humana’s role in our community and the future of health care in the halls of Congress and elsewhere.

So John: Where's your defense?

And while you're spinning mad props in Humana's direction, here are just a few other abuses for you to keep in mind.

  • Humana paid Florida $8,000,000 for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Humana paid Cincinnati-area doctors $106,000,000 over charges that the company had "conspired to use illegal and anticompetitive practices" to fix prices.
  • Humana paid Wisconsin $750,000 for using unlicensed salespeople to over-aggressively sell Medicare drug plans.

I could go on for hours, but for now I'll keep your reading light.

John Yarmuth's Third District of Louisville is by far the most Democratic, liberal and diverse congressional district in the state. The Third gave him a decisive victory over five-term repug incumbent Anne Northup in 2006 because Yarmuth was the first Democratic candidate in more than a decade to stand up and loudly declare his liberal values.

It didn't hurt that he has a large personal fortune, earned in the media business, but that only makes his disgusting obsequiousness toward Humana more despicable.

Yarmuth isn't a repug or a Blue Dog who desperately needs insurance industry money to hold his seat in a liberal Democratic district. He's enormously popular, not to say beloved.

What's your fucking excuse, John?

UPDATE, 7:15 p.m. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal: "Yarmuth has received $295,748 in health care contributions since his election to the House in 2006. He said he has not taken money from pharmaceutical PACs or health insurance PACs but has taken contributions from hospitals.

Louisville-based Humana Inc., a health insurer, has donated to lawmakers inside and outside Kentucky, including $19,000 to McConnell since 2000.

In the 2008 elections, the company gave $335,550 to congressional Democrats and Republicans — double its contributions in the 2004 elections, records show. Since 2000, the company has given $920,999 in campaign donations, $186,949 of that to area lawmakers.

Company officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Yarmuth is on the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the panels that handled the House health care legislation. He said he decided not to take campaign contributions from Humana, which has 7,000 employees in the Louisville area, “because … I didn't even want to have the perception of influence.”"

Guess what, John - the only thing that makes a worse impression than taking money from murderers is publicly fellating them for free.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Anti-Socialist Pledge

As The Rude Pundit made crystal clear for even the densest last week, this is about racism, not socialism.

But if you're fed up with your teabagger coworkers, relatives and neighbors bleating about socialism without having the slightest fucking idea what they're saying, print out the pledge below and see if they'll sign it.

No, they won't get it. Nevertheless, from Daily Kos, via PZ Myers, herewith The Teabagger Socialist-Free Purity Pledge: (Warning: PDF)

The Teabagger Socialist-Free Purity Pledge

I, ________________________________, do solemnly swear to uphold the principles of a socialism-free society and heretofore pledge my word that I shall strictly adhere to the following:

I will complain about the destruction of 1st Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 1st Amendment Rights.

I will complain about the destruction of my 2ndAmendment Rights in this country, while I am duly >being allowed to exercise my 2ndAmendment rights by legally but brazenly brandishing unconcealed firearms in public.

I will foreswear the time-honored principles of fairness, decency, and respect by screaming unintelligible platitudes regarding tyranny, Nazi-ism, and socialism at public town halls. Also.

I pledge to eliminate all government intervention in my life. I will abstain from the use of and participation in any socialist goods and services including but not limited to the following:

Social Security


State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)

Police, Fire, and Emergency Services

US Postal Service

Roads and Highways

Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)

The US Railway System

Public Subways and Metro Systems

Public Bus and Lightrail Systems

Rest Areas on Highways


All Government-Funded Local/State Projects

Public Water and Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)

Public and State Universities and Colleges

Public Primary and Secondary Schools

Sesame Street

Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children

Public Museums


Public Parksand Beaches

State and National Parks

Public Zoos

Unemployment Insurance

Municipal Garbage and Recycling Services

Treatment at Any Hospital or Clinic That Ever Received Funding From Local, State or Federal Government (pretty much all of them)

Medical Services and Medications That Were Created or Derived From Any Government Grant or Research Funding (again, pretty much all of them)

Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and Velcro (Nazi-NASA Inventions)

Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD's ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking

Foodstuffs, Meats, Produce and Crops That Were Grown With, Fed With, Raised With or That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies

Clothing Made from Crops (e.g. cotton) That Were Grown With or That Contain Inputs From Government Subsidies

If a veteran of the government-run socialist US military, I will forego my VA benefits and insist on paying for my own medical care

I will not tour socialist government buildings like the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

I pledge to never take myself, my family, or my children on a tour of the following types of socialist locations, including but not limited to:

Smithsonian Museums such as the Air and Space Museum or Museum of American History

The socialist Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Monuments

The government-operated Statue of Liberty

The Grand Canyon

The socialist World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials

The government-run socialist-propaganda location known as Arlington National Cemetery

All other public-funded socialist sites, whether it be in my state or in Washington, DC

I will urge my Member of Congress and Senators to forego their government salary and government-provided healthcare.

I will oppose and condemn the government-funded and therefore socialist military of the United States of America.

I will boycott the products of socialist defense contractors such as GE, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Humana, FedEx, General Motors, Honeywell, and hundreds of others that are paid by our socialist government to produce goods for our socialist army.

I will protest socialist security departments such as the Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Department of Justice and their socialist employees.

Upon reaching eligible retirement age, I will tear up my socialist Social Security checks.

Upon reaching age 65, I will forego Medicare and pay for my own private health insurance until I die.

SWORN ON A BIBLE AND SIGNED THIS DAY OF ____________ IN THE YEAR ______________.

___________________________ ___________________________

Signed Printed Name/Town and State

Hal Rogers Fucking Over His Constituents on Health Care Reform

Down With Tyranny has a great explanation of how Hal Rogers' opposition to health care reform fucks over his constituents in the Fifth District of Kentucky.

Let's take a look at the two poorest congressional districts in the United States-- NY-16, basically the South Bronx, which gave McCain his smallest percentage in last year's election (5%) and is represented by a strongly progressive advocate for working families, José Serrano; and KY-05, the mountainous eastern part of Kentucky where McCain won his biggest percentage in the state of Kentucky (67%), which is represented by a reactionary corporate tool, Hal Rogers who isn't an advocate for families but mealy mouthed supporter of "family values." The median income in NY-16 is $19,311 and the median income in KY-05 is $21,915. Rogers' district is the reddest in Kentucky with nearly a 16 PVI for Republicans while Serrano's district offers a 41 PVI for Democrats. Any political change in either district would come on a primary level, not in a general election. Rogers is the most reactionary member of the Kentucky House delegation (ProgressivePunch score of 2.37, not quite as bad as Dan Burton but worse than Tom McClintock) and Serrano is near the top of the New York delegation (with a score of 87.17).

There are few districts in the country where people would benefit more from the passage of meaningful health care reform than in these two districts. 22% of the people in KY-05 are uninsured, 146,000 people and 126,000 of them would be eligible for high-quality, affordable health insurance if a bill like HR 3200 passes. Rogers is a complete shill for the Insurance Industry and the Medical-Industrial Complex, which have lavished approximately a quarter million dollars in thinly veiled bribes on him. He is an unyielding opponent of health care reform, as strongly against it as Serrano is for it....

Let's look at the stats on how HR 3200 would impact each district according to an official report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. First Rogers' KY-05:

• Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 10,700 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.

• Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 7,500 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.

• Health care and financial security. There were 1,500 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

• Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $173 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.

• Coverage of the uninsured. There are 146,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 22% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 126,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

• No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 850 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.6% of taxpayers in the district.

Rogers' district is 97.1% white and is considered the OxyContin capital of America, which may explain why there are so many dittoheads in the area. There isn't a district in the country where so many poor people vote for politicians so dedicated to policies designed to maintain the status quo.

Read the whole thing.

Why We Fight: Part 7,204

Yes, it's Crooks and Liars Day here at Blue in the Bluegrass, but it's their fault because they keep picking up the best stuff.

An insurance company's "reprehensible" decision to rescind a South Carolina man's coverage after he tested positive for HIV warrants a $10 million punitive damage award, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Jerome Mitchell applied for health insurance with Fortis Insurance Co. in 2001 at the age of 17. Fortis issued him a policy after he stated that he had never been treated for an immune deficiency.

One year later, Mitchell tried to donate blood to the Red Cross, which informed Mitchell that he was HIV-positive. Mitchell's doctor confirmed this finding.

Fortis investigated Mitchell's medical history and rescinded his policy, stating that Mitchell had misrepresented his HIV-positive status.

Mitchell sued for breach of contract and bad faith and presented evidence that he would die of AIDS within four years without medical treatment.

The trial court ruled in Mitchell's favor, awarding him $186,000 in actual damages and $15 million in punitive damages.

The state high court upheld the awards, but reduced the punitive damage award to $10 million based on the ratio of the projected $1 million cost of Mitchell's treatment.

"We find ample support in the record that Fortis' conduct was reprehensible ... Fortis demonstrated an indifference to Mitchell's life and a reckless disregard to his health and safety," Justice Toal wrote.

I'd just add that the newsworthy part of this is that a state supreme court actually upheld a relatively large judgement against an insurance company. Because not only is it not news that insurance companies deny payment for life-saving procedures on any grounds they can find, but it's something that happens every goddamn day, and people die because of it.

I defy anyone to find a government bureaucrat anywhere who, in the course of his work, has ever done anything as vicious, as dangerous, as inhuman as deny payment for life-saving medical procedures to an 18-year-old.

They're Terrified of the Left, So Let's Take Advantage

Ian Welsh at Crooks and Liars has a great piece on the Liberal Majority and how to use it:

One constant theme which needs dealing with is the idea that the country is more conservative than liberal and that centrists are needed to hold off horrible conservative things from happening.


When I look at the US what I see is a banana republic, because it doesn't act like a democracy. I see people who think that the Senate, or even the House, actually does what the American people want. Again and again, Congress does things that the majority disagree with. In 2006 the Dems were elected to end the war in Iraq, for example, and refused to do so (though again, the House at least went through the motion, the Senate didn't even make an effort). Oh, Congress will sometimes do what the majority want—when that's what it was going to do anyway.

The plan to fix this is simple enough and always has been.


People who hold progressive and liberal policy views are a much larger proportion of the population than the right wing crazies are, they are in fact a majority of the population, though you'd never know it from listening to the gnashing of teeth of some folks.

If the right wing crazies could capture the Republican party, liberals and progressives, who already make up the largest block in the House, and who massively outnumber Blue Dogs, can certainly do the same to the Democratic party.

If, of course, they stop telling themselves self-excusing lies about how the country doesn't agree with them on basic issues like healthcare, when, in fact, the country does. Americans may not call themselves liberals, but when you look at their actual policy positions they are more liberal on most (not all, but most) issues than they are conservative. That's a gap in self-perception it should be possible to jump.

It takes real work for the centrists and right wing to keep Liberals and Progressives down. Notice that almost all of Obama's whipping is towards the left, towards progressives, not to the right. The right wing of the Democratic party is more or less doing what he wants (forget the rhetoric, again, look at who he and Rahm whip), it's the left wing he's scared of, because if they got their act together they could stop him from passing anything. The Blue Dogs in the House do not currently have a veto, the Progressives, if they want to use it, do. And that's why they get the back side of Obama and Rahm's hand so often.

The left is the most dangerous force in American politics today. The entire resources of the lobbying industry and of centrist Democratic interests are required to keep it in check, not just during legislative season, but during elections, when the DCCC and the DSCC do their very best to make sure that progressives don't win primaries, and when they do, that they're starved of resources.

So time to spine up. If you're a left wing Democrat, you belong to the scariest force in American politics. The crazy right will have some good cycles yet to come, mainly due to Democratic establishment incompetence and preference for mushy middle candidates but demographics are against them. Don't write Republicans off yet, but they are failing. You—the left—is the rising force, and everyone in the center and the right, is doing everything they can to keep you down.

Don't let them, and don't believe lies about how you're some tiny minority whom the American people don't agree with.

Read the whole thing.
First on the priority list in Kentucky is persuading one of the Sixth District's many fine liberals to primary DINO/Blue Dog Ben Chandler.