Monthly Archives: July 2009

Health Care Rationing

Yeah, yeah.  We don't want to support Obama's health care plan because we don't want to ration out health care.  We don't want some faceless bureaucrat making medical life-or-death decisions for us.  We don't…. wait, what's that?

Nataline_sarkiyan_071221 An insurance company that initially refused to pay for a liver transplant for a 17-year-old Northridge girl who died in a hospital should face criminal charges and pay civil damages, an attorney for the girl's family said Friday.

Cigna HealthCare "literally, maliciously killed" Nataline Sarkisyan, attorney Mark Geragos told reporters in downtown Los Angeles.

Sarkisyan died at 5:50 p.m. Thursday after being pulled off life support at UCLA Medical Center.

Geragos said Cigna twice took Sarkisyan off the liver transplant list and purposely waited until she was near death to approve the transplant because the company didn't want to pay for her after-care.

Cigna announced yesterday — just hours before the girl died — it would pay for the transplant. "Cigna decided that they were going to take profits over this little, beautiful princess' life," Geragos said. "We believe that they single- handedly decided that they wanted to have her die and wait so they would not have to take the after-care coverage."

Geragos said a civil lawsuit would be filed and he plans to petition….

Oh.

Status Updates Ever Since My Mom Became My Facebook Friend

Ken is making good, well informed decisions.

Ken is going to bed at a very reasonable hour.

Ken is drinking only on occasion, and even then it's just one or two.

Ken quit smoking several months ago without any apparent difficulty.

Ken is in no way involved, currently nor in the past, with a married woman, regardless of what anyone is saying.

Ken is making large, regular contributions to his savings account.

Ken is making yet another home cooked meal, avoiding fast food as usual.

Ken is no longer in debt like he used to be…boy that would be terrible.

Ken is in no way affected by the current economic downturn…everything is a-okay.

Ken is not gaining weight, and his clothes fit just fine.

[Stolen from McSweeney's List — credit to Scott Harris]

Birtherism: Don’t Call It “Fringe”

A whopping 58 percent of Republicans either think Barack Obama wasn't born in the US (28 percent) or aren't sure (30 percent). A mere 42 percent think he was.

That means a majority of Republicans polled either don't know about — or don't believe the seemingly incontrovertible evidence Obama's camp has presented over and over and over that he was born in Hawaii in '61.

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 7/27-30. All adults. MoE 2% (No trend lines)

Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?

Yes      77
No       11
Not sure 12

So 11 percent of Americans are Obama-hating conspiracy theorists. How do they break down?

         Yes   No   Not sure
Dem       93    4    3
Rep       42   28   30
Ind       83    8    9

Northeast 93    4    3
South     47   23   30
Midwest   90    6    4
West      87    7    6

It looks like there's a strong regional aspect to this (the chart denotes ALL respondents, regardless of political party):

Birthers

Politico’s Glenn Thrush asks, “When do we start a serious dialog about the Birther movement being a proxy for racism that is unacceptable to articulate in more direct terms?”

By the way, I gave kudos to the conservative National Review a week or so ago for boldly stating that this whole birther nonsense was bullshit.  I take it back.

UPDATE (MORE CHARTS): Brendan Nyhan compiles a useful chart of Obama-related misconceptions:

6a00d83451d25c69e201157158a9c7970c-450wi

“Pants” Judge Loses In Court Again

Actually, he's now an ex-judge.  That was the basis of his lawsuit, in fact:

It seems that our old friend Roy L. Pearson, Jr., he of the $65 million pants, has recovered sufficiently from losing that case to get on with losing another one.  This one was a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the District of Columbia, his former boss (Chief Administrative Law Judge Tyrone Butler), and other alleged miscreants.  A federal judge dismissed all of Pearson's claims on July 23.

As you may recall, Roy Pearson was the ALJ who pursued a legal crusade against his local dry cleaners for allegedly losing a pair of his pants and then refusing to honor their posted "Satisfaction Guaranteed" policy to his full and complete satisfaction.This would not have been newsworthy except that, by his calculation, he was entitled to $65 million in damages.  To be fair, he did revise his figures later, and from then on always cited a much more reasonable figure of $54 million.  See "Judge Drops Pants; Suit Still On," Lowering the Bar (June 6, 2007).  His ultimate recovery in the case was easier to calculate: zero.

In the meantime, Pearson's term in office had expired and he was not reappointed. Lawsuit followed.

While the pants were not the focus of this lawsuit, they do appear in it, much as their ghostly form will continue to haunt Pearson for some time.  Pearson alleged that by refusing to appoint him to another term, defendants had violated his rights to free speech, equal protection and due process of law (among other things).  He had a long list of demands, including reinstatement and, of course, not less than $1 million in damages per defendant.  Again, no, the court ruled.

Pearson's free-speech claims involved allegations that he was fired for trying to reform the Office of Administrative Hearings, where he worked.  Pearson's initial term began on May 2, 2005, and by June 20 he had already drafted and circulated a 19-page memo full of complaints.  (Like I always say, there's no better way to get settled in a new job than to circulate a memo extensively criticizing what everybody has been doing.)  Within another month, he had taken his complaint to a supervising commission, and a week later, he wrote the mayor.  In that letter he further endeared himself to the boss by telling the mayor that Chief Judge Butler had "deeply rooted character, judgment and ethical deficiencies," "corrupt ethics, demonstrably poor judgment and failed leadership," had led a "gangsta effort" to intimidate him and engaged in other "astoundingly inappropriate conduct."  Pearson had been employed for about nine weeks at this point.

Remarkably, when Pearson asked to be appointed to a full ten-year term a few months later, Chief Judge Butler said he did not oppose the appointment.  (He did suggest that Pearson might want to buff up his "teamwork" skills a bit.)  On March 8, 2007, Butler confirmed the recommendation, and the next day, Pearson graciously sent a group email to his coworkers encouraging them to "compile a record" that would "make it difficult for CJ Butler to knife [them]."

He also compared his personal struggle to the civil rights movement, which was a nice touch.

The court's rejection of Pearson's claims was pretty straightforward, given those facts.  Most comical was Pearson's argument that his First Amendment rights were violated because he had been fired partly for pursuing the pants case, which he insisted was a "public interest lawsuit."  Well, I can vouch for the fact that there was public interest in his lawsuit, but that's not what he meant.  As the court put it, "[t]he mere fact that plaintiff characterizes his status as that of a private attorney general" does not change the fact that he was pursuing "a personal vendetta against a dry cleaners over a pair of pants."  Sadly, the failure of Judge Pearson's crusade means that the next citizen who suffers from unfair pants deprivation will be forced to walk the same lonely road alone.  And with no pants.

Pearson, who has 30 days to appeal, will.

Link: Pearson v. District of Columbia

Playing The Racist Card

Seems it was only six months ago when conservative columnists and pundits were all predicting the same thing, i.e., "If we start criticizing Obama, we're going to be attacked for being 'racist'.  You just watch.".

Six months later, and who is calling who "racist"?

According to many conservatives, Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, is a "racist".

According to Glenn Beck, Obama himself is a "racist".  (He has a deep-seeded hatred for white people, even though Obama is half-white and was raised by white parents).

Not that liberals don't occasionally play the racist card.  But when they do, it's in response to stuff like this – which clearly is racist.  But, after noting that Obama was the first African-American president six months ago, liberals had little to say on the subject of race.  It's only injected into matters that clearly involve race (like the Gates arrest in Cambridge).

Objectively, it just seems that conservatives are more obsessed about the subject of race (including thinly masked questions about his Obama's heritage and origins) than liberals.  It doesn't make every rightwinger a racist, but I would say that the vast majority of people attuned to race — in general — come from the right.  And that's an indication of something.

FURTHER THOUGHTS:  For what it is worth, I do believe there is an undertone of racism with the birther issue.  Racism today doesn't come in the form that it did 60 years ago where you called people "n*gger".  It doesn't even come in the form that it did 40 years ago when you blather on about "states' rights".  It now comes in a form where you merely attack minorities and people of color indirectly, by imputing their heritage, patriotism, and loyalty.  We're seeing a lot of that these days, especially from the birthers.  In fact, if the whole movement isn't outright about race, then racism certainly fuels it.  After all, there have been 46 (white) presidents prior to Obama.  For how many of them was their birth certificate an issue?

If anti-Obama people can convince themselves that Obama is a legitimate president, then it's like "the first black President" thing never happened.

Tainted Championship

When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was a BIG DEAL.  You have to understand New Englanders and the Red Sox, but trust me, it was a BIG HUGE HONKIN' DEAL.  You remember when Neil Armstrong took that first stp on the moon?  That was peanuts compared to the 2004 World Series.  I'm talking a really really big deal here, folks.

This kind takes some wind out of the joy:

Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who propelled the Boston Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to capture another title three years later, were among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.

***

Baseball first tested for steroids in 2003, and the results from that season were supposed to remain anonymous. But for reasons that have never been made clear, the results were never destroyed and the first batch of positives has come to be known among fans and people in baseball as “the list.” The information was later seized by federal agents investigating the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes, and the test results remain the subject of litigation between the baseball players union and the government.

So basically, an argument can be made that… well, here's how a Sadly, No blogger puts it:

Cheating Boston Cheaters Cheated Their Cheating Way To World Cheat-manship

Maybe, but given the size of the list, it seems that the Yankees (who the Sox overtook after a 3-0 deficit in the AL Pennant) and just about every other player in the league were on steroids.  So…. there.  Right?

Film-Friendly North Carolina

They like us!  They really like us!

From the Hollywood Reporter:

By the early 1990s, North Carolina had become the No. 3 production center in the U.S., behind California and New York, with a steady stream of productions flowing into the state — including such high-profile features as "The Color Purple," "Dirty Dancing, "Bull Durham," "The Last of the Mohicans" and "The Fugitive" and numerous movies of the week. They were drawn by the studio facilities and the relatively inexpensive (it's a right to work state) crew, as well as the mild weather and a diverse topography capable of standing in for the Northeast, the Deep South, the Midwest and the West Coast.

But almost as quickly as the state came charging on to the scene, it began to fade as Canada lured away productions with increasingly generous subsidies and the big networks virtually abandoned the movie of the week. Production revenue fell from a high of $504 million in 1993 to $230.8 million in 2002.

When the tax credit was raised to 15% in 2007, production spending in North Carolina shot up 60%. Then Georgia and Michigan passed new incentives, along with South Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and the state was back on the ropes again.

"They all just leapfrogged us and we just saw our market share dissipate," says Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office. "The thing about North Carolina is we've always had an infrastructure here that people can call on. Now with those more competitive incentives around, we're seeing our crew base leave and follow those jobs. I'm sure they want to be home, but they have to make a living."

The NC House has passed a bill raising the incentives to 25%, and Dream Stage 10 — the third-largest film and television production stage in the country — opened for business last month.

Why Shouldn’t Obama Produce His “Full” Birth Certificate?

Transparency in government?  Sure.

But, as the American Thinker notes, there are limits:

As evident is that public officials are under no “transparency” obligation to address all questions. Were the right fringe to allege that Barack Obama is in fact a woman, and demand a photograph of his penis to definitively prove otherwise, and the left fringe retaliated by alleging that Sarah Palin is a man, and requested the same sort of photographic proof, Andrew [Sullivan] would surely join me in concluding that both politicians have some right to privacy. Right?

Right.

Although, to be honest, I doubt that Obama holds a huge privacy interest in his original long form birth certificate, especially after his short form has already been publicly produced.  Perhaps there is something embarrassing about the info on the longer form (his father isn't really his father, one commentor here speculated), but that has nothing to do with the salient question: where was Obama born?

However, at some point, the craziness has to stop.  Ten months ago, there was a clamoring for Obama's birth certificate.  The State of Hawaii produced it (the official short form version) which showed that Obama was born in Hawaii.  Did that make the controversy go away? 

No.

So what makes anybody think that producing the longer form will make it go away?  It just kicks the can further down the road, but the game is still being played.

And why would conspiracy theorists believe the long form birth certificate?  They already believe that Hawaiian officials have produced a fake and/or false short form version.  So they're suddenly going to shut up when the State of Hawaii produces the "long form" version?

Kevin Drum nails it:

If someone produces actual evidence of scandal or wrongdoing, then you have to respond.  But if mere conspiracy theorizing is all that's required, then the sky's the limit.  Bill Clinton has to prove he wasn't transporting bales of coke through Mena airfield.  Barack Obama has to prove his mother wasn't in Kenya in August 1961.  Sarah Palin has to prove she wasn't faking a pregnancy in 2008.  John McCain has to prove he didn't collaborate with the enemy while he was in a Vietnamese prison camp.

Conspiracy theorists will always be with us.  But the adult community doesn't have to humor them.  All that does is make things worse.

"Birthers" will argue: "Well, why doesn't he produce it *anyway*?!?  Humor us.  Make this go away.  the fact that he won't produce the long form only makes it look *more* likely that Obama is hiding something"

I've already addressed the "make this go away" issue.  Producing the long form birth certificate won't make the "birthers" go away.

But what's more, the birther argument presupposes that Obama is actually sweating this issue.  And he's not.  There's no closed door meeting in the White House, where a bunch of grim advisors are wringing their hands about "what to do about the birther issue".

You know where those meetings are happening?  In the offices of GOP legislators.  They have to confront angry Republican voters, and dodge questions about their position on the birther issue.

So… why shouldn't Obama produce this full birth certificate?  No reason.  But seeing as how it won't end the controversy, and the controversy hurts the GOP, why would he???

RELATED:  A leeading birther site closes down.  Follow the link to read why.  It's funny.

Texting While Driving: Just How Dangerous?

Graphic from a new study:

Textdriving

The study, from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (see here - PDF) says:

…Text messaging, which had the highest risk of over 20 times worse than driving while not using a phone, had the longest duration of eyes off road time (4.6s over a 6 s interval).  That equates to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the roadway.

Pretty dangerous.

Yet Another Republican “Family Values” Hypocrite

TPM reports:

Paul-stanley-muck Meet Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley. He's a solid conservative Republican and married father of two, who according to his website is "a member of Christ United Methodist Church, where he serves as a Sunday school teacher and board member of their day school." (Check out the religious imagery on the site — the sun poking through clouds, as if manifesting God's presence — which of course shows Stanley's deeply pious nature.)

Stanley recently sponsored a bill designed to prevent gay couples from adopting children. And when a Planned Parenthood official recently sought his support for family planning services for Memphis teens, Stanley told her, according to the official, that he "didn't believe young people should have sex before marriage anyway, that his faith and church are important to him, and he wants to promote abstinence."

So far, so far Republican. But you can see where this is going…

In a sworn affidavit, a Tennessee state investigator has said that Stanley admitted to having a "sexual relationship" with a 22-year-old female intern working in his office, and to taking nude pictures of her in "provocative poses" in his apartment.

***

Late Update: It gets worse. In 1994, Stanley's first wife, Judy Martin, filed for a restraining order against him, charging that he had physically assaulted her three times. She wrote: "He was going out the door to leave our house and he hit me with a tremendous blow and then he proceeded to turn and run away from me outside the garage to the street." Stanley and Martin divorced the following year.

According to the Nashville Post, Stanley met his current wife, Kristi Stanley, soon afterwards, while both were working for Bill Frist's U.S. Senate office in Memphis. She was working as — an intern.

By the way, this isn't the Paul Stanley of KISS.

Anyway, he quit yesterday, taking full responsibility but blaming bloggers and the media.

The Hysteria Continues

When George Bush was "elected" president in 2000, I thought it was bad for the country.  I didn't agree with his policies, and I thought he was a weak leader.  And I said so.

But what I didn't do was FREAK OUT.  I didn't go around saying, "OMG!  He's going to force us all to wear uniforms, and he's going to cancel elections and declare himself dictator, etc.".   Yeah, I knew George Bush was going to be bad, but real-life bad, not science-fiction bad.

I'm sure there were a few on the left who were prognosticating the end of civilization itself when Bush was elected.  Yes, the left has its lunatic fringe.  But the left lunatic fringe is, you know, on the fringe.

By contrast, the Obama opposition is not only loonier, but it comes from the political and media centerpieces of their party.

in the GOP, you've got elected representatives (hardly, the "fringe") railing on about Obama starting internment camps to imprison Americans and the whole birther issue.

And now the latest?  Obama wants to euthanize the sick and elderly.

Again, this meme doesn't come from Cheetoh-eating conservative citizens typing insane screeds on their blog from their parents' basements.  It comes from elected party representatives.

Including oy NC representative, Rep. Virginia Foxx:

Rep. Foxx: The Republican plan would "make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."

Now, there's a somewhat rhetorical question here.  Does Foxx really think that Obama's health care plan will really put seniors to death?  Or is she just knowingly lying to convince the stupider citizens of its truth?

In the end, it doesn't matter.  Dishonesty or stupidity have no place on Capital Hill.

The TRUTH of the matter is that Obama's health care plan does provide for end-of-life services.  But that does not mean "putting seniors to death".  It means providing consselling for seniors on certain subjects like how to make a living will, education about hospices, etc.  Furthermore, that couselling is not mandatory.

The New York Times takes this up today:

A provision of the House bill would provide Medicare coverage for the work of doctors who advise patients on life-sustaining treatment and “end-of-life services,” including hospice care.

Conservative groups have seized on this provision as evidence that the bill could encourage the rationing of health care. The Family Research Council, for example, said the bill would “limit end-of-life care.”

The House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, said, “This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.”

What???  How???  How does advising patients on something like hospice care lead to government-encouraged euthanasia?

In the same article, another NC politician weighs in:

G. K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina, said he heard many expressions of concern from constituents when he answered telephone calls to his office on Tuesday.

“The longer we wait to vote,” Mr. Butterfield said, “the more opportunity our opponents have to put out false messages. Seniors fear they will lose Medicare. They worry they will have to discuss plans for end-of-life care every five years.”

The amount of lies and fearmongering from the GOP's leaders are lunatic.  And it's not fringe stuff.  It's coming from their elected officials.

It's an old game plan.  Bill and Hillary made fun of it back in 1995:

Finally, The Web Becomes Useful

Only remember a few lyrics, but can't think of the song's name?

Go to Lyricrat, type them in, and LyricRat will tell you the song.

Or twitter the lyrics to @LyricRat on Twitter, and it will respond with the song title.

It does pretty well even if you don't know the lyrics.  "Wrapped up like a douche, another rubber in the night" will probably still get you "Blinded By The Light"

Obama Has A Deep-Seated Hatred For White People, But Doesn’t Necessarily Dislike Them

More from the "Better Conservative Criticism Please" Department.

In the same interview this morning, Glenn Beck said:

"This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture…"

Moments later, Beck said:

"I'm not saying he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem…."

So according to Beck, Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people, but that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't like white people.

Watch:

Fox Don’t Do Geography

It's bad enough that a huge percentage of Americans can't find Iran or Iraq on a map, but it's totally unexcusable when a major news organization can't get its countries right.

This is an unretouched photograph from a segment which aired on Fox News last night:

Live-20090727

From infoplease:

Mapmiddleeast

No wonder the Egyptions hate us.

Sarah Palin’s Gradual Descent Into Incoherency

I didn't come up with that title.  It's what Pareene at Gawker used for her video timeline article, which is worth looking at if you want a laugh.

It starts from the fairly competent Sarah Heath, the sports teleprompter newsreader from the late 1980's:

…to her farewell speech last weekend.

And Gawker pointed that this line from Sarah's farewell speech:

"In the winter time it's the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn't it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs?"

…was, like all the other lines, prepared.  She wasn't talking off the cuff.  She wrote this speech.

The communications department of the University of Idaho (Sarah's undergrad major/alma mater) must be so proud!

Actually, I doubt that Sarah wrote this speech.  What she did, no doubt, was dictate it, and then have her secretary transcribe it.  So it is nonsensical.

I finally found a transcript of last weekend's farewell speech, and even it was extemporaneous, it is remarkably disjointed.  Here's the opening paragraph:

What an absolutely beautiful day it is, and it is my honor to speak to all Alaskans, to our Alaskan family this last time as your governor. And it is always great to be in Fairbanks. The rugged rugged hardy people that live up here and some of the most patriotic people whom you will ever know live here, and one thing that you are known for is your steadfast support of our military community up here and I thank you for that and thank you United States military for protecting the greatest nation on Earth. Together we stand.

Here's the same opening paragraph with what is going on inside Sarah's head as she speaks:

What an absolutely beautiful day it is Gosh it really is, and it is my honor to speak to all Alaskans I should mention "families" or the military if I can, to our Alaskan family There ya go! this last time as your governor. And it is always great to be in Fairbanks. The rugged rugged hardy people that live up here and some of the most patriotic people whom you will ever know live here Gotta work in the miltary still, and one thing that you are known for is your steadfast support of our military community up here and I thank you for that and thank you United States military for protecting the greatest nation on Earth. Together we stand. Atta girl, Sarah.  I'm such a patriot and they love me for it.

Let's continue below the fold…

Fox News Poll Finds Repubican Support At Its Worse In The Poll’s History

The GOP's favorability rating has slid noticeably from the spring, from 41 percent in early April to just 36 percent. At the same time, the party's unfavorable rating increased from 50 percent to 53 percent. Both of the current numbers represent new lows for the Republican Party in Fox News polling.

At the same time, the Fox News survey finds that Americans view the Democratic Party significantly better, with 50 percent viewing it favorably and just 41 percent viewing it unfavorably. Barack Obama's favorable ratings are even better — still close to a 2-to-1 positive-to-negative ratio — with 62 percent viewing him favorably and 33 percent viewing him unfavorably.

Of course, to get these numbers, you have to actually look at the poll results (PDF).  If you go to the Fox News article about the poll, they won't mention any of that.

Facepalm Punditry Of The Day

Why is life expectancy higher in Canada than it is in the United States?

Bill O'Reilly knows:

That is to be expected…. we have ten times more people here [than in Canada]…

… and therefore we have ten times more crimes and accidents, which is why we have a lower life expectancy than Canada.

Video here.

Facepalm

For what it's worth Japan has a higher population AND a higher life expectancy than Canada, so there goes O'Reilly's theory.

But The Red Ones Give You Cancer, So It’s A Wash, Right?

From CNN:

Blue M&Ms linked to reducing spine injury

The same blue food dye found in M&Ms and Gatorade could be used to reduce damage caused by spine injuries, offering a better chance of recovery, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that when they injected the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG) into rats suffering spinal cord injuries, the rodents were able to walk again, albeit with a limp.

Nice to know that M&Ms can actually have beneficial health effects.

Of course, CNN tells us of the fly in the ointment:

The only side effect was that the treated mice temporarily turned blue.

And they provide a picture:

Bluemouse

That mouse doesn't look very happy.

But what a spine. huh?

I Love This Birther Issue

It just cracks me up.

Yesterday, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) introduced a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood. The resolution also proclaims the state as President Obama’s birthplace, a point the Plum Line’s Greg Sargent noted may "put House GOPers who are flirting with birtherism in a jam."

On the House floor, Abercrombie spoke of his measure and specifically noted that Obama had been born in Hawaii. “It’s also going to be the birthday in a week or so of President Obama, born in Kapiolani hospital just down the road from where I lived,” he said.

A small resolution — the kind that typically goes unnoticed — and yet, it had big implications.  Would Republican congressmen acknowledge that Hawaii was the birthplace of Obama, even in a meaningless resolution?

Despite an attempt by The World's Shittiest Politician ™ — Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) – to halt the vote on the resolution, it eventually passed unanimously. Even Bachmann voted for it.  50 congressman, however — mostly Republican — did not cast a vote at all.

Republican Congressman certainly are in a pickle:

National Review even had to step into this, to spank some of its conservative readers:

President Obama was born on August 4, 1961, at 7:24 p.m, in Honolulu County, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. The serial number on his birth certificate is 010641. Baby Barack’s birth was not heralded, as some of his partisans have suggested, by a star in the east, but it was heralded by the Honolulu Star, as well as the Honolulu Advertiser, each of which published birth announcements for young Mr. Obama.

***

If one applies for a United States passport, the passport office will demand a birth certificate. It defines this as an official document bearing “your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.” The Hawaiian birth certificate President Obama has produced—the document is formally known as a “certificate of live birth”—bears that information. It has been inspected by reporters, and several state officials have confirmed that the information in permanent state records is identical to that on the president’s birth certificate—which is precisely what one expects, of course, since the state records are used to generate those documents when they are requested. In other words, what President Obama has produced is the “real” birth certificate of myth and lore. The director of Hawaii’s health department and the registrar of records each has personally verified that the information on Obama’s birth certificate is identical to that in the state’s records, the so-called vault copy. Given that fact, we are loath even to engage the fanciful notion that President Obama was born elsewhere, contrary to the information on his birth certificate, but we note for the record that his mother was a native of Kansas, whose residents have been citizens of the United States for a very long time, and whose children are citizens of the United States as well.  

***

The hallmark of a conspiracy theory is that a lack of evidence for the theory is taken as yet more evidence for the theory. Indeed, the maddening thing about dealing with conspiracy hobbyists of this or any sort is the ever-shifting nature of their argument and their alleged evidence: Never mind the birth certificate, his step-grandmother said he was born in Kenya! (No, she didn’t.) 

Meanwhite, WaPo reports:

Hawaii again declares Obama birth certificate real

HONOLULU — State officials in Hawaii on Monday said they have once again checked and confirmed that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, and therefore meets a key constitutional requirement for being president.

They hoped to stem a recent surge in the number of inquiries about Obama's birthplace.

"I … have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen," Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said in a brief statement. "I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago."

And the lastest conspiracy?  One Freeper thinks he knows:

I wonder if we are being manipulated by the Obama WH… getting us focused on his birth certificate while he pursues his liberal agenda?

Oy.

The Birther Headache

The Politico discusses the "birther" problem I've discussed a few times here on this blog.  What's the problem?  With Congress out of session in August, legislators will be going home to their constituents.  And Republican legislators will be inundated with questions from citizens who insist that Obama is a ferner and therefore can't be preznit of these here united states.

How do they not tell their consituents that they are… uh… idiots?

Some are avoiding having town hall meetings altogether.

Others are placating dishonestly:

Sen. Jim Inhofe has also tried to find the elusive middle ground.

“They have a point,” he said of the birthers. “I don’t discourage it. … But I’m going to pursue defeating [Obama] on things that I think are very destructive to America.”

No, they don't have a point (other than the one on top of their head).  I mean, if there really wasn't any substance at all to the birther conspiracy allegations, then folks like Inhofe need to drop everything and investigate.  (They won't of course, because everybody with a brain knows that Obama is an American citizen).

Singing Roads

You know how there are some roads where they put in a series of grooved pavement sections to get you to wake up or slow down (because, say, there's a toll booth ahead) as you're driving?  When your car goes over them, it kind of makes a series of tones.

Someone got the bright idea to adjust the height and spacing of the paved grooves so that the road emits a song.

There are a few dozen "singing roads" in the world.  Here's one that purports to play the William Tell Overture:

Not very impressive, but still…. a good use for stimulus spending.

I’m Ready For My Tattoo, Mr. DeMille

Not a big fan of tattoos, me.  Don't really understand the need to accesorize in that way.  Plus, the permanancy thing.  What if you don't like it after five years?

But finally, I've come across a tattoo that I would consider.  It's not really a tattoo, it's a

Tattoodisplay subcutaneously implanted touch-screen that operates as a cell phone display, with the potential for 3G video calls that are visible just underneath the skin.

The basis of the 2×4-inch "Digital Tattoo Interface" is a Bluetooth device made of thin, flexible silicon and silicone. It´s inserted through a small incision as a tightly rolled tube, and then it unfurls beneath the skin to align between skin and muscle. Through the same incision, two small tubes on the device are attached to an artery and a vein to allow the blood to flow to a coin-sized blood fuel cell that converts glucose and oxygen to electricity. After blood flows in from the artery to the fuel cell, it flows out again through the vein.

Still in the concept phase, and probably very expensive.  But cool nonetheless.

Sarah, We Hardly Knew Ye

Image5190056g Well, she's gone.  Sarah officially resigned yesterday as Alaska governor, still being vague about her future.  She assured her supporters that she "will be able to fight even harder" for them, now that she has no office, no governmental power, no authority, and no influence over public policy.

Ironically, she took some shots in her bye-bye speech against "Hollywood 'starlets'" who speak out from the sidelines on issues, without realizing of course that a sideline kibbitzer is pretty much what Sarah, private citizen, is now.  As someone on NPR noted this morning, she's more like a reality show participant, rather than a leader or officeholder.

Apparently the "Hollywood 'starlet'" was a reference to Ashley Judd, who Palin to task for moose-hunting.  Warning of "anti-hunting, anti-second amendment circuses from Hollywood," Palin said advocacy groups "use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets."  She offered such individuals this message: "By the way, Hollywood needs to know: We eat therefore we hunt."  Somehow, though, I think the vast majority of Alaskans, including the Palin household, can and do just fine putting food on the table with food bought from a store.

She also derided the "partisan operatives" who had dogged her governorship with ethics complaints, failing to be honest about the fact that many of those ethics complaints were filed by non-partisan government agencies or Republican individuals. 

Was this her exit off of the national scene?  Democrats are hoping "no".

Another Evangelical Perv

USA Today:

Tony Alamo, a one-time street preacher who built a multimillion-dollar ministry, was convicted today of taking girls as young as 9 across state lines for sex, the Associated Press reports.

Alamo remained silent as the verdict was read. 

His five victims sat looking forward in the gallery. One, a woman he "married" at age 8, wiped away a tear, the AP says.

In the trial, the five women, now age 17 to 33, told jurors that Alamo "married" them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them wedding rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas’ borders for Alamo’s sexual gratification.

"I’m just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel," Alamo called to reporters afterward as he was escorted to a waiting U.S. marshal’s vehicle. The trial was held in Texarkana, Ark.

(Emphasis mine)

Yo, Tony?  I realize I'm no evangelical preacher like you, so I may be ignorant about the Bible and shit like that, but what scripture of the Gospel commands that you rape eight and nine year olds?

Alamo faces a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.  I suspect he's going to get all sorts of sexual education there.  Let's hope.

UPDATE:  Oh, I see.  After visiting the Tony Alamo Ministries website, I've learned that Tony is actually innocent of these crimes.  You see, the FBI made these women lie, because Tony has been criticizing the government for 45 years (you know, the government which was behind the JFK assassination and 9/11).  As Tony writes: "Either you believe Pastor Alamo or the homosexual Pope."

Um… I'll go with the homosexual Pope, Alex.

Of course, he contradicts himself when he writes:

The legal age of marriage is puberty. Webster’s Dictionary states childhood is the “state or time of being a child; state or time from birth or infancy to puberty or maturity.” Webster’s definition of puberty is “the age when one becomes capable to bear children, which is marked by maturing of the reproductive organs, with the onset of menstruation in the female; the period at which sexual maturity is reached.” The Bible says this as well.

God’s Word, the Bible, never condemns a man for having more than one wife!

Ew, I need a shower.

K’ville’s Nathan Tabor Needs To Read The Constitution Before He Comments About It

You can read the full article for yourself, but Tabor's screed ("A Tale of Two Constitutions") starts like this:

In the era of President Barack Obama, more than ever we will witness examples of selective application of the US Constitution's First Amendment.

…Two recent cases reveal just how partisan advocates of First Amendment truly are. One might argue that the USA actually possesses two separate Constitutions: one to control patriotic US Citizens, and one to allow the most offensive even hate-filled rhetoric.

Tabor then tells of Case #1, involving a supposedly radical Islamic group holding a symposium in a Chicago Hilton Hotel entitled "The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam".  Much to Tabor's distress, the federal government didn't rush right in and close it down.  First Amendment freedom of speech and all that.

Tabor then contrasts that with Case #2, involving a shopping mall kiosk owner in Concord Mills, North Carolina (the largest mall in NC).  The owner had displayed anti-Obama, anti-liberal bumper stickers and posters — his kiosk was called "Free Market Warrior".  After receiving some customer complaints, the mall decided not to renew the kiosk owners lease.  (You can find more info here)

Tabor concludes:

So, my friends, there you have it. In Chicago, members and supporters of a radical Islamic group are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights, but an American citizen and small businessman is denied his right to advertise items that oppose a sitting president. And the US Constitution continues on its downward spiral — protecting radicals and terrorists, but not protecting American citizens and capitalists.

No, Nathan.  Get a clue.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from banning speech.  That's just what happened in Case #1 — the group, offensive as its message might be, had every right to conduct a peaceful symposium, and the government couldn't interfere.  The group was protected by the First Amendment.  The hotel Hilton could have stopped them, but they (apparently) didn't want to.

With Case #2, the government wasn't even a party to the controversy.  The mall closed the kiosk owner down, and it was their right to do so.  Yes, they CAN shut you down for your political viewpoint (see below). Their property, their rules (and if enough people complain, they can change those rules.  That's how the free market works, people).

In each case, a private business made a decision about how to run its business and who to do business with.* Others may or may not approve of their choices, but in any event no First Amendment issue arises.

This is what happens when idiots try to make a point without knowing what they're talking about.

* There is, one could argue (wrongly**), a discrimination issue, but even that has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

**  But no, there is no unconstitutional discrimination.  The laws protect discrimination by private businesses based on race, religion, sex, etc.  Not on political viewpoint.

UPDATE:  Freemarketwarrier.com is the website for the kiosk's company.  They sell stuff like this:

_Obama_Comes_fro_4a60f001146cb_170x150

And have blurbs like this:

The majority of 2008 was formed by millions of Americans who succumbed to a politics of personality. Since the development of mass-media, demagogues skilled at counterfeiting personal connections to millions through an impersonal medium have preyed on those willing to be duped. The masses who see Obama as someone who will personally take care of their needs are just such dupes. They could not explain what the economy does when it works right let alone what’s wrong with it. But with minds programmed for a more primitive tribal society, they are looking for a father figure (or perhaps a sugar daddy) to spare them from the need to think and be responsible.

One step removed from this, are those who see the president as a symbol because of his color. (If the president looks like me, then my team has won somehow and that must be good for me. Alternatively, my white guilt will be appeased if I vote for a president of a different color.) One is tempted, given the genuine historical limitations suffered by black Americans, to sympathize. But the cure for racist identity politics has never been more racist identity politics in the other direction. And for the vast majority of Americans today who have no pre-1965 memories, it is wrong to allow them or yourself to be defined by things that never happened to you. You were not handicapped by slavery or the Irish potato famine, or the pogroms in the Ukraine or the internment of Japanese Americans, etc. You are your own person and you're living your life today. It's important to study history but it’s equally important to live your life today. If you confuse the two you end up voting for Obama instead of getting a job.

It's not particularly offensive in my view.  But as I said, it doesn't have to be.  The owners of the mall can decide they don't want it in their property for whatever reasons they want, so long as it is not racist, gender-biased, etc.

Local Hunger

Not for nothing, but North Carolina has the nation's second-highest hunger rate for children under 5 years old, second only to Louisiana (which is still suffering the after-effects of Katrina).  More than 422,000 children in North Carolina are "food insecure" – , i.e., unable to consistently access adequate amounts of nutritious food that is necessary for a healthy life.  That amounts one-in-four of all NC kids under the age of five who are "food insecure".

With an unemployment rate in Forsyth County of 11.6%, you can be sure that many of those hungry children are within miles of where you are (assuming you are a local person reading this).

So, you know, would it kill you to do something?

Socialized Math

Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) on socialized medicine:

Well, if you go to the socialized medicine countries, you find about 20 percent worse results. You get it? One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine! Now, I’ve got three daughters and a wife. I would hate to think that, among five women, one of them is going to die because we go to socialized care, and we have to have these long lists.

Lesson of the day: Never trust statistics from a guy who thinks that 3 daughters plus 1 wife totals five women.

Smooth Talker: The Greatest Voicemail Ever

Making the web rounds is this series of voicemails to a woman from a really really really bad “smooth talker”.  One of those things that can’t be described — you just have to listen for yourself.  Enjoy.


Blank
A YouTube spoof:

A YouTube re-enactment:

Part II of the same:

And a re-enactment of Olga:

So Do Women Like Porn?

95_women_porn001 This is one of those posts which generates a lot of traffic to my site… from Google searches. 

That's not why I'm blogging about it…. it's just that there seems to be several schools of thought on this, and the social psychology major in me is interested things like this. 

The schools of thought on the women/porn question, watered down to their basics, are:

SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #1:  No, women do not like porn — because porn degrades and objectifies women, which encourages rape and other violence against women.  (I call this the "uptight feminist view")

SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #2:  No, women do not like porn — because women are interested (or are conditioned to be interested) in wistful romantic fantasies and not the crude grinding of naked bodies.  (I call this the "Harlequin romance view")

SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #3:  No, women do not like porn — because porn is icky and ungodly and women should only have sex when it's time to make babies or relieve their husband's stress (I call this "the WTF view")

SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #4:  Uh, yeaaaaah, women like porn.  A-duh!

I don't think these four schools of thought are mutually exclusive.  For example, a woman can acknowledge that the porn industry in general "objectifies" women, and still enjoy porn.  Of course, the porn industry (I'm told) is pretty diverse, and obviously not ALL porn objectifies women.  In fact, a lot of porn is tailor-made by women for women.

But enough of my conjecture.  Let's see what the experts say, via Oprah.com via CNN:

….the fact is, millions of women use and enjoy "explicit sexual imagery."

…In the first three months of 2007, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, approximately one in three visitors to adult entertainment Web sites was female; during the same period, nearly 13 million American women were checking out porn online at least once each month.

Theresa Flynt, vice president of marketing for Hustler video, says that women account for 56 percent of business at her company's video stores. "And the female audience is increasing," she adds. "Women are buying more porn." (They're creating more of it, too: Female director Candida Royalle's hard-core erotic videos, made expressly for women viewers, sell at the rate of approximately 10,000 copies a month.)

(Emphasis mine).

And biologically, studies show that women DO enjoy it:

In a 2006 study at McGill University, researchers monitored genital temperature changes to measure sexual arousal and found that, when shown porn clips, men and women alike began displaying arousal within 30 seconds; men reached maximum arousal in about 11 minutes, women in about 12 (a statistically negligible difference, according to the study).

Even more compelling were the results of a 2004 study at Northwestern University that also assessed the effect of porn on genital arousal. Mind you, a copy of "Buffy the Vampire Layer" and a lubed-up feedback device isn't most girls' idea of a hot night in. But when the researchers showed gay, lesbian, and straight porn to heterosexual and homosexual women and men, they found that while the men responded more intensely to porn that mirrored their particular gender orientation, the women tended to like it all.

That's right — women like porn so much that they're less selective about what is depicted.

But that's not universally true:

Not every woman feels empowered to enjoy the show. For years we've been told that we won't — or shouldn't — be turned on by porn, end of story, sleep tight.

…When everyone tells you that what you might be curious about, or even secretly like, is wrong, bad, sleazy, and shameful, you don't have to cast a line very far to land a set of inhibitions.

And, indeed, many a smart, strong, sexually self-reliant girl has popped in a porn DVD and ejected it just as quickly because she saw something that offended her or made her uncomfortable. 

Some of that discomfort has less to do with the societal stigma of women/porn, and more to do with body images:

The biggest roadblock for women (and men) to enjoying explicit imagery is the fear that they don't "stack up" to the bodies and abilities of the people onscreen. Erotic models and actresses bring up a whole range of adequacy issues, from breast size to weight, from what you look like "down there" to the adult acne we all periodically fight.

Yeah… I don't think the whole "body issue" thing is as big a problem for men as it is for women.  We don't even look at the dude, really.  But for those women who do have some misgivings, the author closes with this advice:

We (women) don't have to think of rationality and animalistic urges as mutually exclusive. If we desire, we can let them play together like tennis doubles. Porn is one more pleasure to add to life's sexual buffet, one that can be enjoyed with a partner or alone.

Makes sense.

And I got through this entire post without making one immature sexual innuendo.  I want some credit for that.  It was pretty hard.  I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up.

(Damn!)

Obama’s Bear Market

Remember about four months ago when all you could read from conservative blogs was crap like this:

The Obama Bear Market

With yesterday’s declines, we now have an “official” Obama bear market, defined as a 20% decline. The S&P 500 index closed at 850 on the last trading day before Obama’s inauguration, and now it’s at 682. And it barely took six weeks.

Don’t let ANYONE tell you that this is Bush’s fault, or that Obama inherited the decline. The stock market by definition is a leading indicator. It predicts the future for corporate earnings, not the present or the past.

The stock market is saying that with Obama in office, the outlook for business is poor. And with his promises of higher taxes and more regulation, Obama is doing his very considerable best to reinforce the negative perception.

Next time you open your 401(k) or mutual fund statement, try not to flinch at the thought that a great big bear with Obama’s face is looking over your shoulder.

Redstate, March 6, 2009

Even legitimate news organizations got on the "Obama bear market bandwagon".

Well…

The numbers are a bit breathtaking: In a little more than four months, the Dow Jones industrial average has leapt more than 2,500 points — nearly 39 percent — to close above 9,000 for the first time since January.

That's right.  When Obama took office, the Dow was at 9,034.  It closed yesterday at 9,069.

0724-biz-webMARKETS

Will they credit Obama?  Don't hold your breath.

UPDATE:  Heh.  Conservatives are all now, like, "I can't remember that".  The fun starts at 4 minutes in….

UPDATE: Better video:

Nobody Likes Sarah Anymore

Hmmmm.  Looks like Sarah's "I'm quitting because I'm all mavericky and it's great for Alaska" spin didn't work too well.  From WaPo:

Overall, the new poll found that 53 percent of Americans view Palin negatively and 40 percent see her in positive terms, her lowest level in Post-ABC polling since she first appeared on the national stage last summer….

The dip in Palin's favorability comes as she gets ready to leave office Sunday with about 18 months remaining in her term and plans to turn her attention to national politics.

The Born Identity

I generally don't have much success embedding The Daily Show videos, but I'll give it a shot this time, because Stewarts roast of the "Birthers" (the tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists who espouse that Obama isn't a legitimate president because he wasn't born in the United States) is excellent.

I especially love the end where Stewart describes exactly what the conspiracy theory means — i.e., that back in 1961, a nobody man from Kenya and his nobody wife from Kansas somehow conspired with the government of Hawaii and the Hawaiian media to engage in a conspiracy on the chance that their black baby Obama would someday become president of the United States.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
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Gawker has a nice FYI on the whole birther thing.  A segment:

What Do Birthers Believe?

It is hard to pin down and explain what the birthers actually believe, because it an ever-shifting series of assertions, arguments, and insinuations that change on a dime depending on the audience and facts presented, but we will give it a shot.

Basically, birthers believe that Barack Obama is not a legitimate president, because he was not born in the United States. But, faced with rather overwhelming evidence that he was born in the United States, some birthers are even now changing their stories and claiming that he's not eligible because he was born a dual citizen (of the US and either Kenya or… Britain), making him, again, not eligible.

But these are the more popularly accepted theories:

  • Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Obama's mother was living in Kenya with Obama's father, and after his birth, she took him back to Hawaii to register his birth, because… she knew one day he would run for president? Birthers claim Obama's paternal grandmother admitted to being present during Obama's birth, in Kenya.
  • Barack Obama is a citizen of Indonesia, where his sister was born.
  • Barack Obama's real middle name is "Muhammed."
  • Barack Obama's birth certificate is a forgery.
  • Barack Obama's birth certificate isn't a forgery, but they used to give those out to people who were born overseas (this was what they had to settle on once Hawaiian officials confirmed that his birth certificate was real).
  • Hawaii didn't give out birth certificates to kids born overseas at the time of Obama's birth, but his mother lied about where he was born (and sent out two newspaper announcements!) in order to procure one.

But the details don't make sense, and don't matter. Here's a representative paragraph from a birther website:

Depending on what his long copy vault birth certificate states, this may or may not deepen the problem. If it states either of the two hospitals and the hospital records prove that he was in fact born in one of the Hawaiian Hospitals, then the location of his birth will definitely prove he is entitled to be a US Citizen in accordance to the 14th Amendment. This of course does not necessarily give him the necessary status of a natural born citizen.

If Obama issues another birth certificate that states, also, that he was born in Hawaii, in a hospital, he still might not be a natural born citizen. They'll come up with a reason why, however, should this chimerical document ever surface. For fun, here is another sentence from the same site: "If his long form birth certificate states he was born at home, then this in itself does not prove that he was born, and in fact could lead to greater problems."

Why, yes… if Obama wasn't actually born, that would create greater problems…. because it means our President doesn't actually exist!

Bonus Video:  Chris Matthews takes on G. Gordon Liddy about this.  Liddy looks like he's about to die….

By the way, Liddy refers to a "sworn deposition" from Obama's step-grandmother insisting that he was born in Kenya.

Not true at all.  Salon's Alex Koppelman has the story:

What Liddy was referring to is actually an affidavit filed by a street preacher named Ron McRae, who conducted an interview with Sarah Obama, the second wife of President Obama's grandfather, through a translator. (Sarah Obama is not the president's biological grandmother, but he calls her "Granny Sarah.")

In that interview, Sarah Obama does in fact say at one point that she was there for her grandson's birth. But that was a mistake, a confusion in translation. As soon as a jubilant McRae began to press her for further details about her grandson being born in Kenya, the family realized the mistake and corrected him. And corrected him. And corrected him. (The audio is available for download here.)

And here's the relevant part if you don't want to listen to the audio:

MCRAE: Could I ask her about his actual birthplace? I would like to see his birthplace when I come to Kenya in December. Was she present when he was born in Kenya?

OGOMBE: Yes. She says, yes, she was, she was present when Obama was born.

MCRAE: When I come in December. I would like to come by the place, the hospital, where he was born. Could you tell me where he was born? Was he born in Mombasa?

OGOMBE: No, Obama was not born in Mombasa. He was born in America.

MCRAE: Whereabouts was he born? I thought he was born in Kenya.

OGOMBE: No, he was born in America, not in Mombasa.

MCRAE: Do you know where he was born? I thought he was born in Kenya. I was going to go by and see where he was born.

OGOMBE: Hawaii. Hawaii. Sir, she says he was born in Hawaii. In the state of Hawaii, where his father was also learning, there. The state of Hawaii.

The audio doesn't of course matter to the birthers.  They're going to believe what they want to believe.  But it IS rather nutty, huh?

Things I Have To Shake Before The Final Two Shows

(1)  The fact that hardly anybody is coming to see a play about Little League baseball.  Fortunately, the small audiences have been very reactive, but damn, I wish there were more.

(2)  The performance where I took a scene from Act Two and put it into Act One, thereby making a reference to the other character's dead wife before it was revealed to me that she was dead.

(3)  The performance when I smashed the cell phone with a baseball bat (which is supposed to happen) and it went flying out into the audience coming within inches of a guy in the front row (which isn't supposed to happen).  Amazingly, the guy didn't flinch at all.  I was impressed.  Then we realized after the show that he was blind and had no idea what almost hit him.

(4)  The fact that I cannot say these words and phrases with ease: "an impressionable age", "integral" and a few others.

(5)  The fear of accidentally whacking my co-star with an aluminum bat.

(6)  My uncertaintly about the members of the team and their positions.  ("Look alive out there in right field…uh….. Frankie")

Quote Of The Day

In discussing the need for a balanced budget and PAYGO legislation, Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) shockingly exclaimed:

"We're not going to cry 'emergency' every time we have a Katrina."

In other words, having a balance budget is of paramount importance, and we're not going to muck it up by spending money on emergency appropriations like we did when Katrina hit.

Here's here full quote and the video:

Let's agree that we're going to have PAYGO enforcement.  That we're not going to cry 'emergency' every time we have a Katrina, every time we have a Tsunami, every time we have a need for extra spending, that we don't go call for a special appropriation that allows us to circumvent the PAYGO rules.

One wonders if Blackburn now regrets her support of the "Emergency Appropriations" bill passed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (which took 1,436 lives).

Canadian Health Care

Commentor Steve H writes:

My parents, who are in their 80s, are adamant Republicans and as such disagree on "principle" with anything Obama, or the Democrats, try to do. They're really in an uproar about the health-care thing. Mom says "Government health care is terrible, look at all the problems they have in Canada." She went on in this vein and only subsided, glaring, when I pointed out that she's on Medicare, and Dad gets his health care through the Veterans' Administration, so they're ALREADY on "Government health care" and they both think it's terrific.

I think there is a lot of that.  The objection to Obama's health care reform is that it is Obama's health care reform.  We even have GOP senators who openly admit that the purpose of their opposition is to defeat Obama, never mind what the overarching issues are or how it might affect American lives:

I'm not sure what "problems they have in Canada" with healthcare.  No doubt there are some — waiting times are longer I believe, but it's virtually undisputed that their health care is better and cheaper to the consumer (especially the drugs).  And, as one Canadian put it, there are certain words you never here in the with respect to healthcare in Canada:

1. "Out of network"
There are no "networks" in Canada. Doctors and hospitals are not affiliated with private insurance companies. Doctors are private business entities and hospitals are usually run by non-profit boards or regional health associations.

2. "COBRA"
Health coverage is NOT tied to your place of employment in any way. So any COBRA-like scheme is unnecessary.

3. "Co-Pay"
The government pays 100% of basic care, 100% of the time. Drugs are not covered, but are subsidized by government to a point. And because of mass buys, discounts are obtained from the drug companies. That's why our prices are so much lower. Most employers offer a drug plan that pays for 100% of drug cost coverage.

4. "monthly premium\deductible"
Wazzat? We don't consider our health to be the same as our possessions.

5. "waiting for approval"
Doctors are the sole decision makers for health care. NOBODY influences or delays their decisions, warns them of costs or prevents them from giving treatment for any reason.

6. "Government interference"
The provincial government in each province PAYS for whatever services doctors provide. No questions asked. Unless the procedure is experimental, not medically necessary or unwarranted, doctors cannot deny basic care – by law.

7. "Health insurance lobby"
There are NO insurance companies for basic care, only companies for providing insurance for travelers. No money to be made here.

8. "bureaucracy"
When we visit a hospital or doctor's office, we walk in, get treated, walk out. No "applications", "registrations" or any other kind of paperwork is required. We NEVER have to talk to a single "government official" or wait for a "judgment".

9. "PRE-EXISTING CONDITION"
This is such a foreign concept to us. A Canadian's usual reaction to the explanation of this term is astonishment.

What Digby Said: GOP Health Care Talking Points

Digby takes on the Republican talking points on health care and nails it:

Just in case you are like me and would like to be able to hit the mute button whenever a Republican is on TV talking about health care, the Huffington Post has conveniently provided the official Republican talking points:

In regard to specific talking points, the RNC Memo has nine of them:

#1 — President Obama and Democrats are conducting a grand experiment with our economy, our country, and now our health care.

#2 — President Obama's massive spending experiments have created more debt than at any other time in our nation's history.

#3 — The President experimented with a $780 billion dollar budget-busting stimulus plan and unemployment is still rising. The President experimented with banks and auto companies, and now we're on the hook for tens of billions of dollars with no exit plan.

#4 — Now the President is proposing more debt and more risk through a trillion dollar experiment with our health care.

#5 — Democrats are proposing a government controlled health insurance system, which will control care, treatments, medicines and even what doctors a patient may see.

#6 — This health care experiment will have consequences for generations, but President Obama and Democrats want to ram this legislation through Congress in two months.

#7 — President Obama's health care experiment is too much, too fast, too soon. Our country cannot afford to fix health care through a rushed experiment.

#8 — Americans want health care reform that addresses, not increases, cost or debt.

#9 — Government takeover is the wrong way to go — health care decisions should remain between the doctor and the patient.

Digby addresses each one:

#1 — Yes it is a grand experiment. It's possible that it will fail. But we already know that the current system is failing badly and is going to get worse. If Americans wanted to put their faith in the same private sector that just blew up the global financial system to fix this problem voluntarily, they would have voted for John McCain. It's not like Obama and the Democrats didn't run on reforming health care. The people knew what they were getting into and they want the Democrats to run their experiment.

#2 — Yes there is a deficit. It's there because the Bush administration left a global financial crisis, the worst economy since the Great Depression, an imploding health care system and a planet that's heating up so fast that the polar bears are running out of ice. Oh, and there are two ongoing expensive wars.

I'm sorry those things cost money to fix, but they do and it's the price Americans are going to have to pay for voting for an ignorant lout and his evil puppetmaster for president. The mess has to be cleaned up and it isn't going to come cheap.

#3 — the stimulus was never going to have fully kicked in this soon and complaining about it this early is pure political opportunism. But there's no doubt that it could have been better if a handful of moderate busy bodies hadn't arbitrarily decided on a certain number for no good reason and then gutted much needed money for the states that would have been spent quickly. That's what you get for bipartisanship.

#4 — this is meaningless, repetitive babble

#5 — nobody is proposing government run health care. We only wish they were. Instead what we have is a Rube Goldberg contraption that will, nonetheless, at the very least ensure that people will be able to see their own doctor and get the treatments they need. This is just the same stale old lie they've been telling for decades.

#6 — Health care reform is not a rushed experiment. People have been thinking about this for 60 years and have been blocked by these same lame excuses every time they try to do something about it. More to the point, the Republicans are already on record saying they want to delay the bill so they can kill health reform. Why would the Democrats want to help them do that?

#7 — Lather, rinse, repeat

#8 — Americans do want a system that contains costs. That's why the status quo is unacceptable. Even if they are lucky enough to have health insurance, they are getting eaten alive with costs if they are unlucky enough to actually get sick. The Republicans have no solution to any of these problems. If anything they want to make it worse by forcing people to buy their own health insurance on the open market where insurance companies can cherry pick only the healthy patients and kick anyone who might actually need their coverage off the rolls. They are in no position to be critical of anyone else's plan when that's the best they can come up with.

#9 — health care decisions should be between a doctor and a patient (unless it's reproductive health in which case it should be between a doctor a patient and the Christian Right.) Unfortunately, at the moment, health care decisions are now between a doctor, a patient and a faceless insurance company bureaucrat who answers to nobody but his immediate boss and who is being paid a bonus to find reasons not to cover you. I would welcome a government bureaucrat over that system. At least they aren't allowed to personally profit from my misfortune.

RELATED:  The GOP fearmongering about healthcare is in full tilt mode.  A memo must have gone out, because the latest talking point is that Obamacare is going to lead to the mass execution of the elderly.  No, I'm not kidding.  Read with amazement as some wonk at the National Review Online tries to make a section of the healthcare bill discussing 5-year medical consultations for the elderly into "eugenics".  This echoes the fearmongering from the floor of the House, too.

The GOP Dilemna

Over at The Atlantic, columnist Marc Ambinder makes the same point I made yesterday (only better):

Republicans have to be extra careful. If they give credence to the birthers, they're (not only advancing ignorance but also) betraying the narrowness of their base. If they dismiss this growing movement, they might drive birthers to find more extreme candidates, which will fragment a Republican political coalition.

So far, it seems that some Republican officials are quite happy to court the nutbase movement.  Watch Chris Matthews evicerate Congressman John Campbell (R-CA), who eventually does admit that Obama is a U.S. citizen:

Palin: Defense Fund Is Unethical

Yup, the defense fund set up by Sarah Palin to pay for defense of all the ethics investigations against her is itself unethical:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts.

The report obtained by The Associated Press says Palin is securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust, set up by supporters.

An investigator for the state Personnel Board says in his July 14 report that there is probable cause to believe Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of the trust as the "official" legal defense fund.

The fund aims to help Palin pay off debts stemming from multiple ethics complaints against her, most of which have been dismissed. Palin says she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees.

Wow.  That's unethics squared.

A call seeking comment from her lawyer was not immediately returned.

Not Joke, Joke

This is a real bill:

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009.

“This legislation works to ensure that our society recognizes the dignity and sacredness of human life,” said Brownback. “Creating human-animal hybrids, which permanently alter the genetic makeup of an organism, will challenge the very definition of what it means to be human and is a violation of human dignity and a grave injustice.”

The Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act would ban the creation of human-animal hybrids. Human-animal hybrids are defined as those part-human, part-animal creatures, which are created in laboratories, and blur the line between species. The bill is modest in scope and only affects efforts to blur the genetic lines between animals and humans. It does not preclude the use of animals or humans in legitimate research or health care where genetic material is not passed on to future generations, such as the use of a porcine heart valve in a human patient or the use of a lab rat with human diseases to develop treatments.

Brownback continued, “This legislation is both philosophical and practical as it has a direct bearing upon the very essence of what it means to be human, and it draws a bright line with respect to how far we can go in attempting to create new creatures made with genes from both humans and animals.


“My background is in agriculture, and for a number of years we have been working with crops and animals to produce a superior soy bean, a superior cow, and so-on. We can genetically engineer safe products and herds that are disease resistant or that possess more desirable attributes. But doing this in plants and livestock is very different than doing this in humans."

I'm sorry.  Is this an issue?  Why not a bill to ban joyriding spaceships around the rings of Saturn?

 

This, however, is a hoax, but I pretty convincing one.

 

I'm talking about the planned Manhattan International Airport, planned for Central Park.

Centralparkair

Shunned Kids From Day Camp Going To Disneyworld

Remember this story from a few weeks ago about the black kids in a Philly day camp who were turned away from using a country club pool because (they were told) it would change the "complexion" of the place?

Well, just an update.

First of all, the story caused nationwide anger the owners are now facing a lawsuit.

Secondly, media mogul Tyler Perry heard about the story and is treating the kids…. to a trip to Disneyworld.

Getting My Arms Around Health Care Reform

I don't blog about this very much, because I don't understand it very well.

I know there are several bills and versions out there; I just don't know what they do or how they differ.

I know there's such a thing as a "single payer system" which is essentially "socialized health care".  In essence, it's a single universal health care system where everybody is under the same "plan", kind of like Medicare, but involving everyone.  I also know this is not what Obama proposes.

I know there's such a thing as the "public plan option" which is what Obama is proposing.  Essentially, this is a government-run insurance plan (again, like Medicare or what congressmen have) that anyone can opt into.  It will cover people who are presently uninsured and essentially compete with private insurance plans.  But of course, because it is the government, it can provide better services at lower costs (the government has more bargaining power).  And I believe most of the proposals on the table are some varience of the "public plan" option.

Some say that the public plan approach is a stepping stone to a "single payer system".  That's fine with me.

But the main reason I have a problem getting my arms around health care reform is that I just don't know the lingo, as this helpful post from Exra Klein made salient:

There are two things that people might be talking about when they bring up the cost of health-care reform. One is "national health expenditures." That's the amount of money we spend as a country, in both the private and public sectors, on health care. The other is "public health expenditures," which is the amount of money the government — and thus taxpayers — spend on health-care programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

These two measures do not always point in the same direction. A single-payer system could cut national health expenditures by 10 percent while increasing public expenditures by trillions of dollars. In that scenario, national health expenditures would fall, but public health expenditures would rise, because we would be paying through taxes rather than premiums. Conversely, a scenario in which we ditch or weaken the public plan might mean that public health expenditures are lower because less money is being routed through government, but national health expenditures are higher, because you're missing out on a potential source of cost savings.

Another piece that confuses people is the difference between "paying" for health-care reform and "saving money" through health-care reform. Imagine that the final health-care bill costs $1 trillion but spends all that money on subsidies and doesn't change the system at all. That bill could be "paid for" through a tax that raises $1 trillion, or by cutting defense spending by the same. But it wouldn't save money. Conversely, imagine a health-care bill that cost $1 trillion but unravels the employer-based market and substantially reforms Medicare: That bill might save trillions in the long term by cutting national health expenditures, but unless someone found $1 trillion up front, it wouldn't be "paid for."

The goal of health-care reform — at least on the cost side — should be to save money on national health expenditures. Saving money in the long run is a lot more important than deficit neutrality in the short run. And the total level of health-care spending is a lot more important than what percentage of it is public.

I think I follow. 

One thing I do know is that there really is no excuse in the 21st century for not having digitized and easily transportable electronic medical records.  I understand there is a huge upfront cost to having hospitals and doctors' offices convert to digital, but it is something that needs to be done.  So much of health care costs is due to administrative expenses, and the way to save money on national health expenditures is to lessen those expenses.

Better Conservative Criticism Please

Yes, the Obama Administration spendt billions of dollars in economic stimulus spending, and yes, it is important that that money be spent wisely.  If conservative critics want to identify wasteful ways in which that stimulus money is spent, then all the power to them.  In fact, the Obama Administration has made this very easy — by making sure that recovery.org lists the projects on which government spending is allocated.

But conservatives need to be, you know, accurate in their criticism, or else it is just wasteful oversight.

Yesterday, spurred by a Drudge report headline, conservative bloggers and pundits (like Glenn Beck) were all up in arms about the federal government spending $1.19 million of taxpayer funds to buy just two pounds of ham.

Great story.  Sadly, not accurate at all.

In truth, that particular program spent $1.19 million on buying 760,000 pounds of ham — that's 380 tons — to be distributed to local organizations that assist low-income Americans through food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens.  The ham merely came in two-pound units.

Some conservatives then backtracked, arguing that the ham purchases were still overpriced (compared to what you could buy at Food Lion), but of course, purchasing the ham was only part of what the stimulus money was for.  There was also expense required in distributing it.

Then, as a further display of their incompentence, conservatives such as Glenn Beck complained that $1.4 million was spent "to repair a door" at Byess Air Force Base, Building 5112.

Uh, no.  The truth, Glenn?  $1.4 million in recovery money was provided to Byess Air Force Base, but $1.2 million of that was to repair four gas lines — only $250,000 was to the repair the door….. and it was an aircraft hanger door.  Excuse me, hanger doors, plural.

The bottom line is: if you have to make up things to criticize Obama's policies, you're probably not on solid ground and should keep your mouth shut.

Paying To Read Online News?

The editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber, has predicted that "almost all" news organizations will start invoking some pay-as-you-go scheme for reading their content.  Rupert Murdoch has declared that all News Corp newspapers will be charging online by the end of the year, but as yet no concrete moves seem to have been made.

Others aren't as pessimistic.

From a business standpoint, the Internet has killed the print media, and newspapers need to come up with a better business model to survive (advertisements on online versions of newspapers just don't cut it).

From a consumer standpoint, this is of course not very welcome news.

The GOP Candidate’s Dilemna: A Case Study

This Youtube video is a perfect example of how difficult it will be in the next election cycle (or two) for GOP candidates.

The video shows Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a moderate Republican who hasn’t announced whether he’s running for re-election or for the U.S. Senate next year, at a town hall meeting earlier this month.

A woman gets up, holding a baggie containing her birth certificate, and unleashes a rambling, minute-long tirade tirade about how the president is a “citizen of Kenya.” The crowd hoots and cheers when she’s done. Castle responds, diplomatically: “Well I don’t know what comment that invites. If you’re referring to the president, then he is a citizen of the United States.” That elicits roars and boos from the crowd, so Castle presses on. “You can boo, but he is a citizen of the United States.”

How can a reasonable Republican run for office when he is dependent on pleasing crazed constituents — the rabid GOP base – who froth at the mouth over highly insane conspiracy theories?

David Boies: Why I’m Fighting For Gay Marriage

In the WSJ. Favorite passage:

[B]asic constitutional rights cannot depend on the willingness of the electorate in any given state to end discrimination. If we were prepared to consign minority rights to a majority vote, there would be no need for a constitution.

This is absolutely right, and a much overlooked — albeit rather basic — point.  While it is nice if majorities in states vote for marriage equality, it is rather irrelevant.  As a matter of constitutional principle, we don't submit questions of equal treatment under the law to majority vote.  Those rights are already constitutionally guaranteed to all citizens.

A bit more:

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the right to marry the person you love is so fundamental that states cannot abridge it. In 1978 the Court (8 to 1, Zablocki v. Redhail) overturned as unconstitutional a Wisconsin law preventing child-support scofflaws from getting married. The Court emphasized, “decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.” In 1987 the Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional a Missouri law preventing imprisoned felons from marrying.

There were legitimate state policies that supported the Wisconsin and Missouri restrictions held unconstitutional. By contrast, there is no legitimate state policy underlying Proposition 8. The occasional suggestion that marriages between people of different sexes may somehow be threatened by marriages of people of the same sex does not withstand discussion…. Moreover, there is no longer any credible contention that depriving gays and lesbians of basic rights will cause them to change their sexual orientation. Even if there was, the attempt would be constitutionally defective. But, in fact, the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians is as much a God-given characteristic as the color of their skin or the sexual orientation of their straight brothers and sisters. It is also a condition that, like race, has historically been subject to abusive and often violent discrimination. It is precisely where a minority’s basic human rights are abridged that our Constitution’s promise of due process and equal protection is most vital.