Monthly Archives: February 2010

Health Care Summit Wrapup

The news much of the and blogosphere seems interested in scoring the summit, as if it were a "debate" (I've seen actual news outlets refer to it as a debate, which it wasn't).  I have no interest in that.  It wasn't about scoring political points.  To the extent that someone did, that's nice, but who cares?

[UPDATE:  To its credit, I thought the Wall Street Journal's wrap-up was well above the fray]

Basically, the entire endeavor boiled down to this: Obama's question for Republicans was, "We're offering a bipartisan, comprehensive package built around principles you claim to support. Are you willing to work with us?"

And Republicans came with their own question: "Will you throw out all the work you've done and promise to let us kill reform with a filibuster?"

Both sides have the same answer to the competing questions: "No."

So was anything accomplished?  No.

There was news to come out of the summit though, which is best summarized by Obama's closing remarks yesterday afternoon.

"[W]hat I'd like to propose is that I've put on the table now some things that I didn't come in here saying I supported, but that I was willing to work with potential Republican sponsors on. I'd like the Republicans to do a little soul-searching and find out are there some things that you'd be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the preexisting condition issue.

"I don't know, frankly, whether we can close that gap. And if we can't close that gap, then I suspect Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward."

Translated?  I think Obama was giving the green light to Democrats, who are still in the majority (though they don't act like it) to push forward on health care reform without the Republicans.

In other words, bipartisanship is all but off the table.  And that's encouraging.

Punditry Of The Day

From Bryan Fischer at Renew America, weighing in on the Seaworld incident:

If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone's misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, "When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn't know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

Except it was a shark, not an ox. I guess the Bible isn't supposed to be interpreted literally anymore.  Maybe the seven days of Genesis weren't literal days, Bryan?

He continues:

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn't kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, "the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:29)

So, Seaworld should be put to death.  Interesting.

For LOST Fans

You might enjoy this blog, entitled at the aptyl-named http://neverseenlost.wordpress.com.

It's a blog about the last season of LOST from the perspective of someone who has never seen an episode of LOST prior to this season.  Here's her recap of this season's first episode (she mistakenly refers to Jack as "Jake"):

These people are stuck on an island.  They tried detonating a bomb to disrupt a space time continuum, which is 100 times better than using a boat when trying to get somewhere.  The bombing didn’t work (or did it?!?!?! it didn’t.) so now everyone is dying left and right and everyone is mad at Jake because his plan didn’t work. Juliette is trapped under a bunch of steel. How’d she get there?  She fell down a hole, survived, and then beat an H-bomb (according to my cable TV episode guide) with a rock til it blew up.    Sawyer seems pretty grouchy about the whole thing.  Juliette dies.  Meanwhile, the Indian guy got shot but they just ignored him even though he was coughing up blood and still had a chance to live.  I guess they figured since Juliette was at the center of a bomb detonation, they had less time to save her.

This island also has ghosts of people who died in Westside Storyesque knifefights (Jacob) or bald people (John).  The ghosts are of differing helpfulness.  The Jacob ghost tells the fat guy to take the dead Indian to a hole in a temple and not to forget the guitar case.  That sounds like the beginning of a joke or one of those sentences that contains every letter of the alphabet.  The John ghost turns out to be “the monster” according to the weinery guy.  The monster starts busting skulls on some henchmen who come in to find Jacob.

The Jake Gang takes the shot dude to a temple via VW Van.  There, an Asian guy who hates English so much he won’t speak it busts open a cross to get a love note.  When the Jake Gang finds out it says they’re all in trouble if the Indian dude dies, everyone in the Jake Gang gets a look on their face that says “Uh oh.  Maybe we should have paid attention to him instead of spending 8 hours getting Juliette out from the rubble.”  Don’t worry though, the Asian guy just drowns him in a hot tub, sets off a firework, and low and behold, the Indian guy is good as new.  The end.

Thoughts I Have

  • Everyone seems unfairly angry at Jake.  If you pitched an idea to me that involved setting off an H-bomb on an island, you’d have to have A LOT of factual support for me to go along with it.  And if it didn’t work, well, I don’t think I have much right to point the finger.
  • Where’d all these modern amenities come from? They used flashlights that I assume use D batteries.  I have a hard time finding those in a major city.  Also, they have beer.
  • I can’t get over the fact that they ignored the Indian dude and let him die.
  • For a deserted island there are an awful lot of people.
  • Bloody kisses are gross.  If I was Sawyer I would have killed time until Juliette died so I wouldn’t have to swap platelets.
  • While on the Sawyer topic, why is he helping a fugitive escape the TSA?
  • Everyone is pretty well kept for having been on an island.  Even Richard looks like he has his supply of eyeliner.
  • When the plane landed I was expecting a cut shot to an autistic kid playing with an island snow globe.

The Heath Care Summit: The First Point Of Contention

Part of the problem with getting health care reform done, is that both sides are arguing from a different set of facts, rather than opposing policy.  This, of course, shouldn't be: facts are facts.

Watch this disagreement between President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on the issue of whether health care premiums would go up under the Senate Dems' reform plan.  President Obama cites the CBO to say that premiums will go down; Alexander cites the CBO to say that premiums will go up.

They're both citing the same source, so only one can be right.  Who is it?

President Obama:

Lamar Alexander and Barack Obama just had a contentious exchange on this point, so it's worth settling the issue: Yes, the CBO found health-care reform would reduce premiums. The issue gets confused because it also found that access to subsidies would encourage people to buy more comprehensive insurance, which would mean that the value of their insurance would be higher after reform than before it. But that's not the same as insurance becoming more expensive: The fact that I could buy a nicer car after getting a better job suggests that cars are becoming pricier. The bottom line is that if you're comparing two plans that are exactly the same, costs go down after reform.

I'm not accusing Lamar Alexander of intentionally lying or anything like that.  It's just that he doesn't understand the issue very well, and that's why he misread the CBO report.  And that's another, perhaps even greater, reason why health care reform is slow to get accomplished.  The people who are opposed to it simply don't understand it.

On the other hand, two other Republicans also took Alexander's (incorrect) position that the CBO said the premiums would go up.  Clearly, they are going from the same talking points.  And who is preparing those talking points?  Insurance lobbies.

UPDATE: See also PolitiFact on this issue:

On Nov. 30, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, released a detailed analysis on how health insurance premiums might be affected by the Senate Democrats' health care bill. The CBO is an independent agency whose estimates for pending legislation are considered nonpartisan and rigorous.

The CBO reported that, for most people, premiums would stay about the same, or slightly decrease. This was especially true for people who get their insurance through work. (Health policy wonks call these the large group and small group markets.) People who have to go out and buy insurance on their own (the individual market) would see rates increase by 10 to 13 percent. But more than half of those people — 57 percent, in fact — would be eligible for subsidies to help them pay for the insurance. People who get subsidies would see their premiums drop by more than half, according to the CBO. So most people would see their premiums stay the same or potentially drop.

Avenue Q Poster Too Racy for Colorado Springs

Avenueq Puppet cleavage.  That's what we're talking about here: pink puppet cleavage.

A billboard advertising company in Colorado Springs, Colorado has banned a particular poster for Avenue Q, favoring a more "conservative approach":

You think it’s not easy being green.

Try being a pink Muppet-like character in the touring off-Broadway show “Avenue Q.”

Lamar Advertising recently rejected a bus shelter advertisement that would have revealed the character Lucy the Slut’s furry pink cleavage.

 “My lovely rep (at Lamar) didn’t have a problem with it,” said Kristy Maple, marketing director for New Space Entertainment, which produces the Broadway in Colorado Springs series. “We were in the process of putting it on the presses when one of the top execs saw it and said, ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Colorado Springs market.’”

Lamar account executive Jeff Moore said he has a simple test to see what’s appropriate for bus ads and billboards: “If I have to explain it to my 4-year-old or my grandmother, we don’t put it up.”

Was it the fact that it was cleavage or the fact that it was puppet cleavage that swayed Moore?

“It’s the fact that it’s cleavage,” he said.

He couldn’t say if it’s something Lamar might run in other markets.

“I just know in this market, we prefer to walk a little more conservatively,” Moore said.

The offending Lucy the Slut has been replaced by head shots of other characters.

Yes, other characters like the blue puppet, Rodney, a gay Republican.  (Although, you can't tell that from the poster).

It should be noted that Colorado Springs is the home base of Focus On The Family (as well as the home of the megachurch once pastored by the disgraced Ted Haggard).

BTW, the comments to the story as reported in the local press, are amusing:

OH MY GOSH! I just realized something!! Kermit and Grover are…are…are….TOTALLY NAKED!!! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!! How will I explain THAT to my kids tonight!?!?!?! OH, THE HORROR!! Those fuzzy, freaky, nude, exhibitionists!!!! I knew they were pervs!!! I just knew it!!!

The White House Health Care Summit

I'm not sure what the point of it is.  Ostensibly, the point is for the two parties to get together on national television for six hours and hammer out some concrete proposals for reforming health care in this country.

Early reports indicate that the Republicans are coming to the table with "No. No. No. No. No. Let's scrap everything and start over" even though Obama's proposal contains about 80% of what Republicans have said they wanted in a health care reform bill.

But then again, maybe that's the point.  To show that only one side is willing to work on serious health care reform, and the other side is commited to its destruction and/or delay.  If that's the White House's "hidden agenda" of today's health care summit, it seems that Republicans are playing into that rather well.

RELATED:  A nice "viewer's guide" to the proceedings today is here (PDF format), for those with the stomach to watch them.

A more neutral PDF comparing the three plans (the House, the Senate, and Obama's) is here if you care to wade through it.

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Stand For The Pledge of Allegiance

Bit of a controversy surrounding a 12 year old student in Maryland who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved this issue more than half a century ago:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

Next….

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) Gets In Trouble For Telling The Truth

This rocked the House yesterday, and this video is No. 4 on Youtube:

For those who don't have video, here's Firedoglake's description of the event:

Anthony Weiner just made a fiery speech in the middle of the House debate on repealing the insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption. Angered by a motion to recommit, he lashed out, saying “the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!” While continuing on this theme, Republicans asked that the words be taken down, an attempt to rule Weiner’s remarks out of order and ban him from speaking on the floor for the rest of the day. Weiner then asked unanimous consent to substitute remarks, and after withdrawing the initial ones, said “Every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!”

Republicans again asked for the words to be taken down.

At issue was a motion to recommit from the Republicans which would essentially scuttle the bill to repeal the insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption. The motion would have inserted a massive loophole that would have allowed insurers to collude with one another. Weiner said “You guys have chutzpah… they say that, well this isn’t going to do enough, but when we propose an alternative to provide competition, they’re against it… they said they want to have competition, and when we proposed requiring competition, the Republicans are against it!”

Eventually, Weiner withdrew his comments. But then he concluded, “there are winners and losers in the way we distribute health care,” and the insurance industry are among the winners, and the motion to recommit would keep that in place. He basically reinstated his “wholly owned subsidiary” comments in slightly more palatable words.

What The Wingnuts Are Scared About Now

This:

Defense-Islamic-logo 

What is it?  It's the new logo for the United States Missile Defense Agency, a change from their old logo:

DOD_Missile_Defense_Logo
And what is so scaaaaaary about the new logo?  Well, isn't it obvious?  The Drudge Report makes it obvious:

Drudgemissiledefenseagencylogo 

That's right.  The new logo is a combination of the Obama logo and the Islamic flag. 

Blogger Frank Gaffney, writing at BigGovernment.com, a Web site run by Drudge ally Andrew Breitbart, says the new logo may be a sign that the Obama administration has "nefarious" plans for US defense:

The Obama administration’s determined effort to reduce America’s missile defense capabilities initially seemed to be just standard Leftist fare — of a piece with the Democratic base’s visceral hostility to the idea of protecting us against ballistic missile threats. A just-unveiled symbolic action suggests, however, that something even more nefarious is afoot.

***

Even as the administration has lately made a show of rushing less capable sea- and land-based short-range (theater) missile defenses into the Persian Gulf in the face of rising panic there about Iran’s actual/incipient ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities, Team Obama is behaving in a way that — as the new MDA logo suggests — is all about accommodating that “Islamic Republic” and its ever-more aggressive stance.

Yes, that's right.  The Obama Administration has decided to become soft on terrorism, and they embedded their intentions in a newly-designed logo.  What is this?  Some modern-day DaVinci code?

There's no doubt that the new Missile Defense Logo has similarities between the Obama logo (also red, white, and blue) and the Islamic flag.  But couldn't this possibily be coincidental?

Not to the wingnut conspirators.

Well, I'm going to blow their mind by throwing this logo into the mix:

Pepsican

30 Things You Didn’t Know

1. The phrase “rule of thumb” is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn’t beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

2. The dot over the letter “i” is called a tittle.

3. A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.

4. Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.

5. A 2 X 4 is really 1-1/2″ by 3-1/2″.

6. During the chariot scene in “Ben Hur,” a small red car can be seen in the distance (and Heston’s wearing a watch).

7. On average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily. This is disconcerting.

8. The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000.

9. There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, purple and silver.

10. Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a spacesuit damages them.

11. If one places a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion, it will instantly go mad and sting itself to death.

12. Bruce Lee was so fast that they actually had to s-l-o-w film down so you could see his moves.

13. The first CD pressed in the US was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”

14. By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you cannot sink into quicksand.

15. Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.

16. An old law in Bellingham, Washington, made it illegal for a woman to take more than three steps backwards while dancing.

17. The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries.

18. The glue on Israeli postage is certified kosher.

19. Bats always turn left when exiting a cave. Similar to the oceans, bats are affected by the moon. Due to bats hanging upside down, the moon always appears at their feet. When the moon sets in the western hemisphere, this appears on the bat’s left hand side. As a result bats are naturally orientated to their left hand side when they fly out of their cave. Truth.

20. Many traffic lights and lift buttons are actually placebo buttons – in other words, they do nothing at all when pressed. They exist to give the presser the feeling of control.

21. The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

22. Men can read smaller print then women can; women can hear better.

23. It is impossible to lick your elbow.

24. Charlie Chaplin once won third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

25. The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

26. 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

27. Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

Spades – King David
Hearts – Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander, the Great
Diamonds – Julius Caesar

28. Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common?
A. All invented by women.

29. It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the “honeymoon”.

30. The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.

[Via]

Also, since I have nowhere else to put it, this….

Become_afan   

Democratic Attempts To Reform Health Care Are Pretty Much Like Republican’s Plans From The Past

This chart, shameless lifted from Kaisir Health News, shows rather dramatically how conservativism of the Republicans have taken hold over the past 15 years.

Seventeen years ago, Republican Senator John Chaffee (R-RI), a moderate (now deceased), proposed a health care bill.  In many ways, it is very similar to the Senate Bill passed last December (which in itself is very similar to the plan unveiled by Obama last week).

The final column shows the current Republican plan, a stark contrast to Chafee's bill of 17 years ago.

Ezra Klein puts the chart in context:

Boehner's bill, by contrast, is far, far more conservative (and useless) than what moderate Republicans developed in 1993. Conversely, the Senate [Democratic] bill doesn't look anything like the Clinton plan itself, much less like the more liberal efforts to expand Medicare to all Americans.

We've got a situation in which Democrats are essentially pushing moderate Republican ideas while Republicans push extremely conservative ideas, but because neither the press nor the voters know very much about health-care policy, the fact that Republicans refuse to admit that Democrats have massively compromised their vision is enough to convince people that Democrats aren't compromising.

And Steve Benen:

For all the hysterical whining from today's Republican Party and its right-wing allies, the Democratic plan couldn't be any less radical. Not only is it practically identical to what moderate Republicans wanted nearly 20 years ago, but its basic structure is the same as the plan Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle were touting last year.

The fact that Americans have been led to believe the Democratic plan is an example of wild-eyed liberalism — a notion largely embraced by much of the major media — speaks poorly of our discourse and capacity to have a meaningful policy debate. It is, however, a reminder of just how effective the right-wing noise machine can be.

Major Provisions Senate Bill 2009  Sen. Chafee (R) Bill 1993  Rep. Boehner (R) Bill 2009 
Require Individuals To Purchase Health Insurance
(Includes Religious and/or Hardship Exemption)
 Yes

 Yes

 No (individuals without
coverage would be taxed)

Requires Employers To Offer Health Insurance To Employees

 Yes (above 50 employees, must help pay for insurance costs to workers receiving tax credits
for insurance)

 Yes (but no requirement to contribute to premium cost)

 No

Standard Benefits Package 

 Yes

 Yes

 No

Bans Denying Medical Coverage For Pre-existing Conditions 

 Yes

 Yes

 No (establishes high risk pools)

Establish State-based Exchanges/Purchasing Groups

 Yes

 Yes

 No

Offers Subsidies For Low-Income People To Buy Insurance 

 Yes

 Yes

 No

Long Term Care Insurance

 Yes (sets up a voluntary insurance plan)

 Yes (sets standards for insurance)

 No

Makes Efforts To Create More Efficient Health Care System 

 Yes

 Yes

 Yes

Medicaid Expansion 

 Yes

 No

 No

Reduces Growth In Medicare Spending

 Yes

 Yes

 No

Medical Malpractice Reform 

 No

 Yes

 Yes

Controls High Cost Health Plans

 Yes (taxes on plans over $8,500 for single coverage to $23,000 for family plan)

 Yes (caps tax exemption for employer-sponsored plans) 

 No

Prohibits Insurance Company From Cancelling Coverage 

 Yes

 Yes

 Yes

Prohibits Insurers From Setting Lifetime Spending Caps

 Yes

 No

 Yes

Equalize Tax Treatment For Insurance Of Self-Employed 

 No

 Yes

 No

Extends Coverage To Dependents

 Yes (up to age 26)

 No

 Yes (up to age 25)

Cost 

 $871 billion over 10 years

 No CBO estimate

 $8 billion over 10 years

Impact On Deficit

 Reduces by $132 billion over 10 years

 No CBO estimate

 Reduces by $68 billion over 10 years

Percentage Of Americans Covered 

 94% by 2019

 92-94% by 2005

 82% by 2019

 

Short Takes

(1)  The Russian curling team is hot.

The-russian-curling-team-is-hot-25638-1266982248-19  

(2)  Hilary Duff knows how to respond to a marriage proposal (NSFW photos)

(3)  I'm not sure I'm on board with this series of French anti-smoking ads

(4)  What is it with beauty pageant winners from California?: Miss Beverly Hills Thinks God Wants Gays "Put to Death"

(5)  "The Purple Rose of Cairo" + "Splash" = "Enchanted".  Just sayin'.

(6)  The cutest 911 call ever (a five year old saves her father's life… from a few weeks ago)

(7)  Things I like reading: According to a recent study, happiness declines from the teenage years until age 40. It levels off until 46 and then starts to increase until peaking at 74.

(8)  Not that anyone will pay attention, but the non-partisan CBO said that the stimulus lowered the unemployment rate by 2.1% in the 4th quarter of last year, and created 2.1 million jobs. [Source]

(9)  Tufts University, my alma mater, is on the cutting edge: it is allowing prospective students to submit a Youtube video as part of their application.

(10)  Glee is going to the White House for Easter.  (The First Lady and First Kids are fans).

(11)  Snow?  Again?  Seriously?

White House Shame Of Non-Existent GOP Health Care Plan Continues

More like this, please, posted on the White House website (emphasis is mine):

The President believes strongly that Thursday’s bipartisan meeting on health insurance reform will be most productive if both sides come to the table with a unified plan to start discussion – and if the public has the opportunity to inspect those proposals up close before the meeting happens.

That’s why yesterday the White House posted online the President’s proposal for bridging the differences between the Senate- and House-passed health insurance reform bills. The proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle-class tax cuts for health care in history, it ends discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, holds insurance companies accountable,   and reduces our deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years.

But you don’t have to take our word for it: the proposal is posted right here at WhiteHouse.gov for everyone to examine. You can read through the plan’s bipartisan ideas section by section, or you can select your health care status and find out what the proposal would mean for you. You can even submit a question for our policy staff to answer.

What you can’t do just yet is read about the Republicans’ consensus plan – because so far they haven’t announced what proposal they’ll be bringing to the table. To be sure, there are many Republicans who share the President’s conviction that we need to act on reform, and there are several pieces of Republican health care legislation out there. Previously we were told this was the House Republican bill. Is it still? We look forward to hearing whether this the proposal they'll bring. The Senate Republicans have yet to post any kind of plan, so we continue to await word from them. As of right now, the American people still don’t know which one Congressional Republicans support and which one they want to present to the public on Thursday.

President Obama has been clear that his proposal isn’t the final say on legislation, and that’s what Thursday’s meeting is all about. But after a year of historic national dialogue about reform, it’s time for both sides to be clear about what their plan is to lower costs, hold insurance companies accountable, make health insurance affordable for those without it, and reduce the deficit.  A collection of piecemeal and sometimes conflicting ideas won’t do.

As we said today, we’ll be happy to post the Republican plan on our website once they indicate to us which one we should post. We hope they won’t pass up this opportunity to make their case to the American people.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

No response from the GOP, which isn't terribly surprising.  They are not planning to come out with a comprehensive bill.  Their "plan" (and it's from the House GOP only) really is just a handful of loose ideas (tort reform, for example) which fails to held those with little or no insurance coverage.

ObamaCare

For about a year now, teabaggers and GOp operatives have been lamenting “ObamaCare”.  Either out of ignorance or dishonesty, the right’s use of the phrase “ObamaCare” is, quite simply, wrong. 

Obama has never put forward a health care plan.  He’s left it to Congress.  And that turned out to be a waste of time, as the GOP repeatedly called for the health care reform to be watered down, and then refused to vote for it.

Well, now Obama has a health care plan.  Now, we actually have “ObamaCare”.

Aside from the specifics of the plan (which are laid out over several pages on the White House website), one of the noteworthy things is that it appears that Obama is taking a different tack with the GOP.  He’s clearly putting the ball in their court. 

For example, the White House website specifically notes the many “Republican ideas” in Obama’s health care plan.  This puts Republicans on the defensive.  No longer can they reject health care reform on the notion (which was never true, by the way) that their “ideas” were ignored.  In black and white, their ideas are now incorporated.  This puts the ball squarely in the Republican’s court.  They can no longer whine about being shut out of the process.

Now, of COURSE, the GOP is still going to vote “no” on health care reform.  The problem (for them) is, they no longer have the we-weren’t-listened-to excuse.  Now, their obstructionist agenda will be exposed for what it is — an obstructionist agenda.

In other HCR-related news, the big news comes from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is embracing the reconcilation process to get some lesiglation passed.  He announced that congressional Democrats would likely opt for the reconcillation process, allowing the Senate to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.  One wonders why it took him so long to do this, but we’ll let that pass.

UPDATE:  On further reflection, I think Ezra Klein is right about this:

The talk right now is about what “Democrats” will do on health-care reform. But the truth of the matter is that we know how 95 percent of Democrats will vote. We know what the congressional leadership and the White House want. But the fate of this project lies with a relatively small number of ambivalent Democrats in the House of Representatives. No one knows exactly who those votes are (though they’re mainly among these folks, and then the Stupak 14) , nor what they want. Say what you will about Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln, but they made their demands loudly and clearly.

A lot of the confusion right now, however, comes because the concerns of House members are not as well understood. The media is focusing on the theater between Barack Obama and the Republican leadership, but the outcome will be decided between Democrats, not Democrats and Republicans. So far as the White House is concerned, they’re the real audience for Thursday’s summit, and no one knows exactly what they’re hoping to see.

Chick Flicks

Snin43l Basically, the chick flick template is this:

First part of the movie: he hates her; she hates him
Second part of the movie: both principal charactors realize they their mutual loathing for each other is just a cover for the fact that they really deep down love each other; at some point the male character (typically, Hugh Grant) apologizes profusely for behaving so boorishly in the first part of the film

You can spice it up and add interesting sub-charactors (a kid, the girl's best friends, etc.), or set in a different time period or exotic locale — hell, make one of the charactors a vampire – but you've pretty much got the formula for most chick flicks.

This, ladies, is the reason guys don't like chick flicks — they're rather predictable.

And ladies, if you want your guy to watch a chick flick with you, there are certain things you can do find a chick flick tolerable to guys:

  1. Make sure there are action sequences.  Titanic did this so well that most guys even forgot it was, at its core, a chick flick.
  2. Find one with badass lines.  Ex: "My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die."
  3. Make sure the female lead is the kind of person that guys fantasize about, and not at all like, you know, you.  Ex: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (or, to a lesser extent, Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, but only in that scene)
  4. Make sure the male lead has a job that guys fantasize about, and not at all like their jobs in real life.  See Jerry McGuire and Top Gun.
  5. Find one with John Cusack.  From Say Anything to High Fidelity to (yes, even) Sixteen Candles, there's something about Cusack which de-chickifies the chick flick.
  6. Make sure Hugh Grant is not in it.
  7. Make it The Notebook, which worked (for some unexplained reason).

And if none of that works, give up on your honey and find this guy:

Nick Waters, a 29-year-old man from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, has become something of a celebrity after he pledged to watch “30 chick flicks in 30 days,” an ambitious goal to be completed by today, February 14th–Valentine’s Day. He did it and says that he is a better man because of it.

So, how did this blogger with a mission come up with something like this, and why? He didn’t do it for the attention: he claims that he did it to become a better husband. His introductory statement on his website says: “First, you should know that I’m that ‘guy’ exploring these films. Second, my name is Nick. I’m a husband, and have been for seven years. Third, no one put me up to this. And fourth, I’m not some professional film critic. I live in a small town in southern Oklahoma. I work in communications.”

At first I was skeptical: how much can a guy really learn from so-called “chick flicks,” movies where the women are often emotionally unstable wrecks, the guys are stereotypical at best, and true love happens in an hour and a half? But, to Nick Waters’ credit, a few of the movies he chose went deeper than “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Legally Blonde” (which are two of my favorites, by the way). He says that one of his favorites was “Atonement,” and some of the movies he listed I have never even heard of. And I was impressed that “Sex and the City” was Day 12 on his list.

Nick Waters says, “I have relearned so many things during this as it pertains to trust, communication, love and what it means to work for a marriage versus just being in a marriage.  Life is an adventure and if you can pursue that adventure with someone you love, it makes it even more memorable.”

And you can read the full list of his chosen movies on his website: http://30chickflicks.com/

What Exactly Is Terrorism Then?

The guy flies an airplane into a federal building.  In the online note he left behind, he wrote:

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. … I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.

And the Homeland Security officials release a statement saying:

“We believe there’s no nexus with criminal or terrorist activity”

Excuse me, but it was terrorism.  Maybe not international terrorism, but terrorism nonetheless, even by the FBI's twin definition of terrorism:

Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)]

International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

RIP Kathryn Grayson

Kiss-me-kate The star of popular MGM musicals of the 1940s and '50s ("Anchors Aweigh," "Show Boat" and "Kiss Me Kate") used to make my ears bleed — especially when she sang with duets with Howard Kiel – but she was an icon in movie musicals.  So she deserves her due credit.

She died at age 88.  (She was born, by the way, in Winston-Salem).

Thoughts On The Austin Texas Plane Guy

After reading his suicide note, conveniently posted online here (until it gets removed) it seems to me that this guy, while somewhat literate, simply isn't very smart.

The suicide note (which I've copied and pasted below the fold in case it goes away from the original site) is one long screed — mostly anti-government, and in particular, anti-IRS (which would explain why he flew his plane into Austin's IRS building offices).

But this part jumped out at me:

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA.  This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income.  I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need.  The sleazy government decided that they disagreed.  But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out.  Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

For a guy who claims to have read and studied the tax code, it's rather surprising to think that he didn't need to file a tax return, even if he had no income.  It sounds to me like he is blaming the government for all his problems. 

In the very next paragraph, he talks about having unreported income, and being audited.  Well, which is it?  Not a single dollar of income, or all kinds of unreported income?

It certainly looks to me like he was trying throughout his career to do an end run around the IRS.  I suspect that he was one of those nutty tax deniers, who think the federal income tax is unconstitutional.  He got caught.  And whose fault is that?  According to him, "Big Brother" (the government).

Regardless of who is to blame, it's no excuse to kill yourself by flying a plane into a government office.

He closes this way:

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone.  The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.  Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough).  In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.  It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants.  I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after.  But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change.  I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less.  I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are.  Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.  The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different.  I am finally ready to stop this insanity.  Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

Goodbye, Joseph Andrew Stack, you douchebag. 

UPDATE:  A lot of people are trying to peg this guy's political leanings, but I think Tim at Balloon Juice accurately conveys my thoughts:

On a certain level, anti-tax extremism more or less automatically qualifies someone as a right-winger. Still, I don’t see this morning’s airplane attack on IRS buildings in Austin as explicitly political. The pilot’s suicide note mostly makes him sound like a tightly-wound guy who snapped after a long string of very bad luck.

I agree.  This guy is a little hard to peg.  He is angry about taxes, about the broken health care system, about the "vile, corrupt Catholic church," the rich ("when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes"), and the political system that supports them.  His screed is both a little teabaggy and a litte communist, at the same time.  He just seemed angry at everyone, without having affinity for any political leanings at all, as best summed up by this quote:

"There has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say."

Conservative Blogger Finds Proof That Obama Is A Socialist

 
According to this blogger, the White House tour guide said that the White House library was stocked by Michelle Obama. 
 
Connect the dots.  Michelle Obama stocked the White House library with (two? three?) books whose titles refer to socialism – President Obama is therefore a socialist, QED.
 
Here's the photo:
 
17848_307436788217_500443217_3437142_2339416_n_thumb 
 
 
But seriously, a couple of books about socialism is supposed to mean something?  What about the books on populism?  Doesn't this make Obama a Teabagger?
 
And by the way, Nathan Glazer, author of the book on Communism depicted on the picture, is a well-known anti-communist intellectual from the original “neoconservative” social/political circle which included Daniel Bell, Irving Kristol, and Patrick Moynihan.
 
It bears noting that this photo (below) was taken of the White House library when Bush, Jr. was president.
 
3115060340_dab80795be 
 
The Autobiography of Malcolm X?  Clearly this means that Bush was a black militant.   Who knew?

Decension In The Ranks

Long-time readers of this blog know that I occasionally write about squirrels, and their inherent evilness and diabolic plot to rid the Earth of all mankind.

Fortunately, there is good news to report.  Like the Republican party and Tea Party movement, there are signs that the furry rats are not getting along:

Irony-Impaired

The conservative CPAC is underway.  And although I expected that many of the conservative speakers would be making jokes about Obama's use of a teleprompter (they can't help themselves), I didn't expect this:

Sam Stein of Huff Post tweets that there have now been six teleprompter jokes at the conservative CPAC conference, all read off of teleprompters.

Rubio 

It's not certain if they all read their jokes off the teleprompter, but as the photo shows, the teleprompter is clearly there.  It doesn't look out of place; it's a staple of all political podiums for the past 40 years.

UPDATE:  Perhaps the irony of today’s situation wasn’t lost on all conservatives. On Twitter, the National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez said that she’s had enough of these teleprompter jokes, writing, “I’ve heard at least three teleprompter jokes already. In front of a teleprompter. Godspeed to the man who uses the teleprompter. … My patience may be exhausted for teleprompter jokes. Especially because some has got to be using it.”

Republicans And Conservatives Gather To Sign A Silly Piece Of Paper And Congratulate Themselves

It's like the "Contract with America" from the 1990's, but without anything of substance.

Yup, the GOP likes to sign little manifestos committing themselves to the conservative values that (they believe) the Founding Fathers had (never mind the fact that the true conservatives in the Coloniel era sided with the British).

Today's monumental screed is called "The Mount Vernon Statement", and it contains the typical pablum of conservatives wrapped up in nonsensical (and somewhat inaccurate) evocations of 1776.  Yup, a bunch of 'em are signing the thing at the homestead of George Washington (slaveowner until he died, but whatever), wrapping themselves in the American flag, and heading off to some posh D.C. nightspot for gin and tonics. 

The MVS has no details, and makes no attempt to resolve the conflicting interests of social conservatives, economic conservatives, hawks, and libertarians.  It's just a blanket statement that somehow these groups all have the exact same interests (do thay?), and all of them agree with a very generalized vision of the Constitution, specifically, a call for "constitutional conservatism", which it defines in broad meaningless statements:

* It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.

* It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.

* It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.

* It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.

* It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

All nice, but what would "constituional conservatism" say about a small tax increase as part of a larger plan to pay down the national debt? Does that violate the principles of limited government and market solutions, or is it actually a step towards the greater conservative good of solvency and fiscal responsibility?  If conservatives are to "prudently consider what we can and should do" to end tyranny, where does waterboarding fit in to that matrix?  (Libertarians and many conservatives oppose it; many conservatives support it — does this document resolve that issue?  No.)

There's a lot more to be said about "The Mount Vernon Statement" but Daniel Larison of American Conservatve Magazine (yup, a conservative) seems to have hit upon a major point of conservative hypocrisy:

I cannot object to the statement that the “federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.” This is true. However, I have no idea why the organizers of this gathering think that anyone will believe their professions of constitutionalism after enabling or acquiescing in some of the most grotesque violations of constitutional republican government in the last forty years. If constitutional conservatism means anything, it has to mean that the executive branch does not have wide, sweeping, inherent powers derived from the President’s (temporary) military role. It has to mean that all these conservatives will start arguing that the President cannot wage wars on his own authority, and they will have to argue this no matter who occupies the Oval Office. It has to mean unwavering conservative hostility to the mistreatment of detainees, and it has to mean that conservatives cannot accept the detention of suspects without charge, access to counsel or recourse to some form of judicial oversight. Obviously, constitutional conservatives could in no way tolerate or overlook policies of indefinite detention or the abuse of detainees. They would have to drive out the authoritarians among them, and rediscover a long-lost, healthy suspicion of concentrated power, especially power concentrated in the hands of the executive.

Until we see these basic demonstrations of fidelity to constitutional principle from the would-be constitutional conservatives of this Mount Vernon meeting, we should assume that this is little more than a new ruse designed to rile up activists and donors during a Democratic administration in order to breathe new life into a moribund and bankrupt movement.

The Golden Issue: Campaign Finance

If the Democrats were smart, they will take this issue and own it.  The issue: the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the Supremes ruled 5-4 that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech and can therefore use their profits to support or oppose individual candidates. The decision appears to open the door to unlimited spending by corporations, trade groups and unions in the weeks leading up to an election, which has been explicitly banned for decades.

Obama has spoken out against it.  But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) among other Republican lawmakers have praised the ruling as a victory for free speech.  They have stated that they intend to oppose any legislation designed to gut the impact of the court's decision.

Why is this issue a good one for Democrats?  Because a huge number of people — of all political stripes — oppose the Supreme Court decision:

Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 80 percent of Americans likewise oppose the ruling, including 65 percent who “strongly” oppose it, an unusually high intensity of sentiment.

Seventy-two percent, moreover, support the idea of a legislative workaround to try to reinstate the limits the court lifted.

The bipartisan nature of these views is striking in these largely partisan times. The court’s ruling is opposed, respectively, by 76, 81 and 85 percent of Republicans, independents and Democrats; and by 73, 85 and 86 percent of conservatives, moderates and liberals. Majorities in all these groups, ranging from 58 to 73 percent, not only oppose the ruling but feel strongly about it.

Even among people who agree at least somewhat with the Tea Party movement, which advocates less government regulation, 73 percent oppose the high court’s rejection of this particular law. Among the subset who agree strongly with the Tea Party’s positions on the issues – 14 percent of all adults – fewer but still most, 56 percent, oppose the high court in this case.

So here you have an issue where Democratic lawmakers are clearly on the side of the vast majority of Americans (including Tea Partiers!), and Republican lawmakers are staunchly opposed.  This is a great opportunity for Democrats to expose themselves as the real populists, and to expose Republicans as beholden to their corporate overlords.

By the way, for those who are wondering why I disagree with the court's ruling, I'll state it briefly.  I'm for free speech.  I believe in it, and the Constitution guarantees it.  But the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was not written for corporations and unions.  Pfizer, Inc is not an entity endowed by God with certain inalienable rights — I am, you are, but not Pfizer, or Exxon, or Bank of America, etc.

The Supreme Court lost sight of who the Bill of Rights was meant to protect.  Can the CEO of Pfizer contribute his own money to a candidate's campaign?  Certainly, as an American citizen protected by the First Amendment, he has that right.  But can he (and the rest of the Pfizer board) take corporate money (which, technically, belongs to the shareholders) and "speak" in such a manner?  No, in my view.  That's actually engaging in "compelled speech", the antithesis of free speech.

Most people instinctively recognize this.  And that's why Democrats need to put this issue front and center.

UPDATE:  Then again, this line of attack against the GOP is getting a lot of traction:

 

Quotes I Love

Family Research Council's Tony Perkins said on Fox News this morning:

"I think over the years the conservative movement has become too aligned with the Republican Party."

Why do I love it?

Nothing like inter-party wrangling to help the Democrats stave off total disaster in 2010.

Which prompts me to ask a question: with the Teabaggers putting their own candidates up for election, are they in the Tea Party Party or just the Tea Party?

The Kennedy Smear Job

That JFK was unfaithful to his wife is no historical secret.

And it is a free country.  If someone wants to make a miniseries about Kennedy's extramarital tendencies, that's fine.

But there is such a thing as historical fact and historical fiction.  The planned miniseries on "The Kennedys" falls into the latter category and does not belong on the History Channel.  (It's slated to come out at a time when the country will be recognizing the 50th year of Kennedy's death).

Watch the video below, and sign the petition.

 

The Stimulus Has Been Working

17leonhardt_graphic-popup Republicans, including the Scott Brown of Massachusetts, are claiming right and left that Obama's stimulus just didn't work.  (Brown is making the incredible claim that it didn't create "a single job").

David Leonhardt of the New York Times puts this meme to rest (not that it won't change the GOP message) in a thorough and compelling way:

Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.

Yes, unemployment is still high.  But that doesn't mean the stimulus failed.  It just means we avoided another Great Depression, which is what it was designed to do. 

Republican hacks like to sputter the same tired line, i.e., "but but but the unemployment rate continued to go up after the stimulus package was put in place".  Well, of course it did.  It wasn't like unemployment was going to turn on a dime, especially since ALL the stimulus money wasn't spend right away (in fact, most of it still hasn't been spent).  But more importantly, the point of the stimulus wasn't designed to turn the unemployment rate around, but merely to keep it from going to astronomical rates (15% and 20%).  To actually turn it around, the stimulus would have to have been twice as big, and nobody (save Paul Krugman and a few others) had the political stomach for that.

You don't take aspirin and immediately feel better and start tapdancing on the ceiling.  Republicans are grasping at straws when they try to argue that the stimulus was a faillure, when clearly — VERY clearly — it stemmed the flow of joblessness and drove the economy back from the brink.

The other Republican talking point is that there were flaws and mismanagement and misreporting with the stimulus package.  All true, and not entirely unexpected when it comes from a massive government program (NASA, I believe, has had its setbacks too, as well as every war every faught). 

But these, however, were isolated incidents (often exaggerated) which don't negate the overall economic picture (as indiciated by the graphs at he left, all from nonpartisan economic sources).  In any event, just because the stimulus did not work as well as the Obama Administration predicted, doesn't mean it failed to work at all.

Whatever Became Of You, Ebert

This Esquire article on movie critic Roger Ebery is a must-read if you've ever been wondering what's been happening to him.  A selected quote:

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear, he writes in a journal entry titled “Go Gently into That Good Night.” I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

Roger-ebert-jaw-cancer-photo-esquire-0310-lg

No Victory Laps

If there's any difference between the Bush/Cheney administration and the Obama administration when it comes to waging war, it's this: the Bush/Cheney folks were quite happy to tout their victories, even prematurely, if it could be used to score political points at home.  Remember "Mission Accomplished"?

There's no other way to look at this: the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's top military commander, is no small matter. It's a "major victory." Given that Baradar is the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the war began, and his role in leading the Taliban's military operations, this is a success that may very well pay considerable dividends for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

But did the Obama administration toot their own horns, even while Dick Cheney was blasting the Obama administration on national security over the weekend?  Nope.  They kept Baradar's capture under wraps for more than a week, while they garnered important intelligence information from him.  It might have been tempting for Biden and others to use the Baradar capture as evidence that Cheney doesn't know what he's talking about. But the White House Grown-Ups knew the ongoing efforts were more important than making Dick the Clown look foolish, and bolstering their own security creds.

As Juan Cole noted:

[T]hat Joe Biden and others kept the arrest secret, in order to allow further operations against Taliban leaders in Karachi, shows a discipline that Bush and Cheney never had. They were always happy to prematurely release details of ongoing investigations to get a political bump, even if it meant allowing terrorists to escape.

Yup.

Which Social Networking Site To Use?

I never got into the Twitter (although I have an account).  I'm on Facebook.  I'm also trying out the newly-minted Google Buzz.

Your mileage may vary.  This chart might help.  (Keep in mind that Google Buzz is still a bit of a work-in-progress, so in a week from now, some of the information regarding it may be obsolete).

500x_master-chart-for-social-networks-ver2-3

Jon Stewart Hits Home

I've known Richard Swett, and at least known the name, for as long as I can remember.  I don't know how I knew him — maybe his family and my family belonged to the same country club back in New Hampshire.

Anyway, when Obama came to New Hampshire recently to conduct a post-State-of-the-Union town hall meeting in Nashua, Richard Swett — who goes by the name Dick Swett — was called upon by the President, and he asked a question.

Apparently, Dick Swett's name is cause for giggles, a point not lost on Jon Stewart, who couldn't believe that Obama didn't do a spit take when Dick mentioned his full name:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Dick Swett Incident
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

To Stewart's credit, he ended the segment with praise for Dick Swett — praise for having lived 52 years and putting up with all kinds of juvenile jokes from people like, well, Jon Stewart.

Funny, I never realized Dick Swett's name was funny.

Happy Pancake Day!

From Wikipedia:

In Canada,[8] the United Kingdom,[9] Ireland,[10] and Australia,[11] pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as "Pancake Day" and, particularly in Ireland, as "Pancake Tuesday". (Shrove Tuesday is better known in the United States, France and other countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday). Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fatty and rich foods could be used up before Lent.

Charity and school events are organized on Pancake Day: in a "pancake race" each participant carries a pancake in a frying pan. All runners must toss their pancakes as they run and catch them in the frying pan. This event is said to have originated in Olney, England in 1444 when a housewife was still busy frying pancakes to eat before the Lenten fast when she heard the bells of St Peter and St Paul's Church calling her to the Shriving Service. Eager to get to church, she ran out of her house still holding the frying pan complete with pancake, and still wearing her apron and headscarf.[citation needed] Pancake Day is widely celebrated in Australia; ready-made pancake mixes often sell out.

Every Shrove Tuesday since 1950 the towns of Olney[12] and Liberal, Kansas have competed in the International Pancake Race. Only local women may compete; they race, and their times are compared to determine the international winner. In Olney the main women's race is augmented by races for local schoolchildren and for men.

The Rehab UK Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place every Shrove Tuesday, with teams from the British lower house (the House of Commons), the upper house (the House of Lords), and the Fourth Estate, contending for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions. The fun relay race is to raise awareness of the work of the national brain injury charity, Rehab UK, and the needs of people with acquired brain injury. In 2009, the Lords won.[13]

I'm with Nadia over at The Atlantic:  you can keep your Mardi Gras; I'll take Pancake Day anyday!

Also, iHop and Miss America need a better calendar.

Fox News Poll On Tea Party Movement

The question posed to Fox News website viewers:

What Do You Think Tea Party Movement Is About?

The-internet-wins-a-fox-news-poll-15623-1265917242-1
The poll is still going on right now, so feel free to weigh in. 

RELATED:  From The Moderate Voice:

If you read one article today, spend 15 minutes with this report from the NYT re: the so-called “Tea Party” and (loosely) associated groups.

Though fueled by the rhetoric of Glenn Beck and others, many members of this movement do not articulate their gripes within a Democrat v. Republican matrix. The article contends that the most radical elements within the movement express not only ire for our current President but strong suspicions of the immediately prior President. In some quarters, they’re as upset with the Patriot Act as they are with efforts to reform health care …

In New Mexico, Mary Johnson, recording secretary of the Las Cruces Tea Party steering committee, described why she fears the government. She pointed out how much easier it is since Sept. 11 for the government to tap telephones and scour e-mail, bank accounts and library records. “Twenty years ago that would have been a paranoid statement,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s not anymore.”

Maybe the article is an over-reaction. Maybe I’m over-reacting to an over-reaction. Regardless, it seems you’d have to be more-than-slightly medicated to not find lines like these, from the article’s conclusion, chilling …

Mrs. Stout said she has begun to contemplate the possibility of “another civil war.” It is her deepest fear, she said. Yet she believes the stakes are that high. Basic freedoms are threatened, she said. Economic collapse, food shortages and civil unrest all seem imminent.

“I don’t see us being the ones to start it, but I would give up my life for my country,” Mrs. Stout said.

She paused, considering her next words.

“Peaceful means,” she continued, “are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice.”

Me Want

Supine Reading Glasses

These are the glasses that allow you to read while lying supine in bed, eliminating the need to crane your neck. The lightweight glasses employ two optical-quality glass prisms that bend your vision 90º providing easy reading from a recumbent position. Equally useful while lounging outdoors on a hammock, chaise, or on the beach. Includes a hard case. Brown frames. (1 oz.)

78288 78288A

Also, me wish I had invented.

Maybe Calling Obama A “Socialist” Wasn’t A Good Idea

The unspoken GOP tactic is this: Paint Obama as a socialist.  That way, people will start disliking Obama.  And the GOP wins the day.

Problem is, the strategy may have backfired.  Why?

Because it seems to have caused many Americans to reassess their view of socialism, rather than Obama.

According to this recent Gallup poll:

More than one-third of Americans (36%) have a positive image of "socialism," while 58% have a negative image. Views differ by party and ideology, with a majority of Democrats and liberals saying they have a positive view of socialism, compared to a minority of Republicans and conservatives.

36% of all Americans have a positive view of socialism?  Yes, 36% is comparatively low, but it would have been in the single digits ten, twenty, or thirty years ago!!

New Hampshire State Rep. Nancy Elliott Discusses Same-Sex Marriage

The (NSFW) money quote:

"We’re talking about taking the penis of a man and putting it in the rectum of another man and wriggling it around in excrement. And you have to think, would I want that to be done to me?"
News flash to Nancy: a lot of married opposite-sex couples, including many of your constituents, practice anal sex.  Sorry, honey — like it or not – they just do.
 
And it takes a particularly filthy and depraved mind to make the issue of same-sex marriage about excrement.  But even if that were somehow relevant, sodomy laws were repealed in New Hampshire over a quarter of a century ago.
 
But the real issue isn't what Nancy would or wouldn't want "done to her".  The real issue is whether or not Nancy should be in a position to make that decision for other people.
 
P.S.  And what about lesbianism, Nancy?

The Stupid — It Hurts

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I've seen a lot like this lately in the form of political cartoons, blog posts, radio rants, tweets and other asides — all from the conservative ranks.

It all comes down to the same thought process: there is a lot of snow; therefore, global warming can't be true.

Messages like this come from people who are either too stupid or too dishonest to be opining on anything.

Do we need to explain this again?  Apparently.  So here I go.  One more time….

It's not "global warming" — it is more accurately called "climate change".  Let's just start there.

And let's consider that there is a difference between climate and weather.  If you don't know the difference, than educate yourself or, shut up.

And even if you want to talk about warming, the snowstorm — and other similar phenomenon — don't negate the premise of climate change.  After all, you know what happens when the oceans heat up, even slightly?  You get more moisture in the air.  You know what happens when you get more moisture in the air?  You get more precipitation.  You know what happens when that precipitation falls in a region that often has many below-32-degree days during the winter?  You get more snow.

I propose that this issue be a litmus test for the stupidity and/or honesty of any particular person or group.  Anyone who thinks the spate of heavy snow is proof against climate change is a person whose opinions are not worth listening to.

Free Showing of METROPOLIS On The Internet Today

For background, I refer you to this post, telling you all you need to know about the silent film by Fritz Lang called Metropolis.  In that post, I point out that somebody had discovered what is believed to be the full original uncut version of the film.

That version is being shown today, over the Internet, for free.  Unfortunately, it is being shown to French and German audiences, but that's okay because it IS a silent movie.  The stream begins at 8:15 p.m. Berlin time on Feb. 12 — an hour earlier in the UK and Ireland, six hours earlier on the US East Coast, seven hours earlier in Chicago, and so on.

Roger Ebert's site has the details and links.

Here's a clip from the 1984 "restoration" of Metropolis, a re-edit of the film that was compiled by Giorgio Moroder, using a contemporary soundtrack.

UPDATE:  Well, what the hell — I'll embed it.  It's not quite what I hope it would be:

Judges And Their Facebook Friends

Interesting opinion today from the Florida Supreme Court's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, which was asked this question in a recent case:

“Whether a judge may add lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their “friend.” 

In other words, can Judge Smith, a judge in the local Springfield civil court, be a Facebook friend of an attorney who practices in Springfield, and occcasionally appears in a case before Judge Smith?

The Florida Supreme Court's Committe said "no".  Doing so would violate certain canons of judicial ethics, particularly the one that states that judges should avoid having connections that make it look like theycould have favoritism.

The opinion is here.

Dumb America

Very very dumb America.  There's no other conclusion to be drawn from this CBS poll, the upshot of which is this:  Most people favor gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, but when it comes to the perverted homosexuals… hell no!

I'm not kidding.  Check out this chart:

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Honest to God, a scary percentage of this country is too stupid to live.
 

Palin Poll

An ABC/WaPo poll informs us that 71 percent of the public believe that the former Alaska governor is not qualified to serve in the White House as President.  Another 4 percent "don't know".

Stinging news for Palin, who turns 46 today.  Happy Birthday, you betcha!

Clinton Campaign Hostage Taker Guy: Fugitive

Remember Lee Eisenberger?  The guy who took several people hostage at the Clinton Campaign Headquarters in Rochester NH in 2007?  Well….

New Hampshire authorities say the man who took hostages at a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign office in 2007 has cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and is a fugitive.

Strafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi says Leeland Eisenberg cut off the bracelet Tuesday morning. That was a day after Verlardi says he was given a "last chance" at freedom by a judge who released him despite probation violations.

Velardi says Eisenberg is a danger to the public and should not be approached.

Leland spent about two years behind bars for the November 2007 siege at Clinton's campaign office in Rochester. He was released on probation last November. His first violation occurred soon after his release, when he failed to charge his monitoring bracelet.

Palin’s Lackluster Reading Skills Exposed

From an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: I know that three years is an eternity in politics. But how hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?

PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played, and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day. Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be re-elected.

But three years from now things could change if on the national security threat —

WALLACE: You're not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card.

PALIN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying, if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies. I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he's tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years

So there it is.  Palin read a Pat Buchanan article, and thinks that Obama would be well-advised to start a war with Iran.

The problem?  Well, here is the Pat Buchanan article, entitled "Will Obama Play The War Card?"

And guess what?  Buchanan argued against war with Iran.

Palin apparently didn't read beyond the headline.

Does The Public Support Obama Or The GOP?

Nate Silver has an excellent post wherein he breaks down 25 major issues being pushed by Obama and the Democrats, and sizes them up against public opinion polling.

The bottom line?

Of these 25 issues, Obama's position appears to be on the right side of public opinion on 14: the bank tax, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, campaign finance, the credit card bill, D.C. voting rights, fair pay, financial regulation, gays in the military, hate crimes, the jobs bill, mortgage relief, PAYGO, SCHIP, and Sotomayor. It would appear to be on the wrong side of public opinion on five issues: the GM/Chrysler bailout, Guantanamo Bay, health care, the extension of the TARP program, and terrorist trials. On the other six issues, the polling is probably too ambiguous to render a clear verdict.

Republicans, on the other hand, have been overwhelmingly opposed to almost all of these measures with the exception of Ben Bernanke and Afghanistan troops, both of which poll ambiguously, and the credit card bill, which polled well.

Obviously, this analysis is superficial in certain ways. All issues are by no means created equal, and health care in particular, which is unpopular, has weighed heavily upon the public's perception of the Democrats. In addition, there is probably another layer of 'meta-argument' that goes beyond specific issues, and at which the GOP has tended to excel.

Nevertheless, it runs in contrast to the objective evidence when one asserts, as Hanson does, that "On every issue … the Obama position polls 5-15 points below 50 percent." Rather, the votes taken by the Republican Congress have far more often been out of step with those of the median voter.

Silver's caveats are well-advised, but the larger point here is that Obama and the Democrats are, for the most part, doing what the people want.  One wonders then why they have a hard time actually getting things done.

Forever Plaid: The Plug

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

2003_plaid Tried and true colors – Nostalgia for a simpler time keeps crooners coming back for just one more performance

Published: February 7, 2010

They've done it before. Audiences loved it, so Theatre Alliance will reprise one of its hit shows as a Valentine offering.

Forever Plaid, a musical with tried-and-true sentiments to match the holiday, will open Friday night.

Remembering the best of the '50s croon tunes is a good bet. Think of all those PBS specials with Doo-Wop groups. This show taps a similar nostalgia for folks who lived through the '50s, and it probably won't sound bad for younger generations who might be wishing that love were as simple as it sounds in such long-ago ballads as "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" and "No, Not Much."

This kind of simple, secure and silky notion of love is what makes the show so popular. Theatre Alliance first presented it in 2001, and, in 2008, the company presented a Christmas version called Plaid Tidings.

Some of the original stars from these earlier shows return for Forever Plaid.

In a four-man cast — the show is about a croon quartet from the '50s called The Plaids — Neil Shepherd will repeat his performance as "Jinx." Jay Smith, who plays "Sparky," will repeat his role. The other quartet members are Jamie Lawson, Theatre Alliance's artistic director as "Smudge," and Gray Smith, a favorite with audiences, as "Frankie."

Essentially, you have four young men who were on their way to put on what they considered their best show ever when they were hit by a bus carrying young girls to see The Ed Sullivan Show — on the same night that the Beatles made their American television debut. The guys die, and as magical things are wont to happen out in the cosmos (or a writer's imagination), they return to earth to stage that show, which would have been the highlight of their career.

Naturally, audiences will hear hits from the era including those from groups like The Four Tops, The Four Aces, plus many Perry Como favorites.

"At the time, Perry Como was the epitome of the crooner type of music," Smith said. Throw in other favorites such as "Three Coins in a Fountain," "Rags to Riches," even "Sixteen Tons," and the hits just keep on coming.

"The heart of the show is the group's love of music and wanting to pass it on," Shepherd said.

According to Smith, "It's just great music. It's very touching. Each singer gets to tell something about their life — a special, magic moment.… It's the boys' love of music that makes the audience fall in love with the music."

"That era has always been looked on as the ideal," Shepherd said, "the nice, families-sit-down-together-for-meals, and watching The Ed Sullivan Show on Sundays, 8 p.m., CBS."

If the performers were from today's era, a Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr. would be crooning the songs.

But for this show, it's The Plaids doing the singing and laughter, a love of music and their own lovable personalities that might just make Forever Plaid a hit worth bringing back.

Theatre Alliance presents
Forever Plaid
at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Feb. 18-20 and 25-27; at 4 p.m. on Feb. 27; and at 2 p.m. next Sunday and Feb. 21 and 28. For tickets bought before Feb. 12, $1 of each advance ticket sale will go to the Red Cross for Haiti Relief. Tickets are $16, $14 for students and seniors. The theater is at 1047 Northwest Blvd. Call 800-838-3006.

Created Landscapes

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This lake at the foot of some mountains does not exist in the real world.  But the photo was not drawn, painted or photoshopped.

This landscape was constructed out of many different materials, including tile grout, moss, bottle brushes (pine trees). Actual clippings from ground cover and was built on top of  standard outdoor patio table (water glass).  

More from the artist (Matthew Albanese) here.

Sarah’s Crib Notes

Yes, everyone is talking about them.

Handmeme

For those in a cave this weekend, the issue is Sarah Palin at the Tea Party convention a few days ago.  She gave a speech, and then there was a Q&A with a moderator.  She clearly had something on her hand, which she referred to (subtly, she thought) in the course of answering questions.

A close-up of the hand reveals what her notes were:

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The first word is "Energy".

The second part is the phrase "Budget Cuts" with the word "budget" crossed out, and the word "tax" written underneath to replace it.

And the final part is "Life American Spirits". 

Why does this matter?

Well, for one thing, it comes after over a year of conservatives making fun of Obama because he uses — shocker — a teleprompter.  This has to be one of the stupidest Obama criticisms ever (and there are plenty of stupid ones out there).  After all, every President has used a teleprompter since the technology was available.  Yes, even Reagan.  But the whole point of the "teleprompter" criticism is to create the underlying (and somewhat racist) perception that Obama simply isn't all that smart, and that he is a prop for someone else pulling the strings.

Now comes Sarah Palin with her tele-palm-ter, and suddenly, conservatives don't get what the fuss is about.  But clearly, they should be embarrassed.  Sure, Sarah isn't the first politician to carry around notes.  They might not remember the latest projected federal deficit projections, and they might keep that number handy (although most politicians would probably put it on a notecard because, you know, they aren't in high school anymore).

And, as Huffington Post’s Stefan Sirucek points out, Palin’s “extra help” in front of a friendly crowd is especially ironic because Obama wasn’t using notes of any kind during a recent unscripted Q & A with House Republicans. Obama has also recently held several town halls, where he took questions from the audience and spoke at length without notes.

But more to the point, Sarah's "hand job", as it's being called now, isn't the same thing as Obama's non-controversial use of a teleprompter.  I mean, what kind of conservative has to make notes to remind herself that the right is in favor of tax cuts?  Can you imagine the mockery if Hillary Clinton, while running for President, had to write on her palm "Pro-choice", just to remind herself of her position, or to remind herself to talk about her position? 

Aside from that, Sarah's appearance at the Tea Party rally, was pretty much as you expected.  For me, the best part was when she said to a roomful of people who paid $500 a ticket:

"It's so inspiring to see real people — not politicos, inside-the-beltway professionals — come out, stand up and speak out for common sense conservative principles."

Unfortunately, many "real people" of the Tea Party movement couldn't afford the $500 per person ticket fee, and have soured against the movement — and Palin — altogether.  600 people showed up for the event altogether — they had room for many more.  An auspicious beginning to a political movement.

Oceanic 815 Crash — Side By Side

The scene from LOST with Jack and Rose on Oceanic 815, showing Season 1 on the left side and Season 6 on the right.

Jack is a long-haired hippie in the one on the right, and the stewardess's outfit (and dialogue) is slightly different.  Will the Lost producers explain this?

Nobody Like Taxes, But Here Is What Happens When You Go Tax Cut Crazy

From the Denver Post:

There is a certain message out there, having been spread by fear-mongering conservative politicians, that taxes are merely "the government taking your money and putting it into their pockets".  And stupid people buy into it, without realizing that taxes pay for the roads, streetlights, police and fire protection that we take for granted.

The people of Colorado Springs are about to learn that lesson.