Monthly Archives: March 2010

Fox News Cuts Away From Obama… Again

Earlier today, Fox New's Happening Now cut away from President Obama's signing of the health care reconciliation bill (the one that fixed a couple gaps in the big one passed last week) in order to cover…. wait for it… a plane crash that never happened.  Fox News was (it claims) told that the airplane had flap problems, so they cut in to watch a pefectly fine 737 make a perfectly fine landing.

This is becoming quite a pattern:

America Live cut away from Obama health care speech for reports on Toyota Prius crash, "Erin Andrews Peephole Stalker." On March 15, in the last week before the historic health care vote, America Live host Megyn Kelly cut away from Obama's health care speech, gave her own summary of his comments, and directed viewers who wished to see the speech in its entirety to She then moved on to discuss a pending news conference about a Toyota Prius that had crashed — a week earlier.

On Twitter, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz reported, "Fox breaks away early from Obama health care speech, MS & CNN still with it." He later added, "Now on Fox (instead of Obama): Erin Andrews Peephole Stalker to be Sentenced This Afternoon. Hasn't even happened yet!"

Fox cut away from Obama-GOP Q&A but airs GOP "response" in its entirety. During President Obama's question and answer session with Republican members of Congress at the GOP House Issues Conference, Fox News Channel was the only cable news network to cut away and not show the exchange in its entirety, instead providing commentary on the event. However, Fox News subsequently aired all of the "Republican response" press conference held by House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) after the question and answer session with Obama.

Fox cut away from terrorism press conference to show Glenn Beck. Fox News contributors spent several days criticizing the Obama administration's response to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day. However, Fox News responded to the administration's January 7 press conference about its handling of the incident — featuring Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, whom several Fox News personalities had called to step down — by cutting away to commentary on the event and then its regular programming: Glenn Beck, and its host's attack on the progressive movement and its "hundred-year time bomb."

I guess they want to be able to spin the narratives about Obama (how socialist and angry he is, how he always needs a teleprompter, etc) and it doesn't look good when their own coverage contradicts the spin.

The GOP Gets Cold Feet On Repeal

Prescient me, last week:

This strikes me as a political tactic bound to fail.  For one thing, healthcare reform will have already started, and people will like it.

The obvious question to such GOP candidates will be this: "What part do you want to repeal first?  The part where insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage when you get sick?  The part where insurance companies can deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition?  Do you want to repeal the Medicare 'donut-hole'?"

These are among the many changes in health care that Americans — even, I suggest, the staunchiest teabaggers — will like.  Right now, a lot of Americans are still fearful of "death panels" and "killing grandma".  But Republicans can't run on repealing those things — because they don't exist (and never did)!  So what exactly will they be repealing?

Today, via ABC News:

Top Republicans are increasingly worried that GOP candidates this fall might be burned by a fire that's roaring through the conservative base: demand for the repeal of President Barack Obama's new health care law.

It's fine to criticize the health law and the way Democrats pushed it through Congress without a single GOP vote, these party leaders say. But focusing on its outright repeal carries two big risks.

Repeal is politically and legally unlikely, and grass-roots activists may feel disillusioned by a failed crusade. More important, say strategists from both parties, a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinois and California.

Democrats are counting on that scenario. They say more Americans will learn of the new law's benefits over time and anger over its messy legislative pedigree will fade. For months, Democrats have eagerly catalogued Republican congressional candidates who pledge to repeal the health care law, vowing to make them pay in November.

….and WaPo:

In Illinois, where there's a spirited battle to fill the Senate seat Obama once held, Democrats seem to have hit a nerve by attacking Republican nominee Mark Kirk's pledge to try to repeal the health law. Two weeks ago, Kirk said he would "lead the effort" to repeal the measure.

On Tuesday, when asked repeatedly by reporters whether he still wants it repealed, Kirk would say only that he opposes the new taxes and Medicare cuts associated with the law.

Republican strategist Kevin Madden said the repeal message is "a call to action" that excites many conservative voters, who will be important in November. But the risk of talking only about repeal, he said, "is you only define your position by what you're against."

Obama: Outright Evil, Or Simply Wrong?

That's the title of a piece written by Michael Medved here, and I'll jump to his answer: Obama (in his view) is "simply wrong".  He goes on to chasten the Republican rank-and-file, who express vitriol at Obama in hyperbolic terms ("he's a socialist anti-Christ blah blah blah").  This tactic, Medved insists, will alienate moderates and independents (who Republicans need), and leave conservatives as nothing more that madmen howling in the wilderness.

What's interesting is the comments.  Seems that Medved went out amongst the wolves and told them to chill…. upon which he got eaten

UPDATE:  Along those lines, a reader of Rosie O'Donnell's blog has something to say to the outraged right:

You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in  Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn’t get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.

You didn’t get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.  Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans…oh hell no.

Pass it on.

Obama: “Drill, Baby, Drill”

Really?  What a disappointment:

President Obama will announce new plans to drill for oil and natural gas off America's coasts Wednesday but will rule out drilling off California, Oregon and Washington state through 2017, administration officials say.

Obama's plans will include opening new areas of coastal Virginia and other parts of the mid-Atlantic region, Alaska and the eastern Gulf of Mexico for drilling. But officials say the president will block drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay, where the George W. Bush administration's drilling plans in 2007 angered environmentalists.

According to administration officials, the plan would:

* Eventually open two-thirds of the eastern Gulf's oil and gas resources for drilling.

* Proceed with drilling off Virginia, provided the project clears environmental and military reviews.

* Study the viability of drilling off the mid- and southern Atlantic coasts.

* Study the viability of drilling in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas — areas hotly defended by environmentalists — but issue no new drilling leases in either sea before 2013.

What's particularly troubling is this:

The Senate is expected to take up a climate bill in the next few weeks — the last chance to enact such legislation before midterm election concerns take over. Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate have already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to try to win votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats. The new plan now grants one of the biggest items on the oil industry’s wish list — access to vast areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling.

Win votes from the "party of no"?  How did that work out with health care reform? 


Maybe the L.A. Times got it wrong.  Maybe it's for their April Fool's Day edition. 

[UPDATE:  Okay, maybe it's not a flip-flop so much.  As First Read points out, Obama had talked about possibly doing some off-shore drilling during the campaign, a few months after the footage in the video above]

But if it's not a joke, why would Obama do this?  It's not like he's going to win over Republicans.

UPDATE:  Via Political Animal, a Hill staffer conjectures that Obama is crazy — crazy like a fox.  Obama is starting a push on revising America's energy policy, and he's starting off by co-opting Republican ideas, so he can go for the bigger stuff:

Obama preempts the other side's most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized. It doesn't always work — on the national security/gitmo/Miranda stuff, for example, it turns out the utter extreme positions the right is left with given the centrist ground Obama has staked out turns out to be fairly popular. But even there, the Administration has had reasonable success pushing back on the Miranda nonsense and, because they effectively occupy the tough, pragmatic middle ground, they routinely get cover from non-crazy Republican national security voices, which has helped blunt the force of these issues. (I understand that the term "middle ground" is very slippery and dangerous here, but I basically use it to mean policies that, before the great crazy of 2009 had broad consensus support from large portions of both parties and the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis.)

At the same time, the policy is a tailored, measured version of what the Republicans have urged — so, yes, the headline is, 'Obama Allows New Offshore Drilling/Presses For Energy Independence,' but at the same time, California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn't included, and there are environmentally-friendly changes to Alaska leasing policy announced at the same time. And again, as we've seen before, Republicans are sort of forced to twist and parse, and even to oppose things they have long supported, just because the Administration hasn't gone far enough.

Finally, by announcing the drilling policy without seeking to extract concessions, the Administration makes clear that it is their policy and they are the centrist/flexible/pragmatic ones — making it harder for Republicans to argue that they accomplished this or that they forced Obama to do it. […] [O]f course, if there was any reason to believe that Republicans would engage in normal negotiation/compromise, then I see why holding this back and trading it for support of a broader package would make sense. But does anyone really think there are Republicans to negotiate with on this stuff? And if Republicans do come to the table, Obama still has plenty of room to give, including by simply agreeing to sign a law that makes proposals like this a matter of statute, not executive discretion.

An interesting theory on an interesting political tactic.

Quote Of The Day

The right's arguments against health care reform have been laughably false, or have been getting worn from overuse.  So now they've come up with another reason to hate health care reform.  You ready?

Health care reform is racist.

And why?  Because of the provision in the health care reform act that includes a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning salons to help pay for expanded insurance coverage for millions of Americans.

The reasoning goes like this: Who uses tanning salons?  White people.

All this prompted Radio host Doc Thompson, subbing in for Fox News host Glenn Beck on his radio show today, to utter the following:

For years I’ve suggested that racism was in decline and yeah, there are some, you know, incidents that still happen with regards to racism, but most of the claims I’ve said for years, well, they’re not really real. But I realize now that I was wrong. For I now too feel the pain of racism. Racism has been dropped at my front door and the front door of all lighter-skinned Americans. The health care bill the president just singed into law includes a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning sessions starting July 1st, and I say, who uses tanning? Is it dark-skinned people? I don’t think so. I would guess that most tanning sessions are from light-skinned Americans. Why would the President of the United States of America — a man who says he understands racism, a man who has been confronted with racism — why would he sign such a racist law? Why would he agree to do that? Well now I feel the pain of racism.

Let's summarize the thinking at work here.

THIS is racism:


But racism is also paying $10 more for this:


Nice moral equivalence you have there.

And remember, what is NOT racist is yelling "nigger" at a black man, according to Bill Bennett.


Fox News Will Believe And Report Anything

The Fox Nation headline yesterday: Global Warming Activist Freezes to Death in Antarctica.

This caused much chortling among Fox News fans, who left comments like this:

  • I'm sorry but this is about the funniest thing I've ever read!! Talk about what comes around goes around!!!!!!!!!! Ya get what you ask for – this has it all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Thank you FOX I needed that. This is delicious just goes to show what elitism and arrogance will do to you if you use it on mother nature.
  • Somehow or another, the liberal media and Al Gore will spin this and blame it on global warming. Not sure how they'll do that but it will be interesting to find out.
  • In a world of constant bad new's, finally a story we can all read and laugh about. Truelly this is the greatest story of the year.
  • It's stories like this that make me appreciate God's infinite wisdom, and sense of humor.
  • Just goes to show you how easy the left is duped. Only a dumb@$$ would do this in the d.e.a.d of winter………….
  • I can't stop laughing….. I need a great laugh this morning.

    Slight problem.

    Fox News picked up the story from a satire news site (much like The Onion) and passed it on as fact.  The satrical piece is about four years old.

    Snopes sets the record straight.

  • A “Shotgun” Wedding

    Here are some pictures of a wedding from the the leading family of Hutaree, the armed Christian group recently arrested in Michigan, accused of plotting to kill police.

    Clearly, their anti-government leanings went far beyond rhetoric.  It was a paramilitary lifestyle choice.

    Hutaree-wedding2 Hutaree-bride
    Pretty creepy.

    Creepier still is the fact that prominent right wing bloggers are apologists for them.  Would they react the same way if the people in the pictures above were darker-skinned?

    Quote Of The Day

    Texas' Lt. Governor:

    "The cancellation of the play, Corpus Christi, by the [state-run] university was the right thing to do. While I'm a strong defender of free speech, we must also protect the rights and reasonable expectations of Texas taxpayers and how their money is used. A play that is completely contrary to the standards of decency and moral beliefs of the vast majority of Texans should not be performed using any state resources, especially by an institution of higher learning."

    Questions for the Lt. Governor:

    (1)  How do you know what the "vast majority of Texans" consider to be indecent and immoral?

    (2)  Do the "vast majority of Texans" consider government censorship to be indecent and immoral?  Have you asked them?

    (3)  The Texas Constitution has a Bill of Rights saying that "no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press".  It also says "that everything in this 'Bill of Rights' is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate, and all laws contrary thereto, or to the following provisions, shall be void."  So the question is: Where in the Texas Constitution does it say that taxpayers have the "right" to control how their tax dollars are used?

    (4)  What about the strip clubs, who you are forcing to pay taxes?  Don't they have a say in how their tax dollars are used?

    (5)  By the way, just how much of the "state resources" would the play actually be using?

    (6)  In your mind, what  makes you a "strong defender of free speech" when — clearly — the only speech you will "defend" is speech that needs no defending in the first place?

    (7)  And finally, why are you such a mouth-breathing backwater redneck dick?

    The Republican Party: The Party of Fiscal Conservatism?

    Not if one looks at the expense reports of Michael Steele, Chairman of the RNC:

    Tooling around in charter planes and limos.  Nice.  The Republicans do that.  The Democrats don't.  The article continues:

    Wait, what?  Let me read that again…

    The Republican Party: the party of "family values"?

    UPDATE:  The RNC is pushing back, asserting that the money spent at the sex club was for "meals" (oh, is that what they call it nowadays?) and that Michael Steele did not run up that particular bill.  Instead, the RNC says, it was an expense from a consultant: Erik Brown, president of the Orange County-based Dynamic Marketing, Inc.

    Assuming the RNC response is true, I think it misses the point.  Flesh-and-blood Americans donate to the RNC to get their candidates elected, and those people might rightfully ask why their hard-earned donations are being used to reimburse the expense for a wild night (nights?) of sexual frolics enjoyed by RNC consultants.  If the Republican Party can't mind its own store, how can it be trusted to run the country's coffers?

    UPDATE:  The GOP is pushing back again, with the lame argument that the DNC spent money on…. hotels and catering.  Uh, why, yes.  but private planes?  Bondaged-themed nightclubs?  No.  Give it up, GOP.

    Bachmann Still Crazy: Thinks The Government Has Taken Over 51% of the Economy


    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is continuing to denounce what she says is a pattern of government takeovers of the economy — going so far as to say that the economy used to be totally private.

    "And what we saw this Tuesday, once the president signed the health care bill at the 11th hour in the morning on Tuesday, that effected 51% government takeover of the private economy," Bachmann said on Wednesday, during an interview with North Dakota talk radio host . "It is really quite sobering what has happened. From 100% of our economy was private prior to September of 2008, but as of Tuesday, the federal government has now taken ownership or control of 51% of the private economy."

    "September of 2008" is probably a reference to the TARP bailout.

    I don't know where she gets the idea that "100% of our economy was private prior to September of 2008".  As of September 2004, for example the U.S. Congressional Budget Office reported that federal government spending for 2004 was projected to be $2.293 trillion, or slightly less than 20% of the GDP. Of that, $159 billion was for net interest, $486 billion for defense, $492 billion for Social Security, $473 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, $191 billion for various welfare programs, $136 billion for "retirement and disability" benefits, and $64 billion was projected to be spent elsewhere.

    I guess her point is that government spending has gone up, which is a valid (and true) point.  But the figures that she uses to support her thesis — where does she get that information from?  Her butt?

    Self-Unaware Extremist

    The Washington Post has a nice little biographical article about a guy named Mike Vanderboegh.  Vanderboegh, a former militiaman from Alabama, is a blogger and self-proclaimed opposer of health care reform.

    His profile is pretty much what you would expect, full of blargh blargh about health care reform:

    "The federal government should not have the ability to command us to buy something that it decides we should buy," Vanderboegh said. The government, he added, has "absolutely no idea the number of alienated who feel that their backs are to the wall are out here . . . who are not only willing to resist this law to the very end of their lives, but are armed and are capable of making such resistance possible and perhaps even initiating a civil war."


    Vanderboegh said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats should beware "unintended consequences of their actions." Vanderboegh outlined a complicated theory that IRS agents will go after people who refuse to buy insurance or pay the fines, ultimately resulting in "civil war."

    "The central fact of the health-care bill is this, and we find it tyrannical and unconstitutional on its face," Vanderboegh said. "The federal government now demands all Americans to pay and play in this system, and if we refuse, we will be fined, and if we refuse to pay the fine, they will come to arrest us, and if we resist arrest . . . then we will be killed. The bill certainly doesn't say that, but that's exactly and precisely what is behind every bill like this."

    He said his call for people to throw bricks is "both good manners and it's also a moral duty to try to warn people."

    Somewhat disturbing reading, but be sure not to miss the punchline buried deep in the article:

    Vanderboegh said he once worked as a warehouse manager but now lives on government disability checks. He said he receives $1,300 a month because of his congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension.

    Sadly, the Washington Post interviewer apparently didn't ask Vanderboegh about the irony of his views — a man who demands a small government that leaves him alone, while cashing taxpayer-funded government checks each month.

    A Poignant Reflection


    Ted Kennedy sought health care reform all of his political life.  A note by his grave from his son, Patrick Kennedy, reads "Dad, the unfinished business is done."

    [NOTE: Not to pick nits, but it's not done.  It is, however, a good start]

    Nothing Succeeds Like Success

    One of the oft-heard memes these past few days from Republicans is that the new health care law was "rammed down the throats" of the American people who are (supposedly) "overwhelming against it".  Republicans cited various polls showing that the majority of Americans (albeit not an "overwhelming" majority) disfavored Obama's health care bill.

    The problem with making that argument, as I have argued often, is that most people opposed the bill without knowing what was in it.  They've been fed a steady diet of misinformation for months (see, e.g., death panels).  It's no surprise that a thin majority of the public, in some (but not all) polls, disapproved of the bill.

    Another problem with that argument is that a certain percentage of the public disapproved of the health care bill…. because it didn't go far enough.  In other words, they wanted a public option, as a recent CNN poll showed:

    The initial top-line shows only 39% of registered voters favoring the bill, to 59% opposing it. However a follow-up question finds that 43% oppose it on the grounds that it is too liberal, while 13% oppose it on the grounds that it is not liberal enough. So another way of looking at the data is that 43% oppose it for being too liberal, 39% favor it, and 13% oppose it for not being liberal enough, with another 3% who oppose it for some indeterminate reasons.

    But another argument I have been making in recent days is that once people have lived with health care reform, now that it is a law, they will like it.

    And, lo and behold, we are already seeing signs of that, in part because the news media is finally beginning to report what the new law will actually do:

    Americans by 9 percentage points have a favorable view of the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against it.

    By 49%-40% those surveyed say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms, as "enthusiastic" or "pleased," while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry."

    The largest single group, 48%, calls the bill "a good first step" that should be followed by more action on health care. An additional 4% also have a favorable view, saying the bill makes the most important changes needed in the nation's health care system.

    For the past two days, Republicans have made promises to act out "the will of the majority" by making threats to repeal the bill legislatively, or have activist judges overturn it (yes, I know, the irony of it all).

    Well, a plurality of the people now favor the new law, GOP.  We're not as "outraged" as you thought.  What are you going to do?

    UPDATE:  This graphic shows the breakdown by political affiliation on the question of whether the poll participant was enthused, pleasd, disappointed, or angry.

    Important thing to note: independents are split.  Dems need to work on them…. 

    “This Is A Big F*ckin’ Deal”

    According to everything I've read in the past hour (certainly not a comprehensive scan), Joe Biden introduced President Obama for the signing of health care legislation this morning, turned and embraced him, and said "This is a big fucking deal"… and all that was captured by the microphone at the podium on live TV.

    Still, from the videos which supposedly caught this moment, I can't hear it.  Maybe you can:

    Another video is here…..and yet, I still hear nothing.

    Still, even if he did drop the F-bomb, I say, "No big fucking deal".  That's not going to stop Fox News from clutching its pearl necklace and reclining on the fainting couch.

    UPDATE:  Well, that was quick.  T-shirts are now available:


    Selected Responses To Health Care Reform… From The Right Wing Rank-And-File

  • Early on the morning of March 19, someone threw a brick through the window of Rep. Louise Slaughter's office in Niagara Falls, New York, doing $350 of damage, the Buffalo News reported. Slaughter (D-NY) briefly attracted the ire of conservatives over the "Slaughter Solution," a procedural maneuver that was considered (but, ultimately, not used) to pass health reform.

  • Also in Slaughter's district, a brick was thrown through the glass doors of the Monroe County Democratic Committee office in Rochester, NY, over the weekend, the Democrat and Chronicle reported. A note attached to the brick bore the Barry Goldwater quote, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," a spokesman for the committee told the newspaper.

  • In the early hours of the morning on Monday just after the House health care vote, someone smashed the glass front door of the Tucson office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the Arizona Daily Star reported. "The perpetrator likely had to hop the gated fence to get access to the door, since it's not viewable from the parking lot," the paper reported.

  • On Friday night or Saturday morning, a brick bearing unspecified "anti-Obama and anti-health care messages" was thrown through a floor-to-ceiling window at the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, CNN and the Kansas City Start reported.

  • Other Conservative Parties and Health Care

    The founding principles of the Conservative Party of Canada:

    A belief that all Canadians should have reasonable access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay;

    The policy agenda of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom:

    As the party of the NHS, we will never change the idea at the heart of our NHS – that healthcare in this country is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not ability to pay.

    The American right wing is truly alone.

    [H/T Yglesius]

    ChatRoulette Piano Improv With Ben Folds

    He's not the first to do it, but he's the first big star to do it, and do it live in concert.

    Ben Folds, during a live concert in Charlotte this past weekend, improvs on the piano to people he meets randomly on ChatRoulette (a social webservice that randomly connects people with webcams to other people with webcams).

    Free Advice From Me


    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a Massachusetts law that creates a protest-free zone around the entrances and driveways of abortion clinics.

    The justices offered no comment Monday in turning down an appeal from anti-abortion protesters who object to the state-imposed protest-free zone of 35 feet outside clinic entrances. Abortion opponents complained that the law violates their free speech rights and forces them into the street, where they've nearly been hit by cars while trying to dissuade pregnant women from entering the clinics.

    [Emphasis mine]

    My advice is not to protest in the middle of the street, which, experience tells us, often is fraught with moving vehicles.  I suggest to take it down the road, but stay on the sidewalks.

    The GOP Not Done Fighting Against Health Care Reform

    Looking around the internets, there seem to be two ways that the GOP intends to undo what has been done.

    (1)  Constitutional challenge to the law itself.  Several state attorneys general plan to file a lawsuit challenging the newly passed law, on the grounds that the federal government cannot constitutionally require citizens to purchase health insurance.

    Without getting too deep in the constitutional thicket, the Constitution (the Commerce Clause, specifically) permits the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.  For well over a century, this has been held (by courts) to include the regulation of anything that effects interstate commerce.  And that is pretty broad.  Too broad, conservatives argue.

    But Commerce Clause jurisprudence is pretty abundent and shows that Commerce Clause regulation is indeed pretty broad.  Recently, the Supreme Court held that even marijuana sales that take place entirely within the boundaries of one state still effect interstate commerce (of marijuana)… and Congress can therefore pass laws proscribing it.  (More recently, the ban on partial birth abotions was seen, somehow, as being a law which effects interstate commerce).

    Besides, the Court has upheld the extensive federal role in health care through such programs as Medicare and Medicaid. This new law is a change in degree, not in kind, and courts will likely stay out of the way.

    The twist here is that rather than forbidding people to buy something (marijuana), the new health care laws require people to buy something (health insurance).  But that, I would argue, is a distinction that fails to go to the Commerce Clause.  Failure of everybody to buy health insurance still effects interstate commerce.  Therefore, Congress has the power to mandate health insurance.

    Some have asked this question:  "Okay.  Well, could Congress require every American to buy a GM car?  The cumulative effect of individual failure to buy a GM car has substantial effects on interstate commerce.  Your telling me that would be okay?"

    My answer to that is this: "No, in my view, such a law would not be 'okay'.  But would it be constitutional?  No."  And here's why: it doesn't satisfy the "necessary and proper" clause.  You see, not only must a law effect interstate commerce, but it must be "necessary and proper" to the legislative objective of that law which effects interstate commerce.  There simply is no reason twhich makes it necessary for people to buy GM — and only GM – cars.

    The same cannot be said for health care reform.  You cannot make reforms to the health insurance industry unless you mandate universal coverage.

    It's an interesting argument, but ultimately, one that will fail.

    (2)  Repeal the law.  Republicans expect to win back the House and Senate later this year for midterm elections.  And they intend to run on campaign promises to repeal health care reform.  (In fact, the crazy Michelle Bachmann just introduced legislation to repeal the bill that just passed).

    This strikes me as a political tactic bound to fail.  For one thing, healthcare reform will have already started, and people will like it.

    The obvious question to such GOP candidates will be this: "What part do you want to repeal first?  The part where insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage when you get sick?  The part where insurance companies can deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition?  Do you want to repeal the Medicare 'donut-hole'?"

    These are among the many changes in health care that Americans — even, I suggest, the staunchiest teabaggers — will like.  Right now, a lot of Americans are still fearful of "death panels" and "killing grandma".  But Republicans can't run on repealing those things — because they don't exist (and never did)!  So what exactly will they be repealing?

    There's an even greater problem that comes with "repeal the law".  Under congressional rules, you need a 2/3rd majority to repeal an existing law.  What does that mean?  That means that Republicans would need 290 votes in the House.  Even assuming that all 36 Democrat dissidents (those who voted against health care reform) stay true, it still means that Republicans would need a seventy-six seat gain in the House in the 2010 elections.  Possible, but unlikely.

    And worse yet, Republicans would need a twenty-six seat gain in the Senate.  It will never happen, because only 26 Democrats are up for re-election this year.  The GOP will have to win them all.  Chances: almost nil.

    Don't be fooled: the "repeal the law" meme is just a cynical attempt to keep the GOP based fired up and contributing money.  It has absolutely no chance of actually happening.

    How Much You Want To Bet Glenn Beck Cries On TV Today?

    Just asking….

    UPDATE:  Perhaps a better question would be: "Will Rush Limbaugh now move to Costa Rica?"

    UPDATE #2: Digby has the pushback for the whiny wingers:

    The teabaggers are all upset that the Democrats passed a bill without any Republican votes. Evidently, this makes it illegitimate and unconstitutional. I'm not surprised they think this. They get their constitutional instruction from Glenn Beck.


    It's fairly clear that Republicans don't understand how democracy works. You campaign, people vote, you win elections, you get a majority, you pass legislation. They seem to think Democracy means that that elections are irrelevant, majorities are meaningless and that all legislation is contingent upon the permission of the Republican Party.

    I'm sorry these people are so unhappy. I know how they feel. I used to hate it when the Republicans passed some disgusting initiative that went against everything I believe in. But I don't recall having a mental breakdown at the notion that they could do it even though I didn't want them to. The idea that they were obligated to do my bidding didn't actually cross my mind.

    As they used to say repeatedly, "elections have consequences." If the people don't like this bill, they have every right to turn the Democrats out of office and repeal it. But screaming hysterically that it's cheating to pass legislation with a majority just proves that these folks' great reverence for the constitution is based more on their love of wearing funny hats than anything that's written in it.

    This is how the system works. If you don't like it, start pressing for a constitutional amendment that requires that all legislation be approved by every teabagger in the land before it can be enacted. Or start campaigning to put your teabaggers in office so they can have a majority and enact the legislation you like. In either event, stop the whining about "abuse of power." They passed a bill you don't like, for crying out loud, it's not like they seized office with a partisan decision by the Supreme Court and then invaded a country that hadn't attacked us or anything…

    Dr. Horrible Sequel May Be A Feature Film

    Speaking of health care, here's one doctor that's unaffected.  This is awesome:

    Doctor_Horrible_BannerA feature film sequel to the musical web series "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," which featured stage and screen star Neil Patrick Harris, may be a possibility.

    Harris told MTV, "Apparently they're making a 'Dr. Horrible' sequel, a feature film I hope… I hope they cast me in it… We'll see."

    Harris added, "I don't know what scale, they're talking all options, because they made the first 'Dr. Horrible' in five days on no budget at all… You don't want to make the feature film be an $80 million giant movie, because it defeats the purpose of what the first film was made to be, but then again you don't want it to be so low brow that it's not worth paying money to see as a movie…I don't think it will be on the internet, I think it will probably be a film."

    About The Most Sweeping Piece of Social Legislation in Decades New dawn.

    And yet, somehow, we're still a democracy.  The iron fist of Stalin is nowhere to be found.  People got up today and went to work, just like last week.  Only this time, they go to work knowing a few things have changed.  Here is what is coming online immediately or within the first six months:

    1. Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday
    2. Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
    3. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
    4. Free preventative care for all
    5. Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
    6. Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
    7. The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
    8. Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
    9. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
    10. AND no more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can't lose your insurance because you get sick.

    The New York Times gives a more thorough but easy-to-understand breakdown of what health care reform will mean for you.  For most of us, not a lot has changed.  (By the way, mainstream media, maybe you should have reported this before, instead of the he-said-she-said back-and-forth demagoguery that went on for months).

    It's not socialized medicine (although I wish it was).  It just forbids a lot of the abuses of the insurance industry.  It is, as many have said, a good first step.

    It is rather astounding that we got this far.  As late as Thanksgiving, health care reform was dead in the water.  And then when Scott Brown was elected from Massachusetts to replace the dead Ted Kennedy, here's what Fred Barnes wrote (January 20 of this year):

    Oh, yes. The health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection. Brown ran to be the 41st vote for filibuster and now he is just that. Democrats have talked up clever strategies to pass the bill in the Senate despite Brown, but they won’t fly.What changed?  I think a couple of things. 

    Uhhhh… not so much.  But why was Fred and others so wrong?

    First of all, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who, I must say, grates on me) did the yeoman's job of getting the votes.  The Obama White House was just about to offer small little mini-health care bills, but Nancy persuaded them to go for comprehensive reform, and she delivered the votes.

    Second of all, the insurance companies shot themselves in the foot the past few months.  A 39% rate increase?  What a stupid time to announce something like that — in the middle of a national debate on health care.

    And finally, Obama stepped out from the Oval Office and actually began pushing health care reform, demonizing the demonizable insurance industry.  He became, in a word, partisan instead of Mr. Kum-by-ya.  And that helped carry the day.

    It should be noted that Republicans were never interested in health care reform.  There have been many votes on various proposals.  There have been four votes taken in the House regarding various proposals.  Two in the Senate.  And about seven votes from various proposals floated by House and Senate committees.  Of all those proposals put forward, only ONE time did a Republican vote for health care reform.  ONCE, by ONE Republican.  Every other time Republicans have had a chance to vote for any version of health care reform, they have always voted NO.  Every single one of them.

    [UPDATE:  I find it funny that Republicans are now going on teevee lamenting the lack of bipartisanship and transparency in the process.  For well over a year, Obama extended his hand to Republicans and they batted it away.  Ridiculous.  UPDATE UPDATE:  And now, McCain is saying not to expect any Republican cooperation on any legislation for the rest of the year.  Uh, and that's different from GOP obstructionism how?]

    I think one of the nicest things about health care reform passage is this: at the end of the day, fear lost.  That was, of course, the GOP tactic from day one.  Paul Krugman writes about this:

    The emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.

    It wasn’t just the death panel smear. It was racial hate-mongering, like a piece in Investor’s Business Daily declaring that health reform is “affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color.” It was wild claims about abortion funding. It was the insistence that there is something tyrannical about giving young working Americans the assurance that health care will be available when they need it, an assurance that older Americans have enjoyed ever since Lyndon Johnson — whom Mr. Gingrich considers a failed president — pushed Medicare through over the howls of conservatives.

    And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”

    Without question, the campaign of fear was effective: health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have been improving lately. But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?

    And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it. The House has passed the Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved through reconciliation.

    This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.

    Hear hear.

    The unhinged-ness of the right was never more apparent than last night when Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) got up to speak and a Republican representative — not someone from the gallery, but an actual elected representative — called him a "baby killer".  Watch:

    That is simply remarkable.  Listen, I am pro-choice and strongly disagree with the pro-life Stupak, who singlehandedly almost succeeded in killing health care reform because he feared (wrongly) that federal assistance would go toward paying for abortions.  Once he was reassured that this would not happen, including the assurance from Obama through an executive order forbidding such practices, he voted for health care reform.

    And this makes him a "babykiller"?

    [UPDATE: Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) has stepped forward and admitted he was the one….although he's saying that he shouted out "it's a babykiller", in reference to the law, and not Stupak.]

    That's the funny thing about conservatives and their stance on health care: they think Congress ought to protect unborn children; but once you are born, you are on your own and/or a freeloader.

    Anyway, one thing about which all can agree.  The Democrats "own" health care now.  If it is better, they will be painted favorably by history and a whole new generation.  If it is worse, the opposite will be true.  Of course, the same thing was said almost 50 years ago when Democrats were largely responsible for the passage of Medicare.  And guess what happened?  People came to LOVE it.  In fact, the teabaggers were livid that Medicare might come to an end.  I expect the same will hold true for today's new health care reform initiatives.

    Conservatives are convinced that health care reform went against the overwhelming will of the people, which is true if one defines "the people" as Republican Fox News watchers.  Ultimately though, about half of the country was always in favor of health care reform.  Still, most Republicans think this means huge victories in the 2010 midterm elections.  Maybe they're right about that, but I find conservative speechwriter David Frum to be reassuring when he writes that yesterday was the Republican's Waterloo:

    Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

    It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

    (2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

    So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

    A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.


    This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

    Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.


    We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

    There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

    I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

    So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

    That's a pretty strong condemnation of his own party.  Guess he's a babykiller, too.

    Still, I think the Republicans will enjoy a short-term gain in November, and probably control both houses of Congress.  But their long-term legacy of stonewalling what is sure to be a popular package will hurt them in the long run.


    Okay.  What's next?

    The Progressive President


    Now that it’s done, Barack Obama will go down in history as one of America’s finest presidents. It’s always possible of course that, like LBJ, he’ll get involved in some unrelated fiasco that mars his reputation. But fundamentally, he’s reshaped the policy landscape in a way that no progressive politician has done in decades.

    Under the circumstances, it’s in some ways crazy to realize the scope of things still on the congress’ plate. The House has already passed major legislation dealing with climate change and financial regulation, and the president is also committed to significant reform of K-12 education and the immigration system.


    Health Care Reform To Pass House

    A deal between Obama and Stupak have sealed it.  The Democrats have enough votes to pass health care reform through the House.  The "deal" consists of an executive order to be signed by Obama saying that the government cannot spend money to fund abortions, which is already that law, but Stupak needed more assurance, so now he has it.

    As I write this, the House is debating the health care reform bill, and the Republicans are a laugh riot.  It's "socialism", they keep saying.  Never mind the fact that the government isn't going to be actually running health care.  All that will happen is that the 30 million uninsured will now get insured (with government subsidies), you can't get denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and you can't be dropped from health insurance once you get sick.  That's not socialism, but if it is, then I'm a socialist.

    To be sure, the bill is historic.  There has never been a piece of legislation this, well, BIG, since the Civil Rights Act of the early 1960s.  But it is something that is needed.  It's progress, which is why progressive like it, and conservatives hate it.

    Republicans like to say that this bill is "being rammed down the throats" of Americans who (they claim) "overwhelmingly dislike the bill".  That's utter bullshit.  For months, the polls have been pretty much 50/50 over health care reform.  Interestingly, whenever the specifics of healthcare reform are explained to people (you know, without all the "death panel" bullshit), people overwhelmingly like the bill.

    Anyway, historic vote within the next half hour.  Then another bill to fix the bill trhat just passed.  Then that second bill goes to Senate.

    Then Obama signs them both.

    And then we move on to something else.

    UPDATE:  It passed.

    Barack Obama's Facebook status reads:

    For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

    Ugly Tea Baggers

    (1)  In New Hampshire:

    Shouting down the health care reform vote that will benefit working class families and small businesses all across the country isn't the only teabagger activity of choice today. Here in New Hampshire, people passing by the State House earlier today were treated to the "Don't Tread on Me Flag" flag flying proudly beside a "White Pride" banner.

    (2)  In DC:


    From The Anti-Health Care Rally In D.C. Earlier This Week

    I know I'm throwing out a lot of video today, but this one is particularly good.

    It's another on-the-street interview with anti-health care protesters in D.C., conducted by New Left Media (which actually is two undergrad journalism students, who produce good stuff).

    On the one hand, it's about what you would expect.  These people really hate health care reform.  What privisions do they dislike?  Uh…. they don't really know, actually.

    I particularly enjoy how they claim that everybody else (other than them) are KoolAid drinkers who blindly follow their leaders like sheep.  Yet, what do they watch?  Who do they seek out for their (mis)information?  Where do they get their sound bites from? Fox News, natch.  Enjoy…..

    RELATED: A Republican speechwriter under Reagan and Bush conducts a survey of Tea Party protesters at a rally and concludes "For an antitax group, they don't know much about taxes."   For example:

    The first question that was asked concerned the size of government. Tea Partyers were asked how much the federal government gets in taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product. According to Congressional Budget Office data, acceptable answers would be 6.4%, which is the percentage for federal income taxes; 12.7%, which would be for both income taxes and Social Security payroll taxes; or 14.8%, which would represent all federal taxes as a share of GDP in 2009.


    Tuesday's Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.


    The survey also reveals some misperceptions about the status quo on healthcare and energy in the United States. The average Tea Partier placed the United States’ global rank in life expectancy at 11th, when in fact the CIA ranks the United States 49th.


    In terms of energy policy, Tea Partiers estimated that the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) holds about 70 years worth of oil, based on America’s present rates of consumption. Conventional estimates suggest that ANWR holds about a year’s supply of oil, based on the CIA’s estimate of oil consumption.

    What Digby says:

    I'm guessing that most of these people don't know much of anything that's true they're just consumed with inchoate rage that the "bad guys" are in power and therefore they must be doing all the bad things everyone tells them they are doing.

    The modern conservative movement propaganda holds that government is the problem not the solution. The corollary is that is you have a problem, government must be the cause. You are short of money? It must be because of taxes. People don't have health care? It must be because the government is running it. Crime? Big government. Lack of jobs? Government.

    This isn't about issues, it's about a delusional worldview formed by people who listen to a bunch of hucksters who have successfully looted the country while persuading about half the people that the government was doing the looting and giving it in the form of "handouts" to people who didn't deserve it. It's a great scam and a lot of people have made a lot of money promoting it.

    It's a shame that these same people are getting screwed six ways to Sunday, but I'm getting less and less sympathetic as I see them throwing dollar bills into the faces of disabled citizens and telling them go somewhere else looking for a handout. These aren't just misguided souls. They are cruel jerks.

    [Emphasis mine]

    Parkinson’s Guy At Tea Party Rally Speaks Out

    Remember that guy in Ohio a few days ago who was harrassed and mocked by anti-health reform teabaggers at a rally, when they learned he had Parkinson's?

    Not a communist.  Not someone looking for a handout.  He's a former muclear physicist with a doctorate from Cornell.  He tells his story:

    Bob, the man with Parkinson's who was targeted by the Tea Partiers, sat down with ProgressOhio for an interview. He is 60 years old and was first diagnosed with Parkinsons 15 years ago. He has two masters degrees and a Ph.D. from Cornell. He taught at the University of Michigan and worked as a nuclear engineer.

    Bob was able to have a $150,000 surgery that greatly increased his quality of life, thanks to Medicare and the Cleveland Clinic. He attended the event in Columbus because he believes in giving back and thinks everyone should have access to affordable health insurance and quality health care.

    Key Votes In Play

    Undecided Dems Who Voted 'No' On The House Health Care Bill

    John Tanner (D-TN), Brian Baird (D-WA), Jason Altmire (D-PA), Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Glenn Nye (D-VA), Scott Murphy (D-NY), Harry Teague (D-NM), John Boccieri (D-OH), Rick Boucher (D-VA)

    Undecided Dems Who Voted 'Yes' On The House Health Care Bill

    Many of the undecideds who previously voted "yes" are comprised of pro-life Democrats who are leery of the Senate bill's abortion language and are led by Rep. Bart Supak (D-MI).

    -Easy to get Stupakers: Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX),

    -Hard to get Stupakers: Marion Berry (D-AR), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Steve Driehaus (D-OH), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Bart Stupak (D-MI)

    (While Costello, Donnelly, Driehaus, Lipinski and Stupak have all declared their opposition to the Senate bill's abortion provisions, their votes still may be in play)


    You know what to do.

    Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

    Guide for first-timers here.

    UPDATE:  Kaptur (and a few others) are moving into the "yes" column as the day progresses.  FireDogLake seems to have the best whip count coverage.

    Voting On The Sabbath

    Steve King and Glenn Back are outraged: Voting for health reform on Sunday is ‘an affront to God.'

    KING: They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God. […]

    BECK: You couldn't have said it better. Here is a group of people that have so perverted our faith and our hope and our charity, that is a – this is an affront to God. And I honestly, I don't think anybody is like, "yes, and now what we'll do is we'll vote on the Sabbath." But I think it's absolutely appropriate that these people are trying to put the nail in the coffin on our country on a Sunday – something our founders would have never, ever, ever done. Out of respect for God.

    Right.  Because we all know Jesus hated sick people.

    P.S.  Remember a few years back when the Republican-controlled Congress voted to prevent the plug from being pulled on brain-dead Terry Schiavo?  On a Sunday.

    “Glee: The Musical”?

    Coming to a high school near you:

    "Glee" may leap off the screen and into theatres. Music Theatre International, which licenses performance rights of Broadway titles from Legally Blonde to Fiddler on the Roof, is in talks to bring the hit FOX series to the stage.

    MTI chairman Freddie Gershon told that "The 'Glee' deal is in negotiations. We're exploring a collaborative venture with Fox and 'Glee.' We just think it's a natural."

    Gershon also revealed that a Junior version of The Little Mermaid was in the works, as well as Avenue G, which he characterized as "the G version of Avenue Q, with no full-frontal puppet nudity."

    MTI has had great success licensing Disney's High School Musical and its sequel, as well as the Broadway hit Rent. The company also holds the rights to Wicked, Hairspray and Spring Awakening, which will be available for license in the future.

    UPDATE:  Hmmmm, maybe not.

    The “Best Actress” Oscar Curse

    Six of the last nine "Best Actress" Oscar winners have split from their partners/spouses at some point following their win:  Charlize Theron (Stuart Townsend), Hilary Swank (Chad Lowe), Reese Witherspoon (Ryan Phillippe), Kate Winslet (Sam Mendes), Halle Berry (Eric Benet), and now Sandra Bullock (Jesse James).

    On the flip side, going back to 2001, only one Best Actor winner, Sean Penn, has separated from his spouse.

    Meaningless stat?  Or do men have a problem with successful wives?  Or something else?

    Getting to “Yes” is Easy Now

    As discussed below, the CBO scoring on the House health care bill is a god-send for reform advocates, making many Democrats in the House "giddy".  Ezra Klein asks the right question: given the excellent report (which the GOP is still struggling to countermand), won't it be difficult for wavering House Democrats to vote "no"?

    Won't it be substantively difficult for many House Democrats to vote no?

    If you're a liberal House Democrat, here's what you'd be voting against: Legislation that covers 32 million people. A world in which 95 percent of all non-elderly, legal residents have health-care coverage. An end to insurers rescinding coverage for the sick, or discriminating based on preexisting conditions, or spending 30 cents of each premium dollar on things that aren't medical care. Exchanges where insurers who want to jack up premiums will have to publicly explain their reason, where regulators will be able to toss them out based on bad behavior, and where consumers will be able to publicly rate them. Hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford health-care insurance. The final closure of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit's "doughnut hole."

    If you're a conservative House Democrat, then probably you support many of those policies, too. But you also get the single most ambitious effort the government has ever made to control costs in the health-care sector. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill cuts deficits by $130 billion in the first 10 years, and up to $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years. The excise tax is now indexed to inflation, rather than inflation plus one percentage point, and the subsidies grow more slowly over time. So one of the strongest cost controls just got stronger, and the automatic spending growth slowed. And then there are all the other cost controls in the bill: The Medicare Commission, which makes entitlement reform much more possible. The programs to begin paying doctors and hospitals for care rather than volume. The competitive insurance market.

    Perhaps the only thing a conservative might still object to is abortion funding, although that cow has been beaten dead.  The Hyde Amendment already prevents federal spending on abortion, and the language in the bill only reiterates that.

    On the prediction markets, health care reform passage (before June 30) has risen to almost 80% (it was in the 30% area a month ago):


    CBO Report Out

    As I mentioned yesterday, we're at the moment-of-truth for health care reform passage in the House, and it's a nailbiter.  In order to pass, a lot of Democrats neeed convincing (many are on the fence, and it is assumed that all House Republicans will vote "no").  A lot of wavering Democrats were concerned about whether HCR would explode the deficit.

    The non-partisan CBO report came out this morning, and it's good news for the Democrats seeking health care reform:

    House Democrats, gearing up for a possible vote on Sunday to pass health care legislation, pledged that the details they were about to publish would produce significant cost savings in the decades ahead.

    The House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had determined that the package of legislation would produce “the largest deficit reduction of any bill we have adopted in Congress since 1993,” when it passed President Clinton’s budget proposal including substantial tax increases.

    In the first ten years, the legislation would reduce deficits by $130 billion, Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip, said after a meeting of the party’s caucus. The effect on deficits over the following decade would be much greater, a total of $1.2 trillion, he said. The savings would come largely from reductions in the growth of Medicare spending, with new fees and tax increases also contributing.


    The bill that the House passed in November would have reduced deficits by slightly more — $138 billion compared with $130 billion — in the first ten years, while the version passed by the Senate in December would have reduced deficits by somewhat less — $118 billion — according to the budget office, whose estimates are considered authoritative.

    The cost of the legislation has been a major concern for many centrist Democrats, a crucial bloc for leaders who are trying to muster the majority to pass the bill.

    “We are absolutely giddy over the great news,” said Mr. Clyburn, who as the party whip is the keeper of its tallies, as the leadership seeks the 216 yes votes it will need for the decisive vote, expected this weekend.

    Therefore, the House health care reform bill:

    1. CUTS THE DEFICIT Cuts the deficit by $130 billion in the first ten years (2010 – 2019). Cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years.
    1. REINS IN WASTEFUL MEDICARE COSTS AND EXTENDS THE SOLVENCY OF MEDICARE; CLOSES THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG DONUT HOLE Reduces annual growth in Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points per year—while improving benefits and lowering costs for seniors. Extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years.
    1. EXPANDS AND IMPROVES HEALTH COVERAGE FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES Expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered.
    1. IS FULLY PAID FOR Is fully paid for – costs $940 billion over a decade. (Americans spend nearly $2.5 trillion each year on health care now and nearly two-thirds of the bill’s cost is paid for by reducing health care costs).

    Expect some more movement to the "yes" column.

    The House is expected to vote on Sunday.

    UPDATE: And it begins. Adam Smith (D-WA), an “undecided” who was always going to vote for the bill, told MSNBC just now that he’s a likely yes.

    UPDATE II: And another: Elliot Engel, again, was always going to be a yes.

    UPDATE III:  The GOP pushback is lame.  Here is what's being written at Ace of Spades, a top righty blog?

    So even if there magical assumptions all come true (and they won't), the net reduction in the deficit is essentially zero. We're going to rework the entire health care system and if everything goes right, we won't even eliminate one month of deficits?

    You see what they did?  They lumped the health care bill in with everything else that is contributing to the deficit, and then said there is no "net reduction".  In other words, the health care reform bill will reduce the deficit, but since the deficit is still growing (for other reasons), the health care reform bill (according to these bozos) is a failure.

    Spin fail — especially when it comes from those who were claiming for months that health care reform would "explode" the deficit.

    Pomplamoose Cover Of “Single Ladies”

    Pomplamoose, a boyfriend-girlfriend "band", created the concept of the VideoSong, which has two rules:

    1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
    2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).

    I've always loved the sultry sound of lead singer Nataly Dawn, as seen/heard here the Pomplamoose cover of "Single Ladies":


    From Yes Weekly:

    Irreverence reigns supreme in Theatre Alliance’s Spooky Dog this weekend

    12687815884ba012143ec0f Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem has scared up a treat for Saturday-morning television fans with its latest production, a staged reading of Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries, which opens Thursday for a limited engagement.

    Eric Pliner and Amy Rhodes’ ribald spoof takes its cue from one of the most popular Saturday-morning cartoons of all time — the one about the goofy dog and his equally goofy friends who travel around solving mysteries and busting ghosts. (Any resemblance to a certain Hanna-Barbera cartoon series that later became a big-screen franchise is undoubtedly, ahem, coincidental.)

    But this is one show you won’t see on Saturday mornings. “It’s very different and very adult — not for children,” warns and boasts Jamie Lawson, director of the show and artistic director of Theatre Alliance, and himself a childhood devotee of said Saturday-morning cartoons, which is one reason he wanted to do the show. “It’s very wild. Very crazy. Very adult.”

    (That’s not a threat, that’s a promise.) According to Lawson, Spooky Dog’s got it all: “Innuendos, sexual encounters, references to mind-altering substances, strong language… everything for which you’ve come to love Theatre Alliance!” Adding to the irreverent nature of the production is the inclusion of the audience as a direct participant in the show. “The audience helps choose pop-culture references for the actors to use during the show, with an element of improvisation,” Lawson notes. “It’s billed as a ‘staged reading,’ but the actors are off-book, there are costumes, set pieces, props — the works!” The ensemble cast includes Scott Terrill as Ted, Danielle Barnicle as Tiffany, Becki West as Thelma, Sean Farrell as Scraggly, Nichelle Wright as Mrs. Woodhaven, Stephen Holley as Mr. Woodhaven, and Jamison Middlemiss in the title role.

    Some had experience in improvisation, others didn’t. But, according to Lawson, finding the groove yielded some inspired moments during the rehearsal process and cemented their chemistry.

    “This cast was a piece of cake, surprisingly,” he says. “I am very proud of the cast, some of which have no improv background. They are doing a great job with the suggestion of the original characters, and the improvisation we have been throwing around during rehearsals has been hysterical.” As a result, it’s never quite the same show twice.

    Given the time of year, it seems only appropriate that Theatre Alliance would present a wild and wacky show around April Fool’s Day, but Lawson says that was merely a coincidence, albeit a timely one. If it gets audiences in the mood for April Fool’s, so much the better.

    “[It’s] just a tribute to my all-time favorite cartoon,” he says, “and it’s funny as hell for fans of Saturday-morning cartoons, as it plays up all the ‘rumors’ that we’ve heard about this particular cartoon — like a particular character being a ditz, one being a stoner — which is why he’s always hungry, one being a little too ‘lesbian-ese’… and why does that one guy wear that sissy neck scarf? It’s a total riot.”

    Next up for Theatre Alliance is the Del Shores comedy The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife (April 9-18), followed by the musical biography Hank Williams: Lost Highway (May 14-23).

    “By doing a variety of shows, we can hit so many different audiences, as well as score the talents of so many different performers,” says Lawson. “Many performers excel in non-musicals while others’ strengths lie in musicals. Theatre Alliance tries to balance the artistic/entertainment scale and provide something for everyone, while still trying to pay the bills. We are currently offering an average of 11 productions a year, counting our summer shows and our regular season. For a community theater which functions solely with volunteers, that’s unheard-of, to my knowledge. I am ecstatic with Theatre Alliance’s volunteer support group and so grateful to our supporters — financial and in the audience! When patrons attend our shows, I want them to feel like they are part of a family. We just want people to leave enlightened sometimes, enriched sometimes, but always, always entertained and wanting to get back real soon… just like home.”

    wanna go?

    Showtimes for Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $10 and reservations are suggested, as this is a limited run.

    Theatre Alliance is located at 1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem. For tickets or more information, including news about upcoming Theatre Alliance productions and events, see


    The wingers are now making up studies in their desperate, last-ditch effort to kill health reform bill. On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said: "The New England Journal of Medicine has published a report and did a survey, and they said the impact of reform on primary care physicians, 46 percent, they say, feel reform will force them out or make them want to leave medicine."

    This has been repeated all over the Internet.

    Guess what?  The NEJM never conducted a study that says that.


    Stay Classy, Anti-Health Care Reform People

    Supporters and opponents of health care reform assembled outside Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy's (D-Ohio) office yesterday, and it was quite contentious.

    Present was a man holding a sign, explaining that he has Parkinson's and needs health care reform to pass. When he sat on the pavement near the reform opponents, a conservative activist proceeded to lecture the man: "You're looking for a hand-out, you're in the wrong end of town. Nothing for free over here, you have to work for everything you get."

    Another far-right protestor mocked the man, dropping a dollar bill on him, saying, "I'll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot." Throwing another wadded bill, the protestor added, "I'll decide when to give you money. Here's another one, here you go." A moment later, he shouted at the man sitting on the street: "No more hand-outs."

    Someone in the crowd is also heard saying, "You love a communist."

    This is difficult to watch:

    Then again, Rush Limbaugh gave the green light to mock people with Parkinson's.  Remember?

    Cable Snafu In NC Causes Kid’s Channel To Show Playboy Channel

    Time Warner screwed up here in NC, according to USA Today:

    For two hours, some young viewers of children's programs in North Carolina also got a glimpse of the Playboy channel, the Charlotte Observer reports.

    An equipment glitch early Tuesday at Time Warner Cable beamed previews of adult shows on the Playboy channel into the right corner of the Kids on Demand and Kids Preschools on Demand channels, the paper says.

    Melissa Buscher, a spokeswoman for Time Warner, says at least four towns got the mixed signals, while most markets just went black, the papers reports.

    She says normal monitor procedures did not kick in because the glitch affected only small areas.

    Buscher says the cable operator learned of the problem when parents called to report the mixup, which occurred between 6:14 a.m. 8:15 a.m.

    It was not immediately clear whether most parents waited the full two hours before reporting.

    Where We Are With Health Care Reform

    Well, the bottom line is this: after moments of debate and Tea Party protests and misinformation and subcommittee reports, etc., Congress is getting set to vote on health care reform.  That's where we're at.

    Oh, I supposed I could talk about the minutae of parliamentary procedures, like everybody else, but your eyes will glaze over.  Basically, Democrats in the House are employing a procedure known as a "self-executing rule" or more precisely, "deem and pass", wherein the House votes on the Senate's health care reform bill with the assumption that there are certain amendments tacked on to it.  They're not voting to approve the actual Senate bill (the Senate hasn't voted on it yet and it has passed the buck to the House); the House merely voting on a rule which deems the Senate bill to look like X, and approving that bill if the Senate bill eventually looks that way.

    Eyes glazed yet?  Don't worry.  What you need to know is this:

    The GOP, the Wall Street Journal, rightwing blogs, Fox News, and the usual rightie troops are crying foul loudly.  "That procedure is unconstitutional!  You're not voting all the bill directly" blah blah blah.

    Anybody want to guess if the GOP ever used that very same parliamentary procedure in the past, when Republicans controlled the House?

    Why, yes they did.  Of course they did.  35 times in 2005-2006.

    (And yes, Democrats complained then, but they didn't call it "treasonous" like many on the right are doing now).  The hypocrisy of the right now is plain for all to see.

    If you're wondering why this is in the House rather than the Senate, the Christian Science Monitor explains why:

    Since Senate Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority with the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts, Democratic leaders have decided to try to pass the Senate's version in the House – in part to avoid the Senate's procedural hurdles as much as possible. The problem is, many in the House don't like the Senate bill and won't pass it.

    The proposed solution has been a package of "fixes" to the Senate bill. It's not a perfect answer, because the Senate will also need to pass the fixes – and will need to resort to the controversial process of reconciliation to avoid a filibuster. But Democrats see it as the least worst option.

    The drama now unfolding is how to rally 216 House Democrats to the fixes.

    The "fixes" include lowering the cost, and getting rid of certain "sweetheart deals", like the "Cornhusker Kickback" – a particular provision of the bill that benefits Nebraskans.  (And that paragraph is about all the substance of the health care bill you'll see on the news)

    But parliamentary rules aside, the big question is whether there are enough votes in the House for health care refrom to pass.  The magic number is 216, and although some people are trying to take a whip count, it is anybody's guess as to whether it will pass.  There are somewhere between 11-15 Democrats who are on the fence.

    One Democratic holdout was two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who avowed not to vote for health care reform unless it contained a public option.  He voted against the Democrat's health care reform last November for that reason.  The current plan on the table, of course, does not contain the public option.  But Obama and others have talked to Kucinich and reports this morning are that he is changing his vote to "yes".  Whew.  Could be a big boost.

    The Hill reports the following:

    All House Republicans are expected to vote no.

    If every member votes and all GOP lawmakers vote no, the maximum number of Democratic defections to pass a bill is 37, which would result in a 216-215 tally.

    Right now, the Hill counts 36 Democrats as a "no" (a firm "no", a likely "no", or a leaning "no"), including three representatives from North Carolina: Larry Kissel, Mile McIntyre, and Heath Shuler.

    8 Democrats are a firm "yes", and 17 Democrats (including N.C. representative Bob Etheridge) are leaning "yes", and a full 53 Democrats are undecided.

    In short, it doesn't look good.

    UPDATE — Ezra's take:

    On the deem and pass question, Democrats are wrong, but Republicans are wronger.

    The problem with deem and pass isn't, well, deem and pass. It's the wrongheaded view of House members who have convinced themselves that there's something irreparably wrong with the Senate health-care bill. But the Senate bill, like the House bill, is a very good, if imperfect, piece of legislation. It's better on cost controls than the House legislation but worse on affordability. Structurally, however, the two are very similar: They both include subsidies for individuals and small businesses to purchase regulated insurance products from exchanges and an individual mandate to ensure that the healthy don't game the system.

    The bigger problem with the Senate bill is the deals attached to it. But the deals aren't, from a policy perspective, particularly important. They're just politically important. And politics is politics, so the deals will come out. But just because Fox News pretends that they somehow define the legislation is no reason for House Democrats to adopt the same argument.

    If the Democrats are wusses, the Republicans have chosen to foment a hysterical, corrosive cynicism. "Any veteran observer of Congress is used to the rampant hypocrisy over the use of parliamentary procedures that shifts totally from one side to the other as a majority moves to minority status, and vice versa," writes congressional expert Norm Onstein. "But I can’t recall a level of feigned indignation nearly as great as what we are seeing now from congressional Republicans."

    Deem and pass — more technically known as a "self-executing rule" — is a common congressional procedure, as you can see from the graph atop this post. Republicans used it dozens of times when they were in power. But now that Democrats are doing the same, the GOP is painting it as a threat to the republic itself. That may be good politics, but it is bad civics. They are scaring the bejesus out of their constituents and assuring that even if the legislation does pass, a substantial fraction of the country will think tyranny has come to America. That tyranny, as the Republicans know, is in the form of majority votes that accord with the rules of Congress. But they will happily destroy this Congress in order to secure a slightly better shot at controlling it.

    Two Pictures Of A Thousand Words

    Nate Silver at 538 did something kind of clever:

    Gallup did something pretty cool in connection with their latest health care survey, which was to provide the verbatim responses (.xls) of the rationales given by people who would tell their Congressman to vote for or against the current health care bills, respectively.

    I ran the responses through Wordle, a word-cloud generating tool, omitting certain words that were parts of speech or were otherwise nongermane.

    Here are the results:


    Obviously, the top picture represents those who want health care reform, with the plain argument "People…need….insurance". 

    The bottom picture represents the anti's — concerns about the "government cost".  Interestingly, the bottom picture represents a sort of misunderstanding about health care reform.  It's not really about a government program (sadly).  But those opposed to it, largely misled by the Republican messaging over the past few months, seem to think that it is.

    In any event, it clearly shows the mindset of the polarized view on healthcare.  Need vs. Cost.  Pay vs. Afford.  Etc.