Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sixteen Minutes Of Intelligent Debate

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Winner in Economic Sciences, and John B. Taylor, Stanford economist, debate the the banking crisis, the slump in the economy, and health care on GPS with Fareed Zakaria. Watch.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Dead At 50

I don't usually spend any time writing about things not political in nature but, having grown up listening to Michael Jackson music (part of the very eclectic discography I own), and playing it in clubs, it is hard for me not to feel the shock for the death of Michael Jackson. Yes, in recent years the controversy had overshadowed the music, but we are all human, flawed, and weak, each in our own way. And yet, not all of us are capable of bringing as much joy to so many people around as Michael Jackson did, and I hope for that he will be remembered kindly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Government Between You And Your Doctor

If you are one of those dupes who have bought the Republican argument that Americans don't want the government between themselves and their doctor, you should really read this.* And by the way, I really hope your insurance handles your claim as the claims of the article were handled. If on the other hand you are smart enough to know better (which should be a given, since you are reading this blog) you should send this on to a dupe.

*You should also read this if you believe that Democrats are "statists", if you believe that the DMV and the Post Office are a disgrace, or if you believe--like Ronald Reagan famously said--that the nine most frightening words in the English language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." (Reagan must have had a crystal ball to foretell Bush's handling of the many disasters he--quite literally--sat through.)

How To Unmask The Misuse Of The Liberal Label

Glenn Greenwald of Salon gives a crystal-clear explanation of how the "liberal" label for media outlet (in this case NPR) is nonsensical, and in the process bemoans the sorry state of American journalism. A true must-read.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recount! What Recount?

The grapevine has it that, on Thursday, Iran's supreme leader will announce a serious recount of the votes cast in last Friday's election. Before you wish that we could have had a Supreme Leader instead of a Supreme Court in 2000, consider this: Almost a week has gone by. If a coup is taking place in Iran, as many have suggested, how hard do you think it could have been for the Interior Ministry to replace ballots or ballot boxes to show more "realistic" results, while preserving the outcome of an Ahmadinejad victory?

What is truly needed is a repeat of the vote, this time with international monitors, and a true count, one that does not declare a winner minutes after the polls have closed, when none of the millions of votes cast have yet been counted.

Some Republicans, like Sen. McCain, are faulting the administration for not taking a clear stance in defense of Moussavi and for not demanding clean, Democratic elections in Iran. Seriously? Is there anyone on the Republican side of the aisle who feels that the United States, of all countries, are in a position to tell another country who to run elections or recounts after the 2000 presidential election? Some people!

In any case, to the U.S. and Israel does it make any difference who won?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Money And Health Care Reform

Nate Silver, over at, has compiled an interesting list of U.S. Senators and how much money they have received from the health care industry, both in terms of dollar amount and of the percentage of the total contributions they receive. Nothing earth shattering, in the sense that the list reflects pretty much what you would expect, although you will notice a couple of facts:

No Republicans support the so called "public option" (which introduces the concept that people could choose to get their health care through a government plan like Medicare instead of relying on private insurers). That is hardly surprising, like the fact that some of the most most vocal opponents of the public option sit at the top of the list. (Republican senators Enzi, Barrasso, Gregg, for example, have been prominently featured in cable news interviews in their opposition to health care reform, as have their Democratic opponents, Conrad, Baucus, and Nelson, who are scrambling to exclude a meaningful public option from any reform plan, after already doing everything in their power to shoot down any possibility of single-payer health care).

The interesting thing is the high number of Democratic senators that have yet to declare their position. Chances are they are looking for cover before they come out in opposition of the public option. In other words, they are waiting for others to declare their opposition before they themselves declare their own, on the grounds that there are not enough votes in the Senate to carry reform that includes the public option. Being that many of them come from swing states, this is hardly surprising. And yet, we should remember who they are and unite against them in Democratic primaries to oust them in favor of more progressive candidates. After all, the country is largely behind the public option (as much as 68% of the people supports it, according to some) and it will be a crime if Congress does not pass a reform that includes it.

This is the time to do it. In the mid-terms, Democrats run the real risk of losing seats, in which case passing meaningful reform will be even harder. Contact your elected officials and register your support for a full public option.

You have been warned.

Excellent Commentary On Online Poker From The Denver Post

Vincent Carroll writes on The Denver Post: "Just because I recoil at the prospect of slot machines in the corner pharmacy, however, doesn't mean I should care whether my next-door-neighbor whiles away his evenings wagering on Internet poker. It's none of my business how he spends his leisure time in his own home."

Agreed. And it should not be Congress's business either. Read Carroll's excellent opinion here.

Obama Continues A Number Of Unsettling Bush Policies

For eight years, we have rightly criticized President Bush for policies that go against transparency and, in more than one case, against constitutional protections.

Thankfully, President Obama has reversed course as promised on some of the policies. For example, it has agreed to declassify a large number of documents deemed secret by the Bush administration.

In a May 2009 memo [Adobe Acrobat required], President Obama has also reversed the Bush policy of preemption of state rights by the Federal Government (the policy that the Bush administration to block California's adoption of automobile emissions standards stricter than those mandated by federal law.)

President Obama has also pledged to close GITMO by early 2010, in spite of strong opposition from both sides of the aisle, and it has stopped the Bush policy preventing the release of photographs of the repatriation of the bodies of fallen soldiers.

But, unfortunately, the current administrations has also chosen to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in many regards. Just because the president we like is doing it, does not mean that policies of the president we did not like have suddenly become right. This is sad for those of us who were looking for a reversal of the policies introduced or strengthened by an administration that has enhanced the concept of the Imperial Presidency.
For example, the Obama Administration has decided to continue President Bush's policy of blocking access to the White House visitor logs. This is particularly surprising, given President Obama's pledge to "make the White House the people’s house and send the Washington lobbyists back to K Street". Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Government has decided to sue. See CREW SUES SECRET SERVICE OVER REFUSAL TO RELEASE WHITE HOUSE COAL EXECS VISITOR LOGS.

On extraordinary rendition, the Obama administration has also decided to maintain the position of the Bush administration. This has drawn criticism from the ACLU (proving, for those conservative hacks who criticized the ACLU for its attacks on Bush administration policies that fly against constitutional safeguards, that the ACLU is committed to people's liberties, not to one political faction or another.)

In February 2009, Joan Walsh reported on "[a]fter the Supreme Court ruled that Guantánamo detainees had the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, four Bagram prisoners tried to challenge their detention in U.S. District Court in Washington." Nonetheless, says Walsh, the Obama administration "backed the Bush administration claim that terror suspects held at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights."

And, quite dishearteningly, President Obama declared that he "will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised torture policy against detainees", as reported by ABC News.

The above list, unfortunately, is not all-inclusive.

The only encouraging fact is that neither the supposedly liberal media nor the progressive groups that have worked to get Obama elected have been uncritical of these decisions, in contrast with the attitude of the conservative media, which endorsed just about everything the Bush-Cheney administration did from 2001 to 2008.

There is hope, perhaps.

NOTE: ABC News has compiled a useful list of the Bush policies that the Obama administration has reversed, as well as those that it has chosen to continue.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Detainee Says He Lied After Being Tortured

The LA Times reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has told "U.S. military officials that he gave false information to the CIA even after undergoing punishing bouts of interrogation."

Expect liberal commentators to underscore the fact that not only is torture un-American, it is also unreliable. And be sure that conservative commentators will say that the liberal media, in their frenzy to bash everything American, are ready to believe a terrorist who has an obvious motive in lying.

But don't let the spin make you lose sight of the facts: it is only civilians like Cheney, his daughter, Bush, etc., who maintain that torture works and that it has prevented further attacks on the United States. Conversely, there is no scarcity of people in the law and order and the military communities who will readily tell you that torture does not work, and why.

See here, here, here, here, and... well, you get the idea.

We did not really need KSM, as Bush affectionately called Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in press conferences, to tell us what everyone in the interrogation business already knew: Bush, Cheney, father and daughter, and all their truly despicable minions, however well intentioned they thought they were, have subverted the Constitution, international conventions, and American decency for... absolutely nothing.

Iran's Electoral Mess

I titled this post Iran's Electoral Mess instead of Iran's Electoral Fraud for a couple of reasons.

First, while there is a strong possibility that the outcome of the election is the result of fraud, there is also the possibility that it does the reflect the will of the Iranian people. On this point, read the following post from the always excellent

Having said that, there is mounting evidence that the outcome of the election has nothing to do with the will of the electorate. To further explore this second possibility, please read Iran Does Have Some Fishy Numbers, once again from the peerless folks at

If the second scenario is true, then I will paraphrase what I have read this weekend on a website (sorry, I don't remember which one--but it may have been the Huffington Post). An Iranian girl pleaded with the foreign media not to call what happened in Iran "electoral fraud" because, she said, that expression does not render justice to what she believes to be happening in Iran: a true coup.

If you are interested, you should also read Is Khamenei Vulnerable?, from Time magazine.

Realities Of A For-Profit Health Care System

Did you know? "[N]early one-third of all US women deliver their babies by caesarean section, a rate that is far higher than medically necessary. One of the reasons is that most obstetricians and hospitals are paid far more for a surgical delivery than for a vaginal birth. Such incentives not only raise costs, but ironically often produce worse health outcomes." [Emphasis added.] It is but one example of the way a for-profit health care system unnecessarily penalizes the public, as Judy Norsigian and Jennifer Potter, MD, wrote in their opinion for the Boston Globe.

Guns Don't Kill People

"Guns don't kill people [...] People kill people. True. People kill people -- with guns." So says Bill Moyers, in this article. And yet, not only is a discussion on limiting gun ownership rights off the table, but--as Moyers points out: "Even as gunshots ricocheted around the country, an amendment allowing concealed weapons in national parks snuck into the popular credit card reform bill."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How To Respond To Requests To Debate Creationists

To celebrate the release of the umpteenth non-peer reviewed publication by a Discovery Institute acolyte, Stephen Meyer's "Signature In The Cell", I am posting a link to How To Respond To Requests To Debate Creationists, via Pharyngula. You will be the smarter and wittier after you have read it.

Bill Maher Calls Obama To Task

High time someone called Obama to task. Frankly, so far I am very ambivalent about the president's accomplishments. Yes, he has changed the tone of our relationship with the rest of the world, particularly the Muslim world, in ways that make conservatives' blood boil, and that's a very good thing. Yes, it is nice to have a thoughtful, intelligent, rational person at the helm, particularly in troubled times. Yes, his charisma has given Americans a much needed injection of optimism in difficult seas. But those are not the reasons why we elected Obama for, and Bill Maher points that out quite sharply, starting at 2:07 in the video below (the first two minutes, frankly, are fluff.)

For They Sow The Wind

Frank Rich warns us about the hateful fires that the right is fanning, and concludes his weekly NY Times column with these words: "This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren’t warned." Read the rest of his column here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Six Flags In Bankruptcy

The theme-park chain Six Flags has filed for bankruptcy, reports CNN. Jesus! What's next, strip joints?

Iran's Descent Into Chaos

The news keeps coming in from Iran (though you wouldn't really know it by watching cable news in the U.S., where Sarah Palin's insufferable and ubiquitous presence is getting more airplay than news from Iran), and it ain't good.

More on the dramatic events unfolding in Iran from Robert Fisk.
A hopeful opinion from the Guardian: Genie of democracy won't go back in the jar

Wouldn't That Be Good?

The Washington Post reports that the Republican Party may be going the way of the dinosaur. Well, not exactly, but still? Wouldn't it be good if they became the permanent minority party, at least until they shape up?

Groothuis Watch Resumes

Mr. Groothuis runs a blog called The Constructive Curmudgeon, which is known--amongst other things--for its merciless, biased, factually inaccurate and most uncharitable attacks on President Obama. The attacks started when Sen. Obama earned a spot as a front runner for the Democratic Party's nomination and have never ceased.

I used to spend a lot of time sparring with Mr. Groothuis (whom I used to refer to as Dr. or Prof., but I have decided to call simply Mr. as I realized that there is nothing remotely doctoral or professorial about his reasoning about and his attacks on President Obama), just pointing out that the false assumption, biased statements and scornful proclaims that Mr. Groothuis tried to pass as fact were, most often, just his personal and uncharitable opinions of Obama.

Perhaps annoyed by my relentless watch, or possibly by the impossibility of contradicting my analysis of the fallacies he promoted, Mr. Groothuis started censoring my replies under cover of false accusations. (According to him, I was guilty of ad hominem attacks and of being disrespectful and insulting.) Fair enough, it's his blog, and he can be a censor if it suits him.

Though I have avoided sending comments to Mr. Groothuis for a few months (he censors them, remember?) one of his latest posts caught my eye and I decided to try my luck.

A couple of days ago I sent him my comments on the typically titled Flattery and Distortion: That's Obama, in which Mr. Groothuis says: "Perhaps the most egregious thing about this speech was that Obama, purportedly a Christian, failed to address the Islamic persecution of Christians around the world, and in Egypt as well. Islam is incompatible with any historic Western concept of religious freedom."

Then, responding to a couple of his readers who quite correctly pointed out to him that it made no sense for the President to point out the persecution of Christians around the world and in Egypt when the goal of his speech was to engage his Middle-Eastern audience instead of antagonizing it, as the previous administration has done for so long, in action more than in words, Mr. Groothuis went on to suggest that President Obama could have/should have done what Reagan would have done. Here is what he wrote:
O [sic] need not preach an evangelistic message (he wouldn't know how) or excoriate Islam. But what he did was dead and dangerously wrong. I am not enough of a statesman to know exactly what he should have done, but I know he botched the opportunity. My question is, "What would Reagan have done?" A few ideas:

1. Emphasize that America will not tolerate terrorism at home or abroad. It will do all it can to extirpate this plague on the world by supporting democracies and the rule of law worldwide.

2. Emphasize that American soldiers have spilled blood and had their bodies ravaged defending Muslims in Bosnia and Kuwait.

3. Emphasize that we are not at war with Islam, but with terrorists, as (2) points out.

4. Highlight that America honors the freedom of religions, as should all nations. But we will not support religious attempts to undermine the philosophical foundations of our own country.

O has neither the nerve nor the intelligence nor the vision to do anything like this. This strategy is quintessentially liberal: flatter enemies to try to make them our friends. That always fails. Lies do not promote justice or peace.

Mr. Groothuis's reply pays tribute to the imaginary Ronald Reagan that has been immortalized for posterity by a bunch of speechwriters, opinion-makers, and conservative king-makers. In other words, to the mythologized version of a president who should (and might eventually) go down in history as one of the most divisive, heartless, callous, and overrated presidents this nation has had.

Fortunately, I just finished reading Will Bunch's Tear Down This Myth, so I have a different perspective on what Ronald Reagan might have done. So I decided to break my silence and send my reply to Mr. Groothuis's post.

That was two days ago, and my reply has yet to be published. Mr. Groothuis too busy too moderate comments? Perhaps. Censored again? Possibly. In any case, enough time has passed that I feel authorized to post my reply here. It's my blog, and I can do what I want with it, right?

Dr. Groothuis, [that was before I made my mind up that Dr. may be a factually accurate title, but way too generous for the quality of the reasoning]

in your usual haste to castigate Obama, you accuse him of not saying things that he actually did say in his Cairo speech:

Concerning points 1) and 3) in your comment, the President did say:

"In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people."

He also went on to say:

"Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with."

And again: "America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths - more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace."

As for what Ronald Reagan might have said, we have no idea. We do know what he did say, though:

He said that killing civilians in a strike against terrorists would be "an act of terrorism itself." (See Lou Cannon, President Reagan, The Role Of A Lifetime

We also know that the Wall Street Journal (hardly a leftist publication) "called him 'Jimmy Reagan' when he did not respond to the death of navy diver Robert Stethem, whom Hezbollah terrorists dumped on the Beirut airport tarmac in the June 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Perpetual right-wing crank Richard Viguerie, initially a huge Reagan booster, now said 'With each new crisis, Reagan has less and less credibility with both friends and foes.'" (See Will Bunch, "Tear Down This Myth", p. 77)

We also know what President Reagan did. When a suicide bomber drove a truck bomb into the lobby of the U.S. Marine base in Beirut, killing over 200 Marines, Reagan's response was to withdraw the Marines from land to offshore ships, which is what Conservatives today would term "cutting and running."

And when six Americans were captured by kidnappers in Lebanon, Reagan's administration negotiated (read "appeased") the release of the hostages with Iran, a hostile regime, and agreed to provide arms to the Islamic regime in what became the Iran-Contra scandal.

We can waste hours conjecturing what the mythical rendition of Reagan would have done, or we can look at the historical record and imagine what he would have done, based simply on what he did do.

'nuff said.

About The Unfolding Events Of The Iranian Election

For an assessment, albeit a depressing one, of the outcome of the Iranian elections, read Juan Cole.

For an alternative opinion on the relative meaninglessness of the elections, read this NY Times opinion piece by former Bush administration member and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliott Abrams. (I have to say, in a crooked way, this is probably a realistic assessment, if a little disheartening, of what just unfolded in Iran

To regain a little cheer, read Ed Brayton from Dispatches From The Culture Wars.

UPDATE: Adding this beautiful article by Robert Fisk.

Please Allow Me A Moment...

Click the picture to go to the full article on the Penguins official website.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rove Warns WSJ Readers Agains Public Option

What a surprise! Karl Rove has been given a chance to write an opinion for the Wall Street Journal to warn Americans of the perils and the implications of a public option in health care delivery.

That is just dandy, because when I look to shine a the light on facts and policy issues, I think Karl Rove.

Luckily, Think Progress has already dismantled and debunked Rove's spin, for your benefit.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Krugman On Right Wing Hatred

While discussing the murders of Dr. Tiller and the late incident at the Washington Holocaust Museum, in which a private security guard lost his life, many commentators are walking a fine line in trying to separate the perpetrators of these crimes from the voices on the right (Limbaugh, Hannity, but not only--some Republican politicians as well) that have contributed to a climate conducive to such crimes. Not Paul Krugman, whose keen insight is not limited to economic matters.

In addition to the examples that Krugman mentions in his opinion piece, there are many more that could be produced as evidence of right wing incitement to rage, even violence.
Remember John McCain's and Sarah Palin's rallies? As Sarah Palin traveled the heartland during the presidential campaign, she repeatedly prodded the crowd by accusing then Sen. Obama of associating with terrorists (William Ayers) until the crowds at her rallies started crying "terrorist!" and "Kill him!" (Read these old posts of mine, No Moral Equivalence and Silence Indicates Tacit Approval for more reminders of the base tactics the McCain/Palin campaign employed in an attempt to get elected.)

Or how about Michele Bachmann? Just today, she referred to Obama's "gangster government" in a speech she gave on the floor of the House, and she immediately found right-wing sympathizers, ready to laud her statement. And a few months ago, remember how she equated "liberal" with "anti-American" and called for McCarthy-like investigations of liberals in Congress? Would you like more example? Just go to Dump Michele Bachmann for more example of her dangerous lunacy.

Or how about Sen. Inhofe, who but a week ago said this of the president? "I just don’t know whose side he’s on,” Inhofe said of the president." He said this in the wake of Obama's Cairo speech, which he called "un-American" because "[Obama] referred to the war in Iraq as 'a war of choice' and didn’t criticize Iran for developing a nuclear program." (see Think Progress.)

These cranks can say what they want, of course, because the Constitution gives them the right to. But they would do well to consider the effect that their accusations, their smears, and their incendiary words have on the psyche of people who are already inclined to view the first African-American president in our history as an enemy to be stopped, if not altogether eliminated.

Kent Conrad Is A Deceitful Donkey

Keep an eye on Robert Reich's blog these days. It has tons of stuff about health care reform developments with an explanation of how Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to stick it to America with a number of public option scams. Here's the latest one, courtesy of Sen. Kent Conrad (D?ND). (The question mark instead of the hyphen is intentional.)

As pointed out by Open Left (see "From Open Left", posted earlier), we need to forget about Republican opponents of health care reform (what else do you expect from Republicans?) and start focusing our anger and protest on Democrats In Name Only, like Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, etc. (Click the links to email the two DINOs.)

Debunking The "Obama Targeting Republican Dealerships" Meme

Even my wife sent me an email the other day warning me that the Obama administration, in the midst of the restructuring of the car companies we practically own, has been targeting Republican car dealers for closure, letting Democratic dealers go about their business undisturbed.

I didn't have the energy to do the debunking research, but luckily Nate Silver at 538 dot com already did it for me.

Turns out, as usual, Faux News and the Conservative blogosphere will jump at anything that has the potential to make Obama look bad, without letting facts get in the way. So I had to categorize this post not only as "spin" and "stupidity", but also as "humor". If you can't see the humor in this yourself, you own a Republican dealership.

From Open Left

"Here is a message that progressive organizations and media outlets need to start sending to all Democratic party committees and members of Congress:

We are done attacking Republicans until you pass a public option for health care [...] Republicans are not the obstacle to progressive governance. Instead, Democrats who refuse to support a public option are the obstacle."

You can read the rest of the post at Open Left here.

The American Minions Association

You'd think your doctor would have your best interest in mind. Well, not every doctor, that's for sure. Members of the AMA (the American Medical Association) continue to oppose meaningful reform aimed at achieving universal coverage, and Chris McCoy, M.D., has had enough.

The Drive To Ban Online Poker

On Monday, as reported by the Associated Press, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has moved to freeze funds of about 20,000 poker players (or as many as 27,000 according to other sources.)

With all the problems we are dealing with, you'd think that deterring online poker would be at the lowest rung of the problems ladder. Not for some, among whom is Spencer Bachus, Republican representative from Alabama.

In an opinion piece he wrote for US News and World Report, Rep. Bachus said that internet gambling can lead to "addiction, bankruptcy, and crime." Yeah? So can working for Goldman Sachs and sniffing glue, but no one has yet considered shutting down investment banking houses or banning the sale of glue for the negative effects they can have.

It's the old religious conservative sham: only bad people gamble and they should be prevented from exercising their right as an adult.

Barney Frank, D-MA, put it best in his own op-ed: "There are people who believe that it is appropriate to use the law to impose on others personal, religious, or moral tenets, whether or not they deal with behavior that impinges on others [...] But personal behavior that harms no one ought to be within the sphere of personal autonomy."

Congressman Frank hits the nail on the head when he says: "The vast majority of human activities should be neither encouraged nor outlawed by the government but rather be left entirely to the choice of free individuals."

The Massachusetts Democrat, on a roll, continues:
If we were to prohibit from the Internet anything that people under a certain age should not do and could abuse, the Internet would be a very boring place. If we were to ban every activity that is suitable only for adults because of the possibility that some underage people might access these activities, we would have substantially diminished our freedom as adults.

Finally, Congressman Frank dismantles the position held by those who would ban online poker because of the risk of addiction:
There is also the argument that adults can become addicts. The principle here is the same as with regard to young people: To ban an activity in which the great majority of adults are able to engage responsibly because a small percentage will abuse it is to diminish freedom. Those who are addicted are the ones most likely to engage in the activity whether or not it is illegal, so the legal prohibition generally prevents more legitimate use of any activity than the abuse of it.

Not to mention the fact that, absent outlets of online gambling, all an addict has to do is go to the closest Indian casino, of which many states are full. By the same logic, we should close all liquor stores because of the effect they may have on alcoholics and all adult (read porn) web sites on the Internet because of the effect they have on sex addicts. Give me a break!

The Republican party used to be the party of limited government and of no government intervention in the sphere of the personal, right? It has turned into the party of false moralists, true religious nutcases and big business interests. Its implosion cannot come too soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Just What You Would Expect From A Conservative Rag

Call it a sign of things to come. The National Review Online has an article by Mona Charen titled Health-Care Bill Is The Ball Game. Indeed it is, and conservatives will try to win by cheating all the way to the goal line, if Charen's article is any indication of their tactics.

Though I included a link to the article, I can only recommend that you read it in the spirit of getting used to the lies and deceitful tactics that conservatives will employ in their fight to preserve the unacceptable status quo. But if your stomach is delicate, just read my analysis of the many distortions it contains.
The article, all seven paragraphs of it, is filled with all the misleading statements one would expect from a conservative rag hellbent on hiding its true intent: protecting big business, behind the cry of "more competition, not less."

Charen sets the stage by unleashing a dose of pedestrian sarcasm on President Obama, whom she accuses of having too many things on his hands already, so he should avoid trying to overhaul U.S. health care (as if things were just fine the way they are and we can afford to wait for the next Republican president to fix them).

Next she raises the ghost of "European statism", which conservatives like to use to rally the troops in defense of free market economy. I remember seeing a bumper sticker once that read something like "The media are as liberal as the conservative corporations that own them." If I were to rephrase it for the free market, I would say "The market is as free as the corporate oligarchs that dominate it allow it to be." But that's a topic for another article.

The third paragraph is where the real hack job begins. Charen brings up the fact that Obama's revamped health care system would end up like Medicare, "scheduled to go into bankruptcy by 2019." [Or even sooner, in 2017, at the current rate]. The data that Charen quotes is factual, but she fails to mention that one of the reasons why Medicare is going towards insolvency, according to Paul Krugman, is that "Medicare — originally a system in which the government paid people’s medical bills — is becoming, instead, a system in which the government pays the insurance industry to provide coverage", thanks to legislation introduced by the Republican Congress during George W. Bush's eight year reign.

Not yet satisfied, Charen then goes on to point to Mitt Romney's health care reform in Massachusetts as an example of how government plans typically exceed cost projections by a large margin. Here again she conveniently omits to mention that Romney's plan was centered around an insurance mandate, and that it contained no provisions to contain the sky-rocketing costs of insurance-provided health care. The plan's primary goal was to achieve universal coverage, not cost containment. The likely, if unstated, aim? To increase the amount of money that ended in the coffers of insurance companies. Predictably, then, the results are a mixed bag, and yet not the unmitigated disaster that Charen suggests it was. Either way, it is not a good example of how to proceed to reform health care in the United States.

The next accusation is that the number of of medical bankruptcies in the United States claimed by President Obama is inaccurate, and that the president greatly exaggerated the number of bankruptcies caused by medical bills. Whatever the case, and I am not getting into a contest with Charen here about which numbers are right, the president's or the ones she assumes, the fact that anyone could be driven to bankruptcy by their inability to pay medical bills is something that only the United States of America, which pretends to be a model for all to follow, would consider acceptable. In Italy we have a saying, which, loosely translated, means: "When you are in good health, you have all you need", the implication being that when a person enjoys good health, all good things follow naturally. Too bad Americans don't seem to have an equivalent saying, as it may help to change their callous attitude to health coverage matters. If they were to make one up, though, it would probably sound like "Good health is worth ruining your life over."

As the end of the article approaches, Charen starts focusing on the real (as in "real to her") culprits for the high cost of health care in the United States. The first culprit: too many mandates already.
State mandates require insurance companies to cover a variety of specialized medical services (usually at the behest of lobbyists for the relevant service providers) including: in vitro fertilization, marriage therapy, smoking-cessation classes, hormone-replacement therapy, chiropractor visits, and so on. That makes it impossible for companies to offer cheap, no-frills, high-deductible plans for the young and healthy. As Sally Pipes notes in The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care, there were only 252 mandates in force 30 years ago. Today there are 1,901, an average of 38 per state.

Take a look, for a moment, at the sample list of what Charen considers superfluous state mandates:
  • in vitro fertilization
  • marriage therapy
  • smoking-cessation classes
  • hormone-replacement therapy
  • chiropractor visits

The only item that legitimately belongs in the list is "chiropractor visits", since too many chiropractors should be in jail for promising treatment for things they can offer no cure for. Among the other items, the first thing that strikes me is that conservatives like Charen, who have exploited the religious right for political convenience, regard marriage therapy and in vitro fertilization as superfluous components of health care. You would think that if conservatives were honest about their ideological alignment with the religious right, they would consider marriage therapy as a desirable element of health coverage (sanctity of marriage, remember?) and in vitro fertilization as a desirable component of the culture of life (sanctity of life, remember?). But in order to demonstrate the damage that mandates do, Charen readily dismisses both points.

Smoking-cessation classes save states and insurance companies money, the assumption being that smoking causes long-term costs that are easily offset by the limited cost of smoking-cessation classes, so it is hard to understand what would be bad about this particular mandate if insurance companies would be otherwise reluctant to cover them.

Finally, Charen targets hormone-replacement therapy. So I quote the following paragraph from the NIH (National Institutes of Health):
In the years before and during menopause, the levels of female hormones can go up and down. This can cause symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Some women take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve these symptoms. HRT may also protect against osteoporosis.

Again, Charen's opposition is hard to understand, except in light of this sentence: "That makes it impossible for companies to offer cheap, no-frills, high-deductible plans for the young and healthy." So that's what it is! Charen thinks that young people, who conceivably are in better health and need less insurance coverage than older people, should be given the opportunity to purchase inexpensive plans for catastrophic coverage. Sounds reasonable? Yes, until you consider that this increases the cost of the remainder of the insured population, the people who are more likely to use (and sometimes abuse) more of their insurance coverage. Also, this position does not account for the fact that sometimes even young people would need coverage for things that, under a less expensive plan, would not be covered. Presumably, in such cases, they would be forced to pay retail prices for hospitalization and treatment not covered under their plan, prices which can be several times more expensive for the uninsured/uncovered than the rates negotiated by insurance companies with doctors and hospitals. So you see, in Charen's world insurance companies and hospitals never lose. For common folks it's just like setting foot in a health care casino: sometimes you come out even, but in the long run the house crushes you.

Going back to the subject of excessive mandates, there is another factor to consider, which Charen conveniently avoids to mention: pre-existing conditions. It is not that mandates do not exist to limit the ability of an insurance company or an employer to refuse insurance to an individual based on pre-existing conditions. It's the fact that there is really no limit to what the insurance company may charge the individual to cover pre-existing conditions, which practically forces a large number of individuals to either go without insurance altogether, or to go without coverage for the very condition that threatens them the most, or to move to a country with a humane health care system, if they have the opportunity and the means to do so.

Last word on the subject of mandates: lack of regulation does not enhance results for consumer. Just remember what lack of or relaxed regulations and enforcement have done to the nation in the banking and housing sector, just to mention a recent and dramatic example.

With two paragraphs remaining in her article, Charen focuses her attacks on the real culprits of the health care crisis: "Government involvement in the health-care system, through mandates, has reduced competition (such as forbidding shopping for insurance across state lines)." Charen does not know, or forgets to mention, a few facts. Read this article on the subject. First, it says, it is not a given that competition, in the sense of better coverage at lower costs, would ensue if interstate commerce of health insurance policies were permitted. Second, it states that in fact some insurers have themselves supported the introduction of certain state mandates, for reasons that the article explains. Additionally, Charen fails to explain that the existing limits on the sale of health insurance plans across state lines can be traced back to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. Since then (64 years ago) the alternance of Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses have preferred not to mess with the McCarran-Ferguson act to enable the interstate sale of health care policies. Why? Is it perhaps because of the stifling influence of campaign contributions by the insurance industry to politicians, just to preserve the status quo? (Since 2000, the insurance industry has contributed close to $200 million to politicians, 36% to Democrats and 64% to Republicans. Add to these figures the fact that, in the same period, the health care industry has contributed $590 million dollars to politicians, 42% to Democrats and 58% to Republicans, and you will understand why the more things change the more they stay the same. If you don't believe me go to and check for yourself.)

Time for the final paragraph and Charen's conclusion: "If [President Obama] follows the lead of Great Britain, Canada, or other countries whose systems he admires, he can definitely bring down costs. He can do it the way they have, by rationing care." To support this claim, of course, Charen provides no evidence. (Throw the stone and hide the throwing hand.) Even if that were true, there are clear examples of things that a government backed plan could not and should not support, for example elective plastic surgery, ED medication, and--generally speaking--any treatment or service which can reasonably be deemed superfluous (and I am not talking about marriage therapy, in vitro fertilization, or the other things that Charen dismisses as superfluous). In any case, all you need to do to get a perspective on Charen's claims is to watch Michael Moore's Sicko to see how perilous a step in the British or Canadian direction would be for American patients (hint: not very). Or you can read this excellent article by Ezra Klein instead. Do either thing, or both, and you will be able to see Charen's warnings for what they are: more conservative scaremongering tactics.

"But Americans", concludes Charen, "should bear in mind this summer that when the president promises to get health-care costs under control he is really promising less care. There is a better way. More competition, not less. More market discipline, not less."

Before you rise to your feet and clap the skin off your hands in support of what you may view as Charen's perfect dismount, go and read The Cost Conundrum, Dr. Gawande's splendid and enlightening examination of the reasons why the town of McAllen, TX, has much higher health care costs, but no better hospitals, doctors, or outcomes than the not distant city of El Paso. (Hint: too much unnecessary health care, precisely the kind that Charen warns you you might lose. ) Dr. Gawande explains, in detail, more is not always better. To the contrary.

So there you have it, the witch hunt has begun, regardless of the fact that there are no witches to hunt, but millions of patients to treat without bankrupting them. But conservatives have already made it clear that they create their own reality, and the rest of us are left to comment on it. And that applies not only to military matters, but--apparently-to health care as well.

U.S. Conservatives Care About Europe?

The crowd of neo-cons that has been scoffing at Europe as a ridiculous anachronism, a geographical blip in the radar to be scorned and despised, for all or most of the Bush years is now hyping the results of last weekend's European Parliament elections. That's because the European right has obtain a fairly resounding victory, while the left seems in disarray in many countries. And it is so that American conservatives have been jumping on the European right's bandwagon.

Incorrigible as American conservative spin-masters are, though, they are reporting the election results in ways that are completely unwarranted. For example, they are saying that the results indicate a popular revolt against the bankrupt tax-and-spend policies of the left. This is an unwarranted conclusion. In fact, in some countries like Italy and France, the right has been in power for some time; in such cases, then, there was nothing to revolt against. Instead, such victories are, in my opinion, a result of the xenophobic atmosphere that is starting to take hold in economically depressed nations, where locals are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet in the face of a slow but constant decline in wages and living standards.

This rising wave of xenophobic discontent is not just limited to Italy and France. It is also evident in Holland, the xenophobic Party for Freedom (a name Sean Hannity could have picked himself) garnered 17% of the vote; in the United Kingdom, where the British National Party--a neo-fascist formation--got more than 6% of the vote (in 2005's national election it had only reached 0.7%); in France, where the National Front also earned 6% of the vote; and in Hungary, where the Hungarian neo-fascist Jobbik party almost broke 15%.

(Incidentally, my impressions are corroborated by Stratfor, in an article entitled Europe: Xenophobia Rising. The Italian president, wrote Elisabetta Povoledo in the New York Times less than a month ago, warned that Xenophobia Threatens Italy. I know this to be true, because I am Italian and I just returned from Italy where many of my friends and even family members expressed their "concerns" about "an invasion of foreigners".)

In sum, whereas the left has been incapable of seizing the opportunity to focus the political discourse on the sagging economy and to offer viable alternatives to revive it, the right has been effective at exploiting the rising populist tide and the hostility of the electorate towards immigrants. The right has switched the focus from the failed economic policies of the past few years (of which both political sides are guilty) to a promise of stricter law and order policies, aimed at curbing a wave of rising crime pinned, rightly or wrongly, on the shoulders of outsiders (the Eastern Europeans, North Africans, Indians, Pakistanis that have been flocking to Europe in search of better economic conditions). Kind of like Lou Dobbs does with Mexicans, if you will.

Sadly, none of the above will keep the right's talking heads from making spinning their fictional story of the reason behind the right's victory in last week's European Parliament elections. No conservative likes to be called a racist, after all. It's a label they reserve for Supreme Court nominees picked by the enemy President.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Scandalous Health Care Truths

From an article by Sen. Sanders:
In recent years, while we have experienced an acute shortage of primary health care doctors as well as nurses and dentists, we are paying for a huge increase in health care bureaucrats and bill collectors. Over the last three decades, the number of administrative personnel has grown by 25 times the numbers of physicians. Not surprisingly, while health care costs are soaring, so are the profits of private health insurance companies. From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation's major health insurance companies increased by 170 percent. And, while more and more Americans are losing their jobs and health insurance, the top executives in the industry are receiving lavish compensation packages. It's not just William McGuire, the former head of United Health, who several years ago accumulated stock options worth an estimated $1.6 billion or Cigna CEO Edward Hanway who made more than $120 million in the last five years. The reality is that CEO compensation for the top seven health insurance companies now averages $14.2 million. (Emphasis added.)

If your blood ain't boiling yet...

NeoCorp Backlash Against Health Care Reform Under Way

The usual reactionary forces are in full swing against meaningful health care reform, already.

An organization called Conservatives for Patient Rights has launched a typically misleading ad campaign that paints the Obama administration's health reform effort as a threat to patients' choice (as if the majority of patients had a lot of desirable choices to make in the current insurance-dominated health care landscape.) Its founder and leading spokesman is Rick Scott, is the founder of Columbia Hospital, which later acquired HCA, forming Columbia/HCA, a $23 billion behemoth in the health care sector. Scott was ousted from this post in 1997 after an FBI investigation of Columbia/HCA that led to 14 felony convictions and $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines for Medicare fraud.

Scott is a particularly inauspicious spokesman for loss of choice and the consequences of handing health care to the government, as Think Progress points out:
Scott himself is a poor spokesperson for the consequences of health care rationing. As Lee Fang explains, Scott started the Hospital Corporation of America/Columbia Hospital Corporation, with the goal of doing for hospitals “what McDonald’s has done in the food business.” Through an aggressive strategy of rapid acquisitions and consolidation, Scott turned his business into one of the largest health care companies in the world. But by the time Scott resigned and the company reached a $1.7 billion fraud settlement with the federal government for systematically over-billing Medicare and stealing from taxpayers, HCA/Columbia had become infamous for doing what Scott now so loudly decries: rationing care.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Natural Conclusion

Read Four Right-Wing Supreme Court Justices Argue That Buying Off A Judge Is No Problem and shudder. Then cross your fingers and hope that one or more of the justices that make up the conservative block of SCOTUS (Scalia, Alito, Thomas or Roberts) will be forced to retire while a Democrat is in the White House.

Common Sense Health Care

I lifted the following comment from Robert Reich's Blog. John Lawrence is the name of the fellow who came up with the following considerations about the proper role of insurance in the health care market:
The proper role for private insurance companies is to provide supplemenary insurance above and beyond the basic health care insurance provided by the government as a human right. Wealthy people wanting the ultimate in gold plated insurance would be free to buy additional insurance. This might provide a clause guaranteeing that they would "get to see a doctor right away." Meanwhile everyone should be well-covered by the basic government provided insurance. This is the way it works in Holland and in most European countries where they have universal public insurance coverage at a reasonable cost.

So government provided universal health care insurance does not limit anyone's "freedom" or prevent anyone with the ability to pay to acquire health care insurance up the ying yang. All the freedom talkers about health care have their head up their ying yang, and they pervert the terms of the debate with all the talk about "you're going to have to wait in line."

Could anyone have said it better?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Tornado Near Denver

Well, I never!

Pictures of a funnel cloud near my house, in Denver.

Movie Night

Last night I went to see Outrage, a documentary on the hypocrisy of many political figures and their staffers, who live their lives as gay and lesbians individuals in the closet while backing or even sponsoring bills aimed at keeping their gay brothers and lesbian sisters from achieving equal rights.

My two favorite lines from the documentary:

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Ma, who has openly declared his homosexuality, on the fact that a few homosexual colleagues had been outed by a watchdog organization for their hypocritical voting record: "There is a right to privacy, but not a right to hypocrisy." Exactly.

Rep. Frank, again, on whether Congressman David Dreier, R-CA, was excluded from joining the GOP congressional leadership for being too moderate. "Yes, in the sense that I marched in the 'moderate' pride parade last summer and went to a 'moderate' bar." (In spite of his repeated denials, rumors that Dreier is romantically involved with his chief of staff, Brad W Smith, will not die down.)

Long live Rep. Frank!

Go see Outrage, if it is playing in your city.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Robert Reich's Call To Action

Here is an important contribution to the health care reform debate from former Secretary of Labor (under Bill Clinton) Robert Reich. Read the article and then contact your elected officials to tell them that any health care reform bill should include a full public option, without "triggers." (Read the article and you will know what "triggers" means.)

Do it now!

UPDATE: I have already contacted my two senators from Colorado, my congressional district's representative, and the White House. Go ahead and do your part.

Neo-corp Principles On Display On Health Care Reform

If neo-con is the label that describes the hawkish wing otf the Republican party in terms of foreign policy, perhaps neo-corp should be the label we use for those Republicans hell-bent on squashing any meaningful reform (concerning health care, energy, environmental policy, you name it) that threatens the crushing power that big business exerts on the enslaved people of America.

Health care reform has been in the news more than almost any other topic in the last few weeks. Here are a few notable reasons why (via National Coalition On Health Care, where you can find much more information on health care issues and reform):
  • Health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.
  • In 2008, the United States will spend 17 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. It is projected that the percentage will reach 20 percent by 2017.
  • In contrast, health care spending accounted for 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  • Premiums for employer-based health insurance rose by 5.0 percent in 2008. In 2007, small employers saw their premiums, on average, increase 5.5 percent. Firms with less than 24 workers, experienced an increase of 6.8 percent.
  • Since 1999, employment-based health insurance premiums have increased 120 percent, compared to cumulative inflation of 44 percent and cumulative wage growth of 29 percent during the same period.
  • The average employee contribution to company-provided health insurance has increased more than 120 percent since 2000. Average out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits rose 115 percent during the same period.
  • Economists have found that rising health care costs correlate to drops in health insurance coverage.
  • A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that the average out-of-pocket medical debt for those who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. The study noted that 68 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. In addition, the study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses. Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.
  • According to a recent report, the United States has $480 billion in excess spending each year in comparison to Western European nations that have universal health insurance coverage. The costs are mainly associated with excess administrative costs and poorer quality of care. And, finally
  • The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.
This list, you will agree, contains some truly staggering data about the sickening state of the health care system in the United States.

The last two bullets points I quoted are particularly significant, because the thing that most Western European nations have in common is that they have a publicly financed and managed health care system; so, it would seem, that moving toward a "public health care option", i.e. one in which the government provides health care to those who elect it over private insurance, would be the way to go.

A public health care option, comparable to Medicaid and Medicare, would have the likely advantage of reducing costs, while at the same time preserving a system in which private insurance would still have a role to play for those free market idealists who are eager to keep paying rate increases of at least 5-6% each year, if not more, for the privilege of "sticking it" to their socialist-minded fellow countrymen. But that, for the neo-corps, is not acceptable. Never mind that the core idea of the free-market is that true, unfettered competition between providers of a service or manufacturers of a product ultimately leads to better products and services at more affordable prices. Health care made in America is proof that this is a myth.

Enter minority senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, whose quote below (from the AP) typifies the stance of the Republican party on all matters that have an impact on their idea of free market (one in which corporations are free to do as they please in pursuit of profits and where the public has to rescue corporations that have become "too big to fail" or that suffer because of their poor decisions and management choices):
The key to a bipartisan bill is to not have a government plan in the bill, no matter what it's called. When I say no government plan, I mean no government plan. Not something described some other way, not something that gets us to the same place by indirection [sic]. No government plan.

Here is a translation for the politically illiterate uninsured or under-insured person in the United States: "Screw you, you sickly, whiny fuck."

It's just grand how the Republicans' idea of bipartisanship, translated in plain English, is "we can all get along if you just do things our way, without concessions." Don't you love the way the neo-corps do their lobbies' dirty work? Well, thanks but no thanks, Sen. McConnell. We can do just fine without your sick idea of bipartisanship.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Robert Kuttner On Health Care Reform

Just as I was reading this article by Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, I heard a short debate on MSNBC on the possibility that a health care reform plan would include taxation of health benefits. What is wrong with this country? Why is it okay to squander trillions of dollars on wars of choice, on corporate welfare, on tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, but we must tax health care benefits to provide universal access to guaranteed health care?

I guess that is what Kuttner means when he says that "[i]f Obama is not careful, he could end up with reform that is worse than the current system." (And his article does not even mention the possibility that health care benefits might get taxed.)

Dr. Tiller: Saint Or Killer?

According to the Bill O'Reilly's and the Randal Terry's of the world, Dr. Tiller was a "killer". In repeating this meme, they contributed to the doctor's murder. But for others Dr. Tiller was an iconic figure, a courageous health care worker who provided a service that few others offered in a country that bought the demonization of "late term abortion" part and parcel. Here are two interesting articles from the latter camp, painting a much more human portrait of the late Dr. Tiller: The Compassion Of Dr. Tiller, by Michelle Goldberg, and The Truth About Abortion Reduction, by Sarah Posner.

Whatever you think of abortion, it is legal, highly regulated, and subject to severe restrictions (much more so, for example, than guns, another staple of the same crowd that claims to defend the culture of life). It seems to me that too many people, on both ends of the abortion debate spectrum, do not have a complete and impartial view of the issue. I, for one, would appreciate the opportunity to be educated by arguments appealing to reason rather than emotion.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Reagan's Distorted Legacy

I just finished reading an important and illuminating book on the legacy Ronald Reagan bequeathed to our generation. The book, Tear Down This Myth, written by Pulitzer winning reporter Will Bunch, sheds much light on some of the most misunderstood aspects of the Reagan years and on the mythology that was created in service of the GOP's patron saint by callous and deceitful hagiographers, including Reagan's role in ending the Cold War, his deranged marriage to the supply-side economic theory (which haunt us to this day and will haunt us for years to come, his divisive social policies, and on and on and on).

An excellent and more succinct complement to the book is this article by Robert Parry, on the deformed legacy that conservative hagiographers have been peddling about the 40th president.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On The Murder Of Dr. Tiller

No matter which side of the abortion debate you stand on, the murder of Dr. Tiller is an appalling end to a human life. The fact that he himself has ended a number of innocent lives through his daily work does not matter: Whatever you may think of the man, he was acting within the bounds of the law of the land.

When anti-abortion advocates say that Dr. Tiller "had it coming", they are taking the position that their God's will has been done. They are offering their support to the murderer who decided to take the law in his hands imagining that god is on his side. This is what happens when men decide to bypass the legal confines of society in pursuit of their idea of justice.

When such events take place, then, some people carry more responsibility than others for fostering a climate in which these tragedies can take place. One such person is Frank Shaeffer, son of the late evangelical leader Francis Shaeffer. He takes responsibility and apologises for lending his mind in support of the atmosphere that made Dr. Tiller's murder possible.

When you hear someone condemn Dr. Tiller's activities or justify his murder with platitudes like "you live by the sword", or "you shall reap what you have sown", remind them that Dr. Tiller no more had it coming than a lawyer who defends a murderer or an aviator on the Enola Gay or a worker at a slaughterhouse. The world is full of people who perform a job despised by a part of the population, more or less strongly. Imagine what would happen if anyone armed with unshakable beliefs in a particular worldview, a self-appointed executioner of immoral men, decided to take matters in his hands to right what he sees as an abominable wrong.

This episode also highlights a fact which is more typical of the United States than of almost anywhere else in the civilized world: The widespread and largely unchecked availability of firearms, while legal, constitutes a clear and present danger to those of us who choose to live peacefully and seek reasonable means of conflict resolution through the available legal channels. It also reinforces the feeling in predisposed subjects that the law is a subjective domain, to be administered by those who are ready to act according to a superior sense of morality derived from divinity and/or superstitious beliefs.
Copyright 2004-2012