Monday, January 31, 2011

Ross Douthat's Intelligent Take on the Egyptian Crisis

If you read this blog often enough, you might have the distinct impression that I am unnecessarily harsh with conservatives. I am harsh, just not unnecessarily. The reason is that there are few sincere conservative thinkers around, and by sincere I mean that they are expressing their honest personal opinion, instead of the opinion of their puppet masters. The conservative world is full of hacks, like Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Hannity, Boehner, McConnell; or of innocently misguided individuals, who regurgitate the Right's talking points without understanding them or appreciating the gravity of what they are saying and the dangers inherent in the world view they propose.

So when a conservative says something intelligent, it is worth highlighting it. It shows other conservatives that you can be a conservative without being either a puppet-master or a puppet; and it shows liberals that we can have a civilized conversation about policy and the direction of the country, even though we certainly will disagree on many things, if not most of them.

Enough of the introduction. Ross Douthat is a conservative, he is intelligent, and he is often a good read, so kudos to the New York Times for bringing him into their fold to replace the stunningly incompetent and dishonest William Kristol. The piece I am recommending to you is The Devil We Know. Rather than giving a knee-jerk and ideological assessment of the situation in Egypt, as conservatives are wont to do in pursuit of an ever more manifest imperial foreign policy, Douthat acknowledges that U.S. meddling in foreign crises often leads to undesirable and unintended results. "History", he says, "makes fools of us all."

What We Could Learn From Egypt

For days now, Egyptian protesters have filled the streets of their nation to protest against a 30-year long dictatorship and rising economic inequality. Considering that income inequality is much higher in the United States of America than in Egypt, one might wonder why U.S. citizens have not taken to the streets like their Egyptian counterparts. Better TV choices?

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect Magazine, also wonders Where's the Protest at Home? (Clue: Methinks a comma is missing in his title.)

The USA, Like Sarah Palin

Has the US of A become a nation of quitters, like the half-a-term Governor of Alaska? Apparently. "U.S. researchers will soon abandon their search for the most coveted particle in high-energy physics because of a lack of funding", reports Science magazine in an article picked up by Laurence Lewis of the Daily Kos.

Sadly, as Lewis points out, "we've been spending more on the war in Afghanistan just over every six hours than is needed to continue searching for the most coveted particle in high-energy physics. For a year. Does this sound like a nation looking toward the future, or a nation in decline?"

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Splendid Call To Action for U.S. Liberals

William Greider wrote an extraordinarily profound analysis of the current political situation titled The End of New Deal Liberalism. In it, he exposes Barack Obama and the Democrats' fecklessness--even better, their complicity--with the ruling class, denounces their allegiance with corporate interests to the detriment of society, and insists that change must come from the bottom, from the disenfranchised and exploited, from those whose future opportunity is being hijacked, destroyed. He warns that substantive change will be a long time coming, that it will be a decades-long project, and that it will almost certainly involve connecting with groups (like the Tea Party) who are enemies of liberalism, at least conceptually, but whose base and whose grievances have more affinity with the bottom of society than with the top.

Greider's article is insightful and intelligent, and it should be essential reading for those who want to build a different America and a different, better future for the generations that will follow ours.

Cast of Characters in the 2012 Republican Primaries

It is increasingly likely that the following individuals will all run in the 2012 presidential primaries:

Add to the mix the incomparably vacuous, anti-masturbation, witchcraft-following Christine O'Donnell, and you would have the tetrafecta from hell, at least for the GOP.

These three (or four) women are kryptonite for gray matter, and could very well be the quicksand that gobbles up whatever part of the GOP is left standing after 2 years of attacks by teabaggers.

If these ignorant, ignorance- and prejudice-peddling women are the really the best that the right has to offer in the 2012 presidential primaries, the right may be in more trouble than anyone could have imagined after the shellacking they inflicted on Democrats just two months ago. And if one of them does well enough to approach to the finish line as a real contender, then the whole country is in more trouble than we can fix in the span of a few elections.

It will be a bipolar primary season.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pinheads and Nazis

Pinhead is how Bill O'Reilly refers to people who do not have the intellectual capacity to understand the things that are obvious to him. So, with thanks to Jon Stewart, it is with particular pleasure that I present to you the latest instalment of Bill-O' the Pinhead (one of many to come, I am sure).

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Civility, Schmivility

David Michal Green, bless him, is not interested in being civil to those who are "seeking to take what we have so that they can live ever wealthier lives while ours are short, nasty and brutish because of their institutionalized and legalized theft."

Hopefully the number of people who see things with his clarity will rise as he keeps publishing his thoughts at The Regressive Antidote.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is America

Ronald Flanagan's two cents? He believes his private health insurer "does not value human health, but rather, the bottom line." Hard to disagree, since Ceridian Cobra Services cancelled Mr. Flanagan's policy because he underpaid his bill by two cents. $.02, that's right.

Now, Mr. Flanagan, a cancer patient scheduled to have a biopsy before his policy was cancelled, is left with no coverage, fighting for his life.

This is America, where Republicans are fighting to repeal the health care bill that Democrats passed last year, which would prevent exactly this kind of gross injustice from taking place.

One word for the Ceridian executives and managers who designed and enacted the policy that resulted in Mr. Flanagan's coverage being dropped for an accidental underpayment of two cents: I hope you will live long enough to regret your decision and to suffer the consequences of it if you don't mend your murderous ways. Needless to say, the same words apply to all the politicians who are fighting to put corporate interests ahead of the lives of Americans, and all those who support them.

Nouriel Roubini: U.S. Headed For Deficit Train Wreck

Ignore Dr. Roubini's predictions at your peril. This is the man who rang the alarm bell in 2006 about the housing and credit crises that were about to hit the U.S. and world economies.

Today, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Dr. Roubini warned that the U.S. is headed against a Eurozone-like financial disaster, unless the deficit is addressed seriously. Think the clowns in Washington are the right people to do anything seriously and, more importantly, equitably?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU in a Nutshell

A condensed analysis of last night't State of the Union address (based on what I read about it since I refused to watch it).

Obama: "The future is ours to win."
Translation: Hope! [Again? Who does he think we are? Bush voters?]

Republican response by Paul Ryan: "[insert lies here] yadda yadda yadda... Our day of reckoning is around the corner."
Translation: Fear for your lives and the lives of your children, and your soon to be communist grandchildren.
[And yet, the incomparably douchy Frank Luntz managed to call Paul Ryan the star of the night and his speech positive.]

Tea Party response by Michele Bachmann: Seriously, who gives a fuck what Bachmann has to say?

My Take On The State of the Union Address

I guess the president gave another great speech: what makes us great is that we are all Americans... State of the Union is strong... cut spending... painful... preserve Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid... strengthen... sacrifice... reduce waste... wealthy 2% ... do their part... thank the military... cut more waste... salmon... reform Government... blah blah blah.

It's 7:27 P.M. Mountain Time. The President is not even halfway through his address. I am watching the NFL Replay of the Steelers - Jets game from Sunday. First time in 18 years I am not watching the State of the Union. Tired of great speeches, followed by too many broken promises. Right now, I feel like an abused, battered spouse.

Nothing good will happen with a Republican House and a Democratic President. Please do not write that the best things happened when Presidents had to work with a Congress in the hands of the opposition. It's the holy schmible, it just ain't true.

All the greatest American achievements of the recent past have come with a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress: The New Deal and The Great Society set the tone for the prosperity that endured until the 1980's, when Republicans started The Great Repeal Project, by which I mean Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin's refudiation of the evils of socialism.

Leave the levers of power long enough in the hands of Republican Presidents with a Republican Congress (or with the Democratic majorities we have grown accustomed to, where a few spineless and/or corrupt representatives and senators can tilt the balance in their opponents' favor) and they will soon manage to re-segregate schools or cut aid to public education (which would achieve the same result), privatize Social Security, destroy Medicare and Medicaid, do away with the EPA (which Gingrich suggested today, again), eliminate most regulations in the financial and insurance sector (including health care), all to the benefit of those who need no help. Need I go on?

Republican Propaganda Organ Is Populated by Hypocrites?

Shocking news from Comedy Central! Fox News is populated by hypocrites!
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Bipartisanship Is Where the (Republican) Heart Is

Mitch McConnell (KY-R), Senate Minority Leader: "If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway, we’re not going to say no." In other words, the art of Republican negotiation. Sadly, President Obama seems to be an admirer.

As Bill Maher said in last week's Real Time (and I am paraphrasing), Democrats can find common ground where Republicans are already standing. One of these days, Democrats will catch on just as surely as the sun rises. Right?

Republican = Hypocrite

I think it's about time the Merriam-Webster added Republican to the list of synonyms for hypocrite.

Here is the latest proof.

And here is more proof, with visuals.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[Clarification: the poor dude in the video with Dylan Ratigan is a journalist, not a Republican]

Should Clarence Thomas Be Impeached?

In case you haven't heard, we have a couple of Supreme Court Justices who have been involved in fundraisers and political activity for the right wing organized by some of the biggest corporate interests in the world. The two are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas. It is rather ironic that they would let themselves get involved with corporation-sponsored political retreats and events since they like to call themselves "originalists", and many of the Founding Fathers considered corporations the greatest threat to the democracy they had founded. In fact, the Founding Fathers would probably be shocked to know of Citizens United, which further affirmed the concept that corporations are human too (see "corporate personhood").

Justice Thomas was recently in the news when his wife, Ginni Thomas, left a voice mail for Anita Hill, asking the poor woman why she has not apologized to her husband in all these years for smearing him during his Senate confirmation hearings with accusations of sexual harassment. That is not the kind of publicity that a SCJ might have wanted, but alas, Ginni had different ideas for her husband.

As it turns out, Ginni Thomas has again become a source of trouble for her husband. Scratch that. She may not be a source of trouble, but she features in the latest Clarence Thomas fiasco.

As Politico reports,
Like all federal judges, Thomas must file annual disclosure reports on his personal finances, but he had omitted details of his wife’s earnings in what he wrote was a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.” He also had checked a box marking no spousal income.

After this discovery surfaced, Justice Thomas had to amend 13 years' worth of financial disclosures, to include his wife's income from sources like the Heritage Foundation and the Republican leadership in the House.

Common Cause, the watchdog organization that made the discovery about Ginni Thomas's undisclosed income, says that Justice Thomas explanation for the omission is implausible, as the Daily Kos reports:
“Justice Thomas sits on the highest court of the land, is called upon daily to understand and interpret the most complicated legal issues of our day and makes decisions that affect millions,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form. We find his excuse is implausible.”

As Jed Lewison correctly points out in his Daily Kos post, "[i]f Clarence Thomas violated the public trust, he has no place on the Supreme Court -- he ought to be impeached and removed from office."

I'd say so, wouldn't you?

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm Just Saying...

Obviously, the fact that a person chooses to be a soldier does not free him from the responsibility of paying his or her debts. In fact, you might even say that the military has a stronger culture of repayment of debts than the rest of society. For example, "outstanding debts or bad credit can lead to a revocation of security clearances, because a service member could be viewed as susceptible to bribes from foreign governments", reports Chris Kirkham for the Huffington Post.

Continues Kirkham:
"The thing with the military is the paychecks aren't large, but they're absolutely guaranteed twice a month," Petraeus told HuffPost. "And the military has a culture that says, 'You will pay your bills.' Definitely troops are well-aware of that, and they're afraid of the consequences if they don't. So that gives real leverage to lenders who will sometimes threaten them, or take advantage of their fear of getting in trouble with their units."

So, it seems that there are many out there who are ready to prey on the weaknesses and the circumstances of American soldiers. Actually, they are ready to prey on anyone, not just soldiers. And our Congress and our President allow this to happen because, after all, this is the country of personal responsibility (but not of corporate responsibility; that is never at issue).

And before you jump to conclusions, since my political bias is well known, I am not pointing fingers at Republicans. There is, in fact, enough blame to go around.

"Change you can believe in" and "Country First" were just slogans, I guess.

Rahm Emanuel's Incompetence Finally Catches Up With Him

The advice President Obama got from his former Chief of Staff hasn't exactly been cause for rave reviews. As you know, I am not a fan of Rahm Emanuel. But we may now have evidence that not only did Emanuel give the President all the wrong advice, he is also incompetent: an Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that Emanuel's name, who left the White House to join the race to become the next Mayor of Chicago, must be taken off the ballot because Emanuel has not been a resident of Chicago for the past year. Ooooops!

That gives me a certain kind of guilty glee, although I fear that he might now return to the White House in some capacity. What's good for Chicago may be bad for the rest of us. I am torn.

Now That Keith Olbermann Is, How Much BS Will Go Unchallenged?

I fear that in the wake of Keith Olbermann's sudden exit from MSNBC there will be a deluge of comparisons between his rhetoric and that of personalities on Fox News. I have not called them personalities by chance: none of them are journalists. Nor, necessarily, is Olbermann. But the difference is macroscopic, it does not require in-depth analysis. Even at first glance, Olbermann was a giant of journalistic ethics compared to his charlatan "counterparts" at Fox or most of the insipid reporters and pundits at CNN.

I could go on to write a whole new post about false equivalences, the abysmal treatment of reality and facts by Fox News compared with the strong factual basis for Olbermann's rants (his "Special Comments" or his "Worst Persons" segments), or the void that Olbermann departure will leave, a void that can only be filled in part by the superlative Rachel Maddow.

Instead, I will link to A Tribute to Olbermann: Why He Is Different From the Pundits at Fox News. It sums up everything I would have come up with, and does so with more clarity than I could have mustered.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eighth Trip to the Super Bowl!

Go Steelers! You never make it easy on the heart, but we love you!!!!

Gleeful Republican Idiots: the WSJ's Very Own Stephen Moore

Last Friday, Stephen Moore, member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, appeared--again!--on Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. I consider Stephen Moore as a fairly typical pro-establishment, pro-corporate rule Republican, only with a much higher ability to be annoying than the average representative of that group, which makes Moore the recipient of my very own first Gleeful Idiot Award.

In quick succession, Moore stated that Americans don't like "Obamacare" because it is a "government takeover" of the system. Challenged by host Bill Maher and guest Rachel Maddow about that claim (which was selected by Politifact as Lie of the Year in 2010), he corrected himself and said that well, it is leading to government health care.

Then he forcefully denied that the individual mandate requirement was originally a Republican idea, until Maddow pointed out to him that it was part of the Republican's response to Bill (and Hillary) Clinton's health care reform plan in 1994.

Next, Moore expressed his support for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, and idea which deserved all the ridicule it ever got, and continues to get to this day.

The last idiotic statement he made before I stopped keeping score of the idiotic things Moore said, all in the space of roughly 25 minutes, was the claim that the Reagan tax cuts benefited the people at the bottom more than the people at the top, which Maddow promptly debunked, WITH FACTS (the number of poor increased under President Reagan, and the tax cuts overwhelmingly favored the top 1% of earners, with measly benefits for average Americans--well-below inflation). David Stockman, former Budget Office Director-under Ronald Reagan,no less--offered his own rebuttal to Moore on the goodness of Reagan's tax cuts, saying that the United States has yet to recover from the disastrous deficit consequences they caused.

It looks like the number of "expert economists" who still believe the kind of crackpot ideas that Stephen Moore believes in is so small that the WSJ had to ask, well... Stephen Moore himself to be on the WSJ's Editorial Board. Keep that in mind when anyone recommends to you a "good read" from the WSJ, particularly if penned by Stephen Moore.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Let's See How Far This Goes (Likely, Not Far)

The citizens of Vermont, bless them, are rising against "corporate personhood". Good for them.

State Sen. Virginia Lyons will be bringing to the Vermont legislature a resolution that proposes "an amendment to the United States Constitution ... which provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States." According Christopher Ketcham, whose article appeared recently on Alternet, "[s]ources in the state house say it has a good chance of passing."

It is unlikely that corporate personhood will be revoked by amendement any time soon, if ever, but we owe Sen. Lyons and the people of Vermont a big thanks for trying to bring back sanity to a system in which corruption has become institutionalized thanks to corporation's overwhelming power on the political stage. The process needs to start somewhere, and Vermont is where it starts.

Life Without Olbermann

Last night, Keith Olbermann announced that last night's Countdown was to be his last. The reasons for his departure are not known, but it was pretty obvious that his relationship with MSNBC executives, Phil Griffin in particular, had become strained to the point of rupture, which is what happened.

Where Olbermann goes from here is unknown at this point. We do know that he won't be back on the TV any time soon, due to contractual restraints. He could take a radio show, write op-eds or books, (be a guest on other shows?), or go into politics. Who knows. As far as I am concerned, I would vote for Olbermann for President. How good would an Olbermann/Maddow ticket be? Though they are journalists, not politicians, that would be precisely the source of their appeal.

All we know for now is that we have lost a voice of clarity and truth in an increasingly bullshit-chocked news panorama. It's a sad departure and it will be made sadder by the gloating of his enemies at Fox News, who will now have one less formidable opponent to worry about.

I will end this post with DarkSyde's excellent farewell, from the pages of the Daily Kos:
I know we we're all disappointed to hear Keith Olbermann announce his last show last night. And I dearly hope to see the entire Countdown production staff grace my screen again. But on the off chance he is reading this, Mr. Olbermann and the entire crew, I consider myself lucky to have been among your viewers. You have withstood years of non stop threats, ugly mis-characterizations, and abuse from the usual suspects, you battled unending internal corporate bullshit and ended the suffering of countless thousands with your focus on healthcare clinics and the injustices of for profit insurance. You stood for the middle class when few did, when it would have been so much easier, and so, so much more profitable to just go along. And sir, you did it with the satirical wit of Jon Stewart and the piercing clarity of Edward R. Murrow that made you the number one slot on your entire network. That you did all this while losing both your mother and father brings tears to my eyes but hope to my heart.

If you want to take a break for the rest of your freakin life and compile baseball stats or scout the minor leagues for talent, you have earned it many times over.

Well said. And now, good night, and good luck.

Friday, January 21, 2011

See? Americans Do Agree on Something!

Joan McCarter of the Daily Kos draws attention to a New York Times article that shows that a majority of Americans want to protect Medicare and Social Security from cuts, and agree that the first thing Congress should cut is military expenditures.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI,, the U.S. government spends as much on military expenditures as the next 15 countries combined. The second country in the world is China, which spends about 8 times less than the U.S. Russia, the once great foe of the United States, spends one tenth as much as the U.S. Methinks we can cut the military budget a bit (waddya say, by half?) and still be the dominant force in the UNIVERSE, even if it means launching a war every 50 years instead of every 25.

So good for you, America! Maybe you're smarter and not as divided as pundits make you out to be.

Recommended Entertainment

I just came across this website, Flame Warriors. Have fun with it. (Thanks to Steve Schuler for "leading" me to it.)

The One Year Anniversary of a Shameful Ruling

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, in which the conservative judicial activists of the Supreme Court decided to sweep away decades of settled law and restrictions on corporate contributions to political campaigns instead of just issuing a ruling limited to facts of the case.

I regret that at the time, caught as I was in the frenzy that followed the Citizens United decision, I was a bit too quick to announce that the Supreme Court had spelled the death of democracy with its ruling. A few days later, Ed Brayton wrote the following on his blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

I know a lot of liberals are very upset by yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v FEC, but frankly I think it's much ado about little. The standard reaction seems to be: "Oh my god, corporations can now spend tons of money to influence the outcome of elections." But I've got news for you: They already do that. They always have. And the campaign finance laws did not prevent it.

And also this:

The fact is that the campaign finance law that the court struck down was never really intended to reduce corporate influence over elections in the first place. It was designed to give the illusion of reducing corporate influence over elections.

In a world where the haves have many hundred times as much as the have-nots do, and where the profits of corporations are expressed in billions of dollars, Brayton is absolutely on point when he says that "campaign finance laws were designed to give the illusion of reducing corporate influence over elections." Who are we kidding?

Nevertheless, the ruling did two notable things: Instantly, it destroyed the notion that judicial activism is a prerogative of the left, which is a well-known talking point of the right. Also, as I wrote at the time on this blog,

[Citizens United] further reinforces the opinion that money is a natural means of securing free speech, and that corporations are entitled to the same free speech protections in the political arena as individuals do without being exposed to the same liabilities that are attached to physical persons. Corporations cannot be put to death, they cannot be imprisoned, they do not have post bail, and so forth. This creates a class of supercitizens that the Founding Fathers would not conceivably have endorsed. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary: Founding Fathers feared the rise of corporation against the interest of the nascent Union. How supposed originalists like Scalia and Thomas failed to see this is a testament not to their dedication to preserving the original intent of the Constitution but to the degree of their subservience to the particular interests they represent.

Still, I have to agree not only with Brayton's assessment, but with what Chris Hedges wrote on Truthdig, when he called democracy in America "a useful fiction". In that article, Hedges said
The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

I recommend that you read Hedges's article in its entirety, as it contains a clear insight of how American democracy has been deprived of any substance.

Whereas campaign finance laws certainly contributed to the death of democracy, what really did democracy in is the advent of media conglomeration, as well as the repeal of the fairness doctrine under President Reagan. Though in different guises, many have expressed the concept that, to function properly, democracy requires an informed electorate. A correctly informed electorate, I would say. How well-informed can our voters be when there are "news" organizations like Fox News, the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, to name a few, and when the airwaves are filled with the incoherent, hateful, and lie-filled rants of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin's, and many others (including the occasional liberal)?
In retrospect, I have to admit that news of the death of democracy because of Citizens United were greatly exaggerated: How many times can you kill a corpse?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Health Care And the Cost of (Republican) Freedom

Republicans are forcing their hand on health care. Short of repealing the Affordable Care Act, which they cannot do--at least while there is a Democrat in the White House, they are seeking to defund the law that Congress passed last year. That is a real threat, one that angers me and those who, like me, suffer from chronic illnesses (not to mention those who suffer from illnesses that will lead to their death if not adequately treated).

I know my case is not exceptional, and that there are many who are in a much worse predicament. And that is exactly what is so frightening about my case: it is so typical.

Currently, I enjoy fairly decent health insurance coverage via my employer, and--as long as I remain employed--the worst things I have to worry about are the yearly increase in premiums, increasing co-pays, and declining benefits (at least until I find out otherwise). However, whether I like my employer or not, and for the most part I do, I do not have the leisure to quit and take a better offer. Why? Because I suffer from two chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions are, in this country and in this country alone, a curse that never goes away. Even now, after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, this is what the law provides for in the area of pre-existing conditions: [emphases added]
For most plans starting on or after September 23, these rules stop insurance companies from imposing pre-existing condition exclusions on your children; prohibit insurers from rescinding or taking away your coverage based on an unintentional mistake on an application; ban insurers from setting lifetime limits on your coverage; and restrict their use of annual limits on coverage.

Starting July 1, Americans locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition can begin enrolling in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). This program offers insurance without medical underwriting to people who have been unable to get it because of a preexisting condition. It ends in 2014, when the ban on insurers refusing to cover adults with pre-existing conditions goes into effect and individuals will have affordable choices through Exchanges – the same choices as members of Congress.

(Source: The Affordable Care Act’s New Patient’s Bill of Rights)

That sounds like a fairly decent deal. However, notice a couple of things in the preceding paragraphs: annual limits on coverage are restricted (but not banned until 2014, when they finally will be). This may sound reasonable, depending on the limits or the condition a patient suffers from, but it does not offer total peace of mind for the chronically or gravely ill. Also, refusal to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions for adults is not outlawed until 2014. In the meantime, people can enroll in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which comes with its own set of concerns.

First concern: PCIP is not available in all states. For example, it is not available in my state of Colorado, because Colorado has opted to run the PCIP program itself. That's fine now, the rates seem pretty reasonable. But as states face growing budget shortfalls, guess what might happen to premiums, deductibles, co-pays, etc.? What then?

Also, note that in order to be eligible for PCIP enrollment a) you must have been uninsured for at least the last six months; b) if you currently have insurance coverage that doesn’t cover your medical condition or are enrolled in a state high risk pool, you are not eligible for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan; and c) you must have a pre-existing condition or have been denied coverage because of your health condition. (Source: Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan home page)

The rules that limit to PCIP enrollment are disturbing for the following reasons: first, access to PCIP is limited to those who meet strict eligibility rules; second, even those who are eligible to enroll are subjected to a waiting period of at least six months. Tell me: who pays for medical expenses during those six months?

Overall, the changes introduced by the Affordable Care Act are far from comprehensive or adequate, at least until 2014; they still leave a lot of gaps and a lot of questions to be answered. And yet, they are a step in the right direction because they start addressing the uniquely American system deficiencies that cause people to go without adequate care, or to go bankrupt while they are fighting for their lives, and because they unchain many Americans from the yoke of unhappy employment, allowing them to look for better opportunities elsewhere without the threat of being exposed to loss of health care or unreasonable costs (and you would think that Republicans, who always pose as friends of opportunity and free enterprise, would love that).

These changes seem like a step in the right direction for everyone, except for Republicans. In fact, Republicans are so unhappy with them that they would rather destroy a law which has the potential to improve the lives of countless Americans. Why? Because it is a government takeover of health care and, with it, the government is taking away your freedom. You heard me right: Republicans are STILL painting their opposition to the new health care laws as a principled stand for freedom, against a government takeover.

Leave aside the fact that the so-called government takeover of the health care system (the lie of 2010, according to the independent fact-checking organization Politifact) is set to deliver 40 million new customers in the hands of... insurance companies. What freedom exactly is the Affordable Care Act taking from us? The freedom to be sick and die without care? I guess Republicans think that I should thank them because they are fighting to preserve my freedom to die, or to go bankrupt while I try to get better.

The word freedom, in the mouths of Republicans, has lost all meaning. It has lost its uplifting nature and has been disfigured into a scare-word, the dog-whistle that the Republican Party successfully uses when they want the American people to willingly give up something that many generations have had to fight for, or that they are on the verge of achieving. Conquests that have worked for decades like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, are all under assault. How could it be? Because, say Republicans, they are an assault on your freedom. Say what?!?

A crazy gunman loads an extended magazine, capable of holding over 30 rounds, into a Glock and kills 6 and injures 18, so someone says "let's ban extended magazines". Not guns, mind you, just extended magazines. And Republicans scream "Freedom is under attack!", and nothing ever changes, nothing ever improves, nothing ever gets done. And people, increasingly apathetic and dumb, and outFoxed, fall for that trick every single time.

Make no mistake: The Republican Party is no friend of freedom. It is more and more like a tyrannical power that seeks to stifle dissent using patriotism as a pretext, that seeks to destroy critical thought (see their proud, avowed anti-intellectualism) and any criticism of its "pure" motives. Its only interests are never-ending wars and total deregulation. They do not care about you, they do not care about me, and they will not be happy until we are at the complete mercy of the corporations that they pave the road for.

There is no doubt that the Republican Party has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and of the corporations that the Chamber represents. It is obvious that their god is not the Christian god they profess to worship but Mammon. It is obvious that the only language they hear and respond to is the language of political corruption and bribery. And, for these reasons, it is not surprising that they are hell-bent (and I do hope that it is not just a figure of speech) on dismantling any and all improvements in access to and in the cost of health care services, just as they are hell-bent on destroying Social Security (under the pretense of strengthening it, no less), just as they have successfully fought to weaken unions to the point of irrelevance, just as they have started to starve our public education system by introducing charter schools, which are just the Republican Trojan horse to eventually reallocate all public funds to private schools.

The Republican Party's assault on everything public, everything good, is despicable enough when it does not directly lead to the death of Americans. But when it rises to the homicidal level of denying care to the sick it is not just despicable, it is outright criminal. And those who support Republican policies aimed at achieving the total depletion of the Commons to the sole and reckless advantage of the private sector are accomplices, who should be exposed and treated as such. They are, intentionally or not, acting against the Constitution that are supposedly defending from "the enemy within" (liberals, homosexuals, immigrants, "the Washington elite"). A Constitution, let's not forget, designed in such a manner as to make it possible "to form a more perfect Union", "[to] insure domestic Tranquility," and to "promote the general Welfare" of its people. Sure enough, the Constitution was also established to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Liberty, you know, freedom. The Founding Fathers could hardly have envisioned that the word liberty, freedom, would have become little more than a dog-whistle in Republican hands.

Not one Constitution-loving Republican has yet been able to explain how the Union is made more perfect by leaving people to die without care, how domestic tranquility is promoted by creating millions of angry survivors who know that their dear one's life might have been saved anywhere else in the civilized world, or by creating an ever growing underclass of have-nots, or by egregiously and willfully failing to promote--scratch that: consciously sabotaging--the general welfare of its people.

I will patiently wait for an answer. Until one pre-existing condition or another mercifully finishes its job.

At Least Moderate Americans Are Catching On

Public Policy Polling: Public Trust In Fox News Is Plummeting

A highlight from the report: "moderates and liberals have both had a strong increase in their level of distrust for the network- a 12 point gain from 48% to 60% for moderates and a 16 point gain from 66% to 82% for liberals." Note that the increase is in distrust, a negative sign, then.

Scalia, Thomas's Role in Citizens United Questioned

Hot off the presses, the group Common Cause issued the following statement on its website:
Common Cause is asking the Justice Department to investigate the apparent involvement of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in political strategy sessions hosted by Koch Industries, the nation’s second largest privately held company. Common Cause contends that these activities, if substantiated, constitute a conflict of interests that would require the Court to vacate its judgment in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a landmark ruling that ended restrictions on corporate and union political spending.

Read the full letter that Common Cause sent to the DOJ.
And by the way, did you notice how cries of judicial activism from the Right were conspicuously absent in Citizens United?

Correlation is Not Causation, But...

Economist Mike Kimel has a very interesting post about what happens to various economic indicators as the top marginal tax rate varies. For example, writes Kimel, "higher top marginal tax rates have been associated with faster, not slower real economic growth. Conversely, lower top marginal tax rates have coincided with less economic growth."

This is not new news, but it is a good reminder that when conservative think-tanks and conservative media predict that higher tax rates are bad for employment and the economy they are at best using data that are unsubstantiated by facts to scare you and, at worst, intentionally deceiving you.

A Douche 'til the Very End

Sen Lieberman is retiring, good riddance Sen. Lieberman.

In his "exit" interview on MSNBC, Sen. Lieberman insisted that Saddam had WMD's contrary to all evidence, and even to his "daddy's" (W's) words, and he condescendingly referred to Arianna Huffington, with whom he had just had a contentious discussion on the subject of WMD's, as "sweetheart". To put things in perspective, it's as if Arianna had addressed him as "genius" at the end of the interview.

Kudos to Arianna for saying this: "Well, based on this completely unfounded assumption [that WMD's existed], I sincerely hope for the sake of the country that you do not become Secretary of Defense." Well done, Arianna!

And, in related news, a more than adequate look by Keith Olbermann at Sen. Lieberman's career.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Moral Law

There is law, and then there are morals. Sometimes the two overlap, sometimes they greatly diverge. One good example of that is health care in the U.S. of A. Plenty of laws, not enough morals.

It is immoral to let people die because they lack access to basic health care services, the type of services that are commonplace in other industrialized and civilized countries. It is also immoral to say that we cannot afford the cost of closing the health care gap in this country while billions of dollars are wasted on military enterprise, on bailing financial institutions out of the mess they created, and on tax loopholes for corporations that seek shelter under foreign law, or that outsource living-wage jobs to countries that employ modern forms of slavery. It is immoral, but not illegal, mind you. Just immoral. But immoral for whom?

Christians believe that without God there would be no morals. They speak of God as the source of the moral law, of moral obligation, and of the virtues and goals necessary to morality, without which mankind would be lost in a sea of relativity and subject to the law of the jungle. For them "evil opposes the moral will of God."

Since Republican elected officials are for the most part devout Christians (they like to trot out their Christian faith at every opportunity), it is hard to reconcile their indubitable sense of moral superiority, a sense that descends from their acceptance of and belief in a god which is supposed to be the source of morality, with their unanimous vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, in fact it was lacking in many respects, and--as much as it did to close the gap with civilized countries on health care--it fell short of providing the safeguards and protections from discrimination by health insurance companies and providers that civilized nations offer. However, without it, people will die. Not two, or three, or three hundred: 32,000 according to some estimates, more based on others. Not even that knowledge prevented 242 Republicans and 3 Democrats in the House from voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since Republicans are the party of Country and God, we can presume that in casting this symbolic vote these good Christians were guided by the moral principles acquired through the belief in their God, the source of moral law.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the law did not prevent insurance companies form dropping patients that had become to risky or too expensive to cover. It did not prevent them from denying customers coverage for pre-existing conditions. It didn't even prevent them from denying people coverage altogether. The Affordable Care Act closed some of those gaps, though not all. It was a step, a baby step, in the right direction. It was an attempt to reduce the gap between what the law provides for and what is moral.

But for Republicans, paladins of morality that they are, the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, too intrusive into the freedom of Americans (presumably the sacred freedom to be sick without care), and too hard on poor insurance companies because it might push them out of business (in reality all it would have done is to cut into their gargantuan and ill gotten gains.) Is it immoral also? Well, unless you are thinking about the part of it which provides for abortion paid for with public funds (you know, the part of it that does not exist), it would have been hard to call immoral a piece of legislation that attempted to reduce the ever increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots (and the have-not-so-much-as-they-think-they-do-until-they-need-it). And so, with the exception of the non-existent abortion clause mentioned above, Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink at the law but stopped short of calling it immoral.

And there you have it. The Republican/Christian hypocrisy on health care reform is so thick you could cut it with a knife. It is at least as egregious as the claim that God is the giver of moral law. Either there are no precepts that a good Republican/Christian will not ignore, or the existence of such God-given precepts and their godly origin is highly questionable. Because it is hard to believe that a morally perfect being would pass down to his followers such crappy moral laws that they could be interpreted so as to make the ability of insurance companies to make a profit a higher priority than, say, taking care of the sick and the infirm.

Colbert Gem From Last Night's Show

No intro required. Just watch. Make sure there are no valuable fragile objects in your vicinity as you roll on the floor laughing.

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Sorry Does Not Cut It

Meet Alabama's Governor, Robert Bentley (R):
[I]f you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.

[...] Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

Even worse, Gov. Bentley made these statements at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, just after his inauguration, as part of Martin Luther King holiday observance. Way to honor King's message of equality.

That is a problem with so many Christians, Evangelicals in particular, that they do consider those who do not share their beliefs lesser, less moral, unfit for leadership or public office, not worthy of the same rights and privileges. They may say this is an untrue generalization, but--really--it isn't. Can you name 10 openly atheist members of the House or Senate? 5? 2? 1? OK, so there is one. And did you know that about 50 percent of Americans would not vote for a well-qualified atheist for president?

Whether religious people are going to discriminate based on their beliefs or not is of course a matter of individual sensibility and intelligence. But, as my wife is wont to tell me, what comes out of one's mouth is in his heart. It is a general statement, and, of course, generalizations have a lot of room for error. Nevertheless one has to wonder if what's in Gov. Bentley's heart--worse, his brain--will translate into any discrimination against those whose world view he does not share, or if it already has. Time will tell, as it always does.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Twofer? Really? On the Same Day?

Sen. Kent Conrad and Sen. Joe Lieberman announcing that they are not running for re-election in 2012, on the same day? Boy, some days are indeed better than others!

For the untold damage they have done to this country in the last couple of years, I say: good riddance, both of them! All you need to do is check out the comments at the bottom of each article to see that my sentiments are largely those shared by other progressives.

On the other hand, as a couple of folks said in their comments, two bad things are going to happen: 1) We won't get the satisfaction of voting either one out of office. 2) There is going to be a fire sale on a few Senate votes: Lieberman and Conrad's votes are now up for grabs for the highest bidder (not that they have not always been).

The one thing I am not too worried about is losing their seats to Republicans. They were not ours to begin with. (Kent Conrad has been mentioned many times on this blog, for his corrupt pussyfooting on and/or active obstruction against meaningful health care reform. Sen. Lieberman has too. You might particularly enjoy the two posts in which Stephen Colbert skewers the old idiot.)

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Republicans

Guess what? The job killing (job crushing, job destroying, whatever Republicans wanna call it) Affordable Care Act does not kill, crush or destroy jobs. On the contrary.

Sen. Sanders (I-VT) Releases Statement on Protecting Social Security

In a letter to President Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pleads with the President to keep his 2008 campaign promises about Social Security (PDF reader required) and to defend Social Security against Republican and Conservadem attacks. Every honest Democrat should sign this letter and support Sen. Sanders in his campaign to save Social Security as we know it. Let them stand up and be counted, so we know who deserves re-election when his or her time is up.

Stop The Presses: Pre-Existing Conditions Exist for Nearly Everybody, Study Finds. Duh.

Seriously, guys. Did we need a government study to tell us that pre-existing conditions affect everybody, sooner or later?

Well, ok, so now we have a study that proves what every person of average intellect already knew. So now let's use it to influence public opinion, right? Yeah, right. I am sure, somehow, Democrats will find a way to screw this pooch, too.

Majority of American Support Tougher Firearm Restrictions

Via the Huffington Post: Majority Of Americans, Including Gun Owners, Support Tougher Restrictions. In case you didn't read that accurately, the headline says "including gun owners."

Fat chance the NRA will go along with it, which means that the politicians who rely on NRA scorecards to get votes will likely also reject tougher restrictions, which means... You know what it means.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Gaping Hole In the Second Amendment Rationale

Currently, there is a number of weapons that U.S. citizens are not allowed to own. They include: machine guns; RPG launchers; mortars; cannons; explosive time bombs; anti-tank guns; and, Molotov cocktails. So, you see, Americans already accept restrictions on the types of weapons they are allowed to own.

Most Americans are fine with the above-mentioned limitations, and most Americans also support certain restrictions on their Second Amendment rights to own and bear less sensational and theatrical arms. President Obama, like his predecessor, President Bush, supports a ban on assault weapons. Many members of the House and Senators are in favor of a ban on large capacity (extended) clips, like the one used by Jared Lee Loughner in the January 8th Arizona shootings. Many, but alas not all.

The "not all" camp includes people who regard the Second Amendment as the people's last defense against tyranny. Perhaps in earnest, or perhaps disingenuously and only to protect the interests of gun manufacturers, they say that the Second Amendment grants people unlimited rights, precisely to grant them the ability to defend themselves against a tyrannical government. And so Rachel Maddow takes their argument to its logical conclusion: If you and I should be allowed to bear arms in order to overthrow a tyrannical government, should American citizens be able to own nukes? If not, shouldn't it be in our best interest as a people to limit the power of the weapons the U.S. Armed Fores possess, so as not to be overwhelmed in case of an armed conflict against the government of the United States?

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There is a point beyond which Second Amendment defenders become simply ridiculous in their obstinate refusal to allow any kind of restriction on the right to own arms, don't you think?

Michael Moore with Rachel Maddow

On tonight's Rachel Maddow Show Michael Moore discusses America's obsession with guns and what measures could be taken to reduce the harm guns do.

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Obviously, Not Everybody Watches Countdown

Nine days after the Tucson shootings, it seems pretty obvious that not many Republicans watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

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Martin Luther King Jr., In His Own Words

From Democracy Now.

Also, in case you have not heard it recently (or worse, at all) please check out the I Have a Dream speech, which Dr. King gave from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial less than 50 years ago. Less than a year later, President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On the day when the nation celebrates Dr. King's birthday (January 15th), and life, it is a necessary reminder to those who think that the nation has conquered its tendency to condone racial discrimination, and all kind of discrimination based on an individual's unchangeable traits, that fewer than 50 years have passed since the United States has started closing the most horrendous chapter in its young history. If we are to honor Dr. King's memory, we cannot act, nor should we speak, as if there did not exist pockets of obstinate resistance to the end of racial discrimination that Dr. King helped bring about.

And, as Bill Moyers reminded us in an episode of his inimitable Journal, Dr. King was against the Vietnam war, for it subtracted funds that would have been better spent on social programs. An important reminder, at a time when some have the gall to say Dr. King would have supported the war in Afghanistan. Dr. King was also for social justice, not just racial justice. Another important reminder, at a time when one party is hell bent on denying Americans health care as a right, and the other is complicitly obliging.

Learn about Dr. King's ideas and life. It is the only way we can make sure that no one can twist the facts and mangle Dr. King's legacy beyond recognition.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Football

Go Bears! Go Jets!

Right-Wing Madness

I find that calling Iowa's Supreme Court who will not be theocrats "open enemies of God" is appalling, blood-chilling, and incendiary rhetoric, but then again I am a godless liberal (actually I like progressive better, for a long list of reasons), who thinks that all religion should be put in its place in the court system: that means outside of it.

While we are on the subject of religious madness, I hope this pharmacist goes to jail.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


No politics today, just football. Go Steelers!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Poverty Among the Elderly in the USA

Sad news, for the elderly of present times, and for the elderly of the future if we don't change course: According to new calculations by the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty among those 65 or older has risen to 16.1% in 2009.

If you remember nothing else from the article I linked to, remember this: "What the numbers show is that rather than Social Security benefits being too generous, they are too meager to keep one in six old folks out of poverty." And they, whereby I mean most Republicans, blue dog Democrats and, to a great extent, the President and his advisers, want to weaken Social Security, either by making you work longer (and pay you less in benefits as a result), and/or by reducing your Social Security payments. So, you see, bipartisanship is not a dream. It still happens, when the goal is sticking it to the little guy.

In the meantime, let's keep cutting taxes for the wealthiest 1% of the country, since 30 years of evidence that doing so does not produce the desired effect, i.e. an increase in the standard of living for everybody else, are not enough. We need to keep experimenting with the Laffer curve and Reaganomics until the number of the poor decreases so much (not because of an improvement in living conditions, no: we'll just stop counting them, like we do with about 50% of the unemployed) that the per-capita income for those who remain in the U.S.A. will rise.

How a country treats those who are closer to the end of their lives, those who have already contributed the most, at least in number of years and effort, is a good indicator of what those in power think of the rest of us. Increasingly, we are becoming expendable annoyances to the plutocrats and the ruling class, the pampered ones. Those who need the least get ever more, while those who are the neediest and least powerful are left to their devices, to whither away.

Duelling Idiots

This man's an idiot,

just like this woman.

What a Wonderful World It Could Be

Sen. Udall (D-CO) came up with a good idea for the upcoming State of the Union address: mixed seating.

Surely, it is only a "cosmetic gesture" (it would be as if, on this blog, I buried the hatchet and started calling them Republicans again), and surely it will not keep Repuglycans from voting for the repeal of "Obamacare" as scheduled. But sometimes, if rarely, symbolic gestures can lead to a change in tone between adversaries and to meaningful changes So kudos to Sen. Udall for a simple and thoughtful idea.

The Lie of 2010 and the Sack o' Shit Who Came Up With It

Lie of the Year 2010: "Government Takeover". On that, more at the bottom of the post. But first things first: Let's talk about the sack o' shit first.

If you are very good at a job that requires you to be ready to lie at the drop of a hat, are you a brilliant professional of an unethical sack of shit? I pick the latter option.

The sack of shit that I refer to is Frank Luntz, an unethical douche of a pollster and opinion maker who has helped Repuglycans come up with some of the most doublespeak-ish expression in our recent political lives, as I showed in a post entitled One of America's Most Dangerous People Is Back. When I say "unethical douche", I am expressing an opinion only as far as the word douche goes. On the adjective unethical, I am backed by the opinion of The Executive Council of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, who found that Luntz had "violated the Association's Code of Professional Ethics and Practices." And that was a formal violation of ethics, not to count all the deceitful and leading phrases that Luntz engineered over the years, of which you can find a few examples in my post referenced above.

Luntz, who always appears as a reasonable individual, a mask that hides the true intellectual mercenary sleazeball he is, also engineered what Politifact, an independent fact-checking organization, chose as the Lie of the Year for 2010: the phrase "government takeover" aimed at scaring people away from supporting health care reform.

It is my unshakable conviction that people like Luntz are both instrumental and complicit in the preventable deaths of thousands of Americans who will die for lack of adequate health services, services that in fact should be a pillar of any civilized country. But not in the United States of America. Where is hell when you need it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Can we retire the "if everyone has guns, no one will need guns" theory now?

Every time there is a mass-murder incident, gun advocates tell us: It would not have happened if everyone had a gun. If an armed law-abiding citizen had been at the scene, they could have fought back and stopped the shooter. I heard this reasoning time and time again: after Virgina Tech, and after the many incidents of multiple shootings in schools and malls around the country. However appealing the theory may be to some, it always sound suspect to me (not to mention a bit crazy. The thought that we should promote the presence of armed teachers, janitors, students, and mall guards is something that only Americans would accept as worth considering.)

Now, after Tucson's shootings, Karoli at Crooks and Liars has this excellent question: "Can we retire the if everyone has guns, no one will need guns theory now?" That is a very good question indeed, reinforced by Karoli's impeccable arguments for it.

As Karoli says, "Arizona is an open carry state. It's not unusual at all for citizens to be carrying their guns, even to the supermarket." Besides, as many have pointed out, Arizona has very relaxed laws about getting and licensing guns. So, if everyone in Arizona can easily obtain and carry guns, how come the people who stopped Jared Lee Loughner's shooting spree did not use guns to do so, but their bare hands?

I would suggest that the solution to the firearm violence which plagues the United States more than any developed nation is not going to be solved with more firearms, but with more sanity. The problem is: How do you make, or keep, people sane in a country that thrives on (and rewards) instilling fear in its inhabitants, and that considers health care, particularly mental health care services, a luxury and a privilege instead of a right?

Jonah Goldberg's And His Batshit Crazy Liberal Fascism Theory

I just discovered this interesting post by David Neiwert, Historians vs. Jonah Goldberg, on the truly batshit crazy book by Jonah Goldberg entitled Liberal Fascism, in which the hopelessly inept would-be historian wastes 496 pages in an attempt to to make the point that fascism is a phenomenon not of the right, but of the left.

Because the book has become a favorite of the Tea Party's right, in spite of--or, more likely, just because of--its fantastic interpretation of facts and history, Neiwert has sought "a serious response from academics to Goldberg's traduced version of history", a version of history that Goldberg himself has hailed as "a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care."

Not everyone, particularly real historians, agrees with Goldberg's ass-essement of his own work, and a few historians responded to Neiwert's request to answer the book's batshit theory.

Here is a link to the History News Network website, which hosts the critiques and ensuing discussion of Goldberg's work of fiction. Below the Introduction by Neiwert himself you can find links to the critiques of Liberal Fascism by, among others, historians Robert O. Paxton (the author of The Anatomy of Fascism, one of the definitive books on the subject), and Matthew Feldman.

Wendell Potter, Health Insurance Expert, on the "Repeal Obamacare" Movement

If you read nothing else on this blog, you have to read this remarkably insightful and clear piece by Wendell Potter, former health insurance executive turned whistleblower, on the real goals of the Repeal Obamacare movement in Congress.

And before the right-wing nuts start protesting that Potter uses the phrase "deadly spin" to describe conservative efforts to change the law, hence liberals are guilty of the same behavior they accuse right-wingers of, consider this: 45,000 people or more die in the United States every year of preventable or curable illnesses because they are uninsured or underinsured. So, tell me, how's that for deadly, and for false equivalences?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oh Dear! The Curmudgeon Is At It Again! - UPDATED

The Curmudgeon's latest post is a defense of intelligent design against god of the gaps accusations. Says the Curmudgeon:
Many have responded to this old canard, such as Bill Dembski in The Design Revolution and myself in my forthcoming book, Christian Apologetics. "God of the gaps" just presupposes that naturalism can explain everything; if it faces an explanatory problem, it refuses to consider a non-natural explanation involving original, intelligent causation. That is dismissed as "god of the gaps." It is an air-tight strategy that begs the question in favor of naturalism. Yes, some theistic explanations have failed, but not all. Moreover, many naturalistic explanations have and continue to fail.

Rather than go into a full-fledged, futile diatribe with Dr. Groothuis (as Upton Sinclair said "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"), I would suggest that you read this long and detailed but very informative reply by Prof. Myers (a biologist, I should add) to a fairly typical creationist plea that ID, a.k.a. creationism, should be taken seriously.

The reply contains some important points, such as the fact that weaknesses in evolution do not in fact represent evidence for intelligent design (as Myers says, "[a]rguing that there are weaknesses in evolution--which are typically bad arguments, anyway, but that's another matter--does not mean that Genesis is right"), or the fact that supernatural explanations are subject to the evidentiary tests of the scientific method, and that scientist should not get involved in debates with creationists because a) they are an eminent waste of time and b) they are just attempts by creationists to gain legitimacy through the credibility of their opponents (scientists).

In fact, you should also read How to respond to requests to debate creationists.

Since Groothuis mentions Bill Dembski's The Design Revolution, you might be interested in reading what a couple of scientists think about it:

The design revolution?
A review of Dembski's The Design Revolution

Worst Persons In The World

Keith Olbermann said last night that he is, once again reconsidering the format and name of his "Worst Persons in the World" segment. Here's my suggestion: Call it "Piece of Shit du-jour" and make Rush Limbaugh (henceforth "Limpballs") its sole feature. The man is a sewer-mouthed piece of shit anyway, so chances the segment will upset anyone with a brain more developed than a fly's are next to none.

This is what the piece of shit du-jour said today, talking about the perpetrator of Tucson's slaughter of the innocents:

"Mr. Loughner... has the full support of a major political party in this country... the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame." On behalf anyone who is not a rabid consumer of the shit peddled daily by the likes of Limpballs, Hannity, Sarah Beyond the Palin, and other esteemed Fox News contributors, I say to Rush Limpballs: Fuck you, you piece of shit du-jour.

I already expressed this thought on this blog, in this post, and I will unashamedly do it again here: "My wife tells me that it is not good to wish for people to die, but I will take Rush Limbaugh as my mulligan. Let's be unequivocally clear: I am not advocating for anyone to kill him, but an oxycontin overdose?" Never underestimate the evil power of an evil individual on the psyche of the feeble-minded. This country, this planet, will be better off the day Rush Limbaugh croaks.

P.S. I understand that calling Rush Limpballs "a sewer-mouthed piece of shit" makes me sound sewer-mouthed myself (and in some people's eyes, no doubt, also a piece of shit.) If that's the case, stop reading here, because it's gonna get worse.

There is a difference between calling a spade a spade, as I did in calling Rush Limpballs a piece of shit, and using one's mouth, as Limpballs does day after day after day, to regurgitate evil and--most importantly--patently false shit, about your political opponents. Limpballs will twist facts until they are unrecognizable, indistinguishable from the smoking lump of human excrement that Limpballs himself is.

A Good Definition of Violent Rhetoric

I came across a post which does a good job of defining violent rhetoric, on the Daily Kos.

And, while you read about violent rhetoric, please also read this post by the always incisive Joan McCarter of the Daily Kos, which highlights a few examples of violent rhetoric and why it almost certainly contributed to the actions of Saturday's killer in Arizona.

Social Security in the Cross-hairs, Again

While the news has been monopolized over the last few days by Rep. Giffords's failed assassination attempt, another assassination attempt is going on, this one in the rooms of Washington D.C.. The target in the cross-hairs? Social Security.

I use words like assassination and cross-hairs fully aware of their incendiary power, but using blander, more politically correct words would not render justice to truth, because there is a large number of politicians, not all of whom are Republicans, who are intent on killing Social Security as we know it, eager as they are to transfer its huge wealth to the coffers of private corporations.

The slashing of Social Security benefits, or the proposed increase in the retirement age, are just the first steps in the dismantling of a system that has served American seniors well for almost four decades, the real intent being the ultimate death of the publicly financed system and its replacement with a fully-privatized one.

In utter disbelief, progressives have seen President Obama, the supposed paladin of the middle-class, steadily retreat to the position of those who would destroy Social Security as we know it. He did so first by instituting a fiscal commission with the responsibility to find ways to balance the budget; given its highly tilted composition, the commission unsurprisingly came up with cuts to Social Security as a a preferred method for achieving the desired result. Then, under the protection offered him by his commission's findings, the President has been moving ever more to the right on Social Security reform, to curry the favor of deficit hawks and his Wall Street uberlords. As Austan Goolsbeee, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said in reply to a question by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on the future of Social Security: "[T]he president has always said, let's not automatically rule everything out before we even begin." How does that sound to you for making a stand against the attempt to kill Social Security?

For more on the assault on Social Security, read Robert Kuttner's Zero Hour for Social Security.
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