Saturday, August 15, 2009

Must Reads

Chris Kelly: Sarah Palin Wins

Rude Pundit: Umm, Townhall Protesters? Jefferson Was Actually Talking About Your Blood, Too

Robert Scheer: Letting the Banking Rats Out of the Bag

Linda Bergthold: Town Halls: Don't Confuse Me with the Facts, My Mind Is Made Up

Joshua Holland: 10 Awesome Things That Would Happen If Health Reform Passes

Dan Froomkin: The Truth Will Out

Bob Herbert: Hard To Believe!

Robert Parry: Olbermann-O'Reilly 'Truce' Frays

Armadillo Joe recommends...

BooMan: Diagnosing the Threat from the Right

"Dr. Leo Strauss": Why Democrats, Obama And Liberals Deserve Obliteration?

Rick Perlstein: In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition - Birthers, Town Hall Hecklers and the Return of Right-Wing Rage

Just Like Kudzu

posted by Armadillo Joe

KUDZU: Pueraria lobata (syn. P. montana, P. thunbergiana) is one of about 20 species in the genus Pueraria in the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. It is a climbing, coiling, and trailing vine native to southern Japan and southeast China.
Kudzu was introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant.
It was subsequently discovered that the Southeastern US has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control — hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters with few hard freezes [...] and no natural predators.
kudzu has been spreading in the southern U.S. at the rate of 150,000 acres (61,000 ha) annually, "easily outpacing the use of herbicide spraying and mowing, as well increasing the costs of these controls by $6 million annually." Its introduction has produced devastating environmental consequences.

Rick Pearlstein at the Washington Post online -- whose book on Goldwater I just finished and whose other book on Nixon I am currently reading -- puts this whole birther/deather/town-hell thing into perspective. But not in a way you might find encouraging:
...the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers -- these are "either" the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president -- too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters' signs -- too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don't understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can't understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.


The instigation is always the familiar litany: expansion of the commonweal to empower new communities, accommodation to internationalism, the heightened influence of cosmopolitans and the persecution complex of conservatives who can't stand losing an argument.


The various elements -- the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won't hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension -- sound as fresh as yesterday's news.


The orchestration of incivility happens, too, and it is evil. Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror -- powerful elites -- find reason to stoke and exploit that fear. And even the most ideologically fair-minded national media will always be agents of cosmopolitanism: something provincials fear as an outside elite intent on forcing different values down their throats.


The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America's flora. Only now, it's being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest
Really, go read the whole thing. It's worth it.

It's Still Over.

posted by Armadillo Joe

In response to my rather gloomy post from yesterday, vyccan wrote:
Joe, why the early funeral when the patient is still alive? Your burying the reform this early is very depressing; it is the first time I've not been able to finish one of your posts since coming to this site a few months back. Now is not the time, IMO, to discourage - after all, there is still the opportunity to write, call, visit senators/senator's office - but to make an extra push to have one's voice heard. It is just as well that the President can't hear all the doom and gloom predictions, criticisms, etc because if he were anything like me it would be enough to make him just 'give up'. Do re-release your 'positivity', Joe, so that the positive vibes can contribute to the more favourable outcome we would like to see.
And the following was my response, which I also decided could be its own post:
As I told Carl last night, I have been wrong about Obama many times before and I will be happy to be wrong about him now.

As much as I would like to dismiss the teabagging town-hell deathers as "the fringiest of the fringe" they are not just a gaggle cornpone fringe racists acting out against an uppity, citified Yankee Nee-gro and the n**ger-lovers who voted for him. That IS what they are, but that isn't ONLY what they are. They are acting on behalf of Big Medicine (insurance, pharma, AMA, etc...) who want this bill killed, or at least fatally wounded, by any means necessary.

That's why I call them Brownshirts. Like their historical antecedents who brought down the Weimar Republic, they are not a thing in-and-of themselves to be worried about because as dangerous as any one individual may be with a gun and a sign, as a group they are a loud, loutish, unruly mob standing at street corners shouting at car windows and the camera lenses of intrepid bloggers. Under normal circumstances, left to their own devices, they would disperse at sunset to go trawling for Cheetos and PBR.

But they have corporate backing. And they are egged on by powerful, monied forces who see their interests temporarily align with those of the rabble. The wealthy have no qualms about leveraging that overlap in opposition to the Dirty Fucking Hippies to get what they need. That's what makes the "deathers" Brownshirts.

Thus, vyccan, the gloom. I've seen this play out before. In fact, my whole life. So much of the ugliness and willful stupidity in our public discourse the rest of the country has seen for the last ten or fifteen years is just the way things are done in Texas and The South. Of course it failed, "government is bad" is not an effective governing strategy. Dixie itself is something of a failed state within our own borders, but rather than grow and change and catch up to the rest of the nation in the latter half of the 20th Century -- since Brown v. Board of Education, frankly -- they found a way (via Goldwater, Nixon, Saint Ronnie & Bush43 and their congressional coalitions) to instead Dixie-fy the rest of America. To those of a certain class and social milieu in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and the Left Coast, it all seems alien and hokey. Surely, I keep hearing people say, the American people will see these ruffians for what they are and recoil in horror, they will reject these people for their motives and tactics and truth and light will prevail, forever and ever amen.

The opportunity to recoil in horror and reject the deranged Konfederate Klown Kar of the modern GOP was ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty even forty years ago. But it was too much fun bashing hippies and slandering uppity negroes and wimmin-folk who didn't want to be barefoot and pregnant -- a tendency of violence the money-changers in the GOP temple had no qualms about turning a blind eye to because it got all those meddling kids out of the way of their nefarious plans.

These people are for real and deadly serious. Even out of power they are dangerous because their ideological devotion to The Cause gives them the political wherewithal to maim any legislation they can't outright kill.

They are still arguing about the Civil War and are still polluting our discourse with their toxic mythologies 140+ years after the fact. Don't expect them to give up on killing "Obamacare" and join the 20th Century any time soon.

President Obama's Weekly Address - August 15, 2009

Real Conversations about Health Insurance Reform

Friday, August 14, 2009

Yup. It's Over.

posted by Armadillo Joe

It's all over but the crying on health-care reform.

Oh sure, some kind of reform may eventually puke forth from Congress, but smart money is on it being weak, weak tea -- easy for insurance behemoths and their enablers in government to eventually smother into either meek acquiesence or to hammer into irrelevance -- and the end result won't look much different than present day, except that reform opponents will have a whole new vocabulary with which to rhetorically bash the shiny new government health program that only helps people different-looking than Glenn Beck. They will seize upon the tiniest of shortcomings or any outright failures in the new system, elevate them to the level of Proof of the Existence of a Satanic Socialist Conspiracy to Destroy America and Baby Jesus and our celebrities pretending to be journalists on the Tee-Vee will slather American screens with pictures of indolent black people and their crying babies suffering and dying at the hands of overwhelmed and disillusioned medical professionals, after which the pundits and other assorted performing monkeys will dutifully tut-tut about how silly we ever were to think that a rich and prosperous nation such as ours could summon the economic resources and moral courage to fix something as nebulous, unknowable and (frankly) unimportant as the health of poor people.

We will still be a worse-off, shabbier and more decrepit nation for the want of something better.

As much as the rest of us all know the "death panels" are bullshit, enough dimwitted goobers out there (many of whom carry guns, natch) let themselves be worked into a frenzy by the same manipulators who sold us a bogus war in Iraq and impeached a president for a blowjob, that the end-of-life provision -- the nugget around which the GOP was able to spin a web of lies -- has been essentially yanked from the bill and the Dems appear to largely be running for cover.

Obama isn't necessarily toast, but we only get a chance like this once a generation or so. In the case of health-care, it's more like two generations because the last two attempts (Clinton's in '94 and Ted Kennedy's back in the 1970's) were doomed to failure from the start. Of course, we didn't know that at the time, but the perspective of history tells us that the rising tide of Rethugli-goon misrule over the Nixon-to-Bush43 era was in many ways irresistable.

This one was different. If I have to explain why, you should be reading other websites.

I think Obama will wind up a severely weakened president on the other side of this. Probably as much as Carter because failing to advance the central component of your campaign platform with the kind of Congressional majorities and general popularity he has enjoyed in his first nine months in office means that you are weak enough to get rolled by a bunch of loud-mouthed goons willing to shout lies, aided and abetted by a compliant and power-savvy media complex. The way they will talk about him after this debacle, especially if one considers how central a role Sarah Palin (who lost the election, BTW, so why is she still on my Tee-Vee?) played in blowing a hole in the bottom of the health-care boat, will cause the rest of the spineless Dems to scatter for cover.

Blame whoever you want, say the media didn't report the whole debate fairly and honestly, say that the GOP is run by a bunch of thugs and goons and cynical operators manipulating a horde of racist nit-wit sheople, say that Washington is a cozy little village hostile to reform and hard-wired to advance the interests of the monied ruling class over those of the electorate, say the Dems are a bunch of scaredy-cats who wouldn't know party discipline if it hit them like a baseball bat to the knees and act like abused housewives in the face of GOP bullying, say that Obama was too high-minded and too in thrall to the Cult of Bi-Partisanship, say that this is all super-secret triple-back-flip Obama Kung-Fu and the bestest health-care bill evah is just around the corner. Say whatever you damn well please about this awful smoldering wreck we see emerging before us, but at the end of the day it amounts to so much whining about how unfair Life is. Either Obama brought a knife to a gun fight or the Obama of the campaign trail -- Hope, Change, whatever -- is not the person we actually wound up putting in office with our votes. He's either weak or wiley but either way We The People lose.

I quote the ever astute John Cole:
I still contend health care reform is over. The GOP and the fringe right will just move on to something else they find “objectionable” like this absurd accusation that voluntary counselling amounted to a panel of experts determining who should and should not live, the senior citizens seem overwhelmingly content to suckle at the public teat in regards to medicare while giving everyone else the bird, the insurance industry is playing both sides, half the Democrats are spooked by their own shadows, and the other half are in bed with the FIRE sector.

It is just over. And the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. If the Republicans had majorities like the Democrats have right now, they would have abolished the IRS and the Department of Education, Bernie Madoff would be running social security, there would be an oil well in every backyard and off every inch of coast, we’d have mandatory prayer in schools, and the defense department budget would be doubled so we could have excellent adventures in Iran while we liberate Georgia from oppressive Russian rule. And we’d be doing it all with a top marginal rate of 3%.

A Quick Thought on the "PhRMA Deal"

When I first heard about this story, I kind of cringed at the thought of the possiblility of the White House sabotaging their own health care agenda. I understand trying to get the pharmaceutical industry to back health care reform. After all, they're in the business of profiting by keeping you alive, as opposed to the business of profiting by denying care. And as Bob Cesca points out,

...the deal should come as no surprise since back in the early Summer the president announced PhRMA's proposal for saving $80 billion over ten years as its contribution to healthcare reform. We knew this. At the time, no one seemed to be outraged or alarmed.

What we didn't know was the extent of the tat in exchange for this, you know, tit. And it appears like it might have something to do with a White House and/or Finance Committee pledge to oppose importation or price reduction negotiations on prescription drugs.

To be perfectly clear, this isn't a fair compromise since the potential financial gain for PhRMA outweighs the comparatively nominal $80 billion pledge. And, of course, no one, including me, is a fan of the healthcare lobby and its various subsets. Nor do we like to hear about this White House -- our White House -- making backroom deals. That said, did anyone seriously believe that PhRMA made this pledge in a vacuum, offering up $80 billion in free cash, just because they're nice guys? The shocked horror in some circles about the fact that they were offered a concession in exchange for this pledge seems naive. There's always a quid pro quo, especially in politics. Why would this be any different?

But my own thought about it this is that the more I read about it, the harder it is for me to believe. The source for this story is an unnamed health care lobbyist. It was reported in the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal and the Sun Myung Moon owned Washington Times, not exactly what you'd call bastions of liberalism.

Looking at what I assume to be a copy of the leaked memo, it doesn't look like your normal memo. There aren't any names on it and it's just titled "PhRMA Deal". I mean, look at the thing!

It looks like something I could crank out in a couple of minutes on a 1961 IBM Selectric™.

That combined with the fact that there are so many factions opposed to health care reform, that it's not too difficult for me to think about possible conspiracy theories to sabotage the whole kit and kaboodle. I could be wrong and I'll admit so when further facts arise. Until then, I'll just keep my eye out and be a little skeptical about this particular story.

Wingnut Health Care Hypocrisy (Glenn Beck Edition)

It never ceases to amaze me how often I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at people who are in constant denial about who they truly are. People who engage in class warfare but don't realize they are fighting on the wrong side.

For the last couple of weeks, I've watched as town hall "participants" have decided that it's best for them to interrupt, heckle and outright jeer elected officials instead of listening to what they have to say and try to get some real information about something very important: their health care. Or rather, their health care insurance. They are fighting on the side of the status quo for fear of change, completely oblivious to the fact that - if it hasn't already - the status quo will bankrupt them and the country in a very short time.
Take the example of Katy Abram, the lady at the Specter town hall who didn't want our country "to be like Russia." She said her current insurance policy has a $5,000 deductible, more than what her family would normally pay in a year for health care, but now her son is in need of surgery. She's relieved that her health care is finally about to kick in, and yet she "likes" the health care that she has now. Something that is doing her no good unless it's a catastrophic situation. I do hope someone keeps in touch with her to find out if her son's illness will all of a sudden be considered a "pre-existing condition" or that they find out it isn't covered and ask her again if she still "likes" her current insurance plan. I really hope that doesn't happen to her because it happens to too many people in the US, home of the "greatest health care in the world."
But how do people like Katy get so worked up in opposition to make the system better? Where do people like Katy and all the other loud noise makers at these town halls get their misinformation from? Of course, that's a rhetorical question.
Sometime last year, I remember watching an online video that had been going around. It was a home video of Glenn Beck, perhaps from his home, laying on his living room couch and explaining the horrors he had just gone through because of a botched surgery at a particular hospital. And yet, here we are just a year later and Beck has been doing his usual shtick on his clown show, extolling the virtues of the "greatest health care in the world" in an attempt to scare the pants off of the thirty percenters who watch his show.
Now, I don't watch Glenn Beck because I value my health and I try not to be a glutton for punishment. Luckily for me, people like Jon Stewart do this for a living and put things in perspective.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Glenn Beck's Operation
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Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

It's because of cretins like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin and her "death panels" bullshit on Facebook no less, and moronic politicians in the early stages of dementia like Chuck Grassley feeding into complete and utter lies because he knows that it'll slow things to a crawl, fire up his base and keep the insurance lobby money in his pocket that will ultimately kill true reform or water it down enough to make it meaningless.

ADDING... Joan Walsh looks into Katy Abram and finds she's a leader in the Glenn Beck 9/12 group. Bingo.
While Abram told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell that she wasn't very sophisticated about politics, and claimed not to even know her family income, in fact she's a leader of the 9/12 group, setting up its networking site on Ning, greeting new members, inviting folks to events at her home and elsewhere – and last night, after her star turn, comparing her cause to that of Martin Luther King Jr...
... late yesterday she posted this to the site, comparing herself to Martin Luther King:
I just wanted to thank everyone for their support. These past few days have been trying on my family. But the good outweighs the bad right now. The amount of emails and phone calls I have received supporting me have been amazing. There are so many good people in this country. I have hope that we will overcome.

I have a dear friend whom I went to high school with. He told me today on the phone that Martin Luther King had been marching. Someone threw a brick at his head. and yet he kept walking...

that is what we need to do...keep walking. Let us not allow these people to knock us down. We will stand up taller and speak louder. We can accomplish great things...

Les Paul Dies at 94

NY TIMES: Les Paul, the virtuoso guitarist and inventor whose solid-body electric guitar and recording studio innovations changed the course of 20th-century popular music, died Thursday in White Plains, N.Y. He was 94.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, the Gibson Guitar Corporation and his family announced.
Mr. Paul was a remarkable musician as well as a tireless tinkerer. He played guitar alongside leading prewar jazz and pop musicians from Louis Armstrong to Bing Crosby. In the 1930s he began experimenting with guitar amplification, and by 1941 he had built what was probably the first solid-body electric guitar, although there are other claimants. With his guitar and the vocals of his wife, Mary Ford, he used overdubbing, multitrack recording and new electronic effects to create a string of hits in the 1950s.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

But... The Founders... Also, Such As

Absolutely amazing. These are the kind of people making the loud noises at town hall meetings. People who would most likely benefit from health care reform, yet are scared out of their minds by disinformation and misinformation.

I have to say I feel sorry for people like Katy Abram, in a small business family who has a health insurance plan with a $5,000 deductible, with a sick son who needs surgery, and she doesn't realize that her family could probably get better a health insurance plan and be more financially sound with the passage of a public option.

But I have to say it also pisses me off after hearing this interview that this person is freaking out about something she self-admittedly knows nothing about. She was never interested in politics until now, she doesn't know what her family's yearly income is, she doesn't know that her parents will soon benefit from Medicare and Social Security, but doesn't like socialism and probably couldn't define it if asked. And yet she shows up to a town hall meeting to yell at a Senator with decades of experience when she doesn't even know what she's yelling about. Just another dittohead talking about the Founders and the Constitution.

Who's willing to take bets on whether she's ever read the Constitution?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cartoons of the Day

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Give Him A Voice?

I got home from running some errands this morning to be able to catch most of President Obama's New Hampshire town hall meeting, which was luckily more respectful than the loud noises most other politicians were experiencing with their own town hall meetings. This of course prompted naysayers to claim that it was obvious this was a staged event and not really a town hall, but I digress.

After the meeting was over, the desk jockeys at MSNBC reported that there was a protester outside of the high school the President occupied with a gun strapped to his leg. There he was, probably being scoped out by Secret Service, but since it is legal to carry a licensed firearm in the "Live Free or Die" state, was allowed to peacefully protest while holding a sign that read, "It Is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty" obviously referring to the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots." With the blood of tyrants and patriots. With a gun strapped to his leg. Something tells me that, of those two choices, he wasn't considering President Obama the "patriot."

Within a few minutes of the initial report of this gun-toting protester, MSNBC's David Shuster had updated news: the man's name was William Kostric. And he was already booked on the 5pm hour of Hardball with Chris Matthews. What. The. Fuck?

My guess is that Matthews was angered by someone stupid enough to bring a gun to a public event with the President and wanted to take him to task. Further, I would have hoped that Matthews would try to figure out where this man came from and research his background. After all, he already had his name. But never let it be said that Matthews fails to disappoint. Mr. Kostric held his own against an irate Matthews until Matthews calmed down. Of the two people on the screen, Matthews was the one that seemed unhinged.

Within an hour after the interview, Joan Walsh wrote a post on her blog at Salon with details of William Kostric. This is why Joan Walsh is a journalist and Chris Matthews is not.

...Kostric insisted his intentions were peaceful, and that he's not affiliated with Birther groups.
But at least one of those statements doesn't seem to be true. A right-wing activist named "William Kostric," who's left a lot of footprints around the Web, is listed as a "team member" of the Arizona chapter of We the People, the far-right group best known for joining a lawsuit challenging Obama's right to be president based on his not being a U.S. citizen. Kostric told MSNBC he recently moved from Arizona to New Hampshire. (Kostric did not reply to Salon's e-mail request for an interview.)
And on his MySpace page (h/t Lavender Newswire), Kostric also lists as one of his heroes Robert Schultz, the anti-tax activist and We the People founder who spent a ton of his own money on ads promoting the Birther movement.
...Kostric's MySpace profile also lists among his heroes Randy Weaver, the white supremacist and right-wing activist who survived the Ruby Ridge confrontation with federal agents, along with Ayn Rand's John Galt, Thomas Jefferson, libertarian/GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and William Wallace, the Scottish resistance leader portrayed in Mel Gibson's "Braveheart."
The profile also includes, as one of Kostric's "Top 12 friends," the Free State Movement, a group organizing libertarians to move to New Hampshire and expand on the state's "Live Free or Die" credo, and ultimately secede from the union. A "William Kostric" also signed two pledges at PledgeBank, a site that lets people organize around various causes. Kostric's two pledges include: "move to New Hampshire by 12/31/2008 where I will work to bring about a society in which government’s maximum role is protecting life, liberty, and property" -- the credo of Free State Movement members -- and "refuse to accept a national ID card," a cause among many far-right libertarians.
Reading the rest of Walsh's post on what she found on Kostric in an hour, when the Hardball crew had at least twice that amount of time before the interview gives you a much more in depth profile of the person Matthews hastily had on his show. Why give this man a voice on national television?

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Dies at 88

NYTimes: Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a member of one of the most prominent families in American politics and a trailblazer in the effort to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, died early Tuesday morning at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass. She was 88. Her death, at 2 a.m., was confirmed by her family in a statement. A family friend said that Mrs. Shriver had been in declining health for months, having suffered a series of strokes.
A sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy and the mother-in-law of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Mrs. Shriver never held elective office. Yet she was no stranger to Capitol Hill, and some view her work on behalf of the developmentally challenged, including the founding of the Special Olympics, as the most lasting of the Kennedy family’s contributions.
Somewhere Sarah Palin is muttering under her breath that this was an evil Obama plot to off the founder of the Special Olympics.

Dear Investors Business Daily Editorial Desk

By now you may have received an e-mail or two about your "How House Bill Runs Over Grandma" editorial and the fear mongering you perpetuate in the health care debate with the following quote:

"People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
Stephen Hawking is British. Always has been. Marvelous job discrediting yourselves. I'm sure there is plenty to debate over in the current bills being offered by Congress regarding health care reform. But is it possible to stick to the facts instead of, you know, just making stuff up out of thin air?

Broadway Carl


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