Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't trust CBO scoring of bills

The trouble with CBO scoring of bills is that they apply conventional economic wisdom and then usually miss major shifts in the economy that throw their projections into a cocked hat. Dean Baker explains.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Universal health care first; then a health care system that works

First America needs guaranteed universal health care. That's the big flaw in the current lack-of-system. But once that is taken care of, health care has to be provided more effectively and at lower cost to the nation.

The second part cannot be done until there is a universal health care system in place. Without universal health care and some organization overseeing the complete system there are too many places to fail. The biggest failures today are simply shunted into the pool of uninsured and ignored.

After the current battle is won, then the next set of problems has to be dealt with. Dr. Dean Ornish describes some of his experiences trying to change the health care delivery system based on good science.

Universal health care is only today's biggest battle in health care delivery. Making it more effective and cost-effective will continue to require a lot of work.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kennedy's health care plan

Not all of the proposed health care plans are arcane and unintelligible. There is the Kennedy Plan out there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The GOP may be screwing themselves

Digby points out that the Republicans have taken a real stonewall position in any and every possible health care bill. Even a proposal that would require everyone to buy insurance (a universal mandate) and be a real bonus for the health insurance companies is off the table.

The three groups involved in the healthcare debate are the progressive Democrats (the largest group but not a majority) the republicans (the minority party and shrinking as their positions get crazier and less popular) and the centrist Democrats (Digby calls them the "sell-outs") who hold the deciding role in the mess. The Republicans could get the crappy pro-business bill with the help of the centrist Democrats and the Democrats would have to get that bill if it is all the centrist Blue Dogs would go for. But the Republicans refuse to give the Blue Dogs any support for that pro-insurance bill. The Democrats from conservative districts and states are targeted no matter what they do. Those center-right districts and states are the Republican Party's only possible route back to majority party status.

Digby suggests that this will be the margin that forced the Democratic Party to pass a real health care reform bill that actually does address America's health care problems, but it'll only happen if the Republicans continue to stonewall the centrist Democrats. Here's Digby's description of the situation:
The sell-outs are almost begging the Republicans to help them pass the terrible, insurance company giveaway bill they want so badly --- and the Republicans just won't cooperate. They are making the Democrats go this alone, which is the last thing they want to do because they [The sell-outs] have to face their own voters after passing something that won't work --- and now they know the Republicans will kill them no matter what they do. They have nowhere to hide.
An intriguing scenario. The Republicans could weaken the Democrats by getting them to pass the insurance company's bill, but they put a higher priority on winning back the more conservative districts and states they have lost to the Democrats, especially in the last two elections. There are two factors which I think account for most of that. First, I'd guess that the Republicans who are left in Congress all represent strongly gerrymandered Congressional districts or come from states dominated by social conservatives, so that if they want to keep their elected positions, they have to toe the radical right-wing line. If they don't, then Limbaugh and the other right-wing talk-radio hosts will gang up on them along with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform will come down on them with both feet. So the Republicans in office do not dare to provide any room for the "blue dog" centrist Democrats.

The other factor is that most of the conservatives in office today are the true-believers who seriously believe that America is a right-wing nation, and they have just had a string of bad elections recently. If that's true, then the conservative states and districts are ripe to be retaken by the Republicans. All they have to do is overcome the liberal brainwashing of the electorate which has resulted in so many voters blaming Republican policies and the Bush administration for the current Recession (and near-Depression.) along with countering the Democratic actions with organizations like ACORN to steal elections. Those who thoroughly buy into the right-wing culture and world view really can't accept that America isn't truly a center-right nation at heart.

If Digby's scenario is accurate at all, that would be the reason why. As I said - an intriguing scenario.

The fingerprints on the Republican "death panel" fear tactic

The Republicans are in an all-out battle to prevent the Democrats from passing health care reform, and since they have no rational reasons for opposing it, they are spreading as much fear as the media will bear. The most recent is the line that the health care reform includes what they call "death panels." Talking Points Memo traces the development of that meme in the media.

Notice that it starts with a lie told by the whacked out loon Betsy McCaughey. Then it is picked up by House Minority Leader John Boehner. Then Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) presented the meme on the House floor. Then Sarah Palin posted the idea on her Facebook page and spread the label "death panel." Then Newt Gingrich appeared on ABC's "This Week" and pushed the meme even further.

Next Senator Johnny Isakson reversed his previous position on end of life counselling and put out a statement distancing himself from it. Sen. Grassley (R-IA) worked to spread teh fear when he told a Republican town hall crowd, "You have every right to fear....a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on Grandma." This was the same day RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Neil Cavuto that panels were going to be imposed to make life-and-death decisions. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) added to the story with more of the "pull the plug on grandma" rhetoric to a local Oklahoma TV station.

Of course, nothing the Republicans lie about is complete unless Rush Limbaugh bloviates about it. He has been all over the "death panels" fear-mongering. Rep. Broun (R-GA) who is also an MD sent a letter to the American Conservative Union making the statement which he cannot support: "When mama falls and breaks her hip, she'll just lie in her bed in pain until she dies with pneumonia because her needed surgery is not cost efficient."

John McCain must have been concerned that he was being left out, because he rather belatedly echoed the by now full-throated Republican fear-mongering lie. So did the NRO writer Jonah Goldberg.

Several common things run through this. First, this is fact-free fear-mongering spread throught the mass media. Second, the Republican Party is pushing it. They completely avoid talking about the problems Americans have with the failed health care system, and they offer no solutions. This is pure obstructionism.

Steve Benen explains what happens next.
The right's "death panel" attack was thoroughly and completely debunked. It didn't matter -- lots of Americans believed the lie anyway. It has, however, started to lose some of its salience, which means it's time for the new health care reform lie.

Presidential power in the future depends on successful use of power in the past

Power begats power. Weakness begats weakness. That's politics.

Anyone who thinks that someone is powerful just because they occupy the office of President needs to rethink the proposition. M. J. Rosenberg provides a current example.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Here's what's wrong with the American media

Once upon a time the TV networks provided a public service. They also were highly profitable. What happened to them? The Reagan Revolution and deregulation happened to them. Here is an analysis by TexasTom at Daily Kos:
until the eighties, only one of the major TV networks was a publicly traded corporation. CBS and ABC were both privately held, and (especially in the case of CBS) were owned and managed by people who had a sense of the public obligation associated with their networks. Today, all the networks are part of large, publicly traded corporations who see their news departments as another profit center...and that's about it. For Time-Warner, CNN isn't about making a fair profit by serving it's's just about the profit, period. The same thing can be said at the other networks. Over on the newspaper side, it seems that the few newspapers that didn't become part of large publicly traded groups are the ones that seem to be weathering the current recession -- probably because they aren't having to cut staff just to meet debt service payments.

The evidence that we're seeing in recent years is that news media as publicly traded corporations doesn't seem to be a winning bet.

The second point, of course, is deregulation. In the sixties, an activist FCC actually refused to allow the sale of the ABC network to a multinational conglomerate (ITT) on the basis that such an ownership change would not serve the public interest. Note that the argument that ABC was unprofitable and needed the infusion of cash from the conglomerate did not sway the FCC. The FCC also imposed limits on the amount of advertising that stations could run (that's why infomercials didn't appear on TV until the eighties), requirements for some "public service" programming, ownership restrictions, and much, much more. Note that the broadcasting business was extremely profitable (especially for major and medium market television stations) during this era of heavy regulation.

Starting in the eighties, the era of deregulation began. Throughout the eighties and nineties, rules were eliminated and ownership limits were relaxed. We're all familiar with the results -- the almost total demise of actual news reporting by any radio stations (even so-called "news" stations are really mostly opinion and talk anymore), and the steady concentration of ownership. The latter means that while we have the illusion of more choice, the reality is that we have less choice because all those different channels are controlled by the same companies.

Strangely enough, all that deregulation has resulted in a less profitable broadcasting business. Once again, the conservative mantra of deregulation seems to be wrong...

One reason why that deregulation has been such a disaster for the broadcast industry is the rise of cable and satellite TV. Back in the seventies, much of the left saw the then new cable TV industry as being the salvation of television. No more would the "lowest common denominator" rule the dial. Unfortunately, those folks never saw the rise of E!, VH1, Bravo, A&E, and the multitude of other channels that are essentially devoted to mind-numbing trash. How did they end up being so wrong about cable?

Unfortunately, the rise of cable coincided with the era of deregulation. The result is that the cable industry was never adequately regulated, and the result was a level of ownership concentration that makes the broadcast business look diffused by comparison. Big companies bulked up by buying a whole bunch of cable networks and forcing cable systems (and, later, satellite services) to carry all of them on the lowest tier. Viewers were forced to buy on an "all or nothing" basis, which prevents those viewers from being able to easily vote against channels that they see as worthless by cancelling their payments for those particular channels. It's all structured to maximize corporate profits, of course -- and it does so very effectively. Public service of any sort is not even a consideration.

The centralization of radio media has led to lack of local control

It has been clear that diversity of programming has suffered greatly since the a few companies have bought up so many local stations and placed them into chains with lock-step national programming. Here is what Amanda Terkel at Think Progress has written about the situation:
Approximately 91 percent of weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and just nine percent is progressive. However, “43 percent of regular talk radio listeners identify as conservative, while 23 percent identify as liberal and 30 percent as moderate.” Much of this imbalance was created in the wave of consolidation after the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which “removed the national limit on the number of radio stations that one could own.”
Central control of the media is inherently anti-democratic. The conservatives are desperate to keep it that way.

Republicans - the Party of "Just Say No!"

The Republican Party is and will remain
the Party of "Just Say No!"

For all the economic and international problems the Republicans have created, you'd think they would be embarrassed and try to fix the two wars and the near approach to Great Depression II which has left us still in the worst recession since Great Depression I. But no, they don't want to solve problems for the American people. This is what they want. Rep. Shimpkus says it and emphasizes what he says so that we cannot misunderstand him.


As an example of the Republican "Just Say No!" principle, here is Sen. Baucus on The GOP leadership view about health care reform:
"he also admitted that the GOP leadership is putting “intense political pressure” on his committee colleagues Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley, and Mike Enzi to defeat any health care bill:
“The Republican leadership in the Senate and in the House is doing its utmost to kill this bill,” he said. “They are putting intense political pressure on Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snow and Mike Enzi, to bow out, because they want to kill it. So I’ve got a challenge ahead of me to work out all this on policy as we go through these meetings.
“The other thing is the politics of it: ‘People, this is the right thing to do for America. I know you’re under intense political pressure, but do the right thing. I know it’s easy for me to say right now, because I’m getting beat up by both sides, but not nearly as much as you are by the Republican hierarchy.’ ”
Yesterday, in an interview with FOX News, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) underscored the GOP’s reticence to support health reform. He told Neil Cavuto that he doesn’t think “a single Republican” will vote for health care legislation that looks like the bills in the House or Senate HELP committee."

Johnny Cash - I've been everywhere

Another good Johnny Cash song.

I've Been Everywhere
sung by Johnny Cash.


Johnny Cash - the Wanderer

This is one Hell of a fine song.

The Wander
Sung by Johnny Cash.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

The right-wing lies that are dominating health care have a well-trodden path

Steve Benen has written an excellent post on the path that right-wing lies take from idiots like Betsy McCaughey to the mainstream news. The steps are
  1. Get a crazy to publish a lie
  2. Limbaugh and talk radio pick up the lie and broadcast it to the base.
  3. Drudge picks the lie up.
  4. FOX News and the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board picks up the story.
  5. The rest of the media reports on the controversy.
So what does this tell us?
  • First, the right lies a lot, especially when trying to scare people about health care.
  • Second, when Democrats ignore ridiculous far-right claims [and present good ideas], good ideas become law.
  • And third, in time, the hysterical find new things to get excited about, so there's no point in caving to conservative demands every time they throw a fit.
One real problem is that politics are inherently conservative. That's conservative in the sense that the politicians of today look back to model on the successful politicians of the past. the Obama team is looking back at what the Clinton team did that succeeded and at what failed. Efforts to try new things almost invariably cause a politician to lose the election.

The result is that although the lesson on how not to deal with the Republicans is very clear now, there is no corresponding lesson in how to win the next issue, and the risk of winging it and losing are very high.

It's that strategy for winning that needs to be found now.

Health care battle between cost and universal care for Dems

The health care battle in Washington has three major players. They are
  1. the Progressive Democrats who want universal national health care,
  2. the Republicans who desperately want to regain power, and see their route back to power being through defeat of the Democratic Health Care initiative as it was in 1993-94, and
  3. the conservative Democrats (known as the Blue Dogs) who are concerned about the cost of a health care plan and about local business and financial interests that are critical to their reelection prospects individually.
The story of the Progressive Democrats and the whacked out desperate Republicans has been rather well described. But we don't see much on the motivations of the Blue Dogs.

Here's an excellent addition to the overall discussion - it's a good article on Kent Conrad from the Huffington Post. It'll provide a better understanding of the third major issue group in this great 2009 political battle.

Obama needs something for his troops to rally around

I voted for Barack Obama because he seemed to have the good of the nation on his mind, together with the skills and knowledge necessary to actually get something done. My biggest single issue for America is health care availability for every American. So here is Obama on the subject of getting health care passed over Republican obstructionism.

Is Obama even listening to the question? Or is he just throwing out a series of words to fill the time until the next question?

I am certain that George W. Bush was in a bubble. He had no knowledge of anything that his advisers did not tell him, and he was under the thumb of some of them. Neither Bush nor his advisers saw the Presidency as an office that belonged to the people of America. Instead is was their property and they had the right to exploit it. I didn't think that was the case for Obama.

But now I don't know. Obama walked into a real mess, one in many ways the making of George W. bush's supporters, advisers and handlers. But Obama brought his own supporters, advisers and handlers, and Obama entered his own bubble. That's the nature of the Presidency.

The American government exists in order to do what Americans need done, so that they can live out their lives in a stable society that allows them to provide for their own needs and those of their families. For a century now, the medical care that a great many Americans have needed simply has not been available to those who need it when they need it. The private market was important in helping the growth of a medical industry, but the massive gaps in coverage and the numerous ways health care can be used to exploit large numbers of people have also grown. The problems now are socially destabilizing. Every other modern nation has resolved this set of problems by having some form of government regulated health care system. Now that the only institution that can improve the situation is the federal government.

Piecemeal modifications have failed to keep up. A full revision of the system is long overdue. Without that revision, the American government has failed and the failure grows larger each day.

A failed government will be replaced. There are many ways to slow down that replacement, but it is inevitable. If Obama cannot get the powers who exploit the current failed health care system under control, then the American people will replace him and the Democratic Party with someone who promises to succeed.

I thought that Obama was aware of that when I voted for him. As I watch him blather his way through a non-answer answer above, I have really begun to wonder. Obama's spokesman, Gibbs, said the other day that if getting health care passed means Obama will be a one-term President, then Obama is ready to accept that. What he better realize is that if he doesn't get health care passed, he is going to be a one-term President, And he won't get much else done after Health Care fails. To get it passed, Obama better get a single clear plan out there and gain the support of the American people pretty damned soon. The enemies of rational health care system are already mobilized and in place because they know what they have to lose.

Obama needs to get something out there like a battle flag that the troops on his side can rally around. He's built up a lot of expectations and they are coming to a head. He sure failed to put up a battle flag or rallying cry in the answer above.

I don't think that the American people are going to be patient much longer. Failure to rationalize the health care system means that the American government has failed, and a failed government will be replaced with one that promises better results.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lewis Black - Damned Good Comedy from 2007

Lewis Black is an excellent comedian and does topical political humor. Try a few here.

Lewis Black - the Old Testament

Lewis Black - Queers

Lewis Black - Hunting

Lewis Black - Bad Language

There is more of this. Go here and check down the right side.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What are Republicans worth, anyway? America doesn't need them.

In a Wednesday New York Times report, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is quoted as saying the GOP "has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day." And earlier today, Gibbs said "only a handful" of Republicans are interested in anything resembling true health care reform.
[From TPMDC]
America needs a program of health care that provides it as a human right to every American. Does America really need the conservative Republican parasites who are blocking health care legislation so that they can suck money out of sick people and leave others without health care or in bankruptcy?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Here's why Gen. David McKiernan was sacked as Afghanistan commander

Gen. David McKiernan was fired as American commander in Afghanistan and replaced by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. This is the first U.S. commander fired during war time since Harry Truman fired Douglas MacArthur in the Korean War. It was so far out of the ordinary way of treating American Generals during combat that eyebrows rose all over the place. What the Hell happened? Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post now explains.

In mid-March, as a White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan was nearing completion, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met in a secure Pentagon room for their fortnightly video conference with Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Kabul.

There was no formal agenda. McKiernan, a silver-haired former armor officer, began with a brief battlefield update. Then Gates and Mullen began asking about reconstruction and counternarcotics operations. To Mullen, they were straightforward, relevant queries, but he thought McKiernan fumbled them.

Gates and Mullen had been having doubts about McKiernan since the beginning of the year. They regarded him as too languid, too old-school and too removed from Washington. He lacked the charisma and political savvy that Gen. David H. Petraeus brought to the Iraq war.

McKiernan's answers that day were the tipping point for Mullen. Soon after, he discussed the matter with Gates, who had come to the same conclusion.

Mullen traveled to Kabul in April to confront McKiernan. The chairman hoped the commander would opt to save face and retire, but he refused. Not only had he not disobeyed orders, he believed he was doing what Gates and Mullen wanted.

You're going to have to fire me, he told Mullen.

Two weeks later, Gates did. It was the first sacking of a wartime theater commander since President Harry S. Truman dismissed Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951 for opposing his Korean War policy.

The humiliating removal of a four-star general for being too conventional reveals the ferocious intensity Gates and Mullen share over a growing war that will soon enter its ninth year. It also demonstrates their zeal to respond to President Obama's demand for rapid success in a place where foreign armies have failed for centuries.

McKiernan is an old school American general. You don't get more hard corps old line American than being an Armor Commander. Armor, Artillery and to a lesser extent, tactical air (close air support), are the epitome of conventional war.

What's so old line about being an Armor General? That's a logistics war, big army against big army. The commander who can bring the greatest numbers against the weak point of the enemy normally wins. And what are "the greatest numbers?"

The numbers that matter in conventional war are rounds of ammunition and tons of ordnance. A conventional commander coordinates the firepower of more weapons on the battlefield to greater effect than does the commander of the enemy forces. The ultimate weapon in conventional war is a nuclear weapon. The most important resources for the winning commander come from either the largest economy or the greatest population. The commander's most important skills are coordinating the use of these resources - logistics.

How do you defeat the army that posses an essentially unlimited number of rounds of ammunition and ordinance to drop on you? The Chinese tried overwhelming numbers of troops, which works as long as the opponent isn't losing so badly they resort to nuclear weapons and you have enough troops. Since many of the Chinese troops used in Korea were previously Kuo Ming Tang troops and as such politically unreliable, they were expendable and available. But human wave attacks were not the best solution. A few years after Korea, the Algerians adapted Leninist guerrilla techniques and applied what is now called asymmetric warfare against the French. You don't offer the dominating power an army for a target. The new strategy was effective. Algeria is no longer French dominated even though the French had both the police forces and the conventional army with the conventional power. The asymmetric warfare technique migrated to South Vietnam and defeated the U.S. military also.

Asymmetric warfare was a logical solution when the occupation following American conventional invasion of Iraq was so badly screwed up by the American conservatives from the Heritage Foundation and the Bush administration who sent them there. The attempt to impress a foreign political ideology will always fail with it does not match the existing culture the ideologues attempt to impress it on. Such an effort creates a perfect ground for asymmetric warfare. So how does it work?

Instead a conventional army, you place highly skilled and very political cadres into the population and convince the population that the conventional forces and police of the government are their enemy. That is done in several ways. First, make promises that, given power, the cadre will focus on and provide for the needs of the population. Whatever can be done to back these promises up makes them more credible, so the cadres have humanitarian needs organizations - with political brands. This is easier when the government has no similar humanitarian efforts.

Second, conduct guerrilla operations against the enemy military and police that cause them to attack the population as the source of those operations. The extreme version of this is terrorist operations in which the attackers are prepared to and plan to die in the attacks. The most effective of these cause a massive counter reaction by conventional forces against the general population. Such efforts also create martyrs who have died to benefit the population. It really helps the insurgents when the government is inherently corrupt, since the population will always recognize this and act to reject it. How do you think the Iraqi population reacted to the corruption of Blackwater and Halliburton? Was there any doubt that these organizations represented the Bush administration? Since the conservative American philosophy of individualism with no regulation encourages such corruption, the Conservative philosophy creates its own enemies.

Afghanistan is a political war. Where is the effective conventional warfare counter for these asymmetric techniques? Conventional warfare has only one solution - destroy every last member of the cadre of insurgents, and if they keep being recreated from the population (as they will be), conduct genocide on the population. This has been the Soviet reaction in Chechnya. It hasn't worked very well there, and with the most modern forms of journalism, works even less well. The media has become a major theater in such wars now. That's because the battleground is the minds of the population involved.

LtC. John A. Nagl in his superb book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam describes the traditional U.S. military conventional war culture beautifully. It is a culture that permeates both the military forces and, more important, the American political culture. You can tell that Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Chrystal are violating it because they are accused of being "political generals." The American culture of war fighting looks down on "political generals", but that is the essence of fighting an asymmetric war successfully.

In the American political culture, Americans fight wars against other armies. When America is at peace, the military is subordinate to the political leaders, but when America is at war, the military leaders determine how the war will be fought. That includes the political effects, because modern wars are total wars in which both the military and the civilians are combatants. Let's not forget that both WW I and WW II were won in large part because the American economy was nationalized and directed by the government planners. That's the definition of total war. In total war, there is no essential difference between the civilian sector and the military sector. America fights modern wars in which scientific logic based on observable facts dominates the actions taken by both armies and civilians. West Point was created in 1803 and run by the Army Corps of Engineers to create an officer corps dominated by scientific thinking rather than the traditional thinking of European armies. West Point succeeded. It has been a major element in creating modern America.

By the way, buy a copy of colonel Nagl's book. Most intelligent and promotable U.S. officers already have.

As a company grade officer during the Vietnam War, I read Mao's writings on how to fight a war. They were inherently political. They started with a dedicated political cadre and worked up to a conventional army, but only as each stage succeeded. The stages were inherently political, not military. As one who firmly believed in logistics and the idea that the biggest battalions win, I was hard to convince. But I was thinking on the wrong battlefield. The conventional war battlefield is just that - armies, trenches and ordnance. The modern battlefield is men's minds. Thomas Kuhn would describe this as a paradigm shift. George Lakoff would describe it as "reframing the issue." Both are correct. But who would have thought that shifting the paradigm or reframing the issue would determine who might win a war? But it does.

And Gen. David McKiernan was not able to make the shift or reframe the issue. That became obvious to Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen. Afghanistan is simply not a war suitable for an armor general who sees war as a challenge for an engineer or logistician. It is a war for a politician. The fact that he was unsuited to win that war was demonstrated by his refusal to accept a face-saving way out of his command.

I don't blame McKiernan. I don't trust political generals, either. I was a logistician. That's my generation. McKiernan was one of our very best. But then, so was General Westmoreland in Vietnam. Let's not forget that we didn't win that one, either.

The cable news networks viewers have interesting demographics

Daily Kos Commissioned and reported the results of a nationwide poll of who watches the three major cable news networks, MSNBC, CNN and FOX. The results tell us a lot about modern America. Here is their analysis:
Cable news networks have a level of influence that far exceeds their audience, since their actual audience is actually quite small. Most people simple don't watch cable news networks, but the ones that do are generally influentials.

Republicans watch Fox News and nothing else, Democrats split between MSNBC and CNN, and Independents watch nothing. MSNBC, in particular, depends on Democrats for the vast majority of its audience. One would think they'd realize this and get rid of Joe Scarborough to boost its morning ratings.

The South, unlike the rest of the country, appears to have their TV dials stuck on "FOX NEWS". Except for the youth, that is. 82 percent of 18-29-year-old respondents never watched FNC.

We then asked, "When it comes to accuracy and trustworthiness as a source of news would you say that [Media Org] is extremely reliable, reliable, unreliable, or extremely unreliable?"

Combining "extremely reliable" and "reliable", and "unreliable" and "extremely unreliable", Fox News clocked in at 35-41. Republicans (and the South) obviously think they're the word of god, while Democrats think it's shit.

CNN came in at 44-34. For Republicans, it was 20-61. They actually believe all that crap about the "Communist News Network". CNN garnered good numbers from Democrats (56-20) and Independents (48-30). Again, the South (28-53) was at odds with the rest of the country, which generally gave the network high marks for accuracy and trustworthiness.

As for MSNBC, Democrats gave it the highest marks (37-7), followed by Independents (24-16). Republicans, of course, think the network is crap -- 6-31. MSNBC was easily the least-recognized network of the bunch, with 60 percent of respondents unable to give an opinion. That "not sure" number was only 22 percent for CNN, and 24 percent for FNC.
The fact that the audiences are small but consist of influentials suggests that watching cable news is something done by the more well-to-do upper class groups of people. The fact that the audiences are small confirms that the mass news media on cable TV has broken down into niche markets. So this is a report on an upper class (probably upper middle) consisting of influentials and it's also a report on which media outlets cater to the different categories in that class.

The fact that the South is FOX territory tends to confirm my own belief that the conflict between what are politically labelled conservatives and liberals is actually a culture clash between rural traditionalists and urban modernists. These two cultures are socialized differently and in fact even think differently.

It's clear from the political clashes between them that the two groups consider very different issues to be of greatest priority for America, and the way each group treats government is an outgrowth of those different ways of thinking and different priorities. I find it no surprise, for example, that the rural traditionalists are also exclusionists - thus the immigration issue, and the modernists support diversity.

Traditionalists are not fact based. They think in terms of what the traditional authorities tell them is true. They will not be swayed by facts, no matter how obvious. I'd suspect that FOX News has made themselves into one of those authorities, along with Church leaders and high level political authorities like the President. This latter is probably why putting a liberal Democrat 0r worse, an African American, into the position of President is considered the equivalent to lese majeste or worse. That's why electing Clinton over George H. W. Bush, a member of an old-line upper class family, was so emotionally upsetting to so many conservatives. Clinton's enemies had to redeem the Presidency from his presence.

No, I can't prove this, but it fits. It explains a pattern of facts that I have not seen otherwise adequately explained.

Addendum 9/30/2009
I stated above that traditionalists are not fact based, but that I cannot prove it. A group of researchers, however, describe what they call Motivated Reasoning which is exactly what I was talking about.

Traditionalists have an emotional need to be "right" and so they reject facts that show they are not. Motivated Reasoning describes how they go about rejecting those facts they find uncomfortable. But where do they get the mistaken ideas they consider "right?" FOX News and the other Murdoch propaganda outlets as well as such right-wing propaganda organizations as Regent University, Liberty University, the Discovery Institute, the Heritage Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the CATO Institute and others.

DoJ defends Defense of Marriage Act while also declaring the law should be repealed

This is a legal brief only a lawyer could love. Think Progress presents the story.
The Obama administration has been seeking to dismiss a suit brought by a gay couple in California challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In June, the Obama Justice Department’s brief defending DOMA infuriated LGBT activists because it referenced incest and child rape when talking about marriage equality. Today, however, the Justice Department has filed a new brief making clear it believes DOMA is “discriminatory” and should be repealed. The White House even put out a statement from Obama on the matter:
Today, the Department of Justice has filed a response to a legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged. This brief makes clear, however, that my Administration believes that the Act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress. I have long held that DOMA prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my Administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law.
So the Department of Justice is doing its job as directed by law. It is presenting a legal defense of the law when the law is challenged in court. But at the same time, they are telling the court that they feel the law itself is wrong and discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress.

Sometimes the Rule of Law works its way out in strange ways.

Two Congressional GOP leaders admit lying to defeat health care

The Congressional Republicans, who themselves offer no solution to the many problems Americans have with no health care coverage, have inadequate coverage, or think they have coverage only to find it suddenly withdrawn when they make a claim, have now admitted they were lying earlier when they described alleged problems in the current health care proposals. The first of these Republicans is GOP Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Rep. Blunt, the head of the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group, was caught lying by his local newspaper.
Blunt claimed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wouldn’t be able to get his hip replaced in countries with socialized medicine, prompting the paper to respond aggressively in an editorial:
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, knows a thing or two about health care. But some of what he knows just isn’t true.

“I’m 59,” Mr. Blunt said last week during a meeting with Post-Dispatch reporters and editors. “In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.”

We fact-checked that. At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.
In a subsequent conversation with the paper, Blunt claimed: “I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I won’t use that example any more.”
The second GOP leader who has admitted lying to defeat health care reform is Sen. Charles Grassley, R - Iowa). Last week Sen. Grassley told an audience of his constituents that "The government would pull the plug on 'Gramdma.'"Here is Plumline's report on his lie.

This passed unnoticed, but it’s a big deal: Over the weekend, and very quietly, Senator Chuck Grassley completely retracted his widely-reported claim last week that people have “every reason to fear” that the House health care proposal would create a “government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”

The retraction was buried deep in this Washington Post article on Grassley’s role, with a spokesperson admitting Grassley doesn’t really believe what he said about “grandma”:
Grassley says he opposes that counseling as written in the House version of the bill, but a spokesman said the senator does not think the House provision would in fact give the government such authority in deciding when and how people die. The House bill allows patients to decide for themselves if they would like such counseling.
Let’s be clear: By clarifying that Grassley doesn’t think the House bill would “give the government such authority in deciding when and how people die,” his spokesperson completely repudiated his widely discussed claim. This goes much farther than Grassley did in a statement released Friday clarifying he’d never used the words “death panel” and was merely worried about “unintended consequences.”

So, either Grassley made his claim about “grandma” to a crowd in his home state last week and didn’t believe it; or he changed his mind since then.
This demonstrates the position of the Republican Party very clearly. They have no interest is working to resolve problems that the American people have with the availability or effectiveness of health care. They have no policy or proposals to fix the many flaws in the current lack-of-system. They work for the health insurance industry that is gouging the American public for their own profits, and the Republicans work to gain personal power in the government at the expense of the American people. This isn't just some rogue Senator or Congressman. This is lies told by the Republican leadership to spread fear of the proposed changes in the health care system. That fear will kill people if it succeeds.

The Republican leadership has no hesitation to repeatedly tell lies to advance their self-centered cause, and no shame when caught at it.

Healthcare around the world vs. America

Paul Krugman points out that Every wealthy country other than the United States guarantees essential care to all its citizens. Why doesn't America? Look at who is opposed to universal health care. The big money opposing health care reform is coming from the existing health insurers and from the big pharmacy companies because as long as there is no guarantee of health care with an organized and systematic national form of paying for it, they can exploit sick and frightened people and make big profits.

How big are the profits they get from the current system? Consider that they are conservatively estimated to be spending $1.4 million a day right now to kill the health care reform effort. They expect to recover that and much more if they are successful. But what does it mean that every other wealthy nation in the world guarantees essential health care to its citizens? Krugman provides a short summary of the systems.
Every wealthy country other than the United States guarantees essential care to all its citizens. There are, however, wide variations in the specifics, with three main approaches taken.

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false. Like every system, the National Health Service has problems, but over all it appears to provide quite good care while spending only about 40 percent as much per person as we do. By the way, our own Veterans Health Administration, which is run somewhat like the British health service, also manages to combine quality care with low costs.

The second route to universal coverage leaves the actual delivery of health care in private hands, but the government pays most of the bills. That’s how Canada and, in a more complex fashion, France do it. It’s also a system familiar to most Americans, since even those of us not yet on Medicare have parents and relatives who are.

Again, you hear a lot of horror stories about such systems, most of them false. French health care is excellent. Canadians with chronic conditions are more satisfied with their system than their U.S. counterparts. And Medicare is highly popular, as evidenced by the tendency of town-hall protesters to demand that the government keep its hands off the program.

Finally, the third route to universal coverage relies on private insurance companies, using a combination of regulation and subsidies to ensure that everyone is covered. Switzerland offers the clearest example: everyone is required to buy insurance, insurers can’t discriminate based on medical history or pre-existing conditions, and lower-income citizens get government help in paying for their policies.

In this country, the Massachusetts health reform more or less follows the Swiss model; costs are running higher than expected, but the reform has greatly reduced the number of uninsured. And the most common form of health insurance in America, employment-based coverage, actually has some “Swiss” aspects: to avoid making benefits taxable, employers have to follow rules that effectively rule out discrimination based on medical history and subsidize care for lower-wage workers.

So where does Obamacare fit into all this? Basically, it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.
Would the Swiss plan be bad for America? Not for most Americans. Not even for most employees of American health insurance firms. Only for a few top executives who are currently vastly overpaid for any rational services that they perform, and for "investors" who are gambling money on the above normal profitability of health insurance firms once they kill the health care proposal. Against these undeserving groups consider the 45 to 50 million uninsured Americans and the almost equal numbers of people with insurance that pays so little if they or someone in their family gets ill that they are driven into bankruptcy.

What are the opponents of health care reform selling? Not health care, that's for sure. They are selling that old classic "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt" to people who find the status quo satisfactory for right now. America can do much better, as all of the other wealth nations demonstrate. It's high time that America had a rational health care system that is not held hostage by extortionists and profiteers. Let's get universal health care passed this time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Republicans need to admit they got it wrong before being considered credible

The Republicans were in complete charge of the federal government from 2001 until 2006 and got the whole thing seriously wrong. An incomplete list of their failures includes:
  • Running one of the most corrupt political administrations seen in America. this has been true both for the Executive and for the Congressional branches.
  • Failed to deal adequately with the problem of anti-American terrorism,
  • Embroiled America in two wars, at least one of them totally unnecessary and neither of which was well prosecuted.
  • Failed to adequately deal with the well-anticipated problems that occurred when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and New Orleans (then did not live up to the promises to rebuild New Orleans),
  • Illegally wiretapped American citizens more for political purposes than for American security purposes while shredding the Constitutional due process requirements of the Rule of Law (a truly bedrock requirement for a Constitutional democratic Republic),
  • Broke the law by authorizing the useless and counterproductive process of state sanctioned torture.
  • And created economic conditions that put America and the entire world into financial conditions worse than any since the Great Depression of the 1930's. Had Barack Obama not directed unprecedented and desperate financial actions that have place the American taxpayers in the position of saving the Wall Street bankers whose unregulated risk-taking was the major contributor to the financial instability that effectively destroyed the world financial system, America and the world would now be deep into the greatest financial depression the world has ever seen.
Mind you, this is only a partial list of everything the conservative Republicans have gotten wrong. A much larger list will be available as historians dig out the criminality and idiocies that have been buried behind government secrecy laws.

The American voting public has caught on to the failure of the conservative Republicans and has repudiated them at the polls in 2006 and 2008. But the media acts as though the conservatives remain the more credible of the two significant American political parties, and the Republicans themselves have refused to recognize that anything they have done contributed to the major problems their governance have left for America to dig out of.

Steve Benen has been discussing this situation with Bruce Bartlett, a well-known and capable conservative analyst who worked in both the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations. This is what Bartlett wrote to Steve about the Republican Party:
I believe that political parties should do penance for their mistakes and just losing power is not enough. Part of that involves understanding why those mistakes were made and how to prevent them from happening again. Republicans, however, have done no penance. They just pretend that they did nothing wrong. But until they do penance they don't deserve any credibility and should be ignored until they do. That's what my attacks on Bush are all about. I want Republicans to admit they were wrong about him, accept blame for his mistakes, and take some meaningful action to keep them from happening again. Bush should be treated as a pariah, as Richard Nixon was for many years until he rebuilt his credibility by more or less coming clean about Watergate with David Frost and writing a number of thoughtful books.

One reason this isn't happening is because the media don't treat Republicans as if they are discredited. On the contrary, they often seem to be treated as if they have more credibility than the administration. Just look at the silly issue of death panels. The media should have laughed it out the window, ridiculed it or at least ignored it once it was determined that there was no basis to the charge. Instead, those making the most outlandish charges are treated with deference and respect, while those that actually have credibility on the subject are treated as equals at best and often with deep skepticism, as if they are the ones with an ax to grind.

I am truly baffled by this situation, as I'm sure you are.
The American Constitution is very much the basis for the liberal American political system, but it was written by a group of the wealthiest men in Revolutionary America as a protest to the arbitrary tyranny of the King of England and an English Parliament that had no consideration for the rights of Englishmen who were overseas colonists. For all it's virtues, the Constitution set into place a government of limited and carefully separated powers that allows a small minority of wealthy and powerful Americans to relatively easily frustrate the will of the American people.

That's no surprise. The founding fathers represented the American oligarchy which dominated the primarily agricultural set of colonies that were later to grow into America. For all the advantages that the Constitution has given America as it grew into a massive urban industrialize nation spread across the North American continent, it failed to adequately deal with the corrosive problems of slavery which resulted instead in the Civil War followed by the American apartheid of segregation and it did not provide for a true democracy in which the government adequately deals with the economic problems created by exploitative and ignorant business people and especially Wall Street Bankers.

A preplanned and structured government to deal with those issues would have locked the nation into too many errors unforeseen at the time they were adopted. The ability to innovate and create better ways to do things created a much better overall system. But now we have a two-century old philosophy of government that locks the status quo and the existing power oligarchy into control at a time when the needs of the American people are opposed by that oligarchy. One of their weapons to maintain the status quo (by which they benefit at the cost of millions of Americans)is the philosophy of an agriculturally-based system of small government with low taxes and a set of tax and power preferences for the existing oligarchs. Worse, this is unquestioned by the mass media which those same oligarch control. Those oligarchs are in the catbird seat. Is it any wonder that they do not want to change a system they control and one in which they gain great advantage?

The American oligarchs are in a similar social and economic position today as were the French aristocrats in France against which the French people rebelled in 1792. They do not want to give up the advantages they have, and they do not want to permit the government to tax them further individually to support America. This is nothing new. The same economic and power class in America pushed through massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the 1920's just as they have again in the 1980's, 90's and the first decade of the 21st century. The economic and social result has been the same. The great and growing financial inequality has led to massive economic instability.

But since the same class of oligarchs control the American mass media, there has been little discussion of their power and of the dangers of the extremes of economic inequality that the oligarchs revel in. They prefer the secrecy that they enforce by propaganda and by control of the major media centers. The discussion has not escaped their control until the economic and political disasters they have fostered have festered and grown to an obvious wound in American society.

Bruce Bartlett professes to be "...truly baffled by this situation." He shouldn't be. The problem is that the small group of people who get the greatest advantage from the current system also have sufficient power to control the terms of debate through control of much of the media and through propaganda techniques that pushes a traditional conservative ideology rather than a fact-based modern scientific discussion. The oligarchs are conservative, since their power is based on tradition. The facts no longer support their ideology. They recognize this and fear what the actual facts will suggest should be enacted.

I am not arguing that modernism and the currently known facts should trump tradition and conservatism all the time, but when there are massive problems spread across society they can only be ignored so long before they endanger what America is and can be. Tradition is an important part of what makes any people great. But a tradition based on secrecy and secretly enacted power held by a small oligarchy who is gaining more power and wealth because of the problems in society is an illness in America. The strengths of the American Constitution all grow out of the collection, analysis and exposure of facts. The Constitution is a great document because it both grew out of traditional English law and political experience and yet was the result of a group of men who sat down together, collected the known facts of the situation and developed a new governmental structure to replace two that had failed - a distant traditional Monarchy and the Articles of Confederation.

The attempt of the then new Constitutional government to incorporate the economic system based on slavery failed because slavery cannot coexist with a democratic form of government, and the Constitution could not create an organic way to deal with slavery. The Civil War partially resolved that problem, although it festered on in segregation until the Civil Rights Movement finally placed American society on the path to correcting that clearly unAmerican problem.

Now, with modern America having grown into an urban industrial power, once again the conservative structures within society are failing to meet the needs of American society. Health care cannot be provided efficiently to everyone in America by the private and unregulated health insurance system, and the economy cannot be allowed to go under the control of oligopolistic and monopolistic economic power structures. The 18th century philosophy of Adam Smith does not work in a modern industrial society the way Smith described it in an economy dominated by craftsmen and small farmers.

It is time now to remove the blinders of tradition and ideology, collect reliable facts, and create new structures within the American tradition of government controlled by the people and conducted in public with minimal secrecy.

When that occurs, Bruce Bartlett will find that he is no longer baffled by the situation because he has stopped ignoring the power discrepancies that have created it.One very important step in that direction will include credible self-analysis of the Republican failures by Republicans themselves, aided by sharp and insightful analysis from the media. We Democrats are going to have to help them get there.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Are the rabid political mobs organized or spontaneous?

Rick Perlstein reports on the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the hecklers and the gun toting participants as they have appeared in American history.
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.
This nation, based on liberal change, is run by wealthy elites who fear liberal change for fear of what it will do to their narrow interests.The "Crazy" is traditional American.

What America has is a pool of not very well educated individuals - much of the conservative population - who have been trained to fear their own government unless it is organizing an army to fight overseas. America also has a number of wealthy conservative individuals who fund groups and hire extremely well educated individuals to organize the activities of the conservative population primarily to protect their own wealth and streams of income.

The results can be seen in the August Congressional townhall meetings. The health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies have tapped into the conservative political machine to defend their current power to suck irrationally high profits from ill Americans, a process made much easier as long as their is a sizable pool of uninsured Americans that everyone else is afraid of being forced into.

So if you thing that the current made-for-TV and video political events are spontaneous, yes they are to some extent. But they are focused as a result of long planning and hard work but those who will lose if universal health care is passed.

The danger of "The Family" at the heart of American politics

This is the segment from the Rachel Maddow Show in which she interviews Jeff Sharlet, the author of the book The Family which describes the secretive christian fundamentalist group that controls so many Washington politicians.

When you hear a Washington politician make a totally nonsense statement and present it as "fact," check for their connection to "The Family."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cheney and/or Palin in 2012? Ridiculous.

I have read that there are people proposing a run for President by Sarah Palin and possibly a run by a Cheney/Palin ticket. While nothing is impossible, the likelihood of such a ticket is - let's just say extremely limited. Here's my reasoning.

Palin has a truly fervent support group, but it's probably not as large by itself as Huckabee's was in 2008. She's a Dominionist with the belief that government should be controlled by evangelicals (like herself) who rule with the Bible as the ultimate source of law. That's the identical belief held by the Ayatollah in Iran and by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That belief leads to that same philosophy and structure of government as in current Iran, except with a different book. Since Palin is an evangelical herself, she has the support of those like her who vote identity politics. They'll never dominate America, although they certainly do dominate much of the South, Texas and some of the Midwest. But they are a minority even there, who only get political dominance because of the fervency of their beliefs.

Then there is the fact that Palin has always quit her state-wide offices before the end of the term when she could not do the job successfully and began to fail. She can't deliver what she promises her supporters. She is an inherent outsider. She is not competent to perform as someone who is an insider and who has to be depended on. That's simply beyond her.

Palin only got state-wide jobs in the first place because Alaska is such a small and insular state and because she represents the small but fervent evangelical political group who votes identity politics. She'll never stand up to real competition. Her incompetence is now clear, her actual record of performance is too checkered, and her sick evangelical dominionist religious beliefs will scare off too many voters. She'll wither like a snowflake in front of a blast furnace. Which, of course, is why she resigned from the previous council she was on as well as resigning as governor. When I was in the artillery I would have described enemy on a battleground like that as a target-rich environment.

Then there's Dick Cheney. With Cheney's heart troubles, he isn't going to run for President, assuming he lives that long, and that's not very likely. He's on borrowed time right now. The stress of running would kill him, and if that didn't happen, he wouldn't last a single term. And he knows it himself. Don't expect him to run or to be open to an invitation to run. He'd rather live longer and influence the debates.

Cheney for President in 2012? He is not likely to live that long.

Neither person is any more likely to get the Republican nomination than Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee was in 2008. Plan on it. It ain't going to happen, folks.

Here's what the health care battle is all about.

The health insurance companies are in business to make profits, not to provide health care. When they have a choice between paying for health care a client expects or for making a profit, they will refuse to pay for the health care in order to increase their profit. They won't admit this, because admitting it is bad for business, but it is what they are in business to do. They collect as much money as possible and pay out as little as they can get away with.

The so-called free market for health insurance does not work to provide the best benefit at the lowest price. Effective free markets of knowledgeable sellers and buyers negotiating price and service is not possible. Since most geographic areas are provided insurance by a dominant insurer and a lot of people get only the insurance offered by their employer, there is little real price competition. Worse, most healthy people buy insurance to protect them from the unknown, so they have no idea what will really happen if they get sick or have an accident. The result is that since the insured has no idea what they are buying at the time they contract for it, price competition doesn't work. The lowest price will win most decisions even if the contract limits payments below what is needed. That results in many bankruptcies for supposedly insured people who find their insurance does not provide the protection they expected.

Right now, if you have insurance, all you have is a contract for which you have to pay rapidly increasing premiums and which you can be kicked out of at the insurance company's whim. Once you are kicked out you become uninsurable. This may be hidden from you if you get your health insurance through your employer, but it applies to you also.

If you do get sick and the expense of your illness or accident is expected to be large, then your insurance policy is much more likely to be canceled. In the meantime, the prices for all insurance and for health care services are rising uncontrollably. Many people are simply priced out of the market for insurance, or are sold policies with high deductibles, high copays, and caps on the total that will be paid out. Even if you have "insurance" if you get ill you have a high chance of being bankrupted by high medical expenses. This is exactly why you purchase health insurance - to get health care if you get ill and to avoid bankruptcy if you need health care.

Government regulations that require insurers to accept anyone who applies will keep them from selecting only the healthy and from avoiding or dropping the sick. A standardized set of benefits will permit the insured to know in advance what they are paying for, and a national regulator will give anyone the right to appeal unfair denial of payments. The public option will offer a safe and reasonably priced competitor to anyone who objects to the dominant private insurer in any given area. That completion will prevent private insurers from raising premiums unreasonably.

Is there any value in private insurers developing innovative ways to collect from the insured and paying for the services required? Not if everyone is insured. That reduces the entire process of providing health insurance to a simple administrative process of collecting the money and paying it out. Innovation needs to be done in actual provision of health care services, and insurance companies can only innovate in ways to avoid payments for health care services. That eliminates the complexity of insurance policies. Customers choose the policy they expect will offer the best services for the price, with full knowledge that they are getting real insurance against the unexpected.

That deals with fairness to people who need to buy and pay for health insurance. It also cuts down on the additional costs created when insurers fight to avoid paying for people who are sick or who should be insurance by some other insurer. What it does not do is slow the increase in medical costs.

Those have to be addressed by revising the way physicians and other health providers practice medicine and by removing the unnecessary aspects to administration in getting reimbursement for services provided. Studies of best practices and wide publication of the most effective and efficient are one answer to that. Another is to make sure that when someone needs medical care, the provider knows he or she will be paid for providing it. The cost of dealing with the uninsured is effectively eliminated by providing universal health care. If all Americans are in the insured pool, the costs of paying for the uninsured are pretty well eliminated. That means there is no excuse for cost-shifting by hospitals and health care suppliers who charge the insured more to cover the expense of people who cannot pay for the services they receive.

Addendum 8/15/2009 9:24 am
Steve Benen has written an excellent post about what Wendell Potter is saying about how the insurance companies "put profits before patients" and how they are behind the current public attack on the effort to reform health care.

Wendell Potter was the top Public Relations Manager for one of the major health insurance companies, and was himself directly involved in killing Bill Clinton's attempt to reform the health care system.

NY Times commits journalism; World asks what's happening?

Back in 2007 Barack Obama claimed that if the Democrats would nominate and elect him President he would bring America out of the "Red/Blue" partisan political wars and back into a more civil United states of America. Yesterday, Paul Krugman scans across the current insane political battle ground that is America and comments on what has really happened. This is a very important column.

Of even greater importance, however, is the wondrous and very unusual effort of the New York Times to actually commit journalism on its front page. Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes have written a superb analysis of the current health care battles entitled False 'Death Panel' Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots. This article has several elements that make it unlike any effort by the New York Times to commit ab act if journalism in over a decade and a half. First, it specifically labels the 'Death Panel' canards as 'False.' That is a clear statement that has been quite noticeable for its sad absence in political reporting out of Washington,D.C. for decades. Instead of presenting stenography and "he said, he said" reports and requiring readers to decide who is lying with no guidance, the New York Times has actually recognized and reported that the rumors are false.

Second, it specifically names the individuals responsible for creating and spreading the lie. The story points out that the lie was "Advanced even this week by Republican stalwarts including the party’s last vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and Charles E. Grassley, the veteran Iowa senator". Further information on the source of the lie is added:
the rumor — which has come up at Congressional town-hall-style meetings this week in spite of an avalanche of reports laying out why it was false — was not born of anonymous e-mailers, partisan bloggers or stealthy cyberconspiracy theorists.

Rather, it has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor).
But the surprising willingness of the New York Times to call the rumor a falsehood and to specifically name the purveyors of that falsehood pales beside the single most important aspect of this story. The third and most important element is that this story has actually been published by the New York Times itself. And not just 'published.' We are told that "... a version of the article appeared in print on August 14, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition." That's not in the back pages where inconvenient stories are sent to die a silent death. It's right up front where it is intended to be widely seen and to cause public conversation.

What makes this story so unusual is that, as Bob Somerby points out in his new Howler article on the subject, the New York Times itself has been the source and purveyor of most of the similar lies designed to destroy Bill Clinton and Al Gore, The very fact that the source of so much of the evil paranoid fear-mongering rhetoric that has polluted America's politics for the last two decades, the publication of this story is a real watershed. The question immediately arises - has their been a coup of sorts in the NY Times Editorial staff, or has someone there actually gotten a conscience and decided to commit journalism instead of pushing the right-wing ideology? Is the publication of this story a result of a personnel change, or of the personal change of an individual who approved it? That would be interesting to know, since it would tell us a lot about "the Grey Lady."

All three articles are well worth reading. The first two may indicate a watershed difference in American politics, and Somerby's Howler article offers some perspective and an explanation of the meaning of the publication of the first two articles. Something has appeared to be changing in American national politics since 2004, and these articles indicate that there may be a similar but belated change beginning to happen in the journalism of covering American national politics. It'll take time to tell what it means.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Right-wing "outgunned" on the Internet

This is a rather illuminating comment
Erick Erickson from RedState said that on the right, the focus has been “on punditry as opposed to activism.” “It has been focused on bloggers trying to be the next Rush Limbaugh or the next columnist, not on urging readers to call members of Congress or go to tea parties,” he added.
[Source: Think Progress]
Do you think the distinction could be the different mindset between individualists out to make it on their own against people who belong to a community and contribute to making it better?

If that's the case then the right-wingers simply cannot operate successfully using the Internet as a way of linking their community without changing the individual mindset of their members. Until they make that change, the Internet will remain an advantage for the left. But if they do make that change, they will become left-wingers themselves.

That leaves the right-wingers with only one way to fight the advantage the Internet gives the left-wingers - somehow deny the left-wingers the use of the Internet. Legal, sabotage, whatever. But it will not be the kind of highly effective asset for the right-wing that the left-wing already has found it to be.

Cheny still obsessive about the threats America faces

Even after leaving public office and while suffering from weak heart, Dick Cheney is as obsessive as ever about correcting the many mistakes American politicians are making.
Cheney passes most of his days at the top of the garage at his new house in McLean, where he built an office under the dormered roof and filled it with books and binders of his vice presidential papers. He kept copies of the unclassified ones and consults the rest on visits to the National Archives. He took detailed notes in the White House, head bobbing up and down as he wrote and sometimes disappearing from the screen in videoconferences. Those notes, according to one person who has discussed them with Cheney, will form the core of his account of the Bush years.

"What impressed me was his continuing zeal," said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. "He hadn't stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view. He was still very much in the fray. He's not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience. There was no sense in which he looked back and said, 'I wish I'd done something differently.' Rather, there was a sense that they hadn't gone far enough. If he'd been equipped with a group of people as ideologically rigorous as he was, they'd have been able to push further."
Barton Gellman, author of Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency the biography on Cheney, continues to tell the story of Mr. Cheney in his retirement.

History will determine which has been more destructive to the unique American Democratic Republic - the threats that Cheney perceives or Dick Cheney himself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Republicans buy the "widespread voter fraud" lie

It has always seemed to me that a great many Republicans firmly believe that no rational person could reject the policies they push, so the only rational answer to why so many people do reject them has to be voter fraud by their enemies.

Since those Republicans believe that everyone who opposes them is a liar and criminal, they also don't believe any of the evidence that anyone suggests proves that their policies don't and can't work. So like all "true believers" with an ideology to sell, they know it can't be the ideology that has failed. The problem has to be enemies opposing it and the fact that those supporting it haven't worked hard enough to get the ideology implemented proper over such obstruction.

There is also the fact that they know the mass population has no clue about the way they should be governed. They are just waiting to be led, either in the right or the wrong direction. In spite of their patriotic rhetoric, they have no belief in the ability of the voting public to get it right unless they are led. Democracy is only "magic" to them because it gives them a possibility of replacing the existing government themselves.

Dedicated Communists have exactly the same problem. They know in their hearts that Communism is the wave of the future, so if they just redouble their efforts it will be accepted. Needless to say, such doubled and redoubled efforts frequently involve criminal or near criminal activities, at least by some extremists.

The whole package is a coherent internally self-reinforcing meme, one that applies to true-believer ideologues. Everything they know to be true supports it, and their system of thought is designed to reject evidence that they might be wrong. My point, though, is that such people really believe what they are saying.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This is what the tea bagger efforts are intended to do.

An AFL/CIO individual was included on a Republican strategy phone call about the Democratic townhall event. Here is what the Republicans are trying to do:
According to AFL-CIO's notes, the moderator on the call said, "The goal is not compromise, and ANY bill coming out this year would be a failure for us."

Another organizer added, "The purpose of Tea Parties is not to find a solution to the health care crisis -- it is to stop what is not the solution: Obamacare."

A spokesperson for the American Liberty Alliance told Greg that these sentiments "may have been expressed" on the call, though she isn't sure about the exact language.
Gee. What a surprise.

Remember, these guys are members of a political minority party. They want their views forces on all of us.

Obama needs to do more of these speeches

This is what we have needed out of our President. He gives a good speech, and this one on health care is one of his better ones.

Monday, August 10, 2009

what will it take to reach out to the Republicans on health care reform?

What kinds of proposals can Democrats accept that will allow the Republicans to compromise and work seriously on a reform of the American health care mess? Digby thinks history has the answer:
Adam Green notes Mark Warner's tiresome comments over the week-end about the need for bipartisanship and reminds us that this isn't the first time the Democratic Charlie Brown's have fallen for this:
Newt Gingrich on the House floor during the health care debate -- March 16, 1994:

I agree with my friend, the gentleman from Missouri [Mr. Gephardt]. I want to reach out in a bipartisan way to pass the bill. I praise the gentleman from Florida [Mr. Bilirakis] and the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Rowland] for a bipartisan bill. I praise the gentleman from Iowa [Mr. Grandy] and the gentleman from Tennessee [Mr. Cooper] for a bipartisan bill. They are starting in the right direction to reach out.
How did that work out?
[Digby responds with another quote] I can answer that:
Then minority whip Newt Gingrich (R-GA) led a politically opportunistic and stubborn conservative charge against health care reform. He argued internally that any successful bill would set back Republican electoral prospects in November 1994. At a March 1994 strategy retreat, Gingrich warned GOP senators that “any Republican concessions will be met with more Democratic demands,” and that the GOP should concede nothing.
[Again from Digby}I doubt the game plan has changed.
I agree with Digby. I doubt that the Republican game plan has changed.

The Republicans simply don't believe that the American people should be provided with universal health care or anything like it from the government. Period. They also are certain that they are right, and that the majority of Americans who disagree with them are wrong. Besides not believing in government benefits for anyone except the rich, they don't especially believe in democracy either.

They strongly believe these thins. But if they admitted it in public, they also know the media would pillory them with the admissions and they would lose the next election. So they act on their core beliefs, but do not publicly admit to them. [I suspect that this knowledge of how the media would expose their true beliefs to the public is the reason why they also strongly believe that the major media is liberal and opposed to them.]

That's a rather schizophrenic form of thinking, of course. The have their personal goals [personal power and personal wealth], and they have their strong personal beliefs. But to achieve those goals, they have to show a very different mask, one that does not display those beliefs, to the media for exposure to the public. They will do so as long as it remains rewarding. But it must be difficult.

There will be no bipartisan health care bill, no matter how badly America desperately needs massive reform in the health care lack-of-system. The Republicans will continue to talk a seemingly somewhat conciliatory game until the very end. But at the end, they will pull out all the stops to kill health care reform.

If the Democrats are fooled by this "Lucy's Football" again and do not succeed in passing the health care legislation in spite of the Republican obstructionism, then the next election is going to be a bad one for the Democrats.

If that's the case then the Blue Dogs who ultimately defeat the bill should be taken out in the primaries. Only the Democrats can make government work again, and if the Blue Dogs obstruct that, then they go or the Democratic Party itself goes.

To answer the question this essay started with, nothing will reach the Republicans. They cannot and will not act in a bipartisan manner on health care. It's that simple.And the Democratic Party will once again severely regret it if it ignores this truth

Obama is sequencing his big initiatives

To those Progressives angry that Obama hasn't started on things like Don't Ask Don't Tell and Immigration reform, I've been saying - wait until after health care. Health care is his biggest and most important battle. You won't see anything else until after health care.

well, to the impatient and the unconvinced, here's a better source.
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Joined by leaders whose countries border the United States, President Barack Obama on Monday said that while immigration reform is important other priorities such as his health care overhaul and financial regulation will be tackled first.

"I've got a lot on my plate and it's very important for us to sequence these big initiatives so they don't crash at the same time," Obama said when asked by a reporter about the prospects for immigration reform.
OK? Got it yet?

The things you have to do to get hits on UTube

Sometimes you have to go weird to spice up a routine exercise video.

Anti-health care activist asking for donations for his own health care

A conservative activist in St. Louis named Kenneth Gladney claims he was beaten by union thugs because he was demonstrating against the health care bill. His story may have some holes in it, but what makes it interesting is that he is now requesting donations for his medical care.

It seems that he was recently laid off and lost his health care. (Story from Steve Benen at the Political Animal.)

What was it he claimed he got beaten up for doing again?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

This is the truth!

Kevin Drum describes his latest problem with corporate America. This was his conclusion, so accurate, routine and mundane as to almost escape notice these days.
...if you wonder why I'm not bothered by the idea of government-funded healthcare, that's why. Frankly, my dealings with the government, on average, are better than most of my dealings with corporations. The government might sometimes provide poor customer service just because they lack the motivation to do better, but corporate America routinely provides crappy customer service as part of a deliberate and minutely planned strategy. I'll take my chances with the feds.
Kevin's right. As customers we are used to getting the crap kicked out of us by the corporations who sell the stuff they want us to buy.