Thursday, October 31, 2013


What Salon's Alex Pareene wants Democrats to do with regard to Obamacare is pretty much what promo guy Artie Fufkin did after a disastrous Spinal Tap autograph session that drew no fans:

Pareene writes:
The immediate political problem is that the president spent a bunch of time saying "if you like your plan, you can keep it," and now there are literally thousands of people who can go in front of television cameras and say that's not true. That's a bad look! ...

So what is to be done? Democrats who aren't Obama should already be working on easy-to-grasp proposals to "reform" the ACA -- to make it more public and less private. The immediate priority -- and progressives running for office in 2014 and 2016 should practice saying this out loud -- is fixing Obamacare. Not just the website, but the coverage gaps, the ways insurance companies will continue to exploit people and rip them off, and the potential for the cost burden on middle class people to grow.

Liberal Democrats need to propose real, old-fashioned liberal solutions to the real problems of the ACA. Things like federalizing Medicaid, to take care of people in states where the expansion has been blocked, and lowering the Medicare eligibility age. And they need to reintroduce the public option. None of that is attainable now, but it could be in the near future. That whole package ought to be pushed for by unions and by activists in primary elections. The message needs to be nakedly populist -- "make Obamacare work for you instead of the insurance companies" ... And Democrats in Congress ought to begin seriously agitating for Medicare-for-all, both because it is the correct policy, and because doing so will make everything else seem more "reasonable."
Look, I'm all for the reforms he talks about, up to and very much including Medicare for All -- but if Democrats walk around saying "Mea culpa, mea culpa" about Obamacare, the public is not going to take them seriously when they propose alternatives, because they're effectively saying, Yes we screwed the pooch on Obamacare -- so if you want it fixed, trust us. How plausible is that message going to be?

Here's my alternative: Yes, admit that the site is a mess. Yes, don't try to deny that the "you can keep it" message was a mistake. But go on the offense regarding the "cancellations" narrative. Challenge the notion that all of these people are being cut adrift -- because they aren't.

Have you seen Michael Hiltzik's story in the L.A. Times? He watched a woman from the Los Angeles suburbs named Deborah Cavallaro make the media rounds bewailing the loss of her health plan. So he got in touch with her and found out some information about what she's losing. Here's what he found out:
Her current plan, from Anthem Blue Cross, is a catastrophic coverage plan for which she pays $293 a month as an individual policyholder. It requires her to pay a deductible of $5,000 a year and limits her out-of-pocket costs to $8,500 a year. Her plan also limits her to two doctor visits a year, for which she shoulders a copay of $40 each. After that, she pays the whole cost of subsequent visits.

This fits the very definition of a nonconforming plan under Obamacare. The deductible and out-of-pocket maximums are too high, the provisions for doctor visits too skimpy.
To my mind, it fits the definition of an insane plan for a woman who is Cavallaro's age -- 60. I'm 54, and a number of annoying medical problems are sneaking up on me. I can imagine being forced to buy a policy that covers only two doctor visits a year, but I can't imagine it not being a risk.

Hiltzik learns what her alternatives actually are:
As for a replacement plan, she says she was quoted $478 a month by her insurance broker, but that's a lot more than she'll really be paying. Cavallaro told me she hasn't checked the website of Covered California, the state's health plan exchange, herself. I did so while we talked.

Here's what I found. I won't divulge her current income, which is personal, but this year it qualifies her for a hefty federal premium subsidy.

At her age, she's eligible for a good "silver" plan for $333 a month after the subsidy -- $40 a month more than she's paying now. But the plan is much better than her current plan -- the deductible is $2,000, not $5,000. The maximum out-of-pocket expense is $6,350, not $8,500. Her co-pays would be $45 for a primary care visit and $65 for a specialty visit -- but all visits would be covered, not just two.

Is that better than her current plan? Yes, by a mile.

If she wanted to pay less, Cavallaro could opt for lesser coverage in a "bronze" plan. She could buy one from the California exchange for as little as $194 a month. From Anthem, it's $256, or $444 a year less than she's paying now. That buys her a $5,000 deductible (the same as she's paying today) but the out-of-pocket limit is lower, $6,350. Office visits would be $60 for primary care and $70 for specialties, but again with no limit on the number of visits. Factor in the premium savings, and it's hard to deny that she's still ahead.
Forget "Democrats who aren't Obama" -- do you know what Obama should do? He should meet personally with someone who's experienced a policy cancellation, or he should arrange to have Secretary Sebelius do so. This should be in a state like California that's fully cooperating with the law. An Obamacare navigator should go along, and after the meeting, the individual and the navigator should sit down and work through the options. And then we should find out if the angry policy holder is still angry.

Obamacare isn't as good a system as Medicare for All -- but nobody's ever going to listen to any Democrat on health care again if Democrats agree that Obamacare is a train wreck, and never point out that it can work out well for a lot of people who think it can't.


ALSO: Pareene asserts that 7 to 12 million people will "get their policies canceled and then get asked to pay more," but the link he offers as evidence only gives that an estimate of the number of likely cancellation notices. I assume most will be asked to pay more, but how many will need to pay significantly more after the subsidies kick in? It would be good to know that. (And I add "significantly" because you do realize that premiums used to go up even before Obama was president, right?)

Bush's Brain co-author Wayne Slater shares a link:

The story -- posted at and reproduced from Alex Jones's Infowars -- is this:
United Nations To Take Over The Alamo

UN flag may fly above shrine of liberty if designated as a World Heritage Site

San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro is currently negotiating with the United Nations to designate the Alamo as a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, meaning that a blue UN flag may fly above the historic shrine of liberty once it falls under UN control.

UNESCO, a specialized agency within the UN, created the World Heritage Site status out of a 1972 international agreement, which calls for nations to join together to manage historical sites through "collective assistance."
Yes, it's all about collectivism:
... During the battle, at least 189 Alamo defenders sacrificed their lives for liberty instead of surrendering to the tyrannical Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

The Alamo emerged from the battle as a sacred shrine for individual freedom in the face of collective evil.

Now the shrine is besieged by the collective UN, whose policies follow Santa Ana’s dictatorial rule rather than the values the Alamo defenders died for....
Yup -- not only is the UN a bunch of big commies, but so was Santa Anna! He wore a Che shirt! (OK, I made that part up.)

How exactly would UN management affect the Alamo?
In 2002, the UNESCO World Heritage Center published a manual entitled "Managing Tourism at World Heritage Sites," which outlines UN obligations that the historic site managers are expected to follow.

The manual states that it is "the duty of the international community as a whole to cooperate" in managing World Heritage Sites, meaning that bureaucrats from China or France could oversee and influence the Alamo’s operation.

One of the "protection obligations" of a World Heritage Site is the requirement to "use the World Heritage logo," meaning that the Alamo Plaza would be adorned with UN symbols.

A UN flag may even be hoisted above the Alamo, which is typical at World Heritage Sites such as theCahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois....
Yes, look at that massive UN flag, which dominates the entire 2,200-acre site! (Follow the purple arrow.)

And do I need to tell you that Agenda 21 is an issue here?
Some may say that if the Alamo is designated a World Heritage Site, which is expected by 2015, the UN wouldn't necessarily control it because the Alamo would "remain" under sovereign jurisdiction.

Yet as we constantly see with Agenda 21, local city governments adopt policies "recommended" by the UN as if they were law....
By the way, do you want to know what other U.S. sites are UN World Heritage Sites? I'll give you a partial list: The Statue of Liberty. The Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Yosemite. Anyone remember when all of these sites were taken over by jackbooted thugs in blue helmets, who marched in and declared, "We spit on your U.S. sovereignty"? Yeah, I don't remember that either.

If these people spent all their waking hours hitting themselves on the head with hammers, they couldn't make themselves stupider than they do with this delusional nonsense they spread.

This portrait of Ted Cruz by New Yorker film critic David Denby is getting some attention, primarily for this:
For months, I sensed vaguely that [Cruz] reminded me of someone but I couldn't place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.
But I'm struck by this:
[Cruz] speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him? ... he's an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people's sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people's vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts....
And this:
His strategy is universal aggression, aimed at everyone. Well, not quite everyone -- lately, his popularity with the Tea Party cohort has increased. And at a recent rally at the convention of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, he was greeted with heated adoration. But normally Cruz resembles one of those war chariots with blades flashing from the wheels; he tries to cut up everything in his path. When things go wrong, he only sharpens the blades....
And this:
He has repeated this charge -- the betrayal, the stab in the back -- in many forms. He has been wronged, his cohort has been wronged, the American people have been wronged, traduced by weaklings and cowards in the ranks. In Cruz's rhetoric, the American people are always being wronged.
This isn't a description of Ted Cruz. This is a description of everyone on the modern right. Charging others with sinfulness while regarding oneself as utterly without sin? Check. "Universal aggression," except toward one's allies? Check. Ratcheting up the aggression and the rage after a setback? Check. (See: the rise of the tea party in 2009 after the GOP's 2008 electoral blowout.) A constant sense of being stabbed in the back? Check.

The fact that the modern right is like this -- and has been for a long time -- was clear to us angry lefties a long time ago, and is slowly beginning to dawn on some mainstream political observers. But far too many David Denbys -- people who don't devote a lot of their time to politics -- still haven't grasped the fact that the Republican Party has turned into an insane and radical rage cult.

Denby thinks Cruz is unique. He implies that if Cruz burns out or fades away, things will be a lot better. He doesn't get it.

When will every intelligent person in America finally realize what's gone horribly wrong with the right? That day can't come soon enough -- but it's going to be a long time coming.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I was unable to watch any of the Sebelius grilling. The Twitter consensus seems to be that she did poorly. However, Rush Limbaugh is despairing, apparently because he lives in a bad drug fantasy in which Republican attacks are harmless and liberalism is a slow but relentless juggernaut:
RUSH: Okay, so let me ask you a quick question. Have you been watching the Sebelius hearings today? Good. Tell me what you think.... I'm getting e-mails, "Boy, this Sebelius, oh, is she looking bad. Oh, my God, it's embarrassing. Oh, jeez, how stupid."

And my friends, I'm sorry, but I have a different take. I mean, she does look all that, but are there any Republicans there? There are? Really? I haven't seen any evidence of it.... Everybody's now caught up in whether Obama knows the details of this or not, and I'm just gonna tell you, he doesn't care. He doesn't care. Mao Tse-tung didn't know the details, all of them. Neither did Fidel.

I'm just saying these guys have a different agenda. The details don't matter. The chaos is what's crucial here, and with every new day of chaos, they're closer to what they really want, which is single payer....

They're constantly, always moving their agenda forward. They're always moving their ideology forward. They always have a plan; they're always on the attack.

... Republicans had a chance here to try to convince people, "We don't want this. We have to find a way to get rid of it. It's hurting too many people," whatever -- and if the people watching do not have as a take-away that we want to get rid of this, then no damage done, right? That's my take on it....

Knowing how to win is a really key thing, and the Democrats don't have any problems like that. They don't care. They'll lie. They're Alinskyites. They will lie, they'll make things up, they'll even hurt their own people in the process, as long as they win what they want....

Individuals told their stories of how they lost their insurance. Some of these of people are Democrats. A lot of them are. A lot of them voted for Obama, and a lot of them have said they wouldn't do it again. Democrats don't care about their own people being hurt here because their objective is to get single payer.

That's all they care about. That's their objective. They can see it in front of 'em, and every day that there is new chaos, then they're that much closer to it. See, I think this ought to be like shooting ducks at a carnival, this hearing. When this day of hearings is over, the American people ought to be rising up demanding this thing be scrubbed. That's the opportunity we had here, and apparently Republicans don't look at it that way.
So I guess Obamacare was deliberately built to fail because, as everyone knows, if it fails we're just instantly going to throw all the huge private insurers and all their expensive lobbyists under the bus and go socialist, because liberals rule, and we're Alinskying this just the same way we Alinskied our way to the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall and the restoration of Eisenhower-era 90+ percent top marginal tax rates, when we weren't getting all those Wall Street bankers arrested and getting Gitmo closed and stopping the drones and legalizing gay marriage all the way from Montana to Mississippi. Remember how we pulled all that off? Good times.

The flip side of this -- Limbaugh's assertion that if Republicans had done their job properly at the hearings, the public would be rising up already, pitchforks in hand, demanding Obamacare's immediate repeal -- just seems like delusional Cruzism. The public is on our side! We just have to unleash their innate wingnuttiness with the mighty force of our passion for freedom! If the public doesn't rise up en masse and demand what we want, it's not because the public doesn't agree with us -- it's because we didn't make our case relentlessly enough!

That's what the Cruzians said about the shutdown -- that's what they still say about the shutdown. Do they really believe it? Does Limbaugh believe it? Does he believe what he's saying here about the public being one properly conducted congressional hearing away from taking to the streets and demanding Obamacare's repeal? If so, Limbaugh's really drinking his own Kool-Aid. He's really got himself convinced that America naturally shares his politics, and the only thing preventing a triumph of those politics is the fact that we liberals have sinister superpowers.


Andrew Sullivan is puzzled:
Why Won't Republicans Help Reform Obamacare?

The obvious answer is that Obama created it -- and they're that petty. But it is based in many parts on a moderate Republican idea -- the kind of market-friendly, private-sector-based reforms that George H W Bush and Mitt Romney backed (not to speak of Heritage, which has gone from providing some of the core features of the ACA to screaming like a rabid wolf at the moon)....

Jonathan Bernstein calls the GOP a "post-policy" party:
It's not just failure to, say, draft an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. It's also about refusing to distinguish between aspects of the Affordable Care Act they really hate and those which they only mildly dislike (or, if they were really honest, those they actually support)....
They're just increasingly uninterested in governing....
But Republicans aren't really "uninterested in governing" -- they're certainly plenty interested in governing at the state level, where they have all kinds of Koch-fueled ideas about taxation and union-busting and abortion and voter eligibility and guns. In D.C., Republicans like Paul Ryan have a wealth (as it were) of similar ideas. We know the D.C. GOP's health care ideas: limits on malpractice awards to individuals; allowing sales of health insurance policies across state lines (which would pave the way for one state to develop an exceedingly business-friendly, consumer-hostile set of laws that all insurers could follow); voucherizing Medicare; etc., etc. These are terrible ideas, sure -- but they're ideas.

What Republicans are uninterested in, obviously, is governing in cooperation with the rest of us. The party -- not just the Cruzite crazies, but the whole party -- believes that any government action originating with Democrats is illegitimate, and must be blocked rather than negotiated, or overturned rather than modified if it's already law.

But if they win the White House and the Senate back, just watch -- they'll be governing like crazy (in multiple senses of the word). Sure, they'll be governing the way they've governed recently in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas, but it'll be governing of some sort.

Look, I understand why people are upset at certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, and at the people involved in carrying out the law. However, it takes a special sort of personality to describe Kathleen Sebelius as ... a thug.

I give you Michelle Malkin:
The Thuggery of Obamacare Czarina Kathleen Sebelius

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius ... is the ruthless enforcer of Obamacare's Jenga tower of lies upon lies upon lies. Now that this fatally flawed government edifice is collapsing, you can expect Sebelius to do what she has done her entire career: blame, bully and pile on more lies.

Three years ago, when insurers and other companies had the audacity to expose Obamacare's damage to their customers and workers, Sebelius brought out her brass knuckles. Remember? As I reported at the time, the White House coordinated a demonization campaign against Anthem Blue Cross in California for raising rates because of the new mandate's costs. Obama singled out the company in a "60 Minutes" interview, and Sebelius sent a nasty-gram demanding that Anthem "justify" its rate hikes to the federal government....

Health care policy analyst Merrill Matthews points out that Sebelius cracked her whip against health insurer Humana even before the law had passed....
(Emphasis added.)

And Sebelius is not the only member of the goon squad who strikes terror into the heart of Malkin, and the terrified CEOs of multi-billion-dollar corporations who need her to speak out because they've been terrified into silence. There's also the congressman who acts as Sebelius's enforcer:
Sebelius' power-mad partner on Capitol Hill, Henry Waxman, targeted companies including Deere, Caterpillar, Verizon and ATT in a brass-knuckled effort to silence companies speaking out about the cost implications and financial burdens of Obamacare. After the firms reported write-downs related to the Obamacare mandate (disclosures that are required by law), Waxman scheduled an inquisition hearing to berate them publicly....
Nooooo! Please! Not the berating! Anything but that! I'll talk!

And yes, the power-mad, brass-knuckled thug she's referring to is this guy:

Meanwhile, my 86-year-old mother is wondering who that lady is she keeps seeing on TV with the gray hair, because she'd like to get her own hair cut that way. She means Sebelius.

You can question how Sebelius is doing her job, but I think you have to be an insane wingnut with rage disorder to regard her as a combination of Torquemada and Whitey Bulger.


(Post title taken from this 1993 hip-hop classic.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


(Welcome, Balloon Juice comment thread readers. I think the post you're looking for is this one.)

This is getting attention in the wingnuttosphere:
Back Door Gun Control Moves Forward

There are numerous alarming reasons why the US government and the military have been buying up all the ammo. Here’s one of them. Obama and the EPA just shut down the last lead smelting plant in the US. They raised the EPA regulations by 10 fold and it would have cost the plant $100 million to comply. You can own all the guns you want, but if you can't get ammo, you are out of luck.

Remember when Obama promised his minions that he was working on gun control behind the scenes? Welcome to it. Now, all domestic mined lead ore will have to be shipped overseas, refined and then shipped back to the US. Not only will ammo now be even harder to come by, the demand and the process of supply will cause the price to skyrocket even more. And ponder this... there is an excellent chance that Obama will rig the market to where all ammo has to be purchased from a government entity instituting de facto ammo registration. So much for the Second Amendment....
The fear of this imminent evil government takeover of your right to keep and bears arms has also been expressed in cartoon form. Take it away, Chris Muir:

So how exactly did this happen? A post at, under the title "Last U.S. Lead Smelter to Close in December Due to EPA -- Might Affect Ammo Production," directs us to this NRA press release:
In December, the final primary lead smelter in the United States will close. The lead smelter, located in Herculaneum, Missouri, and owned and operated by the Doe Run Company, has existed in the same location since 1892.

The Herculaneum smelter is currently the only smelter in the United States which can produce lead bullion from raw lead ore that is mined nearby in Missouri's extensive lead deposits, giving the smelter its "primary" designation. The lead bullion produced in Herculaneum is then sold to lead product producers, including ammunition manufactures for use in conventional ammunition components such as projectiles, projectile cores, and primers. Several "secondary" smelters, where lead is recycled from products such as lead acid batteries or spent ammunition components, still operate in the United States.

Doe Run made significant efforts to reduce lead emissions from the smelter, but in 2008 the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead that were 10 times tighter than the previous standard. Given the new lead air quality standard, Doe Run made the decision to close the Herculaneum smelter....
Emphasis added.

All together now, boys and girls: Who was president all through 2008, and until January 20, 2009? Hint: not Barack Obama.

So, clearly, Obama used his sinister ability to warp the time-space continuum in order to make this happen two and a half months before his inauguration. Sneaky bastard!

California, of course, has passed a law phasing out the sale of lead hunting ammo in the state by 2015. The website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife lists 32 manufacturers of lead-free ammo, none of them doing business at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But don't be fooled by this Potemkin "free market," with its phony companies named "Remington" and "Winchester"! OBAMA'S COMING FOR YOUR GUNS, AND YOU WILL BE FORCED TO KNEEL!

For years, the mainstream press has been feeding us nonsense like this:
The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.
More recently, when Cruz-inspired teabaggers in the House forced a government shutdown, we began to read headlines like "Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party."

Funny, that doesn't seem to jibe with this:
... even as federal regulators and prosecutors extract multibillion-dollar penalties from the nation's biggest banks, Wall Street can rely on at least one ally here: the House of Representatives.

The House is scheduled to vote on two bills this week that would undercut new financial regulations and hand Wall Street a victory.... Citigroup lobbyists helped write one of the bills, which would exempt a wide array of derivatives trading from new regulation.

The bills are part of a broader campaign in the House ... to roll back elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the most comprehensive regulatory overhaul since the Depression. Of 10 recent bills that alter Dodd-Frank or other financial regulation, six have passed the House this year. This week, if the House approves Citigroup's legislation and another bill that would delay heightened standards for firms that offer investment advice to retirees, the tally would rise to eight.
And what is this Citigroup-backed bill?
The bill that Citigroup helped draft takes aim at one of the more contentious provisions in Dodd Frank, a requirement that banks "push out" some derivatives trading into separate units that are not backed by the government's insurance fund. The goal was to isolate this risky trading and to prevent government bailouts....

The House bill scheduled for a vote Wednesday would significantly curb the requirement that banks separate their derivatives trading operations, a plan that was created as a compromise by Citigroup lobbyists. In essence, the compromise exempted a wider array of derivatives from the push-out rule. As it now reads, Citigroup’s recommendations are reflected in more than 70 of the 85 lines of the House bill.
So the point of this bill is to make sure more losses from potentially risky trading will be covered by taxpayers. Um ... isn't that socialism? Or at least the socializing of more of the banks' losses (while their profits remain privatized)? And haven't we been told over and over and over again that the Crazy Caucus members who appear to have veto power over everything the House does absolutely hate socialism?

Funny, you'd think the 'bagger caucus would be up in arms about this. Why, you might almost think the 'baggers would be ready to shut down the government to prevent this.

If you were an idiot. Or a mainstream political journalist. (But I repeat myself.)

I say this all the time, but I'll say it again: teabaggers don't hate big business -- they love big business. Yes, it was easy to get confused when they forced a government shutdown and threatened to bring about a debt default, but they were just showing love for big business the way Annie Wilkes showed love for Paul Sheldon in Misery. Like Annie Wilkes, they're certain they know what's best for their beloved, even if their beloved doesn't understand.

(A final point: If you read the article, you'll see that business-friendly House Democrats are also on board with these bills -- though the Senate isn't, nor is the White House. But my point still stands: Crazy Caucus House Republicans could pitch a fit and bend the House to their will if they were really such great skeptics about business -- and they do nothing of the sort.)

The answer to the question posed by libertarian concern troll Conor Friedersdorf in his latest post -- "Will the Left Turn on President Obama Like the Tea Party Did on President Bush?" -- is in the title above.

Friedersdorf writes:
During President George W. Bush's tenure, most Republicans felt that criticizing him would just help Democrats. Only the end of his presidency freed them to see its flaws clearly. Staunch conservatives who voted for him twice suddenly found themselves swept up in a Tea Party rebellion against his team's approach to governing. They felt chagrin at the ways he had transgressed against their values, and they resolved to change the GOP so that the same mistakes would never recur.

Do I have to go through the evidence again? The fact that Bush's job approval rating among Republicans was 75% in the last month of his presidency (as opposed to 34% in the population at large), but has actually risen, to 84%, among Republicans this year?

Please, Conor. Don't tell me that teabaggers reject Bush. Teabaggers feel no authentic "chagrin at the ways he had transgressed against their values." The only "chagrin" they feel is at the fact that he was their dreamboat and everything they cheered him for doing failed, the result being humiliation for them and and a national rejection of their holy conservative Cause. They can't bear to hate themselves for this, or question the way they mooned over Bush's codpiece for eight years (or at least six, until Democrats won the '06 midterms), so they lie to themselves now and say they never liked all those deficits and expenditures they didn't give a goddamn about when Bush was riding high. They tell themselves that fiscal prudence has always been their core principle, when in fact their core principle is now what it has always been: liberalism and the Democratic Party must be destroyed so that we can rule forever. Wearing tricorn hats and putting the word "constitutional" into every sentence they utter is just their latest scheme to achieve that end.

After President Obama leaves office, will the scales fall from liberals' eyes? No, because significant percentages of us are capable of backing a politician without engaging in Belieber-esque hero-worship. We're with Obama even as we grumble about the inadequacy of the stimulus, the failure of mortgage relief, the fact that at this moment no Wall Street fat cat is sitting in a cell. We're still miffed that if we couldn't get single payer, we didn't even get a public option. We think the president got rolled on the sequester. Serious doubts about the drone war and NSA spying aren't limited to emoprogs.

And yet on women's rights and gay rights and climate change and immigration and taxation of the wealthy and many, many other issues we're with the president, and we realize what the alternative would be. Please -- we went through this with Clinton. DOMA? Wall Street deregulation? Welfare reform? Feh. But still: turn over the country to the Kenneth Starr panty-sniffing Contract with America crazies? Turn over the country to a party cheered on (and ordered around) by Fox and Limbaugh? We did that in 2000. How'd that work out?

At the end of the day, the fact that Republicans are crazy may be the #1 reason we won't turn on Obama. And Conor, don't even start with me on NSA skepticism among (a tiny handful of) Republicans. Wake me when the GOP is shutting down the government to stop surveillance, or the killing of civilians with drones, or tax breaks for the Wall Street fat cats they allegedly hate as much as they hate government. Until then, just shut the hell up.


And, readers, if you haven't done so already, go to TBogg's new Raw Story home and savor the way he beats Friedersdorf's post to a bloody pulp.

Monday, October 28, 2013


You my already know that The Wall Street Journal published an online column by actress and self-help author Suzanne Somers entitled "The Affordable Care Act Is a Socialist Ponzi Scheme." This is part of a recurring feature on the Journal site titled, unironically, "The Experts"; Somers assures us that she knows whereof she speaks because she is "a writer of 24 books mostly on health and wellness" and because she has managed to write these books by "using my celebrity to get to the best and brightest doctors, scientists and medical professionals in the alternative and integrative health-care world." Wow, I'm convinced! That's pretty much exactly like going to medical school!

And what does Ms. Somers's vast store of medical knowledge lead her to do in her own life?
Suzanne Somers showed "Oprah" viewers her intricate daily routine on Thursday's show, the topic of which was hormone replacement....

Somers invited cameras into her home to show her daily routine.... First she rubs hormone lotion on the inside of her upper arm, always estrogen and two weeks a month progesterone. She then injects estriol vaginally, which she did not let cameras see.

Then there are her [dietary supplement] pills, all 60 of them. 40 in the morning with a smoothie and the rest at night. She admits the pill quantity is extreme, saying, "I know I look like some kind of fanatic."
That was revealed in 2009 on Oprah Winfrey's show; Oprah said Somers had been following this routine "for over ten years." We are meant not to ask whether this use of hormones at high levels had anything to do with the fact that Somers had breast cancer in 2001, not to mention the "full-body cancer" she says she was diagnosed with several years later.

Somers claims to have overcome that cancer ("You have a mass on your lungs. It looks like the cancers has metastasized into your liver. You have so many tumors in your chest we can't count them. They all have masses in them") without chemotherapy, which she opposes on principle and which she thinks killed Parick Swayze (rather than his cancer).

Oh, and she thinks Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree in Newtown because of a poor diet and exposure to household toxins.

So, yeah, she's an "expert." I guess next the Journal will give us Jenny McCarthy talking about the Centers for Disease Control.

At Salon, Michael Lind covers some of the same ground that Paul Krugman covers today -- both argue that what's complicated and cumbersome about Obamacare is the conservative part of it, the market-oriented part, the part that involves means-testing. But Lind goes further, charging liberals with laying the groundwork for the destruction of Medicare and Social Security at some point in the future.

How is that going to be our fault? Lind explains:
... partisan Democratic spinmeisters are now treating Obamacare, not as an essentially conservative program that is better than nothing, but as something it is not -- namely, a great victory of progressive public policy on the scale of Social Security and Medicare....

If Obamacare -- built on means-testing, privatizing and decentralization to the states -- is treated by progressives as the greatest liberal public policy success in the last half-century, then how will progressives be able to argue against proposals by conservative Republicans and center-right neoliberal Democrats to means-test, privatize and decentralize Social Security and Medicare in the years ahead?

I predict that it is only a matter of time before conservatives and Wall Street-backed "New Democrats" begin to argue that, with Obamacare in place, it makes no sense to have two separate healthcare systems for the middle class -- Obamacare for working-age Americans, Medicare for retired Americans. They will suggest, in a great bipartisan chorus: Let's get rid of Medicare, in favor of Lifelong Obamacare! Let's require the elderly to keep purchasing private insurance until they die! ...

Once Medicare has been abolished in favor of Lifelong Obamacare, perhaps by a future neoliberal Democratic president like Clinton and Obama, Social Security won’t last very long....
I'm going to stop Lind right there, because he's gone way off the rails.

I don't know any liberals are who argue that Obamacare is a Platonic ideal, the best health care reform possible. Lind, I think, has the left confused with the right. It's right-wingers -- both teabaggers and establishmentarians -- who believe that Obamacare is a perfect object: in their view, a perfect concentration of pure evil. On our side, we don't feel that way. A lot of us would happily swap Obamacare for single payer. Even those of us who wouldn't can easily imagine improvements.

Obamacare may well succeed, more or less, but as a program it will never be loved the way Social Security and Medicare are. Instead, it will be a program for which a lot of people will be grateful, the way they're grateful for unemployment insurance and food stamps and FEMA aid other government programs that some people avail themselves of and others don't. Because it will always be somewhat difficult to establish eligibility for benefits, the program will always be fairly cumbersome and bureaucratic.

And because, as I said in the last post, everyone doesn't benefit, the right will always attack Obamacare as a program used by parasites and moochers. Right-wingers may not be able to get rid of Obamacare, any more than they can get rid of unemployment insurance, but they can sure as hell keep telling us that an awful lot of beneficiaries are lazy bums. And they will. Forever.

I'm not saying that there won't be efforts to voucherize and means-test Medicare and Social Security -- there will, and centrist will probably join leftists in arguing for these changes.

But they're not going to point to Obamacare as a successful model to emulate because the right, at least, will never fully embrace Obamacare. The right will always portray it as at least somewhat unsavory.

Paul Krugman today makes an excellent point: the parts of Obamacare that are upsetting people right now are pretty much what would have to be imposed on Medicare if Obamacare's right-wing critics get their way.
... look at the constant demands that we make Medicare ... both more complicated and worse. There are demands for means-testing, which would involve collecting all the personal information Obamacare needs but Medicare doesn't. There is pressure to raise the Medicare age, forcing 65- and 66-year-old Americans to deal with private insurers instead.

And Republicans still dream of dismantling Medicare as we know it, instead giving seniors vouchers to buy private insurance. In effect, although they never say this, they want to convert Medicare into Obamacare.
Krugman explains what right-wingers are thinking -- but I don't think this is the full explanation:
... the assault on Medicare is really about an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the notion of the government helping people, and tries to make whatever help is given as limited and indirect as possible, restricting its scope and running it through private corporations. And this ideology, at a fundamental level -- more fundamental, even, than vested interests -- is why Obamacare ended up being a big kludge.
That's true, but it's a partial explanation. Another reason right-wingers want to voucherize and means-test Medicare is that if we accept these changes, eventually it will be possible to categorize Medicare recipients as "takers," which is how the right gets its base to hate recipients of welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance. (Right-wingers who are beneficiaries of these programs themselves are given the impression that some other group of people gets the really good benefits.) And if we have Medicare vouchers that are insufficient for keep many people, that coverage gap will be their fault too, because they didn't arrange their lives in such a way as to avoid being old and poor and sick.

This is how conservative propagandists keep the right-wing base angry and hateful: by preaching a secular version of the fundamentalist idea that the world is divided into the saved and the damned, the latter group being easily identified by their shameful way of life and sinful deeds. Refusing to means-test Medicare and Social Security thwarts the right's ability to attack the programs this way -- for now, at least. The changes right-wingers want would make the programs much easier pickings for right-wing pseudo-fundamentalist demagogues.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Glenn Beck's Blaze posted this today:
A new online course featuring several notable conservative figures aims to teach students about the history of the conservative movement, a Washington D.C. area based non-profit said this week.

The 14-segment course, sponsored by the Leadership Institute and Free Think University, features "some of the conservative movement’s most influential voices," including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), talk-show host Mark Levin and the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore.

"Leadership Institute believes in equipping the next generation of leaders in America with a clear view of the values and ideals of the American Conservative Tradition," Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, said. "We're happy to help bring this world-class college course experience to thousands of students." ...
(Morton Blackwell, you may recall, is the guy behind the Kerry-mocking purple heart Band-Aids at the 2004 Republican convention.)

So Free Think University is an (alleged) institution of higher learning? How does it work exactly? Well, here's one explanation:

Or, if you want more detail, The Chronicle of Higher Education says this, quoting Free Think's co-founder:
Jim Van Eerden has come up with a resource that he says will give conservative parents a chance to counteract any liberal indoctrination of their children before it happens. His plan would let parents deposit tuition money into a "scholarship" that would go to a child's college only after the student had passed one or more short online courses offering a "more balanced" take on various issues.

Mr. Van Eerden, who serves as an "entrepreneur in residence" at Grove City College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania, has opened a nonprofit Web site, FreeThinkU, that offers almost 30 free "courses" -- each designed to last only a few hours, culminating in a multiple-choice quiz—on topics such as global warming, the Second Amendment, and American exceptionalism....

The idea, said Mr. Van Eerden, is that rather than paying their children's tuition outright, parents and grandparents will sponsor scholarships through FreeThinkU. In order to unlock the scholarship funds, their college-going progeny will have to take a series of FreeThinkU courses....

That type of arrangement, called an "UP! Scholarship," will become available to concerned parents and grandparents this spring for a $76 membership fee.

Members can set up other scholarships as well, such as funds aimed at students at particular universities. FreeThinkU believes it can harness money that alumni might have donated to their alma maters, and instead get them to sponsor scholarships that would send current students through FreeThinkU courses, rewarding the students with money for tuition....
Now, let me say something to anyone who thinks that, yes, Ted Cruz and the other new right-wing extremists are bad, and their voters are nuts, but you've got the exact same thing taking place on the liberal side of the spectrum. Well, no, you don't. There is no liberal senator whose speeches are repurposed by a phony-baloney "university" that seems like nothing more than a clever means of extracting cash and e-mail addresses from credulous conservatives.

Yeah, Elizabeth Warren taught students, but she was a tenured professor. Her lectures had real educational value. No one on the left is going to pay money to subsidize an ersatz school with "courses" that consists of warmed-over political speeches from Warren or other Democratic pols. We don't operate that way. We don't think political speeches by pols and pundits we like contain all the collected wisdom of the ages. The only major political party whose adherents engage in that sort of cult thinking is the GOP.

Yeah, it's nutpicking, but I thought I'd share this response from a Free Republic commenter to the death of Lou Reed:
The ObamaCare Death Panels in New York wouldn’t give him a liver transplant so he got it done in Ohio instead. Typical liberal hypocrisy. Death Panels for thee but not for me.
I'm not quite sure how "ObamaCare Death Panels" could kill Reed given that (a) Reed was old enough for Medicare, (b) Obamacare hasn't been fully implemented, and (c) Ohio, like New York, is part of the United States, and Obamacare is federal law, but whatever. Here's what a June news story said:
[Reed's wife, Laurie Anderson,] said that Reed had the surgery in Cleveland instead of New York, where they live, "because the hospitals here are completely dysfunctional.

"Fortunately we can outsource like corporations. It's medical tourism. The Cleveland Clinic is massive. They have the best results for heart, liver and kidney transplants. Whenever I get discouraged about how stupid technology is and how greedy and stupid Americans are, I go to the Cleveland Clinic because the people there are genuinely very kind and very smart."
A story on the AARP's blog added:
The Cleveland Clinic, unlike some other facilities, also has no age limit on transplant patients, according to the New York Times.
That post cites this Times article, which notes that a lot of medical facilities limit transplants (of all kinds) to the elderly, though the Cleveland Clinic doesn't. This has nothing to do with Obamacare. And AARP points out that Medicare continues to pay for organ transplants.

But let's see if "Obama killed Lou" (or at least "liberalism killed Lou") becomes right-wing conventional wisdom.

The latest paranoid theory making the right-wing rounds is that the Obama administration is preparing for food stamp riots starting November 1. The story's at Right Wing News now; I saw it at Alex Jones's Infowars a few days ago -- all sourced to a Neil Cavuto segment on Fox News (see clip below).

Here's how the Infowars story explains what's allegedly in the works:
Fox News' Neil Cavuto thinks the Department of Homeland Security's $80 million outlay on armed guards to protect government buildings is directly connected to food stamp cuts set to take effect on November 1st, a day on which all hell could break loose.

As Infowars first reported on Monday, the DHS announced its intention to hire a raft of new armed guards to prepare for "public demonstrations" and "civil disturbances" in upstate New York, adding that some of the guards would be posted outside IRS facilities.

Covering the story on his Fox News show, Cavuto said, "November 1st could be a very very iffy kind of a day....this could be all hell breaks loose day," noting that the armed guards were not to protect government buildings from terrorist threats but "From American citizens because on November 1st the food stamp program is set to start decreasing the amount that is allocated to food stamp recipients....and they're worried that violence will ensue."

Cavuto's concern that the cut in food stamp benefits could spark violence is legitimate given what happened when the EBT card system crashed for just hours earlier this month, prompting mini-riots and looting at several Walmart stores....
OK, let's back up. That Homeland Security announcement? It's this one, according to Infowars. It's dated October 10, 2013. And what does it say?
The Federal Protective Service (FPS) is conducting Market Research to locate qualified, experienced, and interested potential Small Business Sources capable of providing Protective Security Officers (PSO) Services throughout Upstate New York. A PSO is the equivalent of an Armed Guard II as set forth in the Department of Labor (DOL) Directory of Occupations....

The Contractor will be required to provide and maintain all management, supervision, manpower, training, equipment, supplies, licenses, permits, certificates, insurance, pre-employment screenings, reports, files and any other resources necessary to accomplish the security services. PSOs will be required to be armed and some posts may require screening of visitors using x-rays/magnetometers. All personnel supporting the Contract will be required to meet FPS training, certification, suitability standards....
I'll give you that date again: the notice was posted October 10, 2013. Does this bureaucratic-sounding notice really read like the start of a process that could have armed guards in place and ready for rioters three weeks later? Does such a process usually begin with "Market Research to locate qualified, experienced, and interested potential Small Business Sources," and -- in what would undoubtedly be a new speed record for the federal bureaucracy -- end with fully deployed riot cops in less than a month? Oh, and is "screening of visitors using x-rays/magnetometers" usually part of riot control? And why just in upstate New York? Why not in ... (tries to remember location wingnuts usually describe as the embodiment of pure evil) ... CHICAGO?

This is clearly just one of many such procurement and personnel announcements put out on an ongoing basis by the feds. This would have happened under President Bush, and it will happen if we have a President Christie or Cruz. But the right -- not just the easily dismissed crazies of the Alex Jones-o-sphere but supposedly respectable Fox, wants you to believe this is about FOOD STAMP RIOTS ARGH ARGH ARGH!!!!1!1!


Now, please note the illustration accompanying the Right Wing News post on this subject:

And note how the Right Wing News post begins:
Fasten your seatbelts; we could be in for some applied Alinskyism on November 1....
Wait -- I'm confused. Is the problem that Obama's preparing a repressive police-state riot squad? Or is the problem that he wants food stamp riots? Wingnuts, I know you keep telling me Obama is the embodiment of pure evil ... but on which side?

Well, both -- obviously:
Now why would America's first more or less openly communist president want to reduce food stamp handouts?

... Readers will recall that in case Republicans failed to capitulate to the shutdown maneuver, Obama was prepared to cut off food stamps and have his media blame it on the GOP. If getting predictably shafted by Senate RINOs like John McCain was enough to make Boehner cave, imagine how fast seeing Detroit go up in flames again would have sent his white flag into the air.

... The crux of Alinskyite community organizing is to make people miserable and make them think your enemies are to blame....

The media will have no difficulty channeling their anger at the Tea Party and even at quasi-socialist moderate Republicans or anyone else who could present so much as a speed bump in the way of resistance to oligarchical collectivism.
So Obama is assembling a goon squad of jackbooted thugs and stirring up a mob of angry poor people simultaneously! He's organizing both sides! Even Hitler didn't do that!

(Obama cooks up such elaborate schemes, I don't know how he has time to play golf.)

Please remember this conspiracy theory when I tell you that you shouldn't dismiss right-wing arguments just because they're illogical. Millions of right-wingers will believe anything negative about the president and other Democrats, and will agree with any and all reasons to be angry at Obama and other Democrats -- illogic and self-contradiction don't matter.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


The Daily Caller has what it clearly considers to be a scoop:
First Lady Michelle Obama's Princeton classmate is a top executive at the company that earned the contract to build the failed Obamacare website.

Toni Townes-Whitley, Princeton class of '85, is senior vice president at CGI Federal, which earned the no-bid contract to build the $678 million Obamacare enrollment website at
The Caller story continues:
Townes-Whitley and her Princeton classmate Michelle Obama are both members of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni.

Toni Townes '85 is a onetime policy analyst with the General Accounting Office and previously served in the Peace Corps in Gabon, West Africa. Her decision to return to work, as an African-American woman, after six years of raising kids was applauded by a Princeton alumni publication in 1998.
I'm not sure what (BLACK) those references to Gabon and the fact (BLACK) that Townes-Whitley is an African-American working mother are meant to suggest (BLACK) about this alleged cronyism (BLACK), but I'm sure there's a connection (BLACK).

In any case, what about the fact that CGI employs this classmate of Michelle's? Doesn't that suggest that the company is in the tank for the Obamas?

BuzzFeed's Steve Friess answered that question a week ago:
... according to Federal Election Commission records, [CGI's] PAC gave more to House Republicans than House Democrats during the 2012 cycle -- including a $2,000 check for the GOP's chief scandal investigator, Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa. What's more, executives of CGI Federal personally gave more than twice as much to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney than to President Obama. The contractor has also feasted on more than $2.4 billion worth of IT work dating back to the early Bush Administration.

... CGI's first federal contract for IT work started in 2001....

In fact,, the federal site tracking government contracts, shows CGI has been the contractor of choice for a wide range of computer systems work throughout the Bush Administration, including hundreds of multimillion-dollar contracts for the Departments of Defense, Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

The contract under which CGI did the Obamacare website work, in fact, began in 2007 as a contract with HHS to handle Medicare and Medicaid IT.
Friess argues that one problem in this situation is contractor complacency:
Federal contracting rules ... favor entrenched, large companies with track records....

Clay Johnson, a former Presidential Innovation Fellow under Obama who has excoriated the White House and HHS for its handling of the site, ... believes the problem stems from the procurement process and the biases that keep small, nimble tech start-ups from getting this kind of work.
If the best way to get a federal contract is to be a company that's already obtained a lot of federal contracts, that seems like a plausible, if partial, explanation for what went wrong here.

Ted Cruz is out in Iowa doing that stirring-up-presidential-speculation thing people like him do, and David Frum commemorates the moment with a piece -- Hunter at Daily Kos accurately labels it "fan fiction" -- about how Cruz can beat Hillary Clinton and win the 2016 presidential election.

In Frum's convoluted scenario, America slips back into recession between now and 2014. Elizabeth Warren goes on a populist crusade against the big banks, but Democratic base voters stay home in 2014 -- yet Warren's fiery words have "galvanized something in progressive Democrats." Warren becomes something she's never been, an attack dog against fellow Democrats ("I don't think we can auction our party's future to Terry McAuliffe's rich friends," she says on Rachel Maddow's show), and this leads to a primary fight with Hillary Clinton. She's not sufficiently inspirational to pull an Obama and beat Hillary in an upset, but she compels Hillary to tack so far left that Hillary leaves herself vulnerable to a challenge from the right-center.

Which is where, according to Frum, Ted Cruz comes in. No, seriously.

Frum never tells us precisely how Hillary "pivot[s] sharply left." Attacking the banks? (Yeah, that would be really unpopular with the general public, wouldn't it?) Or is it this?
President Obama listed immigration as agenda item number one in his 2015 State of the Union address, but Hillary Clinton went further. With her characteristic fierce energy, Clinton poured herself into the fight, chanting "Si, se puede" at rally after rally.
Um, David? Obama said "Si, se puede" on the 2008 campaign trail. I believe he won an election that year -- I'll look it up.

But wait -- I haven't told you the crazy part.

Cruz wins the GOP nomination as "the conservative choice." Then he falls asleep and is replaced by a sane, rational pod person who occupies his body:
Ted Cruz, however, could offer the vice presidency to Chris Christie -- and the Democrats' post-2014 leftward veer frightened Republican donors enough that they pressed Christie to accept. Unlike Romney in 2012, Cruz's conservative allegiance could not be questioned, freeing him to write the vaguest platform and conduct the most issue-free campaign of any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Cruz delivered half his convention speech in Spanish and used the other half to rededicate the party to "the compassion of conservatism," a subtle variant of an old phrase that delighted convention delegates.
Oh, and Cruz takes a male lover sometime during the fall campaign. No, sorry, I made that part up. But it's about as likely as Frum's scenario.

Where is even the slightest evidence that Cruz would make nice in this way in order to win the White House? Right now, he's alienating rich establishment donors. He's alienating fellow Republicans. He is not exactly a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy. Sure, he wants to be president, but only if he can retain the title that clearly means more to him: President of His Base. Think Ron Paul, not Mitt Romney.

Besides, there's no evidence that Cruz has any appeal as a politician apart from his stance as a 100% pure conservative standard-bearer. Take that away and he has nothing. His base would shout "Betrayal!"

And (as I said a few months ago, when I had this argument with Jonathan Bernstein) it's not as if Cruz can erase his entire record with a few months of warm, fuzzy, "Kumbaya"-singing right-centrism.
In a field that's likely to include Rick Perry and Paul Ryan and Rand Paul and Scott Walker, and that may well include crazies like Rick Santorum and Allen West, how does Bernstein imagine that Ted Cruz is going to distinguish himself from the other candidates? By means of his sterling record of accomplishment in the Senate...? No -- he's going to distinguish himself by saying the most outrageous things, and proposing the most outrageous proposals. Is the record of those words suddenly going to vanish from the nation's databases once the general election starts? Is a Democratic campaign going to pass up the opportunity to hang Cruz's primary-season words around his neck? Or anything else outrageous he's said while in public life?
Pundits, please: stop this. "Moderate Ted Cruz" is like "bookish Sarah Palin" -- it's a concept that has no meaning on this planet.


And while we're at it, could you please stop writing about Elizabeth Warren as if she's an actual 2016 presidential prospect? She's not fund-raising furiously. She never goes to Iowa, or South Carolina, or even, as far as I know, New Hampshire, which is close enough to her home state that it's a daily commute for a lot of people. Beyond that, she's barely visible to non-New Englanders, apart from those who read the political-junkie press or watch MSNBC. The belief that she'll announce her candidacy any day now is the greatest mass delusion among respectable people since the Cottingley fairy photos.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Greg Sargent is getting attention for a post titled "The Implosion of the GOP Brand, in One Chart." Here's the chart he's talking about, based on the latest Washington Post/ABC poll:

Looks pretty bad for the Republicans, right?

But I want a follow-up question -- a question I'd like to see asked in every survey of GOP favorability. It would be something like this: If you have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, would you favor (A) a Republican Party that is more devoted to conservative principles or (B) a Republican Party that is more moderate?

Or, alternately: If you have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, would you favor (A) a Republican Party that sticks to conservative principles no matter what or (B) a Republican Party that believes compromise is sometimes necessary?

Among the groups in the chart shown above -- or at least among old people, independents, and white college grads -- I believe that a significant percentage of disgust with the GOP is based on the notion that it compromises too much. (I'm thinking of Fox-watching old people, teabagger-style independents, and red-state college grads.) And I'm certain that this is a major component of discontent with the GOP in the groups that make up the party's base (rural whites, Evangelicals, et cetera).

This matters because rejection of the GOP in a poll doesn't necessarily translate to rejection of the GOP at the polls. It doesn't if the disgruntled voters want the most right-wing candidates they can find, which means they'll vote for Lindsey Graham even if his tea party challenger fails to defeat him in the primary.

Please, pollsters -- ask which way disgust with the GOP goes. Only then will we really know whether the party is in trouble.

I saw this at CNN this morning:

Which is not to be confused with this, from June:

Or this, from August 2012:

Or this, from a week earlier:

Or this, from 2009:

Sarah, how can we miss you when you won't go away?


The principal reason that Republicans, now including Sarah Palin, have become "fainting truthers" is that they're crazy and delusional and unhealthily obsessed with harming President Obama and all Democrats every waking moment of their lives.
Sarah Palin got quite a kick out of a fringe right-wing conspiracy theory that the White House staged a woman's fainting at an event earlier this week -- but she can't blame people for buying it!

... Palin, ... on her Facebook page ..., called the whole thing "hilarious" and stopped short of fully endorsing the theory. But she still sympathized with the true believers....
The woman is pregnant and has diabetes, as even the Daily Caller has acknowledged. But the conspiracy theory arose nonetheless.

Right-wingers are insane, but a minor factor in this particular mania is the notion that Obama is the only politician who ever experiences this sort of thing.

That's not true. A woman fainted at a 2003 George W. Bush speech in San Antonio. A 2011 Rick Santorum speech featured a fainting incident. Hell, there was a fainting incident at a 2007 campaign appearance by Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson!

Fainting in the presence of politicians has a long history. A woman fainted at one of Dwight Eisenhower's inaugural balls in 1953. A woman fainted at a Teddy Roosevelt speech in 1912. A Thomas Dewey campaign appearance in 1948 included a fainting incident.

You don't have to be a charismatic Democrat to have fainting incidents at your public appearances. Yes, it happened to Bill Clinton in 1996. And in 2008. And, um, in 2010. (OK, maybe it does happen more often to charismatic Democrats.) But it also happened at a Walter Mondale rally in 1984. Walter Mondale!

So, yes, people faint in the presence of Barack Obama. They also faint in the presence of other politicians. People faint in crowds. Get over it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


You may have seen this story a couple of days ago:
Rick Santorum is signing up volunteers for a "strikeforce" to help Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in his bid to become governor of Virginia.

Santorum's PAC, Patriot Voices, is recruiting supporters to go door to door Nov. 1-3 in Virginia to plug the Republican candidate for governor on its website....
Right Wing Watch noted that Santorum is asking people to "sign up" at his site. Could there possibly be an ulterior motive here (besides the usually mercenary one, since the Rickster is also asking for donations)?

Gosh, I think there is. Right Wing Watch tells us this today:
Rick Santorum is asking you to do your part to free movie theatres from the Devil's clutches by purchasing tickets to his upcoming movie, The Christmas Candle. He appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network last week to plug the new movie of his film company EchoLight Studios....

Yup, he just so happens to be trolling for e-mail addresses -- all ostensibly in the interest of getting Ken Cuccinelli elected -- when the film studio for which he's now the CEO has a movie coming out two and a half weeks after Election Day. Ka-ching!

And, as Right Wing Watch notes, since becoming CEO of EchoLight, Santorum has been sued by a couple of EchoLight executives he fired. So I guess his God-bothering little business venture needs some customers. I'm not sure where a Cuccinelli victory places on his list of priorities.

I'm seeing a lot of examples of one particular liberal argument that's meant to comfort us about the right-wing reaction to the health care law. The American Prospect's Paul Waldman:
[Republicans have] got a new spring in their step, as The New York Times reports today. "If the Web site glitches are just the tip of the iceberg," says Representative Greg Walden, who as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for making sure his party holds the House in 2014, "it's only a matter of time before the law sinks and takes with it those Democrats who wrote it, voted for it and are proud of it." All they have to do is sit back and wait for Obamacare to implode, then reap the political benefits.

I wouldn't get too excited if I were them. First of all, if you're arguing about why the website isn't working, you've implicitly accepted the premise that the website ought to work, so people can use it and get insurance. Which is quite different from arguing, as some Republicans have, that people who are now uninsured just shouldn't bother getting insurance at all. When you stand before the cameras to shout, "I will not rest until these problems are fixed and Obamacare works properly!" and you then turn around and say, "I will not rest until Obamacare is destroyed!", you're not exactly convincing the voting public that you're the one they want running things.
Jed Lewison at Kos's place:
They're still obsessed with Obamacare, so that hasn't changed, but in just a little more than three weeks they've gone from demanding Obamacare's repeal to demanding that Obamacare be fixed. And even though they'll never admit it, that's essentially a declaration of defeat: They know that Obamacare is here to stay. Surely some on the right will continue to battle, but the war is over -- and they lost.
Paul, Jed: You really think saying "Fix the website!" now is going to prevent Republicans from turning around and saying "Destroy the program!" later? You really think what drives right-wing rage is logic?

Right-wingers are the folks who wave signs saying "KEEP GOVERNMENT OUT OF MY MEDICARE." Right-wingers are people who believe that being pro-gay is inextricably linked to being pro-sharia. Right-wingers are people who considered opposition to NSA spying treasonous in the Bush years and consider NSA spying itself to be treasonous now.

Logic doesn't enter into this. It's all about passion.

The headline of the Times story Waldman quotes is all wrong. "Republicans, Sensing Weakness in Health Law Rollout, Switch Tactics"? No, they're not switching tactics. They're just doing what they did (or tried to do) during the shutdown: like sharks, they're heading wherever they think they detect blood in the water. They thought it was the moment just before implementation began; now they think it's the rollout of the portal. Once the portal is fixed, it'll be something else. The nature of what they're doing never changes. It's always a feeding frenzy.

You may have thought that, well, it's 2013 now and we've all become a lot more relaxed and live-and-let-live about traditional manifestations of gender. You may have concluded that, outside of certain hardcore churches, most people in America can't be bothered anymore with the strict policing of gender uniformity.

But it's not 2013 in Murdoch Land. Especially if the fag-baiting involves the military and our allegedly America-hating, homo-coddling, metrosexual president.

The New York Post published this today:
Obama wants Marines to wear 'girly' hats

A change to the Marine Corps' uniform hats could take the hard-nosed Leathernecks from the Halls of Montezuma to the shops of Christopher Street.

Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a "unisex" look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines' iconic caps with a new hat that some have derided as so “girly” that they would make the French blush.

"We don't even have enough funding to buy bullets, and the DoD is pushing to spend $8 million on covers that look like women's hats!" one senior Marine source fumed to The Post. "The Marines deserve better. It makes them look ridiculous."

The thin new hats have a feminine line that some officials think would make them look just as good on female marines as on males -- in keeping with the Obama directive....
I love the anonymous quote (does this "senior Marine source" know any of Tom Friedman's cabdrivers?), I love the reference to the French (once you're the object of wingnut hate, it's for life), and I really love the notion that this is the result of an "Obama directive," as if he has nothing better to do than personally oversee military uniform changes.

So what does this horrible, garishly effeminate, testicle-shriveling hat look like? Well, it looks like this:

If, like me, you're not a Marine or from a Marine family, you're probably thinking what I first thought: Which is the one that's supposed to be "girly"?

It's the one on the right.

I guess it's "girly" because it has a narrow crown -- never mind the fact that it's being called the "Dan Daly," after a legendary World War I Medal of Honor winner who (as I learn from the Marine Corps Times) managed to be pretty tough despite testosterone-sapping crownlessness:

Oh, and the Times tells us that rank-and-file Marines are being surveyed about the changes, and their opinions will be taken into consideration before any changes are made. So this isn't some gay sexual assault on our troops.

And the implication of the Post story -- that Marine Corps uniforms are eternal, and changes (this one could cost $8 million! more than 2 cents for each U.S. citizen!) are being made only because evil Obama wants them -- is ridiculous. In fact, the Marine Corps Uniform Board has made or proposed changes to uniforms on a fairly regular basis over the years:
In 1999 tests were conducted that included adding blood stripes to women's skirts. In 2002, a white belt and more red piping were tested.
A white belt? Red piping? In 2002? When manly George W. Bush was president? Say it ain't so!
In both cases, both men and women rejected the modifications.

Aside from changes to Marine covers [hats], the [current] survey addresses the possibility of authorizing microbraids for women in uniform and modifications to the existing supplemental clothing allowance.
(Oh, and here's a story about the Marine Corps Uniform Board changing female drill instructors' hats. But that was in 1996, when Evil Bill Clinton was sullying the Oval Office.)


The right-wing noise machine is America's bullying, litigious neighbor, endlessly seeking to disturb the peace with unreasonable complaints, which it knows how to get taken seriously. I Google around and I see this story being reproduced at local news outlets across the country, as if it's an innocent statement of fact, rather than an attempt to inject yet more poison into our discourse. So the bully is having his way, as usual.

Rupert Murdoch is a pestilence. America will be a much better place when it's finally rid of him.


UPDATE: Yes, I realize that this story has since been officially debunked -- see Stars & Stripes. And yes, I know that Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bateman, blogging at Charlie Pierce's place, suggests that the story originated at the Duffel Blog, a humor blog much admired in military circles, but I can't find the story at the Duffel Blog. If you find it there, please post a link in comments.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


If they can't fix the technical problems of voter ID, shouldn't it be defunded? Shouldn't the legislature shut down the government, if necessary, to make sure that happens? At the very least, shouldn't implementation be suspended and all mandates and penalties be delayed?
A Texas district judge who has been voting for the past five decades was almost barred from the polls Tuesday, thanks to the state's newly implemented, stricter voter ID law. The law kicked in on Tuesday as early voting in Texas' November 5 election began.

As she told local channel Kiii News, 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts was flagged for possible voter fraud because her driver's license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while her voter registration form has her real middle name. This was the first time she has ever had a problem voting in 49 years. "What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote," she said.

Watts worried that women who use maiden names or hyphenated names may be surprised at the polls. "I don't think most women know that this is going to create a problem," the judge said. "That their maiden name is on their driver's license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married, and this. And so why would I want to use a provisional ballot when I've been voting regular ballot for the last 49 years?" ...
Where's the "tech surge" to fix this problem?

Why isn't anyone being fired for not being aware of it?

What didn't Governor Rick Perry know and when didn't he know it?

The right knows that it's not enough to attack Obamacare, or complain about the problems with -- you have to give people a villain, in this case, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This is a specifically Alinskyite approach -- which makes sense because the only people in modern political life who obsess over Ol' Saul's Rules for Radicals are right-wingers.

I wanted to find the text of Alinsky's 12th and final Rule, and where did I find it? At a site called "Best of Beck: Glenn Beck Quotes, Research, References, Transcripts, Audio, Videos."
RULE 12: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
Secretary Sebelius, for now, this is your life.

The right-wing corollary to Alinsky Rule #12 is "Whenever possible, pick a target who's non-white, a woman, or both." Think about it: Van Jones. Shirley Sherrod. Lois Lerner. Eric Holder. Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton (on Benghazi). Valerie Jarrett (on everything). There are scapegoats who don't fall into these categories, inside and outside the administration -- George Soros, Cass Sunstein, Mike Bloomberg on guns, Chuck Schumer -- all Jews -- as well as Harry Reid (though he takes a backseat to the truly despised Nancy Pelosi on the right-wing hate-o-meter). But the ideal target is still someone who's not a white Christian male. So Sebelius is pretty close to ideal.