Thursday, July 30, 2009

Update on Iran: July 30

Because of the crackdown, any organized rallying is difficult to accomplish. But the Iranian people are still refusing to stay silent.

Because the Insanity Won't Ever End

I've decided to send a request to my birth county/state to, you know, get a copy of my birth certificate. Just in case I'm invited to FOX Not-News or C(an't)N(umb)N(utzoids like Lou Dobbs) and, you know, someone challenges my citizenship status. If they're challenging Obama's birth origin, I'm positive they'll challenge everyone else's, right? RIGHT?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts on Health Care reform

Things to consider during this current tumult over Obama and the Dems' push for Health Care reform:

1) The United States is the only wealthy industrialized nation (think France, Germany, UK, Canada, Japan, anyone else in the G-8 group I missed) without universal health care. India has universal health care. Israel has it. Brazil has it. Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert probably have it. In fact the question is which country DOESN'T have universal health care... and the U.S.A. tops that list.

1a) Which makes the argument about "Universal Health Care" = "SOCIALISM ZOMG!!1!1" rather specious: you can't accuse some of the most prominent Capitalist nations on the planet (England, for God's Sake! Thatcher is living on universal health care!) of being Socialists for having universal health care. This isn't the Cold War era anymore: why use labels to oppose something that, you know, works in every other pro-business nation?

2) The two biggest problems with health care in the United States are:

2a) Not everyone is covered: the number bandied about is 47 million uninsured (roughly 15 percent of the nation), although critics point out that includes illegal immigrants... so the real number would be really around 32-37 million. WHICH IS STILL TOO MANY. And I'm not sure if this includes children and college-age teens. The problem is these uninsured people still require health care, and the costs of treating the uninsured gets shifted over to those who are insured.
2b) Rising costs: partly from the fact the insured are paying for the uninsured, but mostly from the fact that the managed-care system that came about in the 1990s (the HMOs) basically have monopolies in each of the states. Ezra Klien's op-ed in the Washington Post (highlights mine):

In the modern health-care system, there is no higher power than the insurance market. And the insurers who populate that market have grown all the stronger. The Justice Department judges an industry "highly concentrated" if a single company controls more than 42 percent of the market. By that definition, 94 percent of statewide insurance markets are highly concentrated. A recent study by the advocacy organization Health Care for America Now showed that in Indiana, WellPoint controls 60 percent of the insurance market; in Iowa, Wellmark accounts for 71 percent; and in Alabama, Blue Cross/Blue Shield holds 83 percent. In the past 13 years, there have been more than 400 corporate mergers involving health insurers.

Economics textbooks tell us that concentrated markets reduce the competitive behavior that benefits consumers and lead to outsize profits for the dominant firms. Predictably, health-care premiums shot up more than 90 percent between 2000 and 2007, while the profits of the 10 largest insurers increased 428 percent over the same period.

Without government regs encouraging competition, companies can basically charge what they want, deny coverage to those they deem at-risk to their profit margin, and pass the savings on to the Senators and Congresspersons they 'bribe' with massive campaign contributions. But that's just me being cynical I suppose...

3) A solid majority of Americans - 76 percent - want a public option as part of the health care reform. Problem is, Obama has only 33 percent or so of those polled actively supporting his reform plan.

4) Another problem is that he doesn't have the full support of his own party: nimrods like Max Baucus seem obsessed with the idea of bipartisanship by dealing with a Republican Party that's gonna want health care reform nuked now and forever. Instead of legislation covering things the people want, Baucus' committee is trying to offer this up. Also consider Baucus receives HOW MUCH?! in campaign funding from the Health Care industry and you have a hypocrite reeking of Quid Pro Quo. I will always think of campaign funding as legalized bribery and it sickens me we can't do anything to stop it ('cause the bastards who profit from it are the damn politicians who like it this way and won't vote away their deep-pocket advantages).

5) This reminds me, I gotta see about my COBRA coverage payments. I think I gotta start paying them again this August. Maybe September, I hope.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's not about the birth certificate

And while this blog entry's title comes under the category of "NO SH-T SHERLOCK" I do feel some clarification is in order.

More and more of the 'traditional' mainstream media - AKA Fox Not-News, Lou "I'm a Populist So Let Me Rage Against Furriners" Dobbs, Glenn Beck (*this* is traditional???), Sean Hannity (idiot never finished college: he lost his college radio gig for being a homophobic bastard), of course Rush Limbaugh and that ilk - are ranting about Obama not having a real American birth certificate, that he wasn't born in Hawaii at all but secretly born in Kenya and smuggled back in an elaborate ruse, and that because he wasn't born here (in order to cover the argument about his mom's citizenship status, these Birthers are also arguing she's a fake!) he violates the Constitutional requirements for being President. Well, that's one conspiracy theory: there's a handful of variations on this. Basically these 'Birthers' are claiming Obama's not legally President.

From a comment I made on a Washington Monthly thread regarding this stupidity:

This needs to be said: even if Obama and/or the State of Hawaii releases his actual birth certificate (ADDED: The Short Form has, with the caveat this is merely an official copy of the original long form. The long form from 1961 remains with the hospital in Hawaii and they don't discuss its contents due to privacy laws), there is every likelihood the Birthers will (STILL) claim it's a forgery. After all, this is a massive conspiracy that's been planned from well back in 1960, isn't it?
This is what "they" planned back in 1960 (who "they" are is obvious: FDR's worshippers): Get a white woman impregnated by a black Kenyan visiting the country (ADDED: Better yet get her pregnant in Kenya and have the baby born there, then sneak the child into Hawaii and get a forged certificate). Raise the boy in a Muslim school in Asia for a few years, but pretend he's really Christian. Ship him off to a liberal college, and then move him to Chicago so he can hang out with discredited 60s bomb-making hippies. Trick potential GOP opponents into being sex-crazed (even with drop-dead gorgeous blonde wives who make Trekkie geeks drool) or just-plain crazed (hi, Mr. Keyes!) to ensure the plot's success. Also trick the Republican leadership into massive spending deficits and a wasteful overseas war in Iraq that distracts the country from more necessary targets (Hey, Cheney, caught Bin Laden yet???), along with massive governmental incompetence allowing our financial institutions to collapse at the right moment (two months before the 2008 Election) to ensure this questionable person gets elected into the White House. And then that covert Kenyan Candidate gets to DESTROY AMERICA (as long as America hasn't already been destroyed by massive Republican-built deficits, strained military resources, lack of health care to 1/4 of the nation, and insane gun-toting wingnuts shooting up churches, cops, and museums).
All that massive subterfuge, all those pieces needing to be placed all the way back in 1960... I'm amazed that conspiracy worked to perfection almost 50 years later. Wow. Whoever planned this has (or had) enough foresight to play the Lotto with some success, you think?
Somewhere in the universe Occam is laughing his ass off.

And so, this isn't about the birth certificate. This is about the Far Right refusing to accept the 2008 election results. This is about the Far Right refusing to wake up from their fantasy-based world (where Bush and Cheney and Rush are GODS, where terrorists possess nukes and the French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys, where there's an endless supply of loans to pay for massive war expenses and unending tax cuts) and re-enter the Reality-Based community (where everything's been broken by 8 years of Bush/Cheney self-serving incompetence and the whole world hates us for warmongering and neocon arrogance). This is about the Far Right thinking it's 1993 all over again and they can attack Clinton for every half-baked rumor coming out of Arkansas, only now it's 2009 and they think they can attack Obama for every fully-baked rumor about him. Facts don't matter. Truth don't matter. Even having the courts throw their cases out for sheer stupidity don't matter. All that matters is ATTACK AND WIN.

This is as close to my Obama Shoelace Hypothesis as the Far Right has gotten... so far. And while for us sane people - the ones who recognize the simplest explanation is the most likely one, that Obama was born in Hawaii complete with certificate and local news announcement - this borders on ridiculous, we can't afford the luxury of laughing this off.

You see, these Birthers are basically claiming that Obama isn't American, therefore he isn't President. They're trying to get soldiers in the military now to disobey orders, wilfully inciting our troops to acts of insubordination (doesn't directly fall under treason as defined by law, but may be considered seditious). And the more these Birther crackpots talk about Obama as un-American and "Destroying the country", the more likely they're gonna push those at the lower ends of their mouth-foaming rage gatherings into acts of violence. We've already seen that happen too.

These wingnuts are gonna get more people killed. All because they won't accept the facts (official state documents, dated newspaper clippings), all because they won't accept the simple truth their conspiracy 'theory' is too complicated to be real, all because they won't accept the reality that a majority of Americans voted for Obama and want him to succeed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Iran: Friday July 17

Links to Sullivan (well to his site, he's off on vacation this week) and to Pitney.

Rafsanjani's speech was today, rumors about how he would speak out against Khamenei's use of violence and vote fraud were rampant, and for the most part he did speak against the violence, he did speak for the release of those imprisoned over the past month back to their families, he did speak to the need for leaders in keeping the people's trust. He threw in a few comments on the violence Chinese gov't is inflicting on their Uyghur population, comparing/contrasting to the violence Khamenei and his thugs are inflicting on their fellow Iranians.

As Nico's liveblogging is reporting, there's violence at Tehran University where the speech was held, the basiji using knives now to stab people, tear gas everywhere. Rumors about the Basij calling for more volunteers (are they losing people?). It's still chaos in Iran. It's still violent. But the people aren't letting this go, Khamenei. And you've got to be asking yourself the question again: "Shall I let my fear push me to inflict more damage on my own nation?" For once, for the Love of God, answer "No."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Via the Atlantic: Is the Recession Over?

Sullivan is on vacation (or hopefully on a covert mission to Iran... oh damn I hope I didn't blow his cover), so he's got his regular crew of misfit toys covering for him. Patrick Appel is posting:

Is the Great Recession Over?
Yes. No. Yes.

Here's the real method to measure if the recession is over, Mr. Appel.
Hope that helps, sir.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What other topics can be of interest?

There are times I have great interest in politics, in seeing issues discussed, plans enacted, realities confirmed. Then there are times I see the political arena overrun by goddamn wingnut lunatics and wonder why I ever developed an interest in political affairs in the first place... and why I was ever a registered Republican (I think I can blame dad - a Nixon Republican - for that)...

I mean, what else can be said or done regarding how the mainstream media doesn't do journalism anymore, how government is tied up by obstructionist politicians going insane over a national census process that's been in effect for decades, how we still haven't dealt with the previous administration's lawlessness, how an ever-growing number of Americans are out of work and unable to save their homes or families while corrupt financial institutions that caused our recent economic depression (until unemployment drops below 8 percent or I get a full-time job whichever comes first, I'm calling this a depression dammit) are going back to encouraging the same reckless behavior that got us into this hellhole in the first place.

Unlike hilzoy of Obsidian Wings, however, I refuse to decide on retiring from political blogging. Hell, I'm trying to see if I can get hilzoy's job there...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Return of Iran Uprising: Day 28

After more than a week of relative calm, the populus is back up in arms and the streets again filled with smoke and spattered with blood. Today was apparently an anniversary of a student uprising (EDIT: 1999 Student Protests).

Sullivan as always is as up-to-minute as possible. Including links now to Nico Pitney. Pitney's reporting indicates large crowds, larger than expected:

(via Robert Mackey): The regime assumed that with Khameni's speech last week forgiving the protesters, and arresting all the reporters and heads of reformist movement, the issue of unrest was resolved. Today's marches and protests are not supported by Mousavi, Khatami, and Karoubi. It is a grassroot uprising meant to let the Islamic regime know the people will not be silenced.

Makes one forget about... hmm, something about someone quitting somewhere (I've gotten to the point Re: That Crazy Lady's coverage is overdone, so I'm currently in the Ignore phase).

Stay Green.

CIA Lying to Congress? Color me Not So Shocked

Via Steve Benen at Washington Monthly (with MSNBC making big hay out of it last night to boot. Oh and the Bold highlights are mine):

In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the CIA had misled Congress years ago on the use of waterboarding. Republicans were apoplectic -- the very idea that intelligence officials would mislead lawmakers was so despicable, some GOP leaders suggested Pelosi should resign. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said Pelosi had launched a "massive attack on our intelligence community," and added that it's "outrageous" for the Speaker to "call our terror-fighters liars." Newt Gingrich seriously argued that the Speaker's comments increased the risk of a terrorist attack against the United States.

The whole mess caused something of a media frenzy, and the Speaker's poll numbers tanked.

Perhaps it's time to revisit the question of whether the CIA has a tendency of being less than truthful with Congress.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, has told the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door testimony that the C.I.A. concealed "significant actions" from Congress from 2001 until late last month, seven Democratic committee members said.

In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had "misled members" of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. "This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods," said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.

In an interview, Mr. Holt declined to reveal the nature of the C.I.A.'s alleged deceptions. But he said, "We wouldn't be doing this over a trivial matter."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) added that his committee "has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one occasion) was affirmatively lied to." Spencer Ackerman, who was among the first to report on this (if not the first), has a copy of the full letter from the Democrats on the committee.

Aw, gee. Congress being lied to. Like that's never happened much before. /sarcasm

This is why I've posted an amendment idea to state "Lying is NOT Protected Speech" (Because some bastards interpreting the First Amendment seem to think lying is okay), and to state that any elected official or civil servant (basically ANYONE IN GOVERNMENT) caught lying be 1) suspended without pay, 2) investigated for the lies, and 3) removed and banned for life from government if proven there was intent to lie.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Palin Is Insane

Actually I'm just saying that so I can get sued by her lawyer. Bwhahahaha. Anything to increase interest in this blog...

But seriously, you have to ask WHY? Why did she resign her governorship? Why so sudden that it caught even her staff unprepared?

Best theories I can think of:

1) Palin genuinely wanted to leave the national spotlight. After months of public bashing, especially all the salacious stories about her kids, she's had enough. In this, I wouldn't blame Letterman, which was sooooo last month, but the more recent Vanity Fair article that painted such an unflattering light and exposed how unpopular she was getting inside her own state.
Problem with this theory: This doesn't entirely jibe with what we've seen of Palin's psyche, and with her ambition. Ambitious people don't quit like this: not haphazardly, always with a plan, always with something right there waiting for them that would be a bigger better prize. If this is true, a run for the Presidency is clearly out of the question, because a hostile primary contest against the other likely contenders (Romney, Huckabee, Pawlenty) would be just as spiteful as what she's been getting this past year. So if this is Palin's reason for leaving now, then she's left for good, and there is no presidential run in her future...

2) Palin felt confined in the governorship job and felt resigning would free her to run a national campaign. Let's be realistic: Alaska is a sparsely populated state miles away from the country's centers of power (DC, NYC, LA, even Chicago and Atlanta). Anything she does of any merit wouldn't impact a whole lot of people, and other than basic management needs - improving schools, child care, and other social services that Republicans simply don't do - there's little reason to use Alaska as a state-level laboratory for policy innovations (too small a population to be useful). When she talked about being a "lame duck" during her resignation speech, this was partly what she's referring to: knowing that she wasn't going to run for a second term in 2010, there's nothing left at her job to hold her interest or provide opportunities to show off to the nation any leadership skills she thinks she has.
The other part of this theory is the idea that this frees her up to run a national campaign. It surely does: no more need to hang aboot Juneau, she can travel nationwide to fund-raise for herself and for others during midterms. She can get any number of gigs: big-ticket name for the guest speaker circuit; talk show on FOX (who else would take her?); lecturer/part-time college professor at a major poli-sci university; Las Vegas greeter; anything else that would appeal to her interests and keep her name on the front pages. She could argue that it would be unfair to split her time between governing and campaigning, and besides, others have quit before to focus on campaigns.
Problem with this theory: The certainty that she quit her governor job TOO SOON. Palin could well have waited until the 2010 midterms were over to see what the revamped landscape would be like, what the GOP fortunes would be like, and still have 2 full years to campaign hard for funds. As a popular figure for the Far Right, getting money should never be a problem (well, until her next gaffe...). As for being a "lame duck" even lame ducks can get things done during their last few months in office, by being proactive, by being effective, by getting members of her own party to join in efforts that would A) look good in the papers and B) show that she was still working hard for her paycheck. As for others who quit their jobs to focus on campaigning... that never really worked out well, for example Bob Dole's quitting the Senate so he could focus full-time on his 1996 Presidential campaign. And in Dole's case, he quit only after securing his nomination, after 20-plus years of effective leadership in the Senate and after proving his mad skills. Most people in politics who quit their job usually did so - like Obama quitting his Senate seat after November 2008 Election Day - because they'd won a higher office. Palin's sparse resume didn't give her the luxury of quitting what has been her highest-value job, one she's barely had for 2 years and quit on with another 1 1/2 years to go.
Palin's opponents are going to have a field day with this if she does run in the 2012 primaries. What are now the three major candidates - Romney, Huckabee and Pawlenty - don't have a problem looking like quitters: Romney declined to run a second term as Governor but still finished out his term; Huckabee's governorship started by finishing out his predecessor's term (guy was convicted of a felony and forced from office) and getting elected twice on his own, completing both terms; Pawlenty doesn't face term limits in his state, but is currently insisting to finish out his second term by 2010, leaving him two good years to fund-raise for the 2012 Presidential campaign.

3) There was a scandal coming. This was the first thought amongst Palin's critics, and the early circumstantial evidence pointed to it:
  • Palin scheduled the press conference so suddenly that even local media rushing to the scene barely made it.
  • Said conference was sparsely attended, her handlers apparently unable to round up a good-sized crowd to cheer her on such short notice.
  • The speech Palin gave was best described as "rambling": relying too much on cliches that ran against each other; points being made that were never followed up later on in the speech; signs that the speech wasn't vetted or edited by professional speechwriters.
  • The fact the speech was delivered on a Friday, traditionally known as a Dump Day when politicians simply 'dump' damaging facts/reports/notices because the mainstream media is set to take the whole weekend off (and what a weekend this was, Fourth of July when EVERYBODY including Mark Sanford sorry including the Comedy Central crew was going to be on vacation).
  • The basic fact this was coming completely out of the blue: usually politicians send out feelers, drop hints, promote unusual legislation, start acting in certain ways that suggest moving on to other things, stuff like that. Local media - which is supposed to have their ears to the ground - hadn't been picking up any signs this was going to happen.
Combine all that with the fact Palin and her family (and in-laws) had faced and were facing a series of ethics probes and criminal charges. There was also a rumor (promptly denied by the FBI by the way) that Palin was facing federal indictments involving the company that built an expensive sports complex in Palin's hometown - it's this rumor that Palin's lawyer is threatening to sue people over. But considering Palin's seemingly hasty resignation, the rumor did deserve a quick review for debunking...
Problem with this theory: as Huckabee mentioned this Sunday, EVERYBODY at the state level gets hit with ethics probes, usually by disgruntled rivals looking for any means to drive you from office ("I had constant ethics complaints filed against me, even by newspaper editors, and a lot of it was because if they can’t attack you on policy...they just absolutely bombard you with personal attacks and keep you tied up in court...") Palin had for the most part survived most of the ethics challenges, although I think there's still one or two still under review. And that reported FBI probe into Palin's house supposedly built by the company that built her town's sports complex was debunked after a few phone calls. Unless there's a completely new scandal no one but Palin and a few others know about, this isn't the reason Palin's quitting...

4) Palin is batsh-t insane. Something in her ego simply told her to jump ship and swim for shore.
Problem with this theory: You'd think somebody in her family and circle of friends would check on her medications...

And thus did the GOP 2012 Doomwatch march on...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Iran: Clerical Group Challenges the Election

Via Sullivan via the NY Times, news is out that the the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom are calling the tainted presidential election illegitimate:

The editorial was written by Hossein Shariatmadari, who was picked by the supreme leader to run the newspaper.

The clerics’ statement chastised the leadership for failing to adequately study complaints of vote rigging and lashed out at the use of force in crushing huge public protests.

It even directly criticized the Guardian Council, the powerful group of clerics charged with certifying elections.

“Is it possible to consider the results of the election as legitimate by merely the validation of the Guardian Council?” the association said.

Perhaps more threatening to the supreme leader, the committee called on other clerics to join the fight against the government’s refusal to adequately reconsider the charges of voter fraud. The committee invoked powerful imagery, comparing the 20 protesters killed during demonstrations with the martyrs who died in the early days of the revolution and the war with Iraq, asking other clerics to save what it called “the dignity that was earned with the blood of tens of thousands of martyrs.”

What does this mean? It means Rafsanjani's finally gotten at least one group of clerics to openly criticize Khamenei and his ilk. Past that, this is still a long slog ahead. Khamenei is not about to back down (he's gotten to the point where any admission of "Oops, shouldn't have done that" is gonna collapse his own little empire). But this also gives the protesters in Iran hope...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Well, You Won't Have Sarah Palin To Kick Around Anymore... least not until she thinks the coast is clear for 2012... Somewhere in Hell Nixon is smiling...

Palin's resignation from the governor's job in Alaska came completely out of the blue. Sure, the past month for her has been a bit tabloid-ish, what with all the battles with David Letterman and all, leading up to the Vanity Fair article that painted her in the most unflattering way possible, and with renewed chatter about how she contributed to an imploding McCain presidency run. But of the Republican Governors having a bad week or two, Palin wasn't really in the running: Sanford (Remember, Mark, Michael Jackson Died For You) and Schwarzenegger were better bets to use this Friday dump day to run screaming for their lives.

Instead, Palin quickly announces that she'd be making a statement this afternoon. Immediate thoughts were that she was A) openly responding to the Vanity Fair article, or B) openly beginning a primary run for the Republican Presidential ticket for 2012. Then word leaked that she was leaving the governor's job.

And then she had the presser. The best word to describe it is "rambling." The only ones viewing this as a shrewd career move are Bill Kristol and Kathryn Lopez... and those two aren't exactly the wisest or learned of the Villagers. When the Ace of Spades guy is saying you're toast, you're toast.

'Cause Palin's big job has been this governorship. She's only had this one term, and she's not even finishing it. Being Mayor of Wasilla may lead you to Juneau, but that alone doesn't lead to the White House. If she was willing to just finish this one term, it wouldn't look bad. But this... she's QUITTING before her job's even supposed to be done, breaking her 4-year lease with the people of her state of Alaska. How is this gonna compare to others in the running for 2012, especially Romney or Huckabee? Even if she was quitting just to immediately focus on a campaign for 2012, it wouldn't look good. 2012 is THREE YEARS down the road, more than enough time to pace herself as Governor AND Candidate, get the ball rolling while focusing on duties at home until 2010, yadda yadda.

The chatter now is that for Palin to resign so suddenly, and in such a haphazard manner, suggests that a massive scandal (bigger than Sanford???) was coming down the pipeline. Schadenfreude doesn't entirely cover this just yet, because there's still too many questions (especially WHY?) to be satisfied in any way about this.

And Sanford still hasn't really dodged a bullet, even though for a second I considered that possibility. Sanford now combines with Palin as part of a newly growing meme: the GOP Candidate Doomwatch. Which potential 2012 Candidate is gonna ruin his/her chances next?