Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New York Times To Sociopaths: Give It Another Shot

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Have you looked at the New York Times' fucking Op-Ed section today?! I know I've been writing about that dumping ground a lot lately, but the editors published an article today that--if America does escalate the conflict with Iran--will go down in history as one of the most fact-free, shameful pieces of propaganda in that paper's history. It contains, literally, nothing other than irresponsible speculation and conjecture, and follows the Iraq script so closely that it might as well have been written by Curveball. Who had the courage to rehash an argument that has already been shown to absolutely, tragicomically absurd? The same fuckers who did it the first time! I'M NOT KIDDING! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [BANG!]

The piece was written by Gary Milhollin and Valerie Lincy, who I had never heard of until this morning. Gare and Val run Iran Watch, whose tagline is, "Tracking Iran's Mass Destruction Weapons Capabilities." know...they're like, totally not biased. What is Gary's track record? Wait for it.

HE USED TO RUN IRAQ WATCH! Guess what their mission was!?!?!?! To track Iraq's weapons of mass destruction! I'm not kidding. It's the same guy, literally, doing the same thing, literally. A detail like this would be cut from even the hackiest political satire for being to obviously absurd. Why, why, would the Times hand over their paper to him given his record, his clear thirst for Arab/Persian blood, and the fact that right now the country is following a disturbingly similar script as the one that lead to the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

I almost don't want to move on to the article. It's so, fucking, bad. Oh lord. Okay, let's do this. Hold your nose, 'cause here comes the cold water. The first line really tells you everything you need to know about the piece as a whole:

"THE disclosure of Iran’s secret nuclear plant has changed the way the West must negotiate with Tehran. While worrisome enough on its own, the plant at Qum may well be the first peek at something far worse: a planned, or even partly completed, hidden nuclear archipelago stretching across the country." [emphasis added.]

OH FUCK OH FUCK! We're all totally fucked! Bomb that country now before it's too late! There "may well be" dangerous things there that we don't know about. The wild speculation continues in paragraph 3.

"Perhaps Iran was planning to install more efficient centrifuges at the plant, like a version of the P-2 machine used by Pakistan." [emphasis added.]

Yes, perhaps, perhaps, per-haps.

"Clearly, the new plant makes more sense if it is one of many. If Iran built a second plant of the same size as the Qum operation and ran them in tandem, the production times described above could be almost halved. And if Iran had a string of such plants, it would be able to fuel a small arsenal quickly enough to reduce greatly the chance of getting caught." [emphasis added.]

And IF Optimus Prime were real, then he could just fuckin' drive up all like a fuckin' truck an' shit, and then once he got inside he could just be like, "OH YEAH! It's Optimus Prime in the house!" And IF that happened it'd be so fuckin' sweet, and then we could bomb those Browns into a real live Democracy, by gawd.

"This would also limit the damage if one site were discovered or bombed, because its loss might not affect the others. Such a secret string of plants, however, would probably require a secret source of uranium."
The Qum plant might also be linked to Iran’s known enrichment plant at Natanz...
By feeding this uranium into the new Qum plant, Iran could fuel one bomb in about seven months, even at the present low production rate. If the rate were quadrupled, as Washington is projecting, the plant could fuel a five-bomb arsenal in less than a year.
But because the Natanz plant is being watched over by international inspectors, diversion of its material would probably be detected...
Having begun the Qum plant to supply a bomb’s fuel, wouldn’t Iran also create what’s needed to produce the rest of the bomb’s components? [emphasis added.]

Really look over those quotes. What, WHAT is happening in this Op-Ed. We start from an unfounded assumption, that the plant "may well be" one part of a nefarious network of plants, and we end up with the vile innuendo, "wouldn't Iran also create what's needed to produce the rest of the bomb's components?" It should make any thinking person sick to their stomach that the Times' would publish such ridiculous speculation. A first year philosophy student couldn't get away with this fallacious of an argument. By the time the reader gets to the last rhetorical question, the existence of an evil, vast network of undisclosed America-killing factories is no longer in question. OH, IT EXISTS, the authors assure us. But what evidence have they provided? Literally none.

Can we prove or disprove the authors' claims? No, not exactly. Although it is theoretically possible that they are describing reality as it is, we as readers are given no reason to believe that is what's happening. And, put in context, we should believe the authors are doing the exact opposite: describing a paranoid fantasy world populated with Evil Geniuses bent on the destruction of America and Israel at all costs.

Never once does it cross the authors minds that the constant threats of war and sanctions from the US and Israel might lead the Iranians to build a protected nuclear power plant. Never once does it cross their minds that Iran notified the IAEA well before they were required to under international law. And, most remarkably of all, never does it cross their minds that Iraq was a massive failure on every level that has resulted in untold levels of suffering in that country--and America as well--and that the US will be dealing with the blowback and crippling cost of our occupation for decades to come.

None of that crossed the minds of the editorial board of the New York Times, either. Which, all things considered, is somewhat unremarkable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

David Brooks Is A Sewage Facility

I wasn't going to write about this, because, to be honest, the observation I'm about to put forth is so patently obvious that it really could probably go without saying--but here goes. I think, and I'm being sincere here, that David Brooks is not a person, but rather the name given to a process in which human waste is converted into a sort of food-paste and fed out to readers of the New York Times. It is no longer useful to refer to him as a human being, but rather as a poisonous force bent on the annihilation of thought, through shit.

His column today really must be read to be believed. That said, don't read it. There is nothing to be gained from believing such an Op-Ed exists, and, I'm sorry to report, much to lose. Reading his condescending tripe has left me feeling weak, sickly even.

There is no reason for me to pick apart what you might graciously refer to as his shitty argument, because Andrew Leonard over at Salon has saved me the trouble. Now, I will pass along to you his wise words. All you need to know about Brooks piece is that in it he says our "economic values" have changed, and we need to start living like we did in the 50s again. Here's a small taste of Leonard's massive takedown. I need a warm bath and some green tea.

"Brooks displays a bizarre historical amnesia throughout his column. For example, he never even mentions the transition from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression Maybe it's because the shift from decadence to thrift at that point was also obviously a response to economic incentives. Even worse, a moral revival didn't restore economic growth after the Crash -- government action and ultimately the fiscal stimulus provided by World War II did the trick.

But a far more pertinent point of reference comes much earlier. Has Brooks somehow forgotten that just nine years ago the U.S. operated under a balanced budget and enjoyed a budget surplus? The explosion of public debt since that point has very little to do with the moral failings of Americans, and everything to do with objective fact. George W. Bush cut taxes, but did not match those cuts with spending cuts. Instead, he ramped up spending dramatically, on two wars, healthcare, and finally, a huge bailout of Wall Street."

Preach it, Andy.

Taxpayers To Continue Making Decisions For Pregnant Women

If there's one thing we can be sure of in this country, it's that a woman's right to choose whether or not she's going to take a pregnancy to term is contingent on the whims of white guys in suits. Senators! As a country, we find it important from time to time to remind women that their privacy rights are given to them by men, and can be amended As We See Fit.

In this spirit, the New York Times is reporting today that dickhead lawmakers are trying to introduce provisions into the health care bill to ensure that tax-payer money (in the form of government subsidies) isn't used to pay for abortions. From the Times:

"Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion. And the abortion opponents are getting enough support from moderate Democrats that both sides say the outcome is too close to call. Opponents of abortion cite as precedent a 30-year-old ban on the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions."

I didn't know about that part at the end, that there's already a ban on "taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions." Hmmmm. Well, that's dumb and patriarchal. Let's get rid of that ban, and then the whole point is moot.

Abortion-rights activists (who should really be called something like "Privacy is privacy" activists) are worried that this anti-poor, anti-women provision could have disastrous effects on people--specifically on poor women. And also on women who already have insurance.

"Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, argued that if the bill blocked the use of subsidies for abortion coverage, private insurers would stop covering abortion because those plans would be excluded from the federally subsidized programs.

“Women who already have this coverage would lose it,” Ms. Keenan said."

Anyone with half a brain knows that what Keenan is describing here is exactly what the anti-choice crowd is going for. They will fight to curtain reproductive rights with every tool available to them, because it is their business to tell poor women what to do.

It's worth noting that we see this kind of cultural "remember who you are" smackdown on other marginalized classes as well. Gays have the Obama administration's disgraceful handling of DOMA and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Latinos had Joe Wilson--and the GOP at large--telling them that the idea of providing health care to an "illegal immigrant" was so hateful to them that they literally couldn't control their anger at the thought of it. And blacks, of course, have recently been reminded that an organization (ACORN) that helps register primarily black voters will have the fury of the Congress rained down upon it at the slightest show of misconduct.

Those are all examples taken from the last 9 months, with the "Liberal" party in power, so, you know, that's...not...good. Oh yeah, and American Muslims were reminded by the previous administration exactly how important their rights are too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Has Iran Already Nuked Us!?

This morning's newspaper headlines sure were exciting, weren't they?!?!?!?!

As of right now, the New York Times' headline screams:

Iran Is Warned Over Nuclear ‘Deception’

The Washington Post cries:

Iran Admits Second Nuclear Enrichment Site

OH NO! Drudge takes the predictably sober approach and whispers:



Why, I think we might already be at war with fucking Iran! Or close, at least! The Times today dutifully contemplates that,

"After months of talking about the need for engagement, Mr. Obama appears to have made a leap toward viewing tough new sanctions against Iran as an inevitability."[emphasis added.]

Fellatio-enthusiast Thomas Friedman wrote this week that we [America!] should threaten Iran with immediate sanctions and the possibility that "Israel might do something crazy." I wonder what Obama and Friedman talked about when they played Golf the other day.

The Post ledes by raising the prospect of sanctions as well.

"President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain blasted Iran's construction of a previously unacknowledged uranium enrichment facility and demanded Friday that Tehran immediately fulfill its obligations under international law or risk the imposition of harsh new sanctions."

It sure sounds like the media is congealing around this new meme like the unthinking wad of lard that they are. And thankfully, the same horrifying tactics that gave us Catastrophe Iraq! are on full display yet again, for fun.

After reporting that Iran sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency informing them of the existence of the Plant, Politico goes on to say:

"“A very cursory admission to the IAEA years after the commencement of construction of the facility whose use is undeniable does not constitute living up to its obligations,” an American official said."[emphasis added.]

OOOOOOO!!!!!!! That's so scary, guys! An anonymous source is claiming with certainty that a new enemy can/will/already has killed us all! That sounds like a slam dunk case, right there.

Others have joined Friedman's calls for more human sacrifice to please the God of American Stability. Meat-puppet David Ignatious--who writes about politics with as much insight as John Madden does about Proust--spends his column today telling his readers that we are in a scary new cold war, but he and his anonymous insider friends are seriously doing their best to keep us safe, guys. Ignatious writes:

So why didn’t the Obama administration lay down an even stronger marker in response to this breakout -- by threatening, say, to intercept ships at sea that it believed were carrying parts for the Iranian nuclear program?

The answer, explained the senior official in a telephone interview, is that the U.S. wants to preserve consensus among its allies for much harsher sanctions, even as it heads toward a face-to-face negotiating meeting with the Iranians on Oct. 1.The U.S. has privately communicated with the Iranians in recent days that it wants those talks to go forward, the senior official said.

Asking why Ignatious granted anonymity to that senior official is like asking why banks rip people off--no matter how despicable we may find that practice, that's what they think their job is.

But let's back up just a little. Ignatious nobly wonders why the US didn't "intercept ships at sea that it believed were carrying parts for the Iranian nuclear program." That is really a remarkable sentence because it highlights, in a nutshell, how our punditry class thinks, which is to say they are blood-thirsty war-mongers, no matter how banal their demeanor appears. What meat-puppet Ignatious is describing is an act of war. You know, bang bang. Look at how casually he posits this question, the consequences of which would undoubtedly lead to massive civilian suffering and death, both American and Iranian. Yet to Ignatious, it seems odd that America didn't strike first.

To read an evisceration of another pundit warrior, read Greenwald's vicious dismantling of David Brooks, here.

And to read a historical account of how familiar all this Iran scare-mongering is, go here.

Watch out for a ratcheting up of the scary Iran meme this weekend on the Gas-bag Happy Hour with George Stephanopolous, or on This Week with Dickheads. I won't be watching them, but if anything happens let me know if you want to.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

American Savagery

Thomas Friedman loves one thing and one thing alone, which is to give off very sophisticated airs that he hates war--HATES IT, DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND--only to call for more war in the very next breath. For this reason, he is considered America's Leading Intellectual(!) and also a Liberal(!?). Oh, he doesn't want war, don't you see, it's just that, well, this new war is so goddamn necessary. His lamentations fill the page as he bravely calls for yet another unprovoked assault on a sovereign country. War is hell, but it makes a good lede.

Friedman the Warrior begins his column today by showing all you pussies how fucking tough he is.

"For the first time since Iran began enriching uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon, we have a glimmer of hope for a diplomatic solution to this problem — as long as we are not too diplomatic, as long as the Iranian regime is made to understand that biting economic sanctions are an absolute certainty and military force by Israel is a live possibility."[emphasis added.]

Oh yeah, Friedman ain't scared to talk some shit. He'll preemptivly threaten a motherfucker if he gots to. Sanctions, war, you name it, he'll threaten it.

Throughout his column, Friedman repeats this theme of "biting economic sanctions," also calling them, "real biting sanctions," and "real sanctions." He lists a few different options for what those sanctions could be, but what he really wants to talk about is Israel puttin' up its dukes.

"While real sanctions are necessary to exploit this moment, they are not sufficient. We also need to keep alive the prospect that Israel could do something crazy. I don’t favor Israeli military action against Iran and hope we’re telling Israel that privately. But I do believe that U.S. officials, particularly the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, need to stop saying that publicly."[emphasis added.]

Ooooo, can't you feel what a reluctant soldier Friedman is? He really doesn't want war, but we need to "keep alive the prospect that Israel could do something crazy." Anyone looking for a perfect example of the deranged, symbiotic relationship between the US and Israel--and the hawkish mentality behind it--need look no further. Iran, a country that has never attacked the United States, and has no real capability of attacking the United States, must be constantly threatened with declarations of potential military and economic force.

Friedman goes on to correctly describe how brutal Ahmadinejad regime is, as though the well-being of Iranian citizens is of his utmost concern. Remember, he is the same guy who said we need to go to a Muslim country and tell them "Suck. On. This."

Excuse me if I find Friedman's motives less than humanitarian.

[Author's note: As I write this, a "Free Iran" protest is marching past my building towards the UN. It's worth remembering that these are the people who Friedman is so quick to cast into the hell of economic sanctions. See here for some of the devestating effects of the sanctions on Iraq.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Primary Victim Of 1960s Violence Was Family Values, Apparently

Twice every week, the warden at Bellvue Hospital for the Criminally Insane unlocks a heavy steel door with a name tag next to it that reads "David Brooks, columnist." The warden opens the door, heaves in a typewriter and a raw steak, and Brooks--bound by a straight jacket and frothing at the mouth--pounds out his twice-weekly missive by repeatedly smashing his head against the keyboard until a mix of blood, tears, and neocoservativism has dirtied the page.

Yes, it's an origin myth, but frankly it makes more sense to believe that than to believe the New York Times gives an office to a man who would write a sentence like this (from Brooks' eulogy today of Irving Kristol):

"Kristol championed middle-class virtues like faith, family and responsibility, especially during the 1960s when they were so much under attack."

Oh yeah, if there's one thing that was seriously under attack in the 1960s, it was family values. Not civil rights leaders, or, I don't know, Vietnamese peasants. Mostly it was the family values that suffered. The real victim of institutionalized racism, sexism, and war-mongering were the Brady Bunch.

What was under attack in the 60s--other than Vietnam--was the supremacy of a white, sexist, imperialist mindset in America. Kristol and his neocon offspring believed--and continue to believe--whole-heartedly in the inherent goodness of American hegemony, so it should be no surprise that Kristol would've defended what Brooks euphemistically refers to as "middle-class virtues." Kristol believed that society was falling apart due to the loss of religion, and the patriarchal society that goes along with it. The following quote is taken from J. David Hoeveler, Jr.'s Watch on the Right: Conservative Intellectuals in the Reagan Era (via Sadly, No):

"Kristol identified a spiritual vacuum that cut across the whole public culture of the United States. He was a writer who could cry out for censorship of pornography and who could praise Victorian culture for its deference to womanhood. What Kristol sorely lamented was the loss of republican virtue in Western life, and behind that loss, he believed, was the decline of religion. The decline did not constitute for Kristol a merely curious cultural shift. It lay at the base of every issue that liberal and conservative ideologies confronted. The loss of faith, Kristol wrote, was the “most important political fact of the last hundred years.”"

That paragraph speaks for itself, but it's worth briefly returning to the Brooks quote.

Brooks' phrase, "middle-class virtues like faith, family and responsibility," is repugnant and offensive, but those types of constructions get used all the time. Those three "virtues" become property of the "middle class," as though the working class doesn't give a shit about family. As though immigrants and blacks--because make no mistake, when Brooks refers to 1960s middle-class society he means white--don't give a shit about responsibility.

There's no real need to comment on any other part of Brooks' column, which is entirely dedicated to the memory of Irving Kristol. Learning about Kristol from Brooks is like learning about the Emperor from Darth Vader--if you don't trust the source, it's hard to really throw yourself into academic pursuit.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Concern For Palestinians' Well-Being Not High On Pundit's List Of Things He Cares About

When it comes to debating the continued occupation of Palestine by Israel, there is no better way to be taken seriously by the Talking Class than to competely and utterly disregard the safety and well-being of Palestinians. Jackson Diehl, writing in the Washington Post (which has an explicit policy of burning Gazans for sport), illustrates this unspoken truth quite well today.

All things considered--ie, concerning Israel--that whole massacre of Gaza thing last year wasn't really so bad. Diehl does acknowledge that many Gazans--including at least 450 civilians--died, but he is such a Serious Adult About Foreign Policy that he only examines how this affected Israel.

"But what of the grievous Palestinian suffering in the invasion -- Israel itself counted 1,166 dead Gazans, including more than 450 civilians -- and the international backlash that has caused? Just last week a U.N. commission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone condemned what it called "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population," and suggested that responsible Israelis be hauled before the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.

Israel's leaders worried a lot about losing the war that way. But as they see it, they suffered only scratches. Egypt, which quietly collaborates with Israel's blockade of Gaza, came under pressure to change its policy but held firm. No Arab country toughened its stance toward Israel: According to the Obama administration, as many as five may be willing to offer diplomatic and economic concessions if Israel freezes its West Bank settlement construction.

Perhaps most significant, Hamas's rival for Palestinian leadership, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, is considerably stronger than it was before the war. Probably it will renew peace talks with Israel within weeks. As for the Goldstone report, the heat it briefly produced last week will quickly dissipate; the panel was discredited from the outset because of its appointment by the grotesquely politicized U.N. Human Rights Council."[emphasis added]

So, here's what Diehl is saying: "Hey, buddy, too bad about all that civilian death, but, hey, you know what? It worked out pretty well for us over here." You know what that sounds a lot like?

Main Entry: ter·ror·ism
1 : the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion

And, saddest of all, the lesson that Diehl learned from the massacre was this,

"The Gaza invasion was the second military operation Israel embarked on in less than 18 months despite disapproval from Washington. The other was its bombing of a nuclear reactor under construction in Syria in September 2007. Then, too, officials in Washington feared a dire diplomatic backlash or even a war between Israel and Syria. Nothing happened.

As they quietly debate the pros and cons of launching a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel's political and military leaders no doubt will be thinking about that history. That doesn't mean they will discount American objections -- Iran would be a far harder and more complex target, with direct repercussions for U.S. troops and critical interests in the region. But, as with Gaza, even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit -- and the potential blowback overblown."[emphasis added]

This unfettered bloodlust is nothing short of sociopathic behavior, and should be called as such. "Nothing happend," Diehl writes, forgetting that an entire city was fenced in and systematically destroyed. He shows no sympathy, none, for any of the thousands of Iranians who would no doubt be killed in a preempitive attack.

It should be noted that Israeli civilian death is horrible and abhorent. I am not in any way attempting to say that those who died in Sderot and any less tragic than any 8 or 9 Palestinians, it just so happens that there are another 1,400 Arab deaths on top of that to account for.

A Prediction For The Republican Party

The '08 election argued that the GOP is essentially a regional party, with little or no productive role to play in the governing of America. I have referred to them in the past as "a confederacy of white nationalists and robber barons," and now it seems a recent poll is supporting my claim.

This is a graph created by Steve Bennen that I saw over at Ezra Klein's blog. It breaks down GOP support by region, and the numbers do not look good for the Repubs.

MonkeyCage has the line of the day with this gem,

"Quite seriously, if I saw this type of regional distribution of support for a political party in a country like Slovakia, I would assume the party represented an ethnic minority."

It's funny, because the GOP hates ethnic minorities! Oh, man, that is too good.

How Can We Possibly Have An Honest Debate If People Say Mean, True Things About War Crimes?

Last year, Israel rained down massive, collective punishment of the people of Gaza--actions that constitute war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity. At least that's what Richard Goldstone and his team of UN investigators reported last week. The report also said that Hamas was guilty of committing war crimes by sending rockets into Israel aimed at civilian targets, but on a far smaller scale. The findings of the report were dismissed both by Israel and the Obama administration as being overly harsh on Israel.

David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper H'aaretz, wrote about this report in Sunday's edition of the New York Times, and frankly, he did not care for the report's findings one little bit! In fact, he thought the report was mean and disproportionately critical of Israel, which is not fair at all.

Yes, Palestinian deaths numbered around 1,400, and Israeli deaths came in at 13. Yes, there is strong evidence to suggest that Israel used white phosphorus on an imprisoned population, and shot Palestinian civilians who were literally waving white flags to surrender. And bombed UN schools. But, yeah, you wouldn't want anything about this massacre to be disproportionate.

Landau makes the childish claim that Goldstone is at fault here, because he was so mean in his report that now Israelis won't want to talk about their feelings honestly. He writes:

"But Judge Goldstone has thwarted any such honest debate — within Israel or concerning Israel. His fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians, shut down the argument before it began."

What a evil "premise" for an investigator to begin an argument with. What's unfortunate for Landau, and the New York Times, is that he clearly doesn't know what the word "premise" means. Hahahaha, silly editor-in-chief.

What he means to say--and this is a common mistake people for people who can't argue properly--is "conclusion." Goldstone arrives at the conclusion that Israelis targeted civilians, he doesn't begin at that premise. It's a common mistake, to confuse "premise" (the beginning assumption of a debate) with "conclusion" (the end point one arrives at after examining evidence). It's especially common for the head of a major newspaper to make that mistake. Or he might have been employing a dirty rhetorical trick.

In Landau's critique of the report, he offers no counter-arguments, no examples of bad methodology, and no flaws in the logic of the report. He simply doesn't like its conclusions, so he dismisses the whole endeavor as a wasted opportunity. According to Landau, we should have maybe asked some questions and called it a day, I guess.

"When does negligence become recklessness, and when does recklessness slip into wanton callousness, and then into deliberate disregard for innocent human life?
Are widespread civilian casualties inevitable when a modern army pounds terrorist targets in a heavily populated area with purportedly smart ordnance? Are they acceptable? Does the enemy’s deployment in the heart of the civilian area shift the line between right and wrong, in morality and in law?"

When a rhetorical question has a clear answer, should we stifle it in an absurd attempt to maintain civility in discourse?

"These were precisely the questions that Israeli politicians and generals wrestled with in Gaza, as others do today in Afghanistan."

Yes, we should have wrestled with those questions, but not drawn any conclusions. I get it now. Silly me, I thought there was value in making legitimate accusations of wrong-doing when the evidence warranted it, but I guess that would count as a wasted opportunity, to, um, hold people accountable for their crimes, I guess.

What Landau fails to recognize is that the findings of this report are so horrific that even in describing them, one will risk angering those who are blindly "pro-Israel." And, yes, roughly 9/10ths of the report is spent documenting Israel's crimes, and only 1/10th documenting Hamas' crimes. But, as Norman Finkelstein argued on Democracy Now!, that's what you would expect in a massacre that left 1,400 dead on one side, and about a tenth of that, 13, dead on the other.

This type of inability, or unwillingness, to call a crime a crime ensure that this type of behavior will happen again. Whether the offender will be the USA, Isreael, or another occupying power is anybody's guess.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blantant Racism Not About Race, Explains White Oligarch

Respected race theorist David Brooks writes today in the New York Times that the backlash against Obama isn't about race, like, even at all. He knows this because one time Brooks saw some white people having a rally and they weren't murdering black people who were having a separate rally SO CASE CLOSED ALREADY.

In making what may be the laziest argument ever committed to paper, Brooks engages in what must be the laziest (and, sadly, most common) rhetorical tactic in the Op-Ed writer's toolbox. He cherry-picks one singular example of evidence from his own life to support his weak-ass thesis, and then generalizes from that specific interaction. Tommy "Suck. On. This." Friedman is the absolute worst perpetrator of this crime against readers. If he weren't allowed to begin a column by writing, "I was in a Taxi in [insert foreign country] and my driver told me [insert awesome thing about Globalization]..." he might never be allowed to write again.

Brooks, in his column today, tackles the extremely complicated problem of latent racism in contemporary America. Psyche! Haha, he can't do that, because he's not very compassionate, and he adores, SIMPLY ADORES, "Centrism," which is short-hand for, "Good luck, minorities! Tell me how things turn out!" No, Brooks intelligently concludes that America is not racist any more in any way and why do the mean liberals keep bringing it up? Brooks helpfully presents this trite anecdote as proof-positive that institutional racism is a thing of the past. He writes about jogging past the Piss-Drinkers (Tea Baggers) march the other day, noting:

They were carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, “End the Fed” placards and signs condemning big government, Barack Obama, socialist health care and various elite institutions. [Note he fails to mention any of the explicitly racist signs, belonging to the so-called "birthers."-JK]

Then, as I got to where the Smithsonian museums start, I came across another rally, the Black Family Reunion Celebration. Several thousand people had gathered to celebrate African-American culture. I noticed that the mostly white tea party protesters were mingling in with the mostly black family reunion celebrants. The tea party people were buying lunch from the family reunion food stands. They had joined the audience of a rap concert.

Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.

Problem solved! A race riot didn't immediately break out when some white people met some black people, so, um, what more proof do you need that America is great?

Brooks bravely rips race from its historical and cultural context, isolating it as merely one of many potential sources of strife, and then triumphantly (if inexplicably) concluding, "race is largely beside the point." [For a deep look about the intersection of race, class, and gender, see AK here.] Yes, yes, Mr. Brooks, how wonderful of you to throw in your two sense. Let's talk about the Obama backlash, whose de facto leader explicitly called Obama a racist, without giving significant weight to the issue of race. While we're at it, let's talk about the health care debate, without discussing race and class. And let's do the same thing when we talk about the ousting of Van Jones, and the vile, despicable targeting of ACORN by the Piss-Drinker movement. Why, the hatred expressed towards Van Jones and ACORN couldn't possibly be race-based, now, could it? Noooooo.

Brooks continues on, heroically descending further and further into a fever dream in which the new administration is solely responsible for the inseparable joining of the State and the Corporation.

"Barack Obama leads a government of the highly educated. His movement includes urban politicians, academics, Hollywood donors and information-age professionals. In his first few months, he has fused federal power with Wall Street, the auto industry, the health care industries and the energy sector."

I have written in this space many times about the destructive pact the Democrats have made with the health insurance companies, and I'm under no illusion that they are free in any way from massive corporate control. But to claim that the fusion of federal power with Wall Street is the result of the Obama administration verges on the deranged. The marriage of the State and Corporate Power goes back to the founding of this country, and, in the modern setting, at least as far back as the Eisenhower administration.

And then there's this lunacy.

"We now have a populist news media that exaggerates the importance of the Van Jones and Acorn stories to prove the elites are decadent and un-American, and we have a progressive news media that exaggerates stories like the Joe Wilson shout and the opposition to the Obama schools speech to show that small-town folks are dumb wackos."

What?! That block quote may reign supreme as the greatest example yet of the mindless (or worse, deliberate) equivocation between what is called "the Left" and "the Right." The "populist news media" is presumably Fox News and it's collection of inbred spin offs. Brooks plays a particularly deceitful rhetorical trick by subtly referring to Van Jones and ACORN as "elites" in the voice of the populist media. A casual reader, however, could very easily interpret that sentence construction to mean that Brooks himself--who is, in the mind of the casual reader, a respected centrist--considers Van Jones and ACORN the "elites," which is laughable. ACORN receives about 3 million federal dollars per year, a mere drop in the bucket compared to financial institutions.

Then he says part of the problem is the "progressive media," which is, I don't know, MSNBC and blogs, maybe. There is certainly a liberal blogosphere, but calling Joe Wilson an asshole and pointing out that Reagan gave a speech at a school too is a far cry from calling the president a racist. What he fails to mention, because he is fundamentally incapable of realizing it, is that people like him are what amplify the false claims of the Right, and make it necessary for the Left to fact-check the media.

Brooks' aim is so far off base here, one could use it as a jump off for an entire book about the broken media. He falsely asserts that race can be talked about separate from class and gender, subtly advances right-wing lies about Van Jones and ACORN, and presents an idiotic equivocation between Fox News and the liberal blogosphere, in essence saying, "they're both good and bad, but here I am in the center like an Adult." That's really a remarkable achievement, even for Brooks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And Let's Deny Orphans, While We're At It...

As all Serious Adults know, reform must happen in small increments and include everybody--EVEN PEOPLE YOU MIGHT NOT AGREE WITH. This is called being a moderate, or centrist, a label that is valued in Washington, DC even more than air itself. It shows your colleagues that you don't actually believe in anything, which is to be avoided at all costs, lest you be labeled an "ideologue." That's why health care reform must--SIMPLY MUST DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND--include health insurance companies.

But then there's also this. According to insurance companies, getting beaten by your husband counts as a pre-existing condition. Yeah. HuffingtonPost is reporting:

It turns out that in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, getting beaten up by your spouse is a pre-existing condition.

Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you're more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure.

I can't imagine a more perfectly distilled illustration of the brutal logic of capitalism. A company that exists to make money by denying care to sick people (and make no mistake, that is exactly what a health insurance company is), extends an already corrupt and revolting practice--denying care due to "pre-existing conditions"--to include people who aren't sick, but are victims of abuse.

And, according to Huffpo, this practice has been happening since at least the early 90s, when insurance companies promised to end this practice during Clinton's push for reform. Surprise, surprise, that didn't happen, because, oh, I don't know, maybe because ANYONE EVIL ENOUGH TO DENY COVERAGE TO A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC ABUSE MIGHT DO ANYTHING TO MAKE A BUCK, INCLUDING LYING ABOUT ENDING THAT PRACTICE BUT THEN CONTINUING TO DO IT. That's just one theory, though, there might be others.

To give credit where it's due, in 2006 Senate Democrats tried to outlaw the practice, but the Republicans stymied the measure.

Let's invite everyone to the Big Table for Reform! Sigh.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Old Men Debate Merits Of Health Care Reform, Piss

Folks, health care will be reformed, I JUST KNOW IT! How can I be so sure? My evidence is below, in the form of a humble video offering, straight from the God of Joy. The human capacity for language is not yet expansive enough to describe the beauty contained in this quasi-pornographic town hall moviefilm, but here's a shot.

One old guy yells at another old guy, and then they start talking about how neither one wants to pee on each other, which is the centrist position. Common ground! The arbiter of Centrism, David Brooks, has publicly argued many times that Serious people don't pee on each other--though in private this blog has been told other stories. Look, David Brooks' addiction to getting peed on notwithstanding, this is a serious display of how sausage (legislation) gets made, and then pees on the elderly and then the government steals their Medicare. (via Wonkette)

(All the pee talk comes at around 1:25. If anyone watches the rest of this thing and nothing else interesting happens, hahahaha.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Numbers That Will Make You Sad

Here is a sad true fact: If your head is on the TV, talking, Americans will trust you forever, no matter what. In return for the collective sacrifice of our humanity, we are rewarded with shows such as According to Jim's Testicles, and The Beard of Wolf Blitzer.

TV is on my brain because ThinkProgress is passing along some pretty grim polling data from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

TP focuses on the drastic down tick in positive reviews from Democrats over the period of 2007 to 2009. They write:

"In a new survey of how the public views the news media, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that “partisan differences in views of Fox News have increased substantially since 2007.” Though the percentage of Republicans who view Fox News positively is virtually the same (73 percent in 2007 and 72 percent in 2009), positive views of Fox News have dropped significantly amongst Democrats from 61 percent in 2007 to 43 percent in 2009. In comparison, the view of CNN by both Republicans and Democrats is “little changed from two years ago.”"

My question, though, is how the fuck is it that in 2007, 2007, 61% of Democrats held a positive view of FoxNews. That seems remarkably high to me. I mean, O'Reilly had been in full effect for years by then, as had Hannity and the lobotomized goons over at Fox and Friends. What could have changed between 2007 and 2009? Well there's this:

Glenn Beck joins Fox News

And I suppose their coverage of the Democratic primaries might have turned a few people off, but, still, 61% in 2007? Yikes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Me on Citizen Radio

For anyone who's interested, I was just on Citizen Radio, a very fun, very leftist podcast run by Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny. The show can be heard here, or downloaded from itunes by searching "Citizen Radio." You should subscribe to the show, and I don't just say that because I was on it--although that is a big reason.

Topics covered on the show include: the public option, Obama's condescension towards the Left, my critique of Inglourious Basterds, and illegal human experimentation. But it's all funny! How do we manage to do it?! Lots of farty sound effects! Not really! Go listen and then we'll talk about it the next time we see each other.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Here Is What Matters About Obama's Speech To Congress

This sentence, and this sentence alone, tells you what was the goal and end result of Obama's speech to Congress. The NY Times today is reporting:

"The day after the nationally televised address, in which Mr. Obama signaled that he could accept an alternative to a government-run insurance plan, influential Democrats who previously seemed wedded to the public insurance option hinted that they, too, might be flexible."[emphasis added.]

Success! What an awesome speech that was, about transcendence, and moral imperatives. Lose one for Teddy!

The problem with the debate that liberals are having over health care is simple, and yet that's what makes it so frustrating. Those who support a public option but also give Obama the benefit of the doubt are operating from a false premise, namely, they assume that he actually wants a bill that contains a public option.

Why is anybody (or, more correctly, everybody) assuming this to be the case? Because he says he does? Since when did taking elected officials at their word become a hallmark of the left? As the great Izzy Stone said, "all governments lie." Obama says he favors the public option, but what actions--not rhetoric--serve as evidence for this claim?

There are none. And, in fact, there is ample evidence to lead one to believe the opposite is true, that Obama is in fact getting exactly the bill he wants. Obama has kowtowed to insurance and pharmaceutical companies; Rham "the trigger" Emmanuel has told progressive that they're "fucking stupid" for criticizing Blue Dogs. There has been no pressure on sex escort Max Baucus to produce a better bill.

To assume that Obama wants the public option based only on rhetoric is the height of idiocy. Do we assume a husband loves his wife simply because he says he does, despite years of infidelity? No, we don't. We judge him or her by their actions, and any one who doesn't use that standard is rightly accused of being naive.

We have to remember that public officials have every reason to say what we are meant to think they believe, not what they actually believe. That is not new or unique to Obama, it's just the nature of public service. That's why someone like Kucinich deserves praise--because he said he's in favor of single payer, and then introduced a bill that would allow states on an individual basis to adopt that system if they so choose. That's what actual advocacy looks like.

If the last 8 years should have taught us anything, it's that placing trust in elected officials without sufficient evidence to do so is asking for catastrophe.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Party of Racists Now Also Party of Stupid Children

It has been clear for some time now that the so-called "Republican Party" is little more than a confederacy of white nationalists and robber barons, united by equal levels of hatred and ignorance. Their party's symbol may as well be Glen Beck pissing on the grave of Thomas Paine. That's been obvious to anybody with a brain for quite some time. What's also now clear is that they are a party of whiny assholes who deserve to be treated like nothing other than whiny assholes.

During Obama's speech to the Congress on Wednesday night, the GOP revealed its true colors as a gang of disrespectful morons who will not participate in the act of governing in any meaningful way. Joseph Wilson outburst of, "YOU LIE" stands out as the most flagrant trespass against decency and civility of the night, but it was far from the only one. Alex Koppelman at Salon, and Dana Milbank at WaPo both catalogued the GOP's asshat-ery. There is a sickening irony to Dana Milbank of all people--he who suggested that Hillary Clinton drink "mad bitch beer"--calling for civility.

Watching some of the footage, I couldn't help but think that I've seen better behaved crowds at strip clubs. Members of the GOP were holding up homemade signs that read "What bill?", because a speech to Congress should, more than anything else, closely resemble a WWF SummerSlam. I half expected Larry the Cable Guy to kick in the door to the House and scream, "Health Care?! I say, 'GIT R DUN!!!!!'" and then the Republicans would all stand up, rip their shirts off, grease themselves up, and roam the streets looking for at-risk teens to beat the shit out of.

I give it even odds that that'll happen at the State of the Union.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Senator From WellPoint Has a Bill!

Marcy Wheeler over at EmptyWheel is reporting that, surprise surprise, high-class sex escort Sen. Max Baucus' (D-MT) health care bill was written by a former executive for WellPoint, a health insurance company and the largest member of the Blue Cross Association. Representative Democracy! The bill was authored by Liz Fowler, sex slave Baucus' Senior Counsel and maybe Dungeon Master. She worked for Baucus from 2001-2005, then moved over to WellPoint to make MadMadMadMoney. But then she returned to public life to do some good! Or enrich her former employers and ensure that her boss would continue to receive more corporate donations than anyone else in the Congress! Either one is possible. But, yeah, Wheeler notes that,

"To the extent that Liz Fowler is the Author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well."

Again, this shouldn't be surprising, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. The extent to which corporations exert control over our lives--psychologically, and in both public and private life--cannot be overstated.

In that vein, I'd like to pass along this excerpt from last Sunday's Bill Moyers' show for old people/smarties/folks with boring Sunday nights. The debate was about a case coming up before the Supreme Court concerning 1st Amendment rights for corporations--specifically, whether or not they are free to spend unlimited funds during an election cycle to support or defeat a specific candidate. Trevor Potter was advocating limiting the amount corporations can spend, and therefore, in the eyes of critics, limiting the "free speech" of corporations and potentially unions.

BILL MOYERS: [T]his is about more than a movie or a book. This is go [sic] fundamentally to the role of corporations in our political elections. And this concerns you, because you say in your brief that this is dangerous.

TREVOR POTTER: Well, if you just look at the numbers here you are dealing with a world we just have never seen in elections. Exxon Mobil has a political action committee, which means voluntary contributions given by shareholders and executives, about 900 thousand dollars in the last cycle. It made last year 85 billion dollars.

Now, there's just a world of difference in the resources available if you say to a corporation, "You can spend money to defeat global-- candidates who are in favor of global warming legislation." If coal companies can go out and say, "If you don't sign our pledge to support coal we're going to defeat you. We're going to spend money against you." You take those enormous economic resources and you use them for something that we've never seen before. That I think is the radical nature.

So, the case before the Court right now is whether or not corporations will be able to control even more of our lives, by being giant dicks, and probably making a movie about Al Gore being a pornographer or something. Free Speech now apparently means the ability to buy up as much of the limited, expensive, and exclusive means of public discourse as one can! THEY ALREADY WRITE OUR GODDAMN BILLS I MEAN COME ON!

Ahem. If anyone has any question left in their head about whether or not giving corporations more, ney, ENDLESS control over the public discourse might be cause for concern, here is the latest post from Matt Taibbi, telling us how "wacky evil" Goldman Sachs has become.

"It looks like Wall Street is developing a new use for the securitization process — bundling life insurance policies and selling them as bonds to investors who would be betting, in essence, on when the policyholders will die.
This feels like financial innovation as practiced by Josef Mengele meets the Zucker Brothers; not just evil, but wacky evil. I don’t even want to think about what happens when Goldman Sachs suddenly has a large financial stake in the premature deaths of a bunch of old people."

This is what Adam Smith meant by the "invisible hand of the market"--that it will strangle you to death, for profit, by giant dicks.

Predictions for Obama's Speech to Congress

Tonight, Barack Obama will address the nation on the topic of health care reform, one of his signature issues during the campaign. Whatever else may be true of the final bill that comes out of the House and the Senate, we can be sure that it will leave progressives disappointed and marginalized--even moreso than usual--and corporate congress people (both Democrat and GOP) thrilled, thrilled, thrilled.

It is in that spirit that I humbly present the following predictions for Obama's BIG NIGHT OF TRIANGULATION AND DEFEAT.

  1. Before the speech even begins, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), giddy with certainty that Obama won't demand the inclusion of a public option, and intoxicated with visions of the millions more dollars he'll receive from health insurance companies, releases not a small amount of ejaculate into his non-descript gray suit.

  2. Sen. Grassley (R-IA) passes the time by going back and forth between two sets of prepared remarks he will give after the speech. The first set, or "professional" set, describes that even though he won't approve of the final bill, he's glad Obama "reached across the aisle." The second set of remarks, or "actual" set, read as follows:
    Hahahahah!!!!!!!!!!! You maroons really ate my dick on this one! WE HAD NOTHING! You had everything going for you. We had nothing! Death panels?! That was a fucking bet between me and Rush about who could get Palin to say something stupider. Oh, hey, by the way, good luck getting a single-payer system passed someday. Hahahahahaha you maroons couldn't pass a kidney stone through a drain pipe.

  3. Following the speech, which demands neither a public option or even gives lip service to a single-payer system, Reps Kucinich (D-OH) and Weiner (D-NY) are found in back-country Virginia muttering to themselves, "the horror, the horror."

  4. Halfway through his speech, Barack Obama pauses, looks down, shakes his head, and says, "What happened to me? I squandered the best chance this country has ever had to push through real reform, because I sold out to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. I TAKE IT ALL BACK, DAMMIT! We're starting over, and we're not including special interests in the debate this time. Instead of asking 'what role does the government have to play in health care,' we'll ask the question, 'what role do private, for-profit companies have to play.' The answer, my friends, is none. Now, let's join the rest of the goddamn Western world and provide universal coverage for our citizens!"

I'm just kidding, that last one would never happen. Also, I'm kidding about Max Baucus creaming his jeans. He can't even come unless Billy Tauzin is watching.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Human Experimentation Not Just For Nazis Anymore

In what may be one of the most revolting developments yet concerning America's "War on Terror," Physicians for Human Rights is claiming that US doctors--working in conjunction with the CIA--may be guilty of engaging in unlawful human experimentation. The Guardian reports:
"The most incendiary accusation of PHR's latest report, Aiding Torture, is that doctors actively monitored the CIA's interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent. The report concludes that such data gathering was "a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation".

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided."[emphasis added.]

Reading the report is very disturbing, but it shouldn't be all that surprising. Once the government explicitly engages in felonies--torture, resulting in over 100 detainee deaths--one should expect further unlawful behavior to follow. That should be so obvious that it doesn't need to be said, but, as is clear now, when it comes to our country's collective understanding of the law, no principle is too elementary to be stated.

That's why we need investigations of the highest level Bush officials--illegal behavior was systemic, not the result of a few bad apples. Once the government opens the door to procedures that have been considered torture since WWII (like waterboarding), what's to keep interrogators from committing other WWII-era crimes? If the law can be disregarded when it comes to waterboarding, then it logically follows that the law can be disregarded when it comes to human experimentation.

The one silver-lining in this story is that it's SO repulsive it might actually provoke public outrage. Discouragingly though, as of posting-time, a google search of "CIA PHR Torture" yields no results from major American news outlets. For further reading, go here for more media implications, and here for an interesting historical take.


A few days ago the Chicago-based sketch comedy group Schadenfreude asked me to start writing for their blog, to which I replied, "go suck on a lemon." I held strong until they offered to buy me a beer someday, at which point I caved. I'm just a man. My first post for them can be read here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Huffpo Piece

Huffpo posted my "NY Times Challenging Itself to Get Worse at Being a Newspaper" article. Here's the link.

Party Of Lunatics

I was planning on writing about the now-certain death of the public option following Obama's statement that he wouldn't be addressing the issue in his upcoming speech to Congress, but Allison Kilkenny saved me the trouble. Her post is a must read, and I echo her sentiments fully, especially her final two paragraphs:

"Watered down bills, hybrids, triggers, and so-called “compromises” (tantamount to full surrender) are all window-dressing for a Democratic President and Democratically-controlled Congress capitulating to a fringe mob of radicals and coterie of corporate insurance and pharmaceutical companies by killing the public option.

Uygur argues that the Progressives should vote no on Obama’s healthcare bill if it doesn’t include a public option, and I agree. If Democrats buckle on the public option, not only will Republicans feel buoyed up by the surrender, but Democrats will lose all credibility with their base. They will permanently become the Party of Surrender, and the healthcare reform disaster will infect all future areas of contentious policy. The death of the public option will mean the death of the Democrats."

She's exactly right, and at this point little else has to be said.

So instead I'll pass along an example of full-blown hysteria, care of the GOP. From OnlineAthens (via Ed Murray):

"MADISON - U.S. Rep. Paul Broun is again raising the specter of Democrats turning the United States into a totalitarian state.

Broun, R-Athens, apparently has not changed his belief that President Obama may be a fascist since he made similar remarks in Augusta in November and then in an Associated Press interview.

He told a meeting of the Morgan County Republicans on Wednesday night that Obama already has or will have the three things he needs to make himself a dictator: a national police force, gun control and control over the press."


Broun's hypocrisy--that it is in fact the Democratic Party that's leading the fight in subverting the law and overstepping boundaries--would be surprising only to someone who hasn't lived in or read about America for the last decade. The GOP has shown itself to be a mob of morally and intellectually bankrupt thugs willing to do or say anything to retain power. That said, it is still disconcerting to learn how well received Broun's message has been.

"More than 1,000 people combined turned out to hear Broun speak mostly on the topic of health care at town hall meetings Wednesday in Madison and Greene County.

About 300 attended the Madison meeting. At Lake Oconee, the audience filled three 300-seat movie theaters, where Broun spoke on the invitation of three local doctors who have been giving presentations on Democrats' proposals for health care reform, said Bob Cowles, one of the organizers. Broun spoke live in one theater, while crowds in the other two listened in over a closed circuit."

Greene County has a population of about 15,600, and Madison County has a population of about 28,000. So, roughly between 2 and 3 percent of the population came out to hear Broun. While that's not a ton of people, it's not nothing. My guess is that the size of these crowds will continue to grow, as people who are naturally drawn to this fringe hysteria will see every new government program as further proof of their paranoia. That is one of the trademarks of the apocalyptic mindset, and we'll see it come up more and more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NY Times Challenging Itself To Get Worse At Being A Newspaper

The New York Times today published another horrible piece on the health care debate. The article makes virtually no factual claims, and the few that it does make are demonstrably incorrect, or at best deliberately misleading. The headline is "Conservative Democrats Expect a Health Deal," but it's not at all clear to me why that's the headline, or even why the piece was written at all.

The first five paragraphs describe nothing but how difficult it is to be a conservative Democrat, but, even so, they really want to get something passed. What would that be? Would it lower costs and extend benefits? Would it provide insurance companies with an enormous bailout in the way of individual mandates without a public option? Who knows?! And in the eyes of the Times, apparently, who cares?!

This is how the writers describe the so-called "reform" that the boot-licking Blue Dogs and their even more repulsive Senate fuck-buddies are in favor of. The reform bill is described in the first five paragraphs in the following ways:

"..[Rep Sandlin could support] a health care package if it was reasonable and represented a consensus Democratic view."

“I want to support necessary change,” she said. “But I don’t want to support radical change.”

"...many of the lawmakers still believe approval of some form of health care plan is achievable..."

"I do believe something will get passed..."

Those are all quotes from or descriptions of conservative Democrats, hereafter referred to as "gimps." That's five paragraphs, and all we know is that--according to the gimps--they really really want to get something passed, just not anything radical. I could continue to cite more vagaries from the article, but there's no point, because the content of the reform that the gimps are in favor of is never articulated.

What compels a writer to write--or a paper to publish--a story so devoid of useful information? What does the reader walk away with, other than a vague assurance that the gimps are acting in good faith to pass reform. Does that reform resemble progressive movement forward in the slightest? Does it actually benefit the insurance companies, not the patients? You would have no idea from reading this article. (The answer to those last two question are "no" and "yes," respectively.)

One thing you would learn is that the public does not want this radical public option nonsense so just go HOME already Russ Feingold. This claim--that the public is not in favor of a public option--is, of course, a bald face lie. First the quote, then my refutation. From the Times' article:

"With Republicans essentially out of the health care picture for now, Blue Dog members from suburban and rural America said they could provide the ideological balance to the more urban members of the Democratic caucus, who are pushing for a sweeping plan of universal coverage that has drawn public criticism."[emphasis added.]

(There is a lot to be said about the first half of that quote, but for the purpose of this post I'm just going to focus on the last half.)

So here you have a story that never defines what it is that the gimps support--other than the assertion that many of them are against the public option--and then a completely unsupported claim that plans for universal coverage have "drawn public criticism." I mean, SOME people have criticized it, so, technically, the writers' statement is more misleading that completely wrong. But using their logic you could just as easily write, "the assassination of JFK has drawn public applause." Yeah, maybe by lunatics it did, but that's certainly not what "the public" in any important sense of the word was doing.

The public at large is not against universal coverage, despite what the Times' statement would lead a reader to believe. In fact, quite the opposite is true, as this poll from last week shows. The Denver Post reports:

"Nearly 8 in 10 Americans support a federal health insurance plan for those who can't afford or can't get private insurance, but only 37 percent define "public option" correctly, a new national poll found.

The majority of people polled — 86 percent — say insurance should be available to everyone regardless of health history."

Hahahahahah FUCK! WHY GOD! WHY MUST THIS BE SO GODDAMN MADDENING!?!?!?! It's Only 37% of people can define the public option correctly. Why is that? Maybe, just maybe it's because the paper of record spends its time writing vague, idiotic tripe instead of attempting to educate the populace on what the goddamn debate is about. So, people don't understand the public option, but they DO believe that health care should be universal, and available to the poor. So, the question is, WHY THE FUCK WON'T WE GET A PUBLIC OPTION?

The answer to this question, at least in part, is that when the media isn't actively distorting the debate, they are playing the role of lazy stenographer. Why scrutinize the claims made by elected officials when it's so much easier to simply write down what they say and call it a night?

For further reading, I'll pass along these two links. Taibbi has a post today also criticizing the media that I recommend looking at if you have a chance. Also, Ezra Klein has a thorough post about the ways in which the cost of the more liberal plan--which is deficit neutral--is being used to distract and scare people away from it.

Since I usually try to end on a joke, I'm going to switch it up here and end on a real downer. Dem. Sen. Blanche Lincoln is bailing on the public option, and it looks like more Senators might be doing the same.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Senate Dems Desperately Trying To Prove Naderites Correct

If anybody is still clinging to the absurd notion that the Democratic Party, as an institution, is interested in passing progressive legislation, this report should take care of that. TPM is reporting that Senate Democrats are facing a strange predicament resulting from their so-called "go it alone" approach.

To briefly summarize--over the past few weeks, Republicans have shown themselves to be assholes of such epic proportions that using words to express thoughts to argue a point--ie, that which makes us human--has proved predictably futile. The GOP has never had any desire whatsoever to engage in health care reform in good faith (with the potential exception of Nixon, amazingly). That much has been obvious since the Truman administration, and now, a mere 60 years later, the Democrats have finally come around.

As a quick tangent, it's worth noting that in 1945, when Truman proposed a national health insurance program--at a time when most of Europe was nationalizing their health care--his plan was criticized as being "socialized medicine." (Follow link above.) That gives you a pretty good idea of how Sisyphean is the task of advocating for national health insurance in America.

Back to the subject at hand. For the Senate Dems to go it alone, they must invoke a parliamentary procedure known as Reconciliation, which is primarily a budget tool. To pass a Reconciliation measure, however, takes only 51 votes, instead of the 60 it takes to override a filibuster. What this means is that the Dems can pass a health care bill with 51 votes, as long as it substantially alters the federal budget. I know this is all kind of dry, but we're getting to the good part.

SO! One would think, "hey, if they only need 51 votes, Dems can really flex some muscle! Then, if the House bill is perfect, we might get a fucking public option!" That is certainly tempting fantasy, but, again, if you have to bet whether or not the Democrats will advance the wishes of their constituents, or the companies who fund them, it's safer to bet on the companies coming out just fine.

In this instance, that means that Senate Dems are split between those who want a robust public option, which will affect the federal budget in big ways. But more conservative Dems don't want a robust option, which means that it will have a smaller impact on the budget, which makes it less likely to pass the standards required by Reconciliation. From TPM:

According to Martin Paone, a legislative expert who's helping Democrats map out legislative strategy, a more robust public option--one that sets low prices, and provides cheap, subsidized insurance to low- and middle-class consumers--would have an easier time surviving the procedural demands of the so-called reconciliation process. However, he cautions that the cost of subsidies "will have to be offset and if [the health care plan] loses money beyond will have to be sunsetted."

And there the irony continues: Some experts, including on Capitol Hill, believe that a more robust public option will generate crucial savings needed to keep health care reform in the black--and thus prevent it from expiring. But though that may solve the procedural problems, conservative Democrats have balked at the idea creating such a momentous government program, and if they defected in great numbers, they could imperil the entire reform package.

What this means is that there is an internal division in the Senate Dems between those who are in favor of small but actual health care reform, and those who simply are not. Without a public option, you are not talking about reform. So even when the requirements for passing a vaguely progressive bill are reduced to a simple majority, not a super majority, the Dems STILL might not have the balls to get it done.

It is pure speculation as to how the Senate Dems split will play out, but the fact that it's even up for debate proves that as an institution, the Democratic Party is fundamentally untrustworthy to lead the country towards meaningful reform. Those House and Senate members who refuse to turn away from advocating for corporate interests should be challenged at the primary level, either by better local Democrats or by third parties. Only by threatening their job security will they respond to the demands of those who put them in office.