The Health Insurance Debate is Missing a Data Link

Like a lot of people who operate inside the Beltway, Nancy Pelosi is very big on the common beltway wisdom. Unlike many, Nancy Pelosi has the power to make sure the common wisdom is heard. So when Nancy believed impeaching Dubya Busch was a bad move, she just said no, and the nation lost its best opportunity to bring the Busch criminals to the bar of justice.

Now, with the full support of common wisdom, Nan has declared single-payer health insurance off the table. “It’s not going to be single-payer,” she has already concluded, and she does not want to hear any more argument.

Few things scare Capitol Hill more than a big fight between the voters and the money boys, and there is nothing like the threat of a rational, single-payer health insurance system to bring the big money out of the woodwork. As Ralph Nader noted in a May 13 article in Time, “these politicians fear the insurance and pharmaceutical industries-and seek their campaign contributions-more than they fear the American people.”

Capitol Hill is so frightened of single-payer that Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus recently refused to include any single-payer advocates in a hearing. In a display of civil disobedience not seen in decades, eight single-payer advocates got themselves arrested demanding to be included. (If you want to see a real example of the arrogance of power as practiced in Washington, click this link.)

Since the first of the year, Sen. Baucus has held eight hearings and taken testimony from 54 different parties. There is no good explanation for his unwillingness to include one advocate for single-payer in the gang of 54… unless he fears the truth, that single-payer is the most rational, least expensive alternative to today’s complex health insurance mess. The good news is that the arrest of the single-payer advocates generated enough heat that there has been talk that single-payer will get its seat at the table, but that has not happened yet.

There is further intrigue on the House side of the Hill, where the Speaker has already made it clear she does not want to be confused with the facts. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has promised he will have a hearing that includes single-payer, but it has not been scheduled yet, and there is concern he may change his mind. (Should we wonder why United Health Group hired as its top lobby the former top lobby at Fannie Mae? A guy whose resume focuses primarily on the banking industry, including a stint as counsel to the financial institutions committee, and has no demonstrated subject matter expertise in health care? Could it be because he was also chief of staff to Hoyer?)

Anyone in reading distance of this should be writing their Congressperson and Senators to demand that single-payer get a full and fair hearing in this process. One place to cast a vote: Chair Bachus is asking for public comment on his policy alternatives to financing health care reform. The policy alternatives document includes an email where comments can be filed.

A Terrorist Act on Domestic Soil

Please read this short essay by a woman named Gretchen Voss. It discusses her own experience with late-term abortion and her views on the Bush Administration’s tack on that particular issue. Read the particulars of her case and tell me with a straight face that her decision to terminate wasn’t an act of mercy.

Progressive blog Feministing has hit upon it: The murder today of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita is a terrorist act.

This is one problem with the so-called “war on terrorism.” Terrorism does not belong to middle-eastern folks. It is a tactic, an unconscionable tactic, a utilization of terrifying violence against a few to paralyze the whole. The murder of Matthew Shepard was terrorism. Oklahoma City was terrorism. Atlanta, too. Just as surely was the murder of Dr. Till. But when the Buffoon-in-Chief appropriated the concept to worshipers of Allah only, it kind of fuzzed the edges when it came to recognizing acts of terrorism by Americans in America.

Like the medical professional who died today for a legal medical procedure that saves lives and distributes mercy. Sad, sad day. KIAV has Dr. Tiller’s family in its “prayers.”

You Tell 'em, Carol Shaw of Greenbelt!

On May 24, The Washington Post ran a story analyzing how some of the stimulus moolah was having an impact locally. The story ended with this quote from a fella who suffered a layoff and then was hired to work a road project in Silver Spring:

I didn’t really care for the idea of the stimulus package, to tell you the truth. I still don’t…I’m glad to have a job, absolutely. But I’m afraid my son will be paying this off for the next 50 years.

Carol Shaw of Greenbelt responded in Letters to the Editor of May 30. Give ’em gravity, Carol!

He is free to take the job and money created by the stimulus package and free to criticize it at the same time (“I didn’t really care for the idea of the stimulus package, to tell you the truth. I still don’t.”). He is free to vote out the politicians who created this package and vote back in those who were responsible for creating this financial crisis.

I am tired of people like Mr. Petre who criticize the hand that feeds them. I am sure if I mention the word welfare, Mr. Petre, as a “self-described Republican,” would agree with me. But he sees nothing wrong with his taking a type of welfare while believing the government should not be stepping in to help those who suffer in good times or bad.

The larger point not addressed by this excellent letter of course is that criticizing the government’s stimulus package out-of-hand is just plain silly. Government stimulus is an expected practice in an economy that’s running like molasses. And the really staggering expenditures, the off-the-books war spending and the TARP, for instance, came about not since 1-20-09, but before. Blaming out-of-control spending on President Obama is as completely absurd as blaming September Eleventh on President Clinton. If the stimulus munny is putting people to work and building roads, then what the fcuk is there to moan about?

Right on, Carol Shaw of Greenbelt! If I knew ya, I’d buy you a beer or a sundae or whatever.

Brady's Definition of Liberals and Conservatives

A liberal is somebody who, when he first encounters Voltaire’s declaration that “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” gets misty-eyed and says, “That’s beautiful.” A conservative is somebody who, when he first encounters the quote, clenches his fist and says, “Who’s this Voltaire faggot?”

If Sonia Sotomayor Is A Racist, Then I'm A Cool Black Dude

I’m sorry. I liked the line so much, I had to use it as a headline.

But let’s have a look at this ridiculous charge that Sonia Sontomayor is a racist. First, let’s remind ourselves about who Newt Gingrich, one of the leaders of this charge, is.

Newtie Gingrich is an abysmal person. He is terrible. He approached a wife to discuss the terms of divorce as she lay on her cancer bed. He himself admitted that he was having an affair while he was leading the charge against President Bill Clinton for having an affair. Newt Gingrich is pond scum, the absolute worst of hypocrites and therefore is very comfortable at the helm of the GOOP with the likes of Cheney, Limbaugh, Bill Bennett, and other various assorted shitheads.

Newt tweeted this today:

White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a little ironic that the 140-character restriction forced Newtie to sound a little bit like Tonto. I understand that his next tweet was

Bowell gotta move now. Teepee full of shit.

Do you notice that every last person who is raising this bizarre charge of racism is a honky*? It is downright laughable to hear all of these white guys level charges of racism. Downright laughable. I haven’t heard anything from Alan Keyes yet, though I’m sure he agrees. Still. It’s just outright laughable.

Especially when you consider that there was nothing, nothing racist about what the lady said.

She was speaking at a conference called “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation.” If you read the speech, you will see that she is actually fully discussing her own struggle for objectivity in spite of and because of her heritage. In fact, in another portion, she indicates that white old guys are indeed capable of empathy:

I…believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable.

There are and will be many bizarre attacks on this woman in her bid to become an Associate Justice. This, I think, is one of the sleaziest. I personally wish they’d wait for the hearings to start, and that they’d actually give this nominee a fair, well, hearing, and, also, that they’d perhaps remember that there was this Senator named Barack Obama who unequivocally supported the nomination of one John G. Roberts.

But I reckon all that would just be too much common sense for the GOOPers.

*”Honky” is one of the four best words in the universe. This is a scientific fact.

Soto Voce, Sotomayor

Senator Barbie Boxer asked me some time back to urge Barack Obama to appoint a woman for the Supremes. Not enough of them, she says. And of course she has a point. Women make up more than half the population and only one-ninth of the court.

And the truth is women are among the best lawyers I ever worked with. I started law school just about the time women were starting to participate in significant numbers in the law, and we had a couple of dozen very smart women in my class. I think three of the top five in my class were women. And if they are registered Democrats, I would recommend any one of them for the Supremes. One of the best justices in recent history was Justice O’Conner, regardless of the fact that she was appointed by that traitor Raygun. Of course she made two serious errors in her career. The first was voting to put that Moron Busch in office (an error that she has admitted to) and the second, perhaps more grievous, was retiring while that moron Busch was still president.

I am not completely sold on Sonya Sotomayor. She has two strikes against her from my perspective. First she is a Catholic, and there are entirely too many of them on the court. Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts are all Catholic. I can remember when the nation was worried that election of a Catholic to be President would mean that Rome would rule the nation. Now we have enough judges on the Supreme Court to give the Pope control, and we should let that concern us.

Second, she is an Ivy Leaguer. I have nothing specific against the Ivy League. Ivy Leaguers as a rule tend to be smart and capable. The president is an Ivy Leaguer, as are some of my best friends. Indeed the Court has long been dominated by Ivy. But we have become accustomed to demanding diversity in all our institutions, and that should include diversity of educational background. Four of the current Justices are from Harvard Law (Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer), two are Yalies, (Thomas, Alito), one Columbia (Ginsburg). Only Stevens (Northwestern) is not an Ivy Leaguer. Only three are not Ivy undergrads (Kennedy and Breyer, Stanford; and Stevens, Chicago). Sotomayor is Princeton undergrad (like Alito) and Harvard Law.

Senator Roman Hruska (R-NE) may only be remembered for his famous defense of mediocrity in supporting G. Harrold Carswell’s nomination to the Supreme Court (Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University). (“Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance?”) I am not looking for mediocrity here. I think there are many well qualified lawyers in the country who did not go to Ivy League Schools, and its time we got a different, less corporate, perspective on the court.

Finally, Sotomayor was picked precisely because she is not a progressive. We have no idea of her views on Choice. She upheld a school district’s punishment of a student for opinions stated out of school (on a private blog). The court stated that teaching respect for authority was more important than the first amendment. I am not impressed that she resolved the baseball strike, and on the whole I think her approach to the law is more corporate (i.e. Harvard) than progressive.

Of course I support the President’s choice, only because a defeat for the President at this point, on this point, would be bad for the country. But at some point the President has to stand up to the right wing wind machine. Maybe the next time around.

I Call Shenanigans On the Washington Examiner

I have been making an effort to occasionally listen to Dave Ramsey. Mama Bonk enjoys his program, and so I thought perhaps I could cull some good advice from the consumer yapper. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will become a regular listener.

Ramsey mentioned and put full faith into a bullshit story that runs in today’s Washington Examiner. As you might recall, this is the free metro paper that is handed out alongside the Washington Post’s Express. It would perhaps be a fine newspaper if it weren’t for all the GOOP hounds who inject it with all kinds of idiotic propaganda.

So the story Ramsey ranted on and that led the Examiner today is headlined thus:

Millionaires flee Maryland taxes

Note how definitive of a hed this is. Millionaires, it says with no qualification, are absolutely leaving the state of Maryland because of taxes. Now, let’s have a look at the lede.

The number of high-income taxpayers in Maryland has dropped by one-third, raising concerns that the wealthy are fleeing the state for its tax-friendlier neighbors.

Oh. Now that doesn’t sound quite as definitive as the hed did, does it? Well, maybe your second graf will offer some facts that can back up your cocksure headline.

About 2,000 residents filed returns in the highest bracket of more than $1 million in taxable income in April, down from about 3,000 in April 2008, according to the most recent data from State Comptroller Peter Franchot. Final numbers, which he said likely would include at least several thousand more million-dollar earners, will become available in October after tax returns that received extensions are filed.

So, these aren’t even the final numbers?

The story’s getting legs of course because an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal opined on the matter, poo-pooing Maryland’s new tax deal as “soaking the rich.” And this is where the Examiner’s story bears some fruit, quoting state comptroller Peter Franchot.

Franchot called the editorial “harsh” and “premature,” saying conclusions could not be drawn until October’s numbers are finalized, and added that the vast majority of tax drops would be caused by lower incomes resulting from the recession.

And while he expressed appreciation for the state’s wealthiest residents, he said, “I’m more concerned about the hundreds of thousands of working families who have seen what little wealth they have vanish.”

By the way. That opinion piece in WSJ? It was wrotten by Arthur Laffer, the father of piss-on-your-head economics, and Stephen Moore. These are two guys who aren’t going to agree with any sort of regressive tax system, who would rather have corporations own and run everything. An opinion piece by these two? This is what you peg a story on, Examiner?

Franchot was right on. There is some real post hoc ergo propter hoc going on here. You want to cover this story? Really? Call some of these millionaires and ask them why they didn’t file in Maryland! This feeble speculation based on numbers that aren’t even complete, it’s shoddy reporting at best and blatant propaganda at worst. And you wonder why nobody reads newspapers anymore?

Besides. I say, if these rich bastards are going to let a tax hike drive them out of a state, let them go. They’re a-holes anyway. Let them set up a P.O. box in the Cayman Islands for all I care. Go ahead, a-holes. Shut down the engine of the world or whatever. If munny is all that motivates you to stay put in your home state or even in your own country or to innovate, then F you. You’re neither imaginative nor funny, so we have no use for ya.

California Dreaming

Maybe I am the only person who actually read the 185-page opinion of the California Supremes RE the marriage of same sex persons. To hear the squawking heads all over the media yesterday, you would think the world had ended. (Keith, Rachel, are you listening?) And maybe I missed something, but I don’t think so. Here is what happened.

The California Supremes said that Proposition 8 imposed a legitimate restriction on marriages of persons of the same sex. That is… THEY CAN’T CALL IT MARRIAGE. All other rights associated with marriage are retained by same-sex couples under the state constitution. Here is more of how the court said it:

In sum, although Proposition 8 changes the state Constitution, as interpreted in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757, to provide that restricting the family designation of “marriage” to opposite-sex couples only, and withholding that designation from same-sex couples, no longer violates the state Constitution, in all other respects same-sex couples retain the same substantive protections embodied in the state constitutional rights of privacy and due process as those accorded to opposite-sex couples and the same broad protections under the state equal protection clause that are set forth in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases…”.

And, the Court notes for emphasis:

As a qualitative matter, the act of limiting access to the designation of marriage to opposite-sex couples does not have a substantial or, indeed, even a minimal effect on the governmental plan or framework of California that existed prior to the amendment.

In short, the Christofacists got bragging rights out of their effort, but they cannot prevent same sex couples from exercising all the rights and responsibilities that normally accrue to married couples in California.

And, certainly, the decision is stupid, and elevates form over substance. But the Christofacists who brought this action are also stupid, and if they are happy with this stupid decision, more power to them. Ironically, the Christofacists have succeeded not in protecting “marriage” but in diminishing it. Now it only protects that set of families who qualify under the narrow minded umbrella it created. Other families are fully protected under the domestic partnership license, or whatever they will call it. If I were living in California I would laugh all the way to the domestic partners licensing bureau. All persons of good will should demand a right to that license. Let the Christofacists pidgeonhole themselves. I want to join the Rainbow Coalition.

Just a note on the notion that there is a federal action possible here. Marriage cases normally would not come to the Supreme Court. The exception being Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, (1967), which struck down miscegenation statutes as violations of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The California Supremes do concede that Proposition 8 has amended the state constitution to place a limitation on the protections afforded domestic relationships of same-sex couples… i.e. they cannot call it marriage. You would have to convince SCOTUS that this distinction is actually significant. Since the state’s highest court has already opined that all rights and privileges that accrue to married opposite-sex couples are available to same-sex couples, I think this is unlikely.

You might also raise a question about whether the limitation placed on same-sex relationships (i.,e. that you can’t call it a marriage) unfairly restricts its transferrability to other states. That is, would other states only be required to recognize rights recognized in California, and not extend to couples married in California rights allowed in the host state that are not extended in California. (If any such rights exist.) On the other hand, does the fact that these arrangements are not “marriages” in California require states with Defense of Marriage Act statutes to recognize them?

One Additional Thought Re: Today's Prop 8 'Decision'

Bear in mind as I write this that the extent of my legal training is one semester studying media law for J-School.

But I personally wonder if there’s not just an ounce of juice to the Proposition 8 brouhaha that might not give a lawsuit coming out of it a direct line to cert at the level of the United States Supreme Court.

What this fiasco hath brought is an entirely new class of citizens of the state of California: 36,000 homosexuals whose marriage will be recognized by the state while nobody else in the state of similar circumstances is allowed to share in that same wedded bliss.

That’s fucked up, and somebody is bound to sue. And it’s so utterly fucked up that I wonder if it might wind its way up the massive legal food chain for consideration by the SCOTUS. And, due to the high profile of this issue, the possible relevance to previous decisions (Brown V. BOE), and the social impact, I wonder if SCOTUS would need to grant cert?

This could be the one. I know it’s a longshot since it’s a state matter and all. But I think the landmark decision on this issue could be coming out of this horseshit. Remember. Roe V. Wade originated in friggin’ Tejas.