Monday, August 31, 2009

TARP Loans Turning a Profit?


As Congress debated the [TARP] bailout bill last September that would authorize the Treasury Department to spend up to $700 billion to stem the financial crisis, Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Texas, said: “Seven hundred billion dollars of taxpayer money should not be used as a hopeful experiment.”

So far, that experiment is more than paying off. The government has taken profits of about $1.4 billion on its investment in Goldman Sachs, $1.3 billion on Morgan Stanley and $414 million on American Express. The five other banks that repaid the government — Northern Trust, Bank of New York Mellon, State Street, U.S. Bancorp and BB&T — each brought in $100 million to $334 million in profit.

The figure does not include the roughly $35 million the government has earned from 14 smaller banks that have paid back their loans. The government bought shares in these and many other financial companies last fall, when sinking confidence among investors pushed down many bank stocks to just a few dollars a share. As the banks strengthened and became profitable, the government authorized them to pay back the preferred stock, which had been paying quarterly dividends since October.

But the real profit came as banks were permitted to buy back the so-called warrants, whose low fixed price provided a windfall for the government as the shares of the companies soared.

Despite the early proceeds from the bailout program, a debate remains over whether the government could have done even better with its bank investments.

If private investors had taken a stake in the banks last October on par with the government’s, they would have had profits three times as large — about $12 billion, or 44 percent if tallied on an annual basis, according to Linus Wilson, a finance professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, who analyzed the data for The Times.
And Yglesias:
Two things happen in a panic. One is that huge profit opportunities arise for anyone who has a giant pool of cash or the ability to raise it. The other is that thanks to the “flight to quality” it’s suddenly very easy for the government to raise cash. Hence, profit. Which isn’t to say that we’ll see a profit overall, lots of opportunities for losses still exist...
Still, the early returns are looking good.

If this keeps up, what will Utah County Wingnuts run on?

Blue Dogs: The Fragile Flowers of Democratic Representation

Excuses noted, political realities remain unchanged.

One Blue Dog said Pelosi's pledge to include a public option favors her liberal base in the Democratic Caucus.

"They're playing to people who can't get beat by Republicans," said the lawmaker, who plans to vote against the bill if it remains in its current form.

Even Rasmussen polling begs to differ, oh fragile flower of a Blue Dog. Approval of reform at large is growing steadily in Democrat and Independent circles. But support for reform without a public option bottoms out for these same Democrats and Independents if you take the public option out. Reform without a public option does gain more favor in one partisan demographic though... Republicans.

If the Blue Dogs hang so precariously by each and every issue, constantly paying a price each time their own party succeeds, it's fair to assume that they will not survive the Obama years. In fact, it's fair to assume many of them only hold a seat today, or maintain any level of popularity because George W. Bush was President. And should the rest of the party succeed in an actual overhall of the insurance industry, they'll take hits from the GOP in 2o10 whether they supported it or not. (Bob said it first and better, last paragraph)

What this means is that a forward thinking Blue Dog needs to work to influence the politics of their own districts through education and interaction rather than just reacting to it, and selling the policy of their party rather than running from it. (Unless said Blue Dog had a 2012 Senate run in mind, of course). And this is something they should have been doing all along instead of making excuses.

If no Blue Dog can achieve this, no Blue Dog will survive. And if a Blue Dog can achieve this, there is probably no more key issue of the Democratic Party they could do it with than health care reform.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tracking Crazy

In our continued efforts to bring you the most lunatic things said in the House and Senate since January 20, 2009, we bring you the latest from Michele Bachmann's townhall escapades. In this case, she earns extra points for leaving this one unchallenged:

I’ll be danged if I am going to give up my Social Security because of socialism, and I'll be danged if I am going to give up my Medicare because of socialism!
Bachmann now leads Sen. Jim Demint (barely) in our tracker.

More to come (no doubt).

Income Growth Under Bush and Clinton

Rosenberg channels renormalization techniques used in mathematical physics to break it down.

(Rosenberg weekends at OpenLeft are quickly becoming one of my favorite Saturday hobbies.)

AARP Survey: Most Can't Identify What "Public Option" Means

Yet they know they are against it? How... logical.

A new AARP survey shows there is widespread uncertainty about what a "public option" means in the various health care reform bills. Just 37% of the poll's respondents correctly identified the public option from a list of three choices provided to them.

Nate Silver: "If the respondents had simply chosen randomly among the three options provide to them, 33 percent would have selected the correct definition for the public option. Instead, only 37 percent did (although 23 percent did not bother to guess). This is mostly a debate being had among policy elites and the relatively small fraction of the public that is highly knowledgeable and engaged about health care reform; for most others, the details are lost on them."
Keep government out of health care, but don't touch my Medicare!

S. Korea 15 Years Ahead of US in Broadband Speeds

BizJournals (via RawStory):

A report on Internet speed in the United States says the country isn’t likely to catch world leader South Korea for 15 years.

Or for much longer — at current growth rates, the United States will only reach South Korea’s speed today in 15 years.

The report, by the Communications Workers of America, details Internet download and upload speeds all over the United States and some of its affiliated territories. In the last year, the average upload speed in the United States “barely changed,” the report said, and download speed only grew a little, from 4.2 megabits per second in 2008 to 5.1 megabits per second in 2009.

In South Korea, average download speed is four times faster — 20.4 megabits per second. The United States also lags Japan (15.8 mbps), Sweden (12.8 mbps), the Netherlands (11 mbps) and 24 other countries.

At average U.S. speed it takes about 35 minutes to download 100 family vacation photos, and four hours to upload them.

The report said U.S. speeds aren’t sufficient for the needs of in-home medical monitoring, distance learning programs, or to run a modern business from home.

I wonder what (who?) could possibly be holding us back?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

UT GOP: Keep Gov Out of Business, Unless it Makes Me Money

So let me get this straight.

UT Republicans have complained, to an annoying extent, about the SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER that kept GM alive.

Now they are upset that the rescued GM (by Gov, I remind you) is not going to renew it's agreement with a previous DM dealership owner and his son (a state legislator) based on a number of criteria, including sales record!

The solution? Stick government right in the middle of business.

They don't even try to have integrity anymore.

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 16-22

The final set of questions. For those not sure why were doing this, read this.

In questions 11-15 yesterday (also 1-5 here, 6-10 here), Buttars had some more reasonable inquiries. In these last 5 (plus two bonus questions), he's going straight back to the chain emails as source. Poor fella. The world must be a scary place for him.

Now without further delay, the answers:

Buttars: Does everyone have a right to government health care? Where and when was that right established?

Random philosophical question, but relevant, so okay. According to the Declaration of Independence everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Health care aides in all three of those much like food and drug safety, fire departments, transportation safety, police, and bank account guarantees. Should the federal government stop all of these protections to life because you can't find their direct designation as a right int he Constitution? We think that would be pretty stupid. We agreed on designating health care an "indirect right" which aides in protecting other rights. (Kind of hard to utilize that concealed weapons permit if you can't afford to get treatment for that pneumonia and die, eh?)

Buttars: Page 429, Lines 10-12, & Page 430, Lines 12-14: May seniors opt out of end-of-life consultations?

Nope. Mandatory based on age and last time you yelled at a kid to get off your lawn. The bodies of these "consulted" seniors will then be recycled into meal, which will be used in school cafeteria lunches and as mulch for the White House organic garden. All clothing and possessions of these "consulted" seniors will be sold, each Saturday, at the White House garage sale... No of course they can opt out, Doofus Senator. What part of "voluntary" had you thinking otherwise? We should also point out that using the very copy of the bill Buttars links to in his post @ The Senate Site, page 429, lines 10-12 reads "professional (as specified by the Secretary and who is acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law in signing such an order, in" 430, lines 12 - 14 "12 ‘‘(ii) the individual’s desire regarding transfer to a hospital or remaining at the current care setting;" Gotta be careful, Senator, when cutting and pasting your "thoughts" from the chain emails, that you check those page numbers. Luckily, we knew what you were getting at and found the relevant pages.

Buttars: Page 429, Lines 10-12: Empowers federal government to create physician payments for end-of-life plans under something called “advance care consultation.” Can decisions by the patient be overridden by the Secretary in an advance-care consultation plan?

Again with the cutting and pasting of "thoughts": 'advance care consultation' doesn't appear in the bill the Senator links to. Regardless, he is still to crafty, and we are found out. Sarah Palin's facebook page told you the truth, Senator. The Death Panels are real, and you with your razor sharp wit and observation skills you have discovered our evil plan (See detail of evil plan in answer to previous question). But seriously, no. We can't even find a part of the relevant section that could even be partial construed as such. In fact, the portion of the bill discussing "end of life" consultation deals with paying doctors for being more directly involved in the consultation should a patient request it. Voluntarily.

Buttars: Page 429, Lines 13-25: The health care bill is 1,018 pages. I would venture that the rules to implement these pages would, at least, double the size of the bill.

Page 429 only goes to line 23. Just saying. And sadly, no response from the White House yet to our request they get you a copy of all federal legislation being considered written in crayon, printed pop-up book style. We'll keep you posted. For a little perspective here, Senator, have you noticed in your "5 Readings" of the chain email bill, that it averages 150 words per page? And did you know, Senator, that Harry Potter book averages 255 words per page? Do the math (Hint: This bill is shorter than a Harry Potter book, but let the Senator work this one out for himself, it gives him something to do). Also, in 2007, President Bush's budget bill ran to 1,482 pages.

Buttars: One of the foundational reasons for the Affordable Health Choices Act is to reduce health care costs. Since the most conservative estimate to implement this program is $1 trillion (some say it will be multiples of that), how, then, can a dramatic rationing of health care services be avoided? How drastically will health care services be rationed?

Wow. We're swimming in straw at this point (which we like better than what Buttars had us swimming in for that last question, btw). Simply, Senator, if this were a single payer style solution being presented in this bill, then you would have a legitimate concern. But it's not, and there will be more money spent on health care outside of this bill, there will still be people in private insurance, and people will still be paying co-pays and deductibles. We would've thought that with the Utah Legislatures skill at back-filling the budget with "fees" that are most definitely not called "tax increases," you would understand the nature of generating revenue "on the side," if you will. Also your question neglects the fact that rationing of quality care does exist in our current system, where doctors are paid by quantity, not quality and your insurance company has every incentive to dump you or deny you coverage for a pre-existing condition or a specific operation they deem "unnecessary." This bill reverses that.


Buttars: Page 768, Lines 20-24, and Page 769, Lines 1-3: Is the language concerning increasing the birth intervals between pregnancies mandatory?

No. We gathered this from the following lines in the bill (emphasis ours) - "SEC. 1713. OPTIONAL COVERAGE OF NURSE HOME VISITATION SERVICES."; "such services are effective in one or more of the following"; "Improving maternal or child health and pregnancy outcomes or increasing birth intervals between pregnancies." Key word there, Senator: Optional.

Buttars: Page 1018, Lines 6-19: In regards to “subtitle E, limitation on federal funds,” does this require compliance by the state to the entire bill or federal funds will be withheld?

States qualify for federal funds provided they follow the rules in division A, if you want to break the rules of division A, Senator, then you'll be denying Utah money. As a side note (we are surprised we even have to point this out) but this how all federal funding to states works. There are always strings attached. Dang those Feds! Right? We dare you, Senator. Just say it. C'mon... say it.

And that's it, folks. We'll be back tomorrow with a summary, and some final thoughts.

Please spread this around as much as possible. When you're combating willing misdirection from a state senator with a bigger megaphone (and in this case, two, both Buttars and Valentine) misleading voters on the pages of The Senate Site and meetings on the hill, getting the facts out is the most important thing we can all do. Take a minute to let them know how you feel about this on their respective posts.

Thanks to everyone who's contributed a little time and research this week in our efforts to better educate the latest chain email victim, Senator Chris Buttars.

Sources (outside of legal counsel):

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rupert Has a Plan

But it's not a very good one.

The problem with Rupert Murdoch's proposal to create an online news consortium, in which major publishers would all band together to put their news content behind pay walls (L.A. Times, 8/21/09), is that it's not illegal to discuss news events online. And you don't want to make it illegal to discuss news events online.

And yet, absent a law forbidding such discussions, there's nothing to stop someone from buying subscriptions to the various pay news sites and starting a website (like this one, but more so) in which they write about what they've learned from them--thus offering for free what the Murdoch's news trust would be trying to get people to pay for. You can't copyright facts, and any attempt to change the law to allow publishers to do so would run straight into the shoals of the First Amendment and the concept of democracy itself.

You All Laughed at My Many Warnings...

GOP to warn of Zombie Attack in opposition to health care?

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann took a leap into fantasy politics on Tuesday, suggesting that the current Republican obsession with health care reform creating “death panels” could easily lead into an all-out panic over zombies.

A recent spoof (pdf) of academic papers, titled “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematicam Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection,” applies standard epidemiological methods to develop “a basic model for zombie infection” and concludes that “only quick, aggressive attacks can stave off the doomsday scenario: the collapse of society as zombies overtake us all.”

Olbermann pointed out that the conservative National Review has already weighed in on the zombie study, writing, “Zombies are cool. That’s just a fact. … Were these jokers European? Well, almost. They were Canadian.”

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 11-15

(This one's in memory of Ted Kennedy, who would've cleaned Buttars' clock for dumbing down the discussion on the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act)

Day three of the Educating a State Senator series: Buttars' questions 11 through 15. Find answers to 1 through 5 here, and 6 through 10 here.

In fairness, this set of questions are more an ideological discussion, and therefore more reasonable than those manufactured by Sen. Buttars so far. That's not to say there isn't still a large amount of willing misdirection on the Senator's part, but a discussion over philosophical disagreements is much more reasonable than say, oh... "They'll ration your cancer treatment! #tcot #tcot #tcot!!!"

Getting to it...

Buttars: Page 280, Section 1151: Imposes penalties and fines on hospitals for “preventable” visits.

Our first response is "Yes...and?" But it's a bit more nuanced than that. Calling what is defined in this section a "penalty" is like someone saying they were "penalized" by their employer when they weren't payed for skipping a week of work. The design of this bill is to make health care more affordable and more efficient. Incentives for "first time fix" speak directly to that improved efficiency. During a townhall last week the president likened this to a mechanic: If you brought your car to a mechanic, they fixed it only to have it break again the next week, wouldn't you want to pay a lower rate for the second fix since if wasn't fixed correctly the first time?

Buttars: Page 298, Lines 9-11: Could impose penalties and fines on hospitals for re-admission after first treatment (fix on the first try or suffer the consequences).

Tsk Tsk, Senator. Trying to balloon your list by asking the same question twice? See answer above, and no extra conservative bonafide points for you.

Buttars: Page 341, Lines 3-9: Does this grant federal power to arbitrarily disqualify HMO’s, thereby forcing people into public health care at random?

The key to answering this question is to focus on your choice of the word "arbitrary." Not to sound like a broken record, Senator, but if you did actually read and re-read this bill ("5 times!") you would know there is nothing arbitrary in how these qualifications are defined. In fact, there is a clearly outlined set of rules for qualification/disqualification. It does give the secretary the ability to disqualify a medicare advantage plan if "if the Secretary has identified deficiencies in the plan’s compliance with rules for such plans under this part", but could hardly be called arbitrary if there are rules that are written out before hand (even if they are in governmentese).

Buttars: Page 149, Lines 16-24: Imposes an 8 percent payroll tax penalty for any employer that makes more than $400,000 and fails to offer to its employees the option to enroll in a qualified health care plan.

Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! You got one! And without even the slightest twist of words or misdirection. Here's where we get to the ideological debate. Another goal of this bill is to decrease the number of uninsured. Reducing health care costs while providing such an incentive to employers to offer insurance would be a way to achieve this. If a company pays 10 people $40k a year, they would pay $3200 in taxes if they don't offer insurance. The money of course goes to the health insurance exchange trust fund which would help in funding the public option, so if the employer doesn't offer insurance, the still have to pay something for their employees health care (wasn't that the point of this employer based health care system anyways?). As example, take a look at what Mittens! (magical superhero to every Republican in Utah) did in Massachusetts. You'd be shocked to see that his health care plans for that state included such provisions to prevent "free riding employers." If employers know there's a public option, what incentive do they have in offering a private plan to their employees? It would only cost them more money. This makes the public option cost them money if they choose to not offer a private plan. A true free market capitalist like yourself would surely recognize that this clause will help the private sector remain competitive with a public option, thus avoiding an (begin hand-wringing here) evil socialist takeover of our entire way of living.

Buttars: Page 195: The Secretary will have full access to every citizen’s most private records.

And we're back to the fear-mongering so quickly! ID number, filing status, modified AGI, number of dependents, other information as prescribed by the secretary "as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible for such affordability credits." Summary: If you can reasonably afford insurance, of course they're going to need to know a little bit about you. We would stop short of calling this "your most private records," but there is that other information as prescribed by the secretary clause, so it could be read as open ended (if you're into that whole conspiracy theory thing). It's worth noting, to deflate your posturing here, that the data collected would be no different than what your current insurance provider (in your case, the taxpayer funded care you currently have entitlement to receive... for regular citizens, their private agent) collects about you for the exact same purposes, plus some (i.e. justification for dropping you for existing conditions, or raising your premium if you actually use your health insurance to obtain health care).

That's all for today. As stated, a much more reasonable set of questions here from the Senator, but all in all still cause for suspicion that either the Senator hasn't been anywhere near this bill, is incapable of understanding legislation, or is willingly attempting to misinform readers, as we've had little trouble finding his answers that have obviously perplexed him greatly. Any of those three is unacceptable from a person in his position, and we urge you to let him know.

We'll be back tomorrow with the final five (plus two bonus questions!) from the Senator. We appreciate all of you who've helped with the research so far, and encourage you all, again, to get this information out and combat the misleading and factually incorrect screeds posted by both Senators Chris Buttars and John Valentine on the front pages of The Senate Site.

Sources (outside of legal counsel):

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kennedy: Renew the commitment of the Democratic Party...

Ted Kennedy's 1980 concession speech at the DNC.

Good man. Timeless words.

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 6-10

Day two of our "educate a state senator" series, answering questions 1 through 6 of Sen. Chris Buttars' health care concerns about the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act he picked up -- in a rare moment of gullibility? -- from a chain email. Those just joining in, stop here for a full recap of why we've taking on this (not so daunting, afterall) task, and here for answers to questions 1 through 5. Thanks again to all those -- volunteer and professional -- dedicating their time to better inform an elected state official.

Now, more answers for Senator Buttars...

Buttars: Page 58, Lines 11-13: Will everyone be issued a government health care ID? Will it outline limitations of services we can receive?

Blatant fear-mongering (and not the best we've seen, to be honest). You really have to go all the way back to the 1930's, about the time the Senator was applying for college, for this one. Ah, the glorious days of fighting along-side Hoover, eh, Senator? The answer to the first question is yes, those who choose the public option would receive an ID card, of sorts. The answer to the second question is "Are you an idiot?" Joking, Senator, but please take a moment and open your wallet. Do you see there the card that was issued to you when you accept the taxpayer funded health insurance you are gifted by your "service"? Ah, we thought so. This is what will be issued to public option users pursuant to this section of the bill, and also what every private insurance company does now, and will continue to do. See, it's this or the doctor or hospital just takes your word for what coverage you have, or you carry a large stack of papers with you everywhere you go in case of an accident. And (here's the scary party for a man of your caliber) there will be a bar code on the back! Oh the TYRANNY!!!

Buttars: Page 317, Line 13-20: Prohibits doctors from purchasing or investing in health care facilities from the point of plan implementation.

Kudos, Senator (or to the person who wrote the chain email you picked these from). You got one right, for the most part. The practice is not outright prohibited in this section, but made much more difficult to do (i.e. a person wishing to do so would have to apply for an exemption and show justified safety nets against abuse). The reasoning is pretty straight forward: If you could get paid twice for something, might there not be incentive for you to abuse that loophole? If you are both a physician and an investor in the facility you practice in, might there not be incentive for you to direct a patient to your facility, even if it's not in their best interest, to double dip? The risk is there, at least. But again, it's not a blanket prohibition. There is an exemption procedure for doctors and investors, and it "provide[s] persons and entities in the community in which the hospital applying for an exception is located with the opportunity to provide input with respect to the application" (that's from the bill you "read 5 times," in case you didn't recognize it).

Buttars: Page 91, Lines 4-7: Mandates that health care providers pay for interpreters for illegal aliens.

Gasp! If it were true. But alas, Senator, your hatred clouds your vision, as the Jedi say. Complete misread. The bill does require "culturally and linguistically appropriate communication and health services", but doesn't mandate that they only be used for illegal immigrants. Believe it or not, Senator, there are legal citizens of the united states who's primary language isn't English, and in times of medical need would need to be able to communicate in their own language. This does run contrary to the theory held by some (cough, cough) that if someone looks like an illegal immigrant then they most certainly are an illegal immigrant. But that theory is of course not true (and arguably pretty racist).

Buttars: Page 170, Lines 1-3: Stipulates that all nonresident aliens are exempt from the tax penalty presented in this chapter. Does that mean nonresident aliens will pay nothing for their health care?

Again, we have to question the Senator's reading or understanding of the bill (we're really beginning to believe he did neither). While the section listed does exclude nonresident aliens (read - not illegal aliens, just nonresident aliens -- those holding the questionable theory of everything brown stated in the previous section should look up the difference) from the tax penalty, that doesn't say anything about how they'll pay for their health care. It simply gets them out of the 2.5% income tax penalty for not having insurance. So how do they pay for their health care? The same way everyone else who is exempt for other reasons (religious belief, cons. objector, etc.) or those who will pay the 2.5% penalty will: out of their own pockets. Again, a not so subtle attempt to parlay misinformation into fear-mongering here by the Senator.

Buttars: Page 272, Section 1145: Cancer treatment rationed “as determined appropriate by the Secretary.”

Not. Even. Close. This section doesn't even veer near a reference to rationing of any kind. What it says, in a nutshell, is that cancer treatment facilities are more costly and have greater expenses than hospitals that don't offer such treatment, and therefore payout rates can be adjusted. Instead of rationing, it's actually taking higher cost cancer treatment and paying for it, and allowing medicare to do the same. We'll even post the section of the bill (as can't shake this suspicion you haven't seen it yet) so that others can see the clarity of this section, and ask themselves "well, how did a state legislator come to such an absurd and chain email induced conclusion?" From the bill:

"‘‘(A) STUDY.—The Secretary shall conduct a study to determine if, under the system under this subsection, costs incurred by hospitals described in section 1886(d)(1)(B)(v) with respect to ambulatory payment classification groups exceed those costs incurred by other hospitals furnishing services under this subsection (as determined appropriate by the Secretary). ‘‘(B) AUTHORIZATION OF ADJUSTMENT.— Insofar as the Secretary determines under subparagraph (A) that costs incurred by hospitals described in section 1886(d)(1)(B)(v) exceed those costs incurred by other hospitals furnishing services under this subsection, the Secretary shall provide for an appropriate adjustment under paragraph (2)(E) to reflect those higher costs effective for services furnished on or after January 1, 2011.’’"
No talk of rationing, just "govermentese" for paying for more costly cancer treatment. We cannot explain, by any stretch of the imagination, how the Senator came to the conclusion he did.

All in all, Senator Buttars, we are inching -- involuntarily -- to a dire conclusion. One of three things is going on here, and we'll give it the rest of the week before we make the determination. You have either never been with 5 feet of this bill and are therefore dishonest in claiming to have "read and re-read" it "5 times," OR you are inept, incapable of reading legislation to a point of understanding, and should remove yourself from office post haste, OR you are intentionally pushing fallacies and bad information out into the public sphere for possible assimilation, with the assumption that your constituents and the public at large are just gullible enough that they'll suck it up.

We'll leave it to readers to decide (perhaps we'll have a vote).

Until tomorrow -- Questions 11 - 15 -- please pass this information around. Sens. Valentine and Buttars have abused a trusted hub for information in spreading, via The Senate Site, blatant distortions, and unsubstantiated claims about what this bill does or does not say.

We can fight them, because we still have our integrity.

Spread the word.

Sources (outside of legal consulting):

Monday, August 24, 2009

Centrist/Conservative Denver Post Calls for Public Option in HC Reform

(h/t @DavidShuster) The Denver Post:

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats need to push forward with their plan to pass a public option as part of a comprehensive health care overhaul when they return to Washington next month. We don't see how it works without one.

It is the best way to slow escalating health care costs and expand access to quality care. The country, ultimately, will lose if the public option vanishes because of Democratic efforts to make health care reform a bipartisan effort.

The best way to bring down health care costs is to enhance competition, and in this case, it needs to be government that does it.

Without major reform, the status quo will help bankrupt the country and the private businesses that no longer will be able to afford to offer health care insurance because of the spiraling costs.

Those businesses will just dump their health care plans, or shut their doors. Either way, more workers are looking for government help.

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 1-5

For those just tuning in (full recap here), Sen. Chris Buttars has questions about the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act he lifted from chain emails and blogs like this and posted at The Senate Site for discussion. As we've dug into the bill to help get answers for the confused Senator, it's become increasingly apparent that Buttars, and Valentine before him, either know exactly what they are doing, and wish to suck the intelligence from the debate, or are two of the most inept representatives on Utah's hill. You decide.

None of these answers were difficult to find for our small band of volunteers and bloggers.

Buttars: Page 124, Lines 24-25: Does this ban anyone from suing the federal government? And does it ban the entire judicial system from hearing cases on the legitimacy of the proposed plan?

No. It doesn't ban someone from suing the federal government, or ban the judicial system from hearing cases on the proposed plan. It bans anyone from suing the government over the payment rates set in the public option (read the bill again senator, if you'd seen the context of the lines you questioned you would have been able to see the answer to that one). If your doctor doesn't like the rates set by the public option, they don't have to accept it, and can opt out (my, doesn't this sound like Medicare?). If you don't like that your doctor doesn't accept it, you can also opt out of the public option and find different insurance. If the insurance industry doesn't like the rates because the public option pays too much, they'd better find a way to compete, because they can't sue because of the section you've mentioned. Now before you and Valentine come out guns a-blazing with the free market talk, remember, private insurance companies are also exempt from these types of antitrust lawsuits due to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 (sadly it too is written in governmentese), not this bill.

Buttars: Are all federal employees exempt from the proposed national health care program(s)?

You provide no page reference on this one, and it's not addressed specifically in the bill (that we could find), so we'll assume it's lifted straight from the chain emails and wingnut websites Eagle Forum sent you. Theoretically they wouldn't fall under the public option, since they (like you) already have excellent insurance from their government jobs. That doesn't preclude them (or you) from falling under the public option at some point, if their benefits planner decides the public option is better than what is offered by private insurance companies. The difference between federal employees and yourself is that you've now 'served' long enough to get tax payer funded insurance from the state of Utah for life, they only get it until they're no longer employed by the federal government.

Buttars: Pages 272 & 452: The entire bill is loaded with the comment, “As determined appropriate by the Secretary.” What does this mean?

Two pages is "loaded"? But you're right, it does come up often. As it does in homeland security laws, department of defense laws, agricultural laws (We'll stop now because we don't want to have to type out the entire cabinet to make an example). See, Senator, when you put laws in place that have interaction with a particular federal department (HHS) then a lot of the discretionary decisions get placed on the secretary in charge of that cabinet and the commissions or committees below them. We're a bit confused as to why we have to explain this to you, since Utah government functions in much the same way (i.e. "as determined by the division head" or "the division head may"... you cannot possibly be unfamiliar with these phrases).

Buttars: Page 429, Lines 10-11: In addition to almost everything being subject to the Secretary’s approval, the words the “Secretary may” are also peppered throughout the bill. What does this mean?

See answer to number 3. But kudos for sneaking this redundancy in to further insight irrational fear, and earn extra conservative bonafide points.

Buttars: Page 226, Lines 12-22: An example of “governmentese.”

This one we'll give you, even though it wasn't really a question. We have no experience reading legislation (like, say...a STATE SENATOR would) and we were still able to sort this section out without too much trouble, but it was difficult in the way that footnotes and appendixes in books without pictures can be confusing. Not being a state senators, we can only infer that they are laying out specifics of how a certain section of the bill is to be applied for different types of health providers, and also changing the wording of a previous law so that it too references the same section, almost like they want things consistent. The fact of the matter is that's how laws are written, and we know that you know Utah legislation is no different, nor your average city council's legislative process, or youth council, for that matter. If you'd like we could petition congress for you to see about getting these bills written in crayon and adding pretty pictures, but that would really only make the bill longer, which is something we know you're against already.

That wraps up the first 5 of Buttars 20 questions. Our advice to the Senator(s) based on the experience so far? You've got to read the context of the sections the chain emails tell you to be upset about! It's important to understanding.

We'll be back tomorrow with the next 5. Until then, help us educate a Senator, and counter the Valentine/Buttars misinformation campaign by passing the answers above on to family and friends who may be getting the same chain emails as Chris Buttars.

Keep the debate honest.

Sources (outside of legal consulting):

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: Preface

For those of you who missed it, Sen. Chris Buttars has questions. Questions he gathered from several read and re-reads (Ooops!) chain emails and discredited blogs of the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act. We and a merry band of volunteer have agreed to help educate the Senator on a bill that -- despite his having "read and re-read several time" -- has, apparently, left him confused. Again. (Pig Sex!)

I'll be honest, I thought we were taking on quite a challenge. 1,000 plus pages really isn't that large for a piece of legislation (Bush's final budget was over 1,300 pages long... and speaking of which, did Buttars print that one out on the tax payer's dime too?), but it is a challenge for several bloggers with many other obligations. We assumed.

We assumed wrong. In fact, it's been embarrassingly easy, and a bit of a bore, as research challenges go. Seriously, Mr. Senator, even you cannot possibly be this inept. Most of the work in answering your questions has been done for us. Kaiser Foundation. PolitiFact. Numerous public policy wonks and organizations. Your answers were out there already. Since you seem unaware, we will still offer you the courtesy of collecting the information and posting it over the coming week, but that duty begs a question: Is it really possible a state rep. could be so far out of the loop that he had not, in any way, been exposed to the answers to his own questions already, and was without the tools to answer them? Or was this just a cheap shot of political hack-ti-tude passed off as legitimate questions from a "thinking man"? (Pig Sex!) Do you really assume that the public at large, and readers of The Senate Site, specifically, are that stupid?

Though we can answer the 20 questions the chain email has raised in your mind about health care reform, Senator, we can't answer the question above for you. That is on your shoulders.

For assistance, we can offer you one tool that has been a great asset to us in researching your concerns... (pictured, upper right). Please, Senator, get to know it.

And for those behind the scenes at The Senate Site, forgive me a moment as I step onto my lecturing step stool... Call it a high horse if you wish.

You have enjoyed a much earned credibility with those in Utah who find their news online. You have brought much to the discussion, and opened many doors to public engagement in the legislative process. You deserve (even still) the respect we offer. That said, allowing this post from Sen. Buttars to soil your front page calls the credibility of the site into question. Is The Senate Site going to become another mouthpiece for half-crocked ideological attacks against policy and person that have little grounding in a factual reality, or a goal of informing the public, rather than passing misinformation along? Or will The Senate Site maintain it's integrity and reputation by, in the future, refusing to provide comment taken from, and generate by, mindless, fact free chain emails?

With great power comes great responsibility, blah blah blah...

Frankly, I expected much more from the site, and am admittedly surprised at this entire experience. But, we are a forgiving group (once), so moving on...

Monday morning, we'll a begin multi-day series of answers the Senator hasn't managed to find, and do our duty, in his absence of principle, to keep the discussion honest.

Also: Pig Sex!

UPDATE: The Answers.

More Challenges to the "Blue Dog in a Red State" Conventional Wisdom

Outside baseball: [Matheson and the] Blue Dogs oppose the public option because they are fiscally conservative. Inside baseball: [Matheson and the] Blue Dogs oppose the public option because the political climate of their district dictates opposition for re-election.

But results of a new DK-R2K poll challenge this assumption (h/t Josh Orton, emphasis mine):

Only 42 percent of Montana residents -- and 34 percent of Democrats -- said they favored the work Baucus had done in shepherding health care legislation through the Senate Finance Committee. Forty-four percent of respondents said they disapproved, according to the poll of more than 600 people in the state.

The results may be partially attributable to Baucus's apparent decision to craft legislation without a public option. Within Montana, 47 percent of the public supports creating a "public health insurance option," while 43 percent oppose it. Looking closer at the numbers, slightly less than one-quarter of Republicans (23 percent) support a public plan. Forty-eight percent of independents and 78 percent of Democrats support the provision.
If this trend holds (and reiterating Orton's own question), who are the Blue Dogs representing?

Even more revealing, the poll finds that in MT, Baucus is more popular among Republicans than Democrats now by a margin of 10-15 pts.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Utah Blogger, Republican, Makes Front Page of

Utah blogger, moderate republican, and my co-host today on KVNU's For the People Loralee (of Loralee's Looney Tunes) made the front page of with her health care story and ongoing conversation with WH adviser Valerie Jarrett, in a post titled "Talking Health Care with Loralee."
Read the article, and spend some time at Loralee's blog. You won't find anyone more witty or well spoken.

UPDATE: Tom beat me to this one. How does a Republican currently living in Nebraska get the scoop on local bloggers on Barack Obama's website? Touche, Tom Grover, Touche!

Live Blog: President's Health Care Forum

(Via conference call) President's intro:

There are a lot of concerns about this health care plan.

A- Immigrants will get free health care
B- Government takeover of health care
C- Death Panels

C'mon people. (applause)

More and more employers are going to say we can't afford to provide you health insurance, or will pass more of the cost on to you. The status quo is unsustainable. It's not as if if we just stand still that everything's going to be okay.

If you don't have health insurance, we're not forcing you into a government plan, we just want to set up a system like what congress enjoys that you can go into if you choose. Nobody will force you into this option, but it will keep private insurance honest.

Most people have insurance, remember that. The people without insurance are already in favor of this plan. This plan will provide a set of consumer protections. It will say to insurance companies "you've got to do a few things" to participate in the exchange. You have to offer insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. We're going to reduce the cost of health care overall, in the long term. Americans are paying $5,000-$6,000 more per person than any other country.

There is a lot of misinformation because health care is complicated.
Question from FL: I'm a retired health care insurance administrator now I'm an organizer: are we winning support from members of congress? Are we making a difference?

Prez: Convincing people more broadly about the need for reform makes a difference. Washington is obsessed with the snap poll. For seniors, we think medicare is a sacred trust. We are not changing your medicare. In fact, we're extending the life of the medicare trust funds. About $17b is taken out of medicare each year to subsidize existing insurance companies.

Twitter question: Too many lies, death panels, rationing, where are these lies from:

Prez: I don't think it's any secret [where these lies are coming from]. If you just flick channels, and then stop on... certain ones (laughter) you'll see where these lies are coming from. The best offense against lies is the truth. The truth is there's no plan that has ever been considered that covers illegal immigrants. Nobody has proposed that. There are no plan to revoke the existing the existing prohibition on using taxpayer dollars for abortions. Just not true. Nobody has proposed a government takeover of health care. The most liberal plans that have come out of committee, all of them presume that if you've got private insurance, you can keep your insurance. We don't want gov bureaucrats interfering with that relationship, but we also don't want insurance co bureaucrats interfering with that relationship.

The death panels. The idea is that we should reimburse people who might want end of life counseling. It's a voluntary provision. And it's been supported by Republicans. In fact, a similar provision was in the Republicans prescription drug bill a few years ago. The reason this spreads is the way reporting is done today. It's irresponsible. It's fine to have a debate back and forth, unless someone is just not telling the truth. You should say in your reports "well, that's just not true." There are some people who just want to see this go down. Some people just don't believe the government should get involved in anything. And that's a respectable position. There you can have a philosophical debate. But there are certain sensible reforms we can pass so that consumers are protected and the market is working the way it should.

If the majority of people have the facts, they will be on our side.

Question from NC: I have two children, and four grandchildren. I'm working for them, and for people who -- unlike me -- don't have health insurance. How can we get this passed?

Prez: We've been working with Baucus and the committee to see if we can craft a bipartisan bill. I don't know if in the end they can get there. At some point, there's going to have to be a conclusion that either they can get a [bipartisan] bill done, or they can't. I have no control over the other sides political strategy, and the American people are telling me we're going to get this done one way or another.

Question from VA: It all comes down to money. How are we paying for this? How do I know my employer won't just dump me into the public option?

Prez: Opposition loves repeating "trillion dollar bill." We're talking over ten years, and it's still a significant amount of money. But to give you prospective, in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're spending 8 or 9 billion a MONTH. The cost of this reform over the next ten compared to the cost of those wars over the last few years... we could've already payed for this reform. Money is being wasted right now. We're proposing reallocating that money to make it work better for people. The way we reimburse hospitals right now, we don't offer incentives to hospitals to get patients the best care first time around. If we just went back to the tax rate deductions that were available under even Ronald Reagan -- that radical! (laughter) -- we'd be able to pay for this. I'm committed to making sure this is not funded on the backs of middle class families, not add to their tax burden. There is a firewall in the plan that says if your employer is offering you good insurance and can afford to keep offering you that, they can't just default to the public plan. But small businesses without purchasing power with the insurance companies would benefit from the public option. Pool their purchasing power.

Question from NC: The only way to do this is to include a public option. If that's the solution, why aren't you pushing it harder? And if it's not the solution, what else is out there?

Prez: Let me be clear. I continue to support a public option. You could say we've been honest to a fault in saying we would consider other routes. Madates: No denial for pre-existing conditions, no taking money from people that they don't have. It's the belt and suspenders complex. Reforms to private insurance are the belt, the public option can be the suspenders. If we talk only about the public option, people get scared, and those opposed will use that to twist the debate, cloud the fact that people are not getting a good deal from their insurance co's. We want to focus on all aspects to build the largest coalition possible to get this done.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Help Us Answer Chris Buttars' Health Care Questions

Senator Buttars "read and re-read" the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act and can only conclude it's pure SOCIALISM! But the fine Senator has made a list, via his post at The Senate Site, of the questions his cut and paste from "read and re-read" has raised.

We're looking for some volunteers -- fast readers and policy wonks, preferably -- to help us provide an answer to each of the questions listed, and help Mr. Buttars understand the difference between this reform proposal and socialism.

Any takers, email via the link in the sidebar. Quoting the entire text of the Senator's post here to get us started.

By Chris Buttars
Senator, District 10

The concerns and questions below are based on the original version of the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act. They represent just a few of the many alarming practices presented in this bill.

There are actually four primary versions of the proposed health care bill. In addition, a fifth version from the Senate Finance Committee is expected in the near future. It is certain that there will also be many proposed amendments. In total, these bills represent more than 1,600 pages. The House Affordable Health Care Choice Act, in itself, has more than 1,000 pages. Not only is this bill extremely long, but it is written in “governmentese,” making it difficult to understand and subject to interpretation, which is even more frightening.
  1. Page 124, Lines 24-25: Does this ban anyone from suing the federal government? And does it ban the entire judicial system from hearing cases on the legitimacy of the proposed plan?
  2. Are all federal employees exempt from the proposed national health care program(s)?
  3. Pages 272 & 452: The entire bill is loaded with the comment, “As determined appropriate by the Secretary.” What does this mean?
  4. Page 429, Lines 10-11: In addition to almost everything being subject to the Secretary’s approval, the words the “Secretary may” are also peppered throughout the bill. What does this mean?
  5. Page 226, Lines 12-22: An example of “governmentese.”
  6. Page 58, Lines 11-13: Will everyone be issued a government health care ID? Will it outline limitations of services we can receive?
  7. Page 317, Line 13-20: Prohibits doctors from purchasing or investing in health care facilities from the point of plan implementation.
  8. Page 91, Lines 4-7: Mandates that health care providers pay for interpreters for illegal aliens.
  9. Page 170, Lines 1-3: Stipulates that all nonresident aliens are exempt from the tax penalty presented in this chapter. Does that mean nonresident aliens will pay nothing for their health care?
  10. Page 272, Section 1145: Cancer treatment rationed “as determined appropriate by the Secretary.”
  11. Page 280, Section 1151: Imposes penalties and fines on hospitals for “preventable” visits.
  12. Page 298, Lines 9-11: Could impose penalties and fines on hospitals for re-admission after first treatment (fix on the first try or suffer the consequences).
  13. Page 341, Lines 3-9: Does this grant federal power to arbitrarily disqualify HMO’s, thereby forcing people into public health care at random?
  14. Page 149, Lines 16-24: Imposes an 8 percent payroll tax penalty for any employer that makes more than $400,000 and fails to offer to its employees the option to enroll in a qualified health care plan.
  15. Page 195: The Secretary will have full access to every citizen’s most private records.
  16. Does everyone have a right to government health care? Where and when was that right established?
  17. Page 429, Lines 10-12, & Page 430, Lines 12-14: May seniors opt out of end-of-life consultations?
  18. Page 429, Lines 10-12: Empowers federal government to create physician payments for end-of-life plans under something called “advance care consultation.” Can decisions by the patient be overridden by the Secretary in an advance-care consultation plan?
  19. Page 429, Lines 13-25: The health care bill is 1,018 pages. I would venture that the rules to implement these pages would, at least, double the size of the bill.
  20. One of the foundational reasons for the Affordable Health Choices Act is to reduce health care costs. Since the most conservative estimate to implement this program is $1 trillion (some say it will be multiples of that), how, then, can a dramatic rationing of health care services be avoided? How drastically will health care services be rationed?
Note: These questions and concerns cover only the first 500 pages. The other 500 pages are every bit as concerning.

For Example:
  1. Page 768, Lines 20-24, and Page 769, Lines 1-3: Is the language concerning increasing the birth intervals between pregnancies mandatory?
  2. Page 1018, Lines 6-19: In regards to “subtitle E, limitation on federal funds,” does this require compliance by the state to the entire bill or federal funds will be withheld?
I have read and reread this bill several times. Everything considered, it’s my personal opinion that this act is more about government control than health care; and there is no doubt it pushes our nation toward classic socialism.
UPDATE: "Misfire" indeed. It looks like The Senate Site has walked this one back, by deleting the post.
[Update: 6:43 p.m.:] Yes, there used to be a post on a federal health care bill right here.

No one has changed their mind about the overreaching, over-intrusive, over-expensive, ill-advised bill. But this particular blog post might have been a misfire. Our bad.
That shouldn't stop us from helping the Senator better understand the bill, however. Who's game?

UPDATE II: The Trib's Robert Gehrke get's things rolling for us.

: KCPW calls Buttars and Valentine to the carpet for their "questionable claims" (nicer than I would've put it). Buttars hedges, apparently not so pompous and brave once he realizes the electorate is smarter than he thinks they are.

Even Supporters Can't Define 'Co-Op'

NYT tries (h/t Atrios) but even this attempt leaves you with the impression that no one really knows exactly how these magical co-ops will work.

And most states will require 25,000 members, plus shared start up costs to get one going, and still under the thumb of insurance companies as the gatekeepers to this "competition"? Wow. Sign! Me! Up!

Real Death Panels

Former Insurance Co. communications director, via Courage Campaign:

For 20 years, I defended what some might call "death panels," operated by the health insurance industry, which denied health care coverage to people who needed it.

As head of corporate communications for one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, I had to find new and creative ways to defend an industry with a profit incentive to deny, drop or delay health care coverage. I was very good at creating language -- what my friends at the Courage Campaign call "insurance jive" -- that justified the harm we were causing to families across the nation.

I spoke "insurance jive" as well as I could. Then, one day in 2007, I saw hundreds of Americans waiting in the rain for hours in Virginia to get free medical care they otherwise could not afford. My conscience told me I had to stop. So I quit my job and began to speak out for real health care reform.

My experience in the insurance industry taught me that the only way we will stop the insurance companies from denying coverage to sick and dying Americans is to keep them honest with a strong public health insurance option. If more Americans have the option to receive health insurance from the government -- like Medicare -- competitive pressure on the private insurers will force them to clean up their act.
Watch Courage Campaign's "Insurance Jive" video, and don't forget to register (by 4pm MST) for the Presidents health care conference call tomorrow.

Shurtleff's Attorney Client Privilege

In the ongoing Koerber-fest Ponzi-palooza over who pressured who to protect their corrupt BFF's from investigation in the Wimmer/Koerber Ponzi-palooza, AG Mark Shurtleff dodges a bullet.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said he was under intense pressure to get rid of Commerce Department Director Francine Giani, but defended her as a strong public servant who was doing her job.

"I wanted no part of it," Huntsman said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune last week before leaving office.

Huntsman said he perceived the opposition to Giani resulting from "stylistic" differences. For his part, the former governor said he considered Giani to be a "tough" public servant and said "that's the kind of person I wanted" working for him.

Huntsman would not say who was pushing for Giani's dismissal and would not answer specifically whether Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was among those who sought Giani's ouster.

Huntsman's and Shurtleff's offices have cited attorney-client privilege -- the attorney general being legal counsel to the governor -- as a reason not to disclose whether Shurtleff wanted Giani replaced.

Kudos to Huntsman for at least coming clean that there was pressure to fire Giani. But the question here remains: who else but the AG or a legislator(s) would've been applying the pressure to end the investigation?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reward Good Behavior

FDL in the inbox:

Over the weekend it became clear that the Obama Administration wants to drop the public option from health care reform.

We saw this day coming. That's why for two months, we've been working hard to get members of Congress to draw a line in the sand: no public option, no health care reform. Yesterday, they did it.

This is exactly the kind of spine we need to see from Congress. Indeed, it's the only way we can pass health care reform that's not a bailout of the insurance industry.

These 65 Democrats need to be commended for doing the right thing. We set up a fundraising page for you to donate to any of the 65 members who drew the line in the sand.

Click here to reward good behavior:

How Much Would You Pay... see a local radio see a local talk radio personality wet his pants in public?

Wait, don't answer, there's more. What if your donation to make this happen also went to a very good cause?

Special Olympics Utah is holding its OVER THE EDGE event at the Grant America Hotel in SLC on Friday, August 21. KVNU's For the People host Tyler Riggs will rappel over the edge of the 25-story building if he can raise at least $1,000.

Having raised almost half of that already, Tyler is nervous. You can make sure it happens with your donation to the Special Olympics via this link, and we'll cover the event live on the show (with video!).

DONATE TODAY to send Tyler OVER THE EDGE and help Special Olympics Utah at the same time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Socialist Hell-Holes


Investor’s Business Daily would like you to believe that Obamacare would turn America into Britain — or, rather, a dystopian fantasy version of Britain. The screamers on talk radio and Fox News would have you believe that the plan is to turn America into the Soviet Union. But the truth is that the plans on the table would, roughly speaking, turn America into Switzerland — which may be occupied by lederhosen-wearing holey-cheese eaters, but wasn’t a socialist hellhole the last time I looked.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Netroots Wrapup

Funny, but while at the biggest conference for progressive bloggers going, I'm blogging not at all.

The information out here was overwhelming, to stay the least. Some of it academic, some of it from the panels practical and obviously applicable to political organization @ home.

Hopefully I've taken good enough notes, recorded sufficient audio/video to refresh myself after the trip home, to pass it all on.

It's been quite an experience in many different ways, but without a doubt I'm coming back with the positive impression that everyone should get an opportunity to attend events like this, if they are serious about organizing online and off to make a difference.

I'm off to the closing keynote by Darcy Burner now. You can follow the last few hours of the conference (or trace back through five maybe six billion tweets from the previous days) with the hashtag #nn09.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Politics in the AM

I'm normally not up this early (especially considering I'm now on EST) for anything, let alone an intense and information discussion about the public option.

My brain hurts, and I'm only halfway through my first cup of coffee.

First session I'm attending today: The Art of Email Engagement

This one's for you, Todd.

And you can follow along at home (and at a more decent hour) in several ways:

Watch the live stream of convention coverage, generously sponsored by SEIU, or on Facebook while you chat with other attendees.

You can participate from Second Life with Netroots Nation in Second Life. This year features an interactive session and caucus with real-world attendees.

Follow us on Twitter via our account or the #nn09 stream and Facebook.

Or you can check out all of the media coverage we'll be receiving online from your favorite blogs and traditional media outlets. We'll update the list below on our website as we have more information about broadcasts or major stories.

* C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 will cover all of the keynotes and several of the panels live.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Run, Wingnuts, Run

In a moment of clarity, while driving, I realized that wingnuttia in the spotlight is making insurance reform palatable to voters, pending immigration reform a cinch, and even making socialism more popular than the Republican Party, by comparison.

It's the "I'm on whatever team isn't saying that crazy shit" reasoning.

Independents... Welcome to the Democratic Party.

Nuances Of Socialism Explained

Nate Silver explains the difference between socialized medicine and socialized insurance. Hint: no one is offering socialized medicine as an option right now, so stop calling it that!

The difference between the two is important for reasons other than just irritating me, one's a vastly larger policy, and also somewhat more unpopular.

Just something to keep in mind when you see health care polls, and hear people talking of the evils of socialized medicine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Medicare for All

Marketing advice for the Democrats:

The whole "you can't sell single payer" is turning out to be, well, rather questionable. Because the way things are going it's fairly clear you can't sell some godawful hodgepodge either and all the screaming about "you're going to take away my Medicare" indicates that a lot of the people who oppose Obamacare, love Medicare.

When you're trying to explain something, you do so by metaphor in almost all cases. Everyone knows what Medicare is. The majority of people with Medicare are happy with it and even people without Medicare know people (usually their parents or grandparents) who have it, and whom it's working for.

Ruling out "single payer" from the very start was an act of mind-bending incompetence on the level of disbanding Iraq's army during the occupation of Iraq. From a policy point of view "Medicare for all" provides massive savings, and we know it works because the equivalent policies have worked for every other nation in the world who ever implemented then. From a sales point of view it's much harder to demonize Medicare and much easier to explain it. From a negotiation point of view pre-compromising is so stupid that anyone who has spent 5 minutes in a third world bazaar or taken even a single negotiating class knows better.

The current health reform "bills" are turning into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Scrap them, introduce Medicare for all, target Senators who won't vote for it with bone-crushing ads which ask why they want 22,000 American to die every year who could be saved for less money than the Iraq war cost; explain with nice simple pictures how much money they receive from the insurance industry and note that they are willing to let Americans die in exchange for blood money from the medical industry.

I know it's difficult for Democrats to play hardball since they'd have to grow a spine, but perhaps, just perhaps, it's worth it to save lives, end 70% of all bankruptcies and make sure people who are sick get the care they need?

Gallup Polling: Fun With Stereotypes

Gallup. Nobody cares what Oklahoma thinks, but WTF West Virginia?! (Insert your own toothless hillbilly joke)

Rice Joins My Club

I call it the John Bolton is an Idiot Club, and Condi just payed her dues.

KING: A man who once held your job at the United Nations, John Bolton, saying “it comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists.” Sending Bill Clinton over there and giving North Korea, certainly, a propaganda victory with those photographs. Perilously close to negotiating with terrorists?

RICE: Absolutely not. That’s, in fact, a ridiculous statement. We don’t negotiate with terrorists, that’s the policy of the United States. But this was an unique opportunity for the former president on a private humanitarian mission to obtain the release of two American women who’ve been held for many months. It would have been disgraceful for the United States, having verified that this was a real opportunity to obtain their release, to leave them in captivity.

Welcome aboard, more rational members of the previous administration now free to speak your mind.



The conservative activist who claims he was beaten up by union thugs in St. Louis while protesting against health care reform is accepting donations towards his medical care because he was laid off recently and ... has no health insurance.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Republican Party Still the Best News for Obama

I think Rich is onto something.

"The best political news for the president remains the Republicans. It's a measure of how out of touch G.O.P. leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are that they keep trying to scare voters by calling Obama a socialist. They have it backward. The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy. If anything, the most unexpected -- and challenging -- event that could rock the White House this August would be if the opposition actually woke up."


Bottled water sucks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Google Power Meter

I don't care about the future indentured servitude we'll all suffer at Google's hands... this is cool.


Sometimes someone with the misfortune of a media spotlight says something so stupid that you think to yourself: there is no way that person is that stupid. Impossible. If that person were really that stupid, they would've choked on a quarter by now. If that person were really this stupid, there is no way they would've made it to adulthood without child safety locks on all sharp objects in the home and balloon guards on all sharp corners. No. They cannot be that stupid. It has to be a cover for something. Perhaps the person is actually carrying out a masterfully put together plan to fool the world by appearing this stupid while secretly plotting to overthrow all world powers and unite us under their absolute power of intellect and cunning strategy.

Because there is just no way someone could be this jaw-droppingly stupid and dress themselves in the morning.

What Happens When You Elect a Demagogue (UT-3)?

Eventually, real life gets in the way.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has shunned congressionally directed project spending as pork, and one of his staffers explained to local officials this week that his boss will target money only at projects with a clear federal purpose.

Elected officials who plan transportation as members of the Mountainland Association of Governments vented their frustrations over that position.

"What is he actually doing for us?" Pleasant Grove Mayor Mike Daniels asked rhetorically.

Daniels and other mayors on the association's regional-planning committee agreed that both of Utah's Republican senators -- and even Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, whose district includes a sliver of Utah County -- "fight for funding."

"The last place I'm going to take [a funding proposal] to is Congressman Chaffetz," Daniels told Chaffetz staffer Mike Jerman.

The basic fact is that earmarks are not Teh Evil but rather another way in which a representative can serve his or her constituents by sawing off a piece of the federal pie made available for the very purpose of being sawed off for the states. If constituents of District 3 had pondered this "What is he actually [going to do] for us" question during the election, they might have avoided this paradox. Unfortunately, they voted for an ideology, and are now represented by a mere ideology, not practicality.

But he sleeps on a cot, and he says #TCOT-ey things, so they're happy. They can't drive anywhere, and there will be no adjustments for growth, and the development and business expanse will move to other districts, but hey, that's a small price to pay for a demagogue for a representative.

You showed 'em, Chaffetz supporters. Showed 'em good. And Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, and Wyoming thank you for it. You can borrow their roads any time you wish.