Friday, July 31, 2009

Video Diary: Sam Weller Bookstore vs. Health Insurance Industry

Video courtesy of Prescription for Change 'Share Your Story' project. (thanks to Pauline @ Consumers Union/Consumer Reports for the heads up)

What Would Matheson Risk By Supporting Health Care Reform?

If, in good faith, we assume that Matheson's decision to join The Party of No in opposition to health care reform is not based on his financial backers or future political motivations outside of UT-2, we are left with one all too convenient and overused explanation: He's an "at risk" Democrat in a conservative district, who would not survive a yes vote on reform with a public option.

But is this an actuality, or just an excuse used far too often by Matheson and other Blue Dogs to avoid even the slightest political fight?

Analyst Ed Kilgore @ The Democratic Strategist blog parses competing essays by The New Republic's Jon Chait and The Guardian's Mike Tomasky on that very question, shedding a little light on situation many Blue Dogs -- including Matheson (more on that in a bit) -- face. And it's not as simple as the Congressman or his defenders would have us believe. While Chait argues that the real issue here is legislative timing (i.e. Blue Dogs depending on Obama's success, while wanting to distance themselves from the party's agenda), Tomasky argues that this may have become little more than a convenient excuse for representatives like Matheson. He writes:

Yes, some Democrats have to be very careful and not be seen as casting a liberal vote. But they're a comparatively small number. A very clear majority of these people have won by large enough margins that it sure seems to me they could survive one controversial vote if they [put] some backbone into it.

But many of these folks manage to sell this story line to Washington reporters who've never been to these exurban and rural districts and can be made to believe the worst caricatures. I say many of these Democrats are safer than they contend. People need to start challenging them on this.

He concludes, credibly, that any Blue Dog who carried their district with a margin greater than McCain's margin of victory in 2008 could "take one for the Donkey" and survive. McCain's margin of victory was 58-40. Mathesons? 63-34. That puts him squarely in the group Tomasky discusses: those Blue Dogs who are repeating the "I'm in a red district" message as an excuse to avoid any/all political risks, regardless of the importance of the issue they are running from. In essence, these Blue Dogs are shirking their accountability to voters in an unwillingness to take a risk.

Tomasky does include three provisions in his analysis that would give such a Blue Dog a pass on such weakness of representation. 1) Upcoming gerrymandering concerns in what is traditionally believed to be a "pro-Republican" midterm for Republican states, and 2) the "Kabuki theater" of voting against something sure to pass, free-riding on the President's success when their vote is not key to passing legislation.

Gerrymandering is obviously a concern for Matheson, but the conventional wisdom of "off year" midterms for a majority party are contradicted heavily by polling. Democrats still enjoy the confidence of the public, nationally, and all signs point to a non-traditional midterm, in which the majority party retains it's majority. If redistricting in Utah remains in the hands of the legislature (and lets help avoid that possibility), Matheson is just as likely to face a more "liberally" consolidated district as a more broad conservative district, as the GOP may lock him out to solidify the other districts in Republican control rather than try to weaken a popular incumbent. I think the more likely explanation is option 2. Matheson is opposing legislation that will pass without him for political cover, while quietly hoping the President succeeds without him.

And he's choosing to do that on an issue as important to Utah families, businesses, and economics as health care reform. My assumption is that some basic polling was done, and a majority opposed a public option. Instead of stepping out of his safety zone to educate and change minds -- and therefore help other Democrats succeed with increased popularity and changed public opinion -- he, like a box turtle, chose instead to crawl back to safety and run away from the political challenge he would have survived in the end, rather than cast a principled vote for better health care.

We need to stop making excuses for Jim. Too often he enjoys a lack of scrutiny and criticism because he is our only federal delegate with a D. And often, we make those excuses for him at the expense of the party's image, forsaking the opportunity to not only influence him to do what is right, but also change the image -- so often based on low information and propaganda easily swallowed -- of the Democratic Party in this state, and the changes the President is pushing for. No issue exemplifies the values of the Democratic Party more than equal access to health care.

Call Jim: 1 (877) 677-9743 . It's time for him to stand up.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Buried Under an Enormous Pile of Crap

One Utah's rwarnick does a fine job of assessing where the relevant details and actual information in the health care debate have disappeared to.

The Blue Dogs: Congress' Vote Auctioneers

Politico (emphasis mine):

As individuals, the 52 Blue Dogs have received the plurality of their 2009 campaign contributions from a traditional Democratic ally: organized labor. Labor political action committees have filled the Blue Dog campaign coffers with more than $1 million so far this cycle.

But it’s the Blue Dog PAC that reveals the most about how the coalition operates. As Blue Dog clout has expanded, fundraising has grown accordingly — and not just from traditionally Democratic contributors.

In the 2008 election cycle, as fundraising for the National Republican Congressional Committee declined by roughly one-third from 2006 and fundraising for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee grew by just 26 percent, the Blue Dog PAC more than doubled its take (from $1,239,516 to $2,636,273).

And it raised more than $47,000 per Blue Dog from other political action committees — more than twice the $22,000-per-member total from the 2004 cycle.

Some of that cash came from interests that aren’t necessarily in sync with labor or even with traditional Democratic constituencies. In just the first half of 2009, all told the Blue Dog PAC took in $1,058,750 in contributions from other PACs, including health care PACs, which have already kicked in $297,500; energy PACs, $162,500; and financial services PACs, $134,500.
The most frustrating aspect of the health care debate has been the level of anecdote, euphemism, and passive propaganda being repeated by Blue Dogs and the GOP to an extent that the motives and goals are blurred beyond comprehension. Perspective and understanding are lost to empty rhetoric and ideological strutting that is more about how much they can get the country to believe than it is reforming the systems we rely on.

Jim Matheson (D-Pfizer) has now made it known that on health care reform, he will side with the GOP over spending concerns, regardless of the expense to his constituents. But that stands as a glaring hypocrisy for the Congressman and his caucus, considering their silence on, and frequent support of wasteful spending in areas of campaign contributor's "national" interest (As if health care reform were not a national interest itself). Stealing from Sirota, who references the WSJ/Blue Dog meme asserting spending for social programs is a "parochial concern":
We can thank Seib for putting it so plainly. Evidently, Congress isn't giving into "parochial considerations" when it hands Goldman Sachs billions of dollars to fund the company's executive bonuses. Apparently, there's no "parochial considerations" at work when a Vice President directs massive defense contracts to a company that still pays him. Clearly, there's no "parochial considerations" at work when defense contractors line lawmakers pockets in exchange for military pork projects. However, the two programs that undergird the basic health, welfare and retirement security of the general population of the United States? Sorry, that's a "parochial consideration" that must be dealt with harshly.

Of course, this absurd logic is precisely why the Washington Establishment knows it needs an authoritarian commission to do its dirty work. You see, elected officials can't be expected to be able to go back home to voters and explain a plan to simultaneously slash Social Security and Medicare while preserving Pentagon waste and corporate welfare. Indeed, with polls already showing that the public thinks we're wasting way too much cash on bailouts and defense, if lawmakers come home with such a proposal, they'll get booted from office.
Remember the Blue Dogs joining with the Republicans recently to save the pointless F-22 spending? I do. Remember the Blue Dog outrage over spending or multiple war funding votes? Yeah, neither do I. Remember their vocal opposition to stripping oversight from the TARP bailout? No? But they're so fiscally conservative! Surely you must have just missed it in the excitement.

It's impossible to accept that this is an issue of fiscal responsibility for Jim and his caucus, when so many times the Blue Dogs have thrown that very notion to the wind when politically expedient to do so. What the caucus is attempting here in opposition to spending (and some issues completely unrelated, like stabbing unions in the back after cashing their contribution checks by opposing card check in the EFCA) is resurrect the "Reagan Democrat." And it's going to get hung around their necks like a rotting albatross.

Blue Dogs are either going to lose their new found influence quickly once they "own" the blocking of health care reform overall, as there are enough liberal and progressive house members to effectively stop a compromised and ineffective bill (read Bacchus "bipartisan" bill coming back from the Senate as a result of the Blue Dog opposition) until next year. Or it passes with a public option, and those voters who oppose a public option are not going to vote for you anyway. Blue Dogs have a choice: turn off those voters who wouldn't vote for even a conservative Democrat, or turn off every voter, by ensuring that no reform passes the house in 2009. If this passes with you in clear opposition, Mr. Blue Dog, the political cover of voting against this reform isn't going to sway a Republican, and will be remembered by very few independents who will never warm to ideological opposition for opposition's sake. Supporting the reform -- even if you must retain your contrived reservations about spending, when it bothered you so little elsewhere -- would at least allow you to say you contributed to the reform as much as you could, rather than just joining the GOP in obstructing it.

It's bad strategy, bad logic, and bad for constituents to oppose health care reform for such manufactured and transparent political calculus.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dammit, Jim

I get angry enough about Matheson's joining the Party of No on health care reform to make the assertion he's doing it because he plans to run for Governor in 2010, and he goes -- same day -- and proves me wrong.

At this time, I feel that I can be most effective pursuing an agenda that puts the people of Utah first by running for re-election for my current House seat next year. I enjoy a good working relationship with Senator Bob Bennett. My decision today does not preclude me from interest in running for statewide office in the future. I will be following the reapportionment of the state after the 2010 Census and the redistricting process very carefully in this regard.
Now let's see the Congressman pull that same trick with the alternatives; Big Pharma campaign contributions...

National Venture Capital Assn $ 12,500
Pfizer Inc $ 10,252
American Academy of Ophthalmology $ 10,000
American Assn of Orthopaedic Surgeons $ 10,000
...or Senate 2012.

Because two things we know it ain't about: fiscal responsibility or constituents.

(I was spot on about him making Peter Corroon's day, though, no?)

Jim Matheson Makes Peter Corroon's Day

By joining The Party of No in opposing health care reform.

Health reform will move forward in the House after a coalition of conservative Democrats struck a deal with their party leaders Wednesday that will lower the bill's price tag and ease requirements on small businesses.

But Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, remains opposed to the reform package and will side with Republicans when the bill is brought up for a vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee later this week.
The message here for District 2? "Sorry folks, I'm running for Governor (or Senate)... you're on your own." And that to the district that would benefit the most from health care reform with a public option.

If Matheson's goal here is indeed a Governorship of the state, he's making a huge mistake. A Democrat could win that seat by solidifying Democratic and Independent support. Joining rank with obstructionists on this issue isn't going to bring them in to support such a run. In fact, it reads more as compromised integrity, and placing a political career above an issue that is about Utah families and businesses. With this "stand," Matheson is joining ranks with the party that has made it clear they oppose any kind of reform to the care current system, and see this issue only as an opportunity to try to undermine President Obama for future elections, using every fallacy and incredible claim the media will listen to.

He could run right on land rights, gas leases, even a token abortion debate to draw in the Utah middle-roaders that might support him for another office in 2010 and beyond, but he's chosen our health care future to sacrifice for his own, throwing his own district under the bus in the process. This issue. Your health, your prosperity vs. his political future.

If I were in Corroon's shoes right now, I'd get myself quoted in any local rag commenting on the importance of health care reform. Let the Democrats and Independents know reform needs to happen, in my opinion. Then I'd file, and run.

The bill will pass the house without Jim's vote, thankfully, but it's important to remember his statements and position on this issue. Being a Democrat isn't simply listing yourself as such on a ballot. Representing your constituents isn't simply about keeping yourself in office.

It's about principle, and integrity, and doing what's right.

DAMMIT Update: Matheson proves my predictions wrong... so now this is an even more ridiculous position for him take. He's going to run for re-election in the District he just trampled on.

Selling Out Health Care Reform for Political Gain

Warchol may be onto something.

And one of my personal favorite congress-critters, Rep. Maxine Waters, had a few choice words for Blue Dogs willing to spend billions on war, but zero on health care and social programs.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More on How Matheson's Constituents Would Benefit From Health Care Reform

Political scientist challenges the Matheson/Blue Dog rhetoric on health care reform obstruction and the policies they oppose that would benefit rural communities (h/t Mike Lillis).

[...] Yale University political scientist Jacob Hacker makes a good case today why the policies on which the Blue Dog Democrats have hinged their opposition are the same provisions that would most help the lawmakers’ constituents.

Increasing rates to doctors and hospitals in rural areas, for example, would “fail to address excessive payments to hospitals and specialists that private insurers say they have lacked the leverage to bring down,” Hacker argues in The Washington Post.

Offering public plan rates at close to Medicare levels while giving doctors and hospitals the choice of accepting them — as the House legislation does — is a way to test the market. If providers accept the rates, as the CBO projects they will, the Blue Dogs will get what they want: lower costs. If not, the bill in the House contains provisions for adjusting the rates, including nearly $10 billion to raise rates in rural areas if an independent study determines that higher rates are needed.

Then there’s the issue of the government-backed health care plan to compete with private insurers. Many Blue Dogs have joined Republicans in arguing that the public option would have the unfair backing of the federal government, thereby threatening the private companies very existence. Yet, after decades competing only against each other, these companies have left more than 45 million Americans without any coverage at all. That trend, Hacker maintains, is indication enough that the public option is necessary as “a backup plan” for those who can’t afford private insurance.

A public health plan will be particularly vital for Americans in the rural areas that many Blue Dogs represent. These areas feature both limited insurance competition and shockingly large numbers of residents without adequate coverage. By providing a backup plan that competes with private insurers, the public plan will broaden coverage and encourage private plans to reduce their premiums.

Not that all the Blue Dogs are on the same page on the public plan issue. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) told CNN this morning that he supports the public plan, as long as it would slow the growth of health care spending, which threatens to topple the entire economy in just a few decades.
Matheson will be on Neal Cavuto's Fox News show today at 2:30pm (via Matheson's twitter feed) explaining the Blue Dog / GOP opposition to health care reform with a public option. I'll be live blogging. It will be biased. JMBell has video from Matheson's previous visits to Fox to perpetuate the GOP talking points on health care reform.

So proud, Jim. So proud.

UPDATE: More humorous hate mail from the Pro-Jim crowd. For the record, I'm Pro-Jim too. He's our best representative, and he normally casts reasoned votes I can support, especially when it comes to the environment and open-government issues. In fairness, I want to point that out. That said, he's not selling me on his opposition to health care reform, and all the data implies he's trampling on his constituents to tow the GOP line on this one. We shouldn't be afraid to criticize him when he falters, "D" or no "D." Bad positions can happen in either party, and Jim's position on this one is really bad.

Mark Shurtleff, Birther?

Anyone who follows Mark Shurtleff's campaign for Cheerleader Governor Senate via Twitter is familiar with the fact that the AG can't seem to say a single angry mob inducing thing without wallpapering it with the #TCOT hashtag. It's cute, how he tries so hard.

But Washington Independent is ruining all the fun now by pointing out the direction chief TCOT-er Michael Leahy has been steering the group.

Today, we find Leahy attacking Hawaii over its “dodge” on questions about President Obama’s birth — i.e., the state’s official statement that it has vital records proving Obama was born there.

He has further questions, such as “Can you name the hospital in which President Obama was born?” and “Can you tell us the name of the attending physician at President Obama’s birth according to the vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii Department of Health?” Leahy has devoted the tcotreport Website to questions about Obama’s birth certificate and an image of an empty suit in the White House:

BREAKING: Hawaii Official Issues Another "Transparency Dodger" Statement About Obama Birth Certificate

Is it fair to assume that by tattooing his campaign with tea-bags and TCOT, Shurtleff espouses the Birther "movement" and the message Leahy is pushing? Has the AG gone full on whacko to be as far right of Bennett and the 300 other contenders for the GOP candidacy for the seat?

It'd be worth getting Shurtleff on record, considering his consistent allegiance to the group, despite it's apparent grounding in birtherism wingnuttery.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Go Sam


Mr. Granato wastes no time.

Sam Granato, Democratic candidate for US Senate, will be holding his first fundraiser for the campaign this Wednesday @ 7:00 pm. The event will take place at the home of Tony Basso, 2259 Segolily Dr., Wellington, UT.

For additional information please call 801-867-1704 or send the Granato Campaign an email.

Still Questioning the Blue Dog Reform Opposition: It Isn't the Spending

RCP:

Consider the Democrats in the Blue Dog caucus, who constantly trumpet their fiscal conservatism and enjoy hearing that claim echoed in the media, especially now, when they are threatening to block health care reform. The Blue Dogs don't like the public option for national health insurance; they bemoan the estimated trillion-dollar cost of covering everyone; and they zealously defend the prerogatives of the private insurance industry and the pharmaceutical manufacturers (who coincidentally give them millions of dollars in contributions). When it comes to spending money on the health of uninsured or underinsured constituents, the Blue Dogs worry about every penny.

But when the budget debate turns to military spending, the voices of the Blue Dogs suddenly turn sweetly indulgent. Confronted with the gross waste of taxpayer dollars on Pentagon boondoggles, including weapons programs that are outdated or simply don't work, these fierce budget watchdogs lose their bark and bite. They never lose their appetite for useless contracting that brings money to their own districts, however.

The F-22 fighter plane, touted as the most advanced military aircraft in the world, offers a fine example of this syndrome. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is trying to cut the F-22 program because the planes don't function very well, aren't needed in the foreseeable future and cost nearly $400 million each. In a speech he delivered on July 17 about the need to reform the defense budget, the exasperated defense chief said: "Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity -- whether for more F-22s or anything else -- is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable."

His pleas for fiscal sanity have been consistently ignored by Blue Dog Democrats as well as Republicans, who have joined forces to save the F-22.
As a progressive, it's easy to dislike the average Blue Dog from an ideological perspective. But observing the rhetoric of the caucus in the House health care debate, frustration this go-round stems more from the blatant hypocrisy of their selective "fiscal conservatism." Were they consistent in their opposition to spending, that would be a debate over ideas. But they aren't consistent. Anything but.

Connecting the dots, the Blue Dog meme has shown clearly that it isn't an opposition to spending that drives their health care reform "hesitation," as they can get behind wasteful military spending without too much trouble. The Blue Dogs simply oppose this specific version of reform, using "fiscal responsibility" as an excuse as convenient as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The lack of foresight, representation of their districts, and recognition of the benefits to rural America should this reform bill pass is unbelievable. I've been criticized much for implying that Jim Matheson's motive is more about his campaign donors than any consistent allegiance to fiscal ramifications of a public option, but even if I'm off on that assumption, it's unrealistic to assume spending is his only cause for opposition. Matheson and most others in the caucus do not, de facto, oppose spending, even when it's wasteful. They oppose this spending, for this bill.

It's fair then to infer that Matheson has a reason to prefer lack of reform to reform that includes a public option, and it seems reasonable to also infer that his reasons then are politically motivated, not ideological.

Matheson has simply decided that supporting reform with a public option would be a bad political move for him. It has nothing to do with what will or will not work to better our health care system, and ensure that every Utahan has access to affordable health care.

It's important to acknowledge that. It's great to say we have a Democrat in our federal delegation. He's our only one. But that doesn't mean he's impervious to bad decisions, or short sighted motivations. We elected these representatives to do work for us, not protect their own political futures at our expense. Bishop and Chaffetz are obviously lost causes on this one (there's tea-baggn' to be done!), but we should hold Matheson to a higher standard.

Health care reform, and the (admittedly, assumed... but you've got to take your risks, right?) public approval once a public option is in place could benefit the Democratic Party in Utah just as easily as a another Matheson term would, possibly even more. And should the plan be a success, a run for Governor or Senate would be even further bolstered.

Republicans will use it, be assured. It would be their low hanging fruit. But odds are good the majority of voters (yes, even in Utah) are going to see their lives improve should this version of reform pass, and you need only remind them of that in 2010 and beyond.

Contact Jim Matheson: 1 (877) 677-9743. Hell, give Rob (202-225-0453) and Jason (202-225-7751) a call, just for fun even. Let them all know they have not shown justified reason to oppose the reform outside of blind and empty GOP rhetoric, and unwillingness to take a risk, and dishonest debate, even when we're discussing something as important as our health and our prosperity.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Well, Mr. Blue Dog, You Have a Problem On Your Hands

If we accept the Blue Dog memo on health care (which we shouldn't) then we've got bigger problems than this single health care vote.

[...] there's not really any evidence that health care reform is unpopular in the Blue Dog districts. Although there are exceptions, most of the Blue Dog districts are fairly poor. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this month suggested that while 53 percent of voters overall think "think it's the government's responsibility to make sure that everyone in the United States has adequate health care", 61 percent of voters making under $50,000 do. Also, while Quinnipaic did not break out the results for moderate and conservative Democrats, which are plentiful in these Districts, one can reasonably infer them. In this poll, 79 percent of liberals agreed with the statement as did 77 percent of Democrats -- not a very big difference. Since almost all liberals are Democrats and about half of all Democrats are liberals, that suggests that support for health care reform among non-liberal Democrats is something like 75 percent.

But suppose that Barone is right, and that health care -- or at least the current Democratic version of it -- indeed is unpopular in these districts.

Well, then, Mr. Blue Dog, you have a problem on your hands.

You're going to lose anyway.

If these voters are not capable of supporting health care, what other planks of the Democratic agenda are they going to support?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Matheson's Health Reform Choice: Corporate Donors or Constituents

Yes, I'm about to commit the ultimate taboo for Utah Democrats and criticize our single federal delegate with a "D." But in this case, the criticism is not just over ideology, but an issue of integrity.

And on health care, Matheson and the Blue Dogs lack it.

Quoted in the SL Trib:

"There is not one or two things we have to do in terms of addressing health care," Matheson said. "There is not one big grand slam home run to fix it all; you have to have a lot of singles."

But if the cost issue is not addressed in some fashion, Matheson said, it would be hard for him to support his party's attempt to reform health care for the first time in nearly half a century.

Matheson is employing what has become the solitary strategy (and only remaining purpose) of the "fiscally conservative" (but only when politically convenient) Blue Dog Caucus: feigned concern over cost for political cover and to protect their corporate interests. This is the same caucus that approved the Bush/Cheney Energy Plan. The same caucus that opposed tax reform. The same caucus that opposed a military exit strategy and date, which would have capped the price tag on the war in Iraq. The same caucus that voted for military supplementals again and again has been all about the cost-savings, except when they are not.

Matheson and the Blue Dogs hypocrisy can best be displayed by their simultaneous advocacy of voting against any plan that would increase the deficit, while pushing for inclusion of rural hospital payout changes that would greatly increase Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.

Yesterday, UDP's Todd Taylor (who let it be known is a personal hero of mine, despite the coming disagreement on this issue) penned a great article on the GOP's effots to kill reform, which ended with praise for Matheson and the Blue Dog caucus. And admittedly, not all of the Blue Dog suggestions have been bad (i.e. trimming the subsidies a bit), but I think we should hesitate before praising their motives behind all this once again realized fiscal concern.

I believe they are deserving of no such praise. In fact, in the very efforts of the GOP to kill the reform, Matheson and his caucus are doing the GOP's dirty work. Why?

Open Secrets offers one possibility. In the 2007-2008 cycle, Matheson's top two contributors were "Health Professionals" and "Pharmaceuticals" and that trend appears to be repeating for the 2010 cycle. One specific contributor stands out. Pfizer, Inc. was his second biggest campaign donor. Pfizer, Inc. is also the leading spender on lobbying efforts against the public option in Washington DC.

Matheson's district is an example of a region that would benefit most from health care reform with a public option. Matheson's corporate campaign donors may not. I believe that is his concern, as well as all but a few Blue Dogs (kudos to Loretta Sanchez, D-CA). They are protecting the CEO's instead of their constituents.

And it may cost us our health care.




Passing Judgement

While helping a neighbor out today, I realized it's easy to differentiate the intelligent beings from the cell-based bi-pods with thumbs and a receding hairline.

The base scenario is simple: Bird shit on the deck chairs.

The choice of possible reaction is what reveals the category a person falls into.

Possible reaction #1: I'm going to move my deck chairs from under that tree.

Possible reaction #2: I'm going to shoot every bird in the valley with my pellet gun.
Said neighbor is still firing repeatedly into the air, and has yet to hit a thing (other than my last nerve).

This episode of Passing Judgement: Spotting Stupid in a Digital Age was brought to you by "My Vacation Wasn't Long Enough, Inc."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Citizen Journalism Opp: ProPublica's Stimulus Spot-Check

ProPublica.org:

Below is a random sample we assembled of 520 of the 5,800 stimuls-funded transportation projects nationwide, showing how much money to date the federal Department of Transportation has disbursed to individual transportation projects nationwide.

We're asking you to help us figure out the status of these projects -- whether the project has been started or has been completed, what company got the contract, and how many jobs the company says it retained or created for its stimulus contract. Everyone who contributes will be credited in our story.

Get Involved.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Vacation

To the Mtns. Woo!

Talk amongst yourselves.

Keep an eye on that Shurtleff guy until we get back.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Obama Justice System

Bad policy is no longer Bush's Policy.

Disappointing.

Political Lean: America Left, Europe... Right?

TAP:

In the midst of the worst continent-wide economic slump since World War II, the European Council, which includes the leaders of all 27 EU member nations, met in Brussels June 18 and 19. Despite the fact that Europe's GDP fell by over 4 percent in the first quarter, and unemployment in the Eurozone could top 11 percent in the next year, the Council chose to focus on deficit reduction rather than jobs or social protections.

This comes as no surprise to Professor David R. Cameron, director of the Yale Program in European Union Studies, who says this "Hooverian" response is symptomatic of Europe's ineffective approach to the crisis. A few days after the European Parliament elections resulted in near universal defeats for socialist, social democrat, and labor parties across Europe, TAP Online talked to Cameron about the European left's "existential crisis," the effect of Muslim immigration on European politics, and how Europe's response to the economic crisis differs from that of the U.S.

Marie Diamond: In the recent elections for European Parliament, socialist and social democratic parties suffered significant loses in nearly all 27 member states. Do these results represent a fundamental shift toward the right in European politics?

David R. Cameron: They certainly represent a short-term switch. I don't know that it necessarily means a long-term defection from the left to the right, but certainly there were significant losses in France, Portugal, Spain, and of course the Labor Party in Britain. They lost a lot of seats and they took the biggest hit in the election by far, and the vote certainly moved to the center or the right. But keep in mind that European Parliament elections are basically second-order national elections. Even though everyone would love it to be about European issues, in fact they are run by national parties and they are about national politics.

The Week in Polls

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reid to Senate: Stop Chasing Republican Votes

Roll Call:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

[...] According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn't worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

Al Franken's swearing in opens the doors to an actual progressive influence against the vanity of "centrists" and pomp-and-circumstance showmen like Lieberman, hoping to oppose every vote from the White House agenda.

Good news for progressive policy, but public opinion is fickle, and many are already hand-wringing over what this means for 2010. Admittedly, super-majorities are generally short lived at the federal level, but as for 2010, Democrats will be defending less seats against an opposition party that still doesn't seem to have crafted a message beyond tea-parties and doubling down on policy a majority of the country has rejected in full two election cycles and running. In addition, it's very difficult to put faith in Reid. Remember the FISA rollover, shutting out Dodd, and the "don't expect too much" speech? I'm not convinced that Reid is gone.

There's an opportunity here to push through much needed reform and more forward thinking policy in several areas (health care, immigration, infrastructure, as just a start) and a 4 to 6 year window to do so without souring Obama's popularity.

8 to 10 if the Michelle Bachman and Jim Demint keep talking.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lawsuits You Deserve to Lose

Via WhiskeyFire.

"Enforced Patriotism" sucks.

And be sure to take note of the first comment on the post.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Can Someone Please Explain

What the hell Sarah Palin is talking about here?

[William] Seward withstood such disdain as he chose the uncomfortable, unconventional, but right path to secure Alaska, so Alaska could help secure the United States.

Alaska’s mission – to contribute to America. We’re strategic in the world as the air crossroads of the world, as a gatekeeper of the continent. Bold visionaries knew this – Alaska would be part of America’s great destiny.

Our destiny to be reached by responsibly developing our natural resources. This land, blessed with clean air, water, wildlife, minerals, and oil and gas. It’s energy! God gave us energy.

Huh?

Shurtleff's Tea Baggers vs. Clarity, Focus, Dignity and A Message


I love populism. Citizen activism is the most inspiring thing a political junkie can ever see or be a part of. On the flip-side, unhinged idiocy, backed by confused anger, and politicians eager to exploit it (Yes, you, Mark) is simply comedic. From the July 4th "tea parties": Beware the Seat Belt Laws!

In Bemidji, Minnesota, a headline speaker for their "Freedom Over Socialism" rally was state Rep. Mary Seifert, one of the leading Republican candidates for Governor, who warned of government taking away everyone's personal freedom: "Now suddenly we tell you that you have to wear your seat belts or someone is gong to come racing down the road and fine you." Another speaker, former state legislative candidate John Carlson, spoke favorably of the Articles of Confederation.

The tea party in Boiling Springs, South Carolina, featured a colorful cast of characters. The headline speaker was Alan Keyes, who has been a leading name of the "Birther" movement. Lead organizer Michael Brady came dressed up as Thomas Paine -- who in real life was a left-winger in favor of progressive taxation and opposed to traditional religion. One attendee took out a flyer that said, "Zelaya today, Obama tomorrow," but said he was advocating impeachment of Obama after he was asked directly whether he was in favor of a coup.

Proving once again that it's not enough to meet in angry mobs. You actually have to be saying something. Preferably something rational.

And when Sen. John Cornyn and Gov. Rick "Let's Secede!" Perry are booed for not being Wingnutty enough... well, your movement's future is not very bright (pun intended).

Oil Companies All Talk, Little Action on Renewable Energy

CAP, in the inbox:

[...]London's Daily Telegraph reported last week that "[c]ompany records for 2008 show that ExxonMobil gave $75,000 to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas and $50,000 to the Heritage Foundation in Washington. It also gave $245,000 to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington." Similarly, ExxonMobil has devoted millions to ad campaigns touting clean energy without actually investing significantly in renewable energy. In 2007, for example, ExxonMobil spent $100 million on advertising and "green-washing" campaigns in an attempt to exaggerate its commitment to renewable energy. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil spends just $10 million per year on renewable energy research -- a tenth of the amount it spent talking about investing in clean energy. This latest evidence of ExxonMobil's continued opposition to clean energy comes less than a month after the American Petroleum Institute released a report revealing just how little the top Big Oil companies invest in renewable energy -- and how far they'll go to claim otherwise.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Compelling Logic


If you're an idiot.

Bush/GOP Legacy: The Naughts

Calculated Risk:

On the '00s (the "Naughts") ...

Employment Dec 1999: 130.53 million
Employment Jun 2009: 131.69 million

A gain of just 1.16 million. What are the odds that the economy loses another 1.16 million jobs over the next 6 months? Pretty high. That would mean no net jobs added to the economy for the naughts: Naught for the Naughts!

And for the stock market?

S&P 500, Dec 31, 1999: 1469.25
S&P 500, July 2, 2009: 897.29

Equity investors wish they went Naught for the Naughts.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy SB81 Day!

The law that no one but the Minute Men and a few lawmakers wanted, but no one had the integrity to vote against in an election year.

Utah Legislature: Solving problems that don't exist for more than two decades!