Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beck says Net Neutrality would 'destroy the free market that created the Internet'. Oh really?

Glenn Beck unveiled his master conspiracy theory yesterday on his Fix News show, essentially claiming the Obama Administration is conspiring to control the media and bring everyone under government control. A key to this, he claimed, was its advocacy of Net Neutrality -- since, as we've already observed, Beck prefers corporate control of your content to government regulations preventing such control.

He displayed just how well he understands these Intertoobs things, too:

Beck: Anyway, you may remember, FreePress is the group pushing for Net Neutrality, which would take the Internet out of the private hands of private business and into the hands of the government. It would create a level playing field. It would help diversity. It would destroy the free market that created the Internet.

Yeah, that sounds real scary Glenn. Except, of course, that the "free market" didn't "create the Internet". It was, in fact, originally a creation of those things that Glenn Beck hates so much: a government program. As Wikipedia explains:

The origins of the Internet reach back to the 1960s when the United States funded research projects of its military agencies to build robust, fault-tolerant and distributed computer networks. This research and a period of civilian funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation spawned worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies and led to the commercialization of an international network in the mid 1990s, and resulted in the following popularization of countless applications in virtually every aspect of modern human life.

Sure, the "free market" has played the most significant role in the massive expansion of the Internet since those origins, but it didn't "create" the Internet.

Meanwhile, Beck has yet to explain how regulations constraining the mega-corporations that provide our Internet infrastructure from deciding what content we can and can't access would actually take the system "out of the private hands of private business".

Maybe Beck can explain to us why Comcast was attacking peer-to-peer file sharing on its network system.

Maybe he can tell us why Verizon Wireless was able to deny a pro-choice group access to its text service.

Because those are, you know, actual issues involving real free speech -- not just imagined possible hypothetical scenarios wargamed out by that crack Glenn Beck Research Team.

If Beck were serious about defending not just free speech but freedom of thought, he'd be fully in favor of Net Neutrality. But he's not.

Though we already knew that.

LSB: Not only is Beck confused on how the Internet was created, he's confused as to when Congress first discussed the importance of Net Neutrality - DURING THE BUSH YEARS! This came about as a result of the Telecom (supporters of the GOP) attempting to seize more control of the Internet - or at least squeeze more $$$ from the individual Internet users. The Bush Admin was going to hand-over control of the Internet to these thugs for 30 pieces of silver, thus depriving the public of greater freedom of speech. Beck and his Mensa-less group are getting sloppy in their comments the more desperate that they become.

Stewart Hits the (FOX) Target Again!

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The President Takes the Dover Test

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist: ... President Obama, during his winning campaign, promised to make Washington more "transparent" and more "accountable." At 4 a.m. on Oct. 29, as he stood silently by as six soldiers carried the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., back to American soil and to those who mourned him, President Obama made both himself, and the national government he leads, more responsible and made the reality of war more transparent.

At Dover, he personally met with and consoled — in their time of profound sorrow — the families of 18 fallen Americans. No form letter or phone call. Just human being to human being.

As John Glenn said: "It's easy to see the flags flying and the people go off to war, and the bands play and the flags fly. And it's not quite so easy when the flag is draped over a coffin coming back through Dover, Delaware." Barack Obama, by choosing the "not quite so easy" path, has earned his nation's thanks.

LSB: Bush NEVER went to Dover. My nephew died for his country two years ago in Iraq - a war based on a lie told by his then commander-in-chief.

Lawrence O'Donnell, guest hosting on Countdown last night, responded to the lies coming from the Cheney camp:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Obama Administration's Inaction Keeps Married Gay Couple Separated Despite a plea from Senator John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to act in the asylum case of Genesio "Junior" Oliveira, who requested asylum in the U.S. in 2002. In 2005, he was married in Massachusetts to his husband Tim Coco, but the couple have been separated since 2007 when Oliveira was sent back to Brazil after his asylum requests and appeals were denied.

Oliveira In March, Kerry came to the aid of the couple, who would normally have no problem in this situation. But, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. does not recognize immigrants who marry U.S. citizens in a same-sex marriage.

Holder's response in this case has been silence, the AP reports:

"Tim Coco said Attorney General Eric Holder did not act on a Friday deadline in the case of Genesio 'Junior' Oliveira, effectively denying the 30-year-old Brazilian man's request for asylum in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. "We needed the Attorney General to make a decision on whether Junior could come home," said Coco, 48, of Haverhill. 'He didn't take this request seriously.' The Justice Department did not immediately return messages...Kerry spokeswoman Brigid O'Rourke said Monday that the senator will continue to work toward a solution that would reunite the couple for good. 'The fact is that if Tim and Junior were a heterosexual married couple, they would never have suffered through more than two years of separation,' said O'Rourke. Coco said he thought there was "no way" the Obama Administration would deny Oliveira's asylum request after Kerry made his plea to Holder.' We are profoundly sad,' said Coco. 'This is more than any married should have to face.'"

Cases like these are why the Uniting American Families Act, which was reintroduced in February, is so important. As well, of course, as the repeal of DOMA which prevents the federal government from recognizing anything other than a heterosexual marriage.

The UAFA has since been added to a larger comprehensive immigration reform bill. Senator Gillibrand spoke about it briefly in answer to a question at her forum over the weekend, and stressed that the immigration reform legislation must be introduced and passed before the Spring.

Julia Preston, NY Times, Oct 29th: In an unusually protracted and closely watched case, the Obama administration has recommended political asylum for a Guatemalan woman fleeing horrific abuse by her husband, the strongest signal yet that the administration is open to a variety of asylum claims from foreign women facing domestic abuse. (more)

LSB: Thanks, Mr. President, for signing the Hate Crimes Bill and for lifting the HIV Travel Ban, but when are you gonna do something really meaningful for the majority of the gay community? Stop supporting DOMA in court! Until you follow-though on your promise to work toward the repeal of DOMA, you are allowing - and your DOJ is even encouraging - the unequal treatment of U.S. citizens. How can you, our first non-white President - justify the continuing inequality? Shame on you!

Stephen Colbert Takes on Referendum 71 and Marriage Rights Stephen Colbert took on Referendum 71 in Washington last night.

"I say if it looks like a duck, and files a joint tax return like a duck, and gets to visit its duck partner in a duck hospital, you might as well register at the duck Pottery Barn because it is gay duck marriage."

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In R-71 news, a poll released yesterday showed Referendum 71 ahead by a 17 point spread (53% in favor, 36% against). This is obviously great news, but it's important not to become complacent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where do those without health insurance live?

Floyd Norris, NY Times: The Census Bureau sought to find that out, for the first time, in a survey taken last year and released in September. Over all, it found that 9.9 percent of children lack any health insurance, half the rate for adults under 65.

But there was widespread variation in coverage. Children in Texas, the state with the least health insurance, are more than eight times as likely not to have it than children in Massachusetts, the state with the broadest coverage.

Those who lack health insurance now are far more likely to live in states that usually vote Republican — the states whose senators and representatives are least likely to support a law to extend coverage.

That would seem to indicate that Republican constituents are the ones who would most benefit from passage of universal health insurance coverage. But an analysis of Congressional districts within those states indicates that those without health insurance are much more likely to live in strongly Democratic Congressional districts. Many of those contain large minority populations with relatively low incomes.

In the Congressional debate now going on, Democrats have generally supported plans aimed at assuring that all Americans have some sort of insurance, while nearly all Republicans have opposed the Democratic bills, raising concerns ranging from cost to worries that providing better health coverage for those who now lack it would diminish coverage for those who have it. (more)

LSB: Great! Once again I'll be fucked over by Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn and Rick Perry.

As Obama Cools to Senate's Public Option Plan, Progressives Target Him in New Ad Obama's apparent preference for a "trigger" option in health care reform rather than the more progressive option with a state opt-out clause has Senate Democrats bewildered and left fighting for the most fundamental health care reform the nation has seen in decades on their own.

HuffPost: "President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan 'triggered' into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks. The administration retreat runs counter to the letter and the spirit of Obama's presidential campaign. The man who ran on the 'Audacity of Hope' has now taken a more conservative stand than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), leaving progressives with a mix of confusion and outrage. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have battled conservatives in their own party in an effort to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Now tantalizingly close, they are calling for Obama to step up."

Said a Democratic source to the Huffington Post:"He's been so convinced by his political people from the beginning that we can't get a bill with a public option, he's internalized it. Even though it's now become obvious we can get a bill without selling out the public option, he's still on that path."

The White House's curious stance on the issue appears to hinge on Obama's concern for a bipartisan bill and the reelection of Blue Dog Democrats. It has also made the President the target of an ad and petition by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, warning him not to compromise.

Talking Points Memo notes: "The spot will air at least 100 times in Maine, augmented by an online fundraising drive. The group's recent ad targeting Snowe helped them raise over $100,000."

UPDATE: The White House has issued a statement regarding these reports. "A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false. In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position. Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.

Obama Administration Aggressively Defends “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Court

From the Left: Can our community’s “fiercest advocate” please make up his fucking mind? In a move consistent with previously contradictory behavior vis a vis LGBT issues, the Obama administration has directed its Justice Department to file an extraordinary motion to get a Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law thrown out of court, despite a Federal judge’s ruling that it can proceed.

The 11th-hour move for interlocutory appeal, which seeks to stay proceedings and block discovery, was formulated at the same time President Obama was reassuring LGBT champagne queers that he firmly opposes ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner just two weeks ago in Washington, DC.

According to Terry W. Hamilton, national Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans:

“After President Obama clearly stated that his highest priority for the LGBT community was to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, it is quite troubling to see this ‘about face.’ This aggressive move by President Obama’s Justice Department seriously undermines not only his commitment to our community and to the defense of our nation, but it also casts doubt on the motives of those at the highest levels of LGBT leadership in Washington who refuse to criticize the President over this double speak.”

The case in question, Log Cabin Republicans vs. the United States of America, is the first direct challenge to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas. It is also the only contemporary legal challenge to this law to succeed at the district court level. One of the injured parties named in the case, Alexander Nicholson, is a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who speaks multiple languages, including Arabic, and who was fired because of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ just six months after 9/11. Another injured party in the case, listed simply as ‘John Doe’ currently serves in the Armed Forces and would face a discharge if his identity were revealed.

Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Charles T. Moran remarked:

“These continued obstructions launched by the Obama Justice Department are as insulting to the LGBT community as they are a serious threat to our military readiness. The constant delay tactics and attempts to have this case hurriedly dismissed without any discovery or argument would be a disservice to all those who have been involuntarily and abruptly fired under this law.”

District Court Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District Court of California will consider the defendant’s motion on November 16th, 2009.

Academy Award Winning Director Paul Haggis Resigns from Scientology Over Treatment of Gays

LSB: WOW! This is an amazing letter!

From the Left: Phew! I didn’t see this coming. Paul Haggis, who won two Best Film Oscars, one for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) directed by Clint Eastwood, and “Crash” (2005) which he himself directed, has resigned from the Church of Scientologist after 35 years. Haggis, who is straight, could no longer tolerate Scientology’s homophobic policies.

Here is Haggis’ letter of resignation to “Tommy,” the leader of the cult Church of Scientology:


As you know, for ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego. Their public sponsorship of Proposition 8, a hate-filled legislation that succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California – rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state – shames us.

I called and wrote and implored you, as the official spokesman of the church, to condemn their actions. I told you I could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated.

In that first conversation, back at the end of October of last year, you told me you were horrified, that you would get to the bottom of it and “heads would roll.” You promised action. Ten months passed. No action was forthcoming. The best you offered was a weak and carefully worded press release, which praised the church’s human rights record and took no responsibility. Even that, you decided not to publish.

The church’s refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word. Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.

I joined the Church of Scientology thirty-five years ago. During my twenties and early thirties I studied and received a great deal of counseling. While I have not been an active member for many years, I found much of what I learned to be very helpful, and I still apply it in my daily life. I have never pretended to be the best Scientologist, but I openly and vigorously defended the church whenever it was criticized, as I railed against the kind of intolerance that I believed was directed against it. I had my disagreements, but I dealt with them internally. I saw the organization – with all its warts, growing pains and problems – as an underdog. And I have always had a thing for underdogs.

But I reached a point several weeks ago where I no longer knew what to think. You had allowed our name to be allied with the worst elements of the Christian Right. In order to contain a potential “PR flap” you allowed our sponsorship of Proposition 8 to stand. Despite all the church’s words about promoting freedom and human rights, its name is now in the public record alongside those who promote bigotry and intolerance, homophobia and fear.

The fact that the Mormon Church drew all the fire, that no one noticed, doesn’t matter. I noticed. And I felt sick. I wondered how the church could, in good conscience, through the action of a few and then the inaction of its leadership, support a bill that strips a group of its civil rights.

This was my state of mind when I was online doing research and chanced upon an interview clip with you on CNN. The interview lasted maybe ten minutes – it was just you and the newscaster. And in it I saw you deny the church’s policy of disconnection. You said straight-out there was no such policy, that it did not exist.

I was shocked. We all know this policy exists. I didn’t have to search for verification – I didn’t have to look any further than my own home.

You might recall that my wife was ordered to disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. This is a lovely retired couple, never said a negative word about Scientology to me or anyone else I know – hardly raving maniacs or enemies of the church. In fact it was they who introduced my wife to Scientology.

Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them. I refused to do so. I’ve never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible.

For a year and a half, despite her protestations, my wife did not speak to her parents and they had limited access to their grandchild. It was a terrible time.

That’s not ancient history, Tommy. It was a year ago.

And you could laugh at the question as if it was a joke? You could publicly state that it doesn’t exist?

To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?

And that is when I read the recent articles in the St. Petersburg Times. They left me dumbstruck and horrified.

These were not the claims made by “outsiders” looking to dig up dirt against us. These accusations were made by top international executives who had devoted most of their lives to the church. Say what you will about them now, these were staunch defenders of the church, including Mike Rinder, the church’s official spokesman for 20 years!

Tommy, if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil rights violations. It is still hard for me to believe. But given how many former top-level executives have said these things are true, it is hard to believe it is all lies.

“…the same face that denied the policy of disconnection”

And when I pictured you assuring me that it is all lies, that this is nothing but an unfounded and vicious attack by a group of disgruntled employees, I am afraid that I saw the same face that looked in the camera and denied the policy of disconnection. I heard the same voice that professed outrage at our support of Proposition 8, who promised to correct it, and did nothing.

I carefully read all of your rebuttals, I watched every video where you presented the church’s position, I listened to all your arguments – ever word. I wish I could tell you that they rang true. But they didn’t.

I was left feeling outraged, and frankly, more than a little stupid.

And though it may seem small by comparison, I was truly disturbed to see you provide private details from confessionals to the press in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the executives who spoke out. A priest would go to jail before revealing secrets from the confessional, no matter what the cost to himself or his church. That’s the kind of integrity I thought we had, but obviously the standard in this church is far lower – the public relations representative can reveal secrets to the press if the management feels justified. You even felt free to publish secrets from the confessional in Freedom Magazine – you just stopped short of labeling them as such, probably because you knew Scientologists would be horrified, knowing you so easily broke a sacred vow of trust with your parishioners.

How dare you use private information in order to label someone an “adulteress?” You took Amy Scobee’s most intimate admissions about her sexual life and passed them onto the press and then smeared them all over the pages your newsletter! I do not know the woman, but no matter what she said or did, this is the woman who joined the Sea Org at 16! She ran the entire celebrity center network, and was a loyal senior executive of the church for what, 20 years? You want to rebut her accusations, do it, and do it in the strongest terms possible – but that kind of character assassination is unconscionable.

So, I am now painfully aware that you might see this an attack and just as easily use things I have confessed over the years to smear my name. Well, luckily I have never held myself up to be anyone’s role model.

The great majority of Scientologists I know are good people who are genuinely interested in improving conditions on this planet and helping others. I have to believe that if they knew what I now know, they too would be horrified. But I know how easy it was for me to defend our organization and dismiss our critics, without ever truly looking at what was being said; I did it for thirty-five years. And so, after writing this letter, I am fully aware that some of my friends may choose to no longer associate with me, or in some cases work with me. I will always take their calls, as I always took yours. However, I have finally come to the conclusion that I can no longer be a part of this group. Frankly, I had to look no further than your refusal to denounce the church’s anti-gay stance, and the indefensible actions, and inactions, of those who condone this behavior within the organization. I am only ashamed that I waited this many months to act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.


Paul Haggis

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Public Option Opponent Mike Ross Proposes Opening Medicare To More Americans The Hill is reporting that Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) — who led a group of seven centrist Blue Dogs who objected to a public option that reimbursed providers based on Medicare rates — is floating a proposal to open-up Medicare to Americans under 65, “but at a reimbursement rate much greater than current Medicare rates“:

I — speaking only on behalf of myself — suggested one possible idea could be that instead of creating an entirely new government bureaucracy to administer a public option, Medicare could be offered as a choice to compete alongside private insurers for those Americans eligible to enter the national health insurance exchange, but at a reimbursement rate much greater than current Medicare rates.

The last sentence is key: reimbursing providers who treat the new enrollees at market rates satisfies the provider community and conservative politicians from rural states who argue that their hospitals would close if they were reimbursed at Medicare rates. This scheme preserves the integrity of a single national program and takes advantage of Medicare’s administrative efficiencies to lower costs and spearhead delivery reforms. Still, Ross’ solution will likely save less money than a robust public option that uses Medicare-like rates and leverage.

After cutting a deal with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to increase the public option’s reimbursement rates in August, Ross announced last month that “he will vote against health care legislation if it includes a public option.” “I have been skeptical about the public health insurance option from the beginning and used August to get feedback from you, my constituents,” Ross wrote in a newsletter to constituents. “An overwhelming number of you oppose a government-run health insurance option and it is your feedback that has led me to oppose the public option as well.”

LSB: Finally! Someone thinking along the same lines that I have been advocating for a while - why create a new bureaucracy when there is already one in place. If the age requirement were eliminated from Medicare, wouldn't that be in effect a public option? Each month a Medicare tax is already deducted from my paycheck as it is for everyone. Even if that percentage were increased a little (yes, I know - a tax increase), it would be offset by the elimination of the additional health care premium I pay above the amount paid by my employer - thus neutralizing the effect on my paycheck. The employer amount could likewise be increased a similar amount, which would also be offset by eliminating the employer portion of employee health care insurance. [EX: If the Medicare tax were increased by 5% for both the employee and employer, for an employee making no more than $48,000/year this would mean a monthly increase in the Medicare deduction of $200 by the employee and $200 for the employee - which is probably the average amount both currently pay to private insurers for employee health coverage. For individuals making less than $48,000 annually, this is a net savings to them while maintaining coverage; for employers of those making $48,000 or less annually, it similarly does not increase the net amount they pay for health coverage for their employees - and may decrease that amount, - but it simply moves the payment from private insurance to Medicare.] Small businesses that don't currently provide insurance benefits to employees (those with a small number of employees) could be exempt from the increase and still have their employees insured; those employees earning a high dollar amount, for which the increase would mean a greater total cost than their currently monthly health care payment, could opt out of the program in favor of private insurance and pay only the current Medicare percentage. Since the majority of those not currently covered are not the high-wage earner, private insurance companies would lose only a small portion of their current customers and it would force them to compete more aggressively for the high-wage earners they currently cover. And with the additional revenue through this percentage increase, Medicare could make adjustments in their payments to hospitals and doctors to eliminate those concerns expressed by Rep. Ross. How can having more patients insured and getting payments from Medicare be worse than having so many uninsured and indigent patients? Sure, insurance companies will not be making the obscene profits they are currently making, but that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make! (snark) Am I missing something here?

Racist Email Doc Resurfaces as Expert on Glenn Beck

Talking Point Memo: Back in July we brought you the story of Dr. David McKalip, the Tea Party movement anti-anti-reform activist who was caught circulating a racist email with a photo of loincloth wearing President Obama in the guise of a witch-doctor.

After we publicized the email, McKalip apologized, later said he was withdrawing from the public debate over health care and felt compelled to resign as the head of the local medical association.

So we were surprised when TPM Reader JG let us know that last night McKalip resurfaced as an expert on health care reform for none other than Glenn Beck at Beck's town hall style meeting to discuss the horrors of reform.

If you don't remember, here's the photo McKalip sent around ...

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And here's McKalip on Beck's show explaining the horrors of "Obamacare" ...

First they came for Rush Limbaugh

Joan Walsh, Conservatives are all about taking responsibility for one’s personal actions, or at least they used to be. Rush Limbaugh is facing the consequences of the buffoonish, offensive cartoon persona that’s made him a gazillionaire: The controversy-averse brotherhood of NFL owners harrumphed disapproval of Limbaugh’s role in a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams, and within a few days the group Limbaugh was part of dropped the radio bully from its bid.

I’m sure the snub is causing Rusty to relive childhood traumas, and I feel a little sorry for him. It must be awful to be kicked to the curb by guys who used to admire you, and the deep pockets you brought to their bid. And Limbaugh sure got angry that his bid ran into choppy water. “This is not about the NFL, it's not about the St. Louis Rams, it's not about me. This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative."

Limbaugh’s self-pity and paranoia is on red-alert again. The idea that prominent conservatives aren’t part of the American mainstream is ridiculous. But more important: Let’s be clear who’s denying Rush his chance to own an NFL team: the other rich guys who are trying to buy the team, who dropped him from their group at the first sign of trouble. It’s true Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay speculated that Rush’s team would have a hard time getting the required support of three-quarters of team owners, and that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell commented, “Divisive comments are not what the N.F.L. is all about,” but the Limbaugh group didn’t mount much of an effort to buy the team.

It’s certainly possible their bid would ultimately have been rejected. When he became an ESPN football commentator, Limbaugh thought it was a good idea to take a gratuitous racial slap at Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, arguing that he “hasn’t been that good from the get-go,” but “the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.” And while Limbaugh this week insists he’s "colorblind" and "treat[s] everyone equally," Media Matters assembled a list of two dozen other racially questionable Limbaugh remarks, from comparing the NFL to “a game between the Bloods and the Crips” to insisting Democrats won’t brook criticism of President Obama, “the little black man-child.” Of course, my favorite was when he said he was expected to “bend over, grab the ankles” for Obama because he’s black, since that let us explore Limbaugh’s strange anal obsession, which rivals (and sometimes overlaps with) his racial obsession. If NFL owners decided they didn’t want the baggage someone like Limbaugh carries, or the invidious garbage he peddles to gin up his ratings, they’d be within their rights.

But the funniest aspect of the collapse of Limbaugh’s bid is the reaction on the right. At “Big Hollywood,” John Ziegler was inconsolable. “Even in these times when the once unthinkable is becoming increasingly unremarkable, the current controversy over whether Rush Limbaugh is potentially worthy to be an NFL owner crosses over from the simply outrageous to the utterly infuriating. I strongly believe that it also represents a seminal moment in our cultural history as well as the sad state of free speech in this country.” Whoa! Like a lot of challenged thinkers, Ziegler seems to think Rush’s right to free speech also guarantees he’ll face no consequences for that speech. “I’m getting a lot of ‘boycott the NFL’ emails,” huffed the National Review’s Kathryn Lopez on Twitter this a.m. I’m sure the NFL is atwitter about that right now.

And a Red State diarist went so far over the top, I thought it was satire, but t-square has been on the site for four years and is easily moved to hysteria. In a blog post titled “Tonight … We are all Rush Limbaugh,” t-square told us … well, you just have to read a little:

Earlier this evening, as most of you now know, one of our own, Rush Hudson Limbaugh, while taking withering fire, crashed and burned.

Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a radio personality.

Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a NFL owner denied

Tonight, Rush is us. And we are him.

Tonight Rush became the metaphor for all of us… every man woman and child in this great nation of ours.

The enemy of this great nation, the enemy of you and me, Rush’s enemy … those on the left, inside and outside of this nation abhor success … and when faced with it will destroy it … by any and all means possible.

It went on and on like that and ended with the famous anti-Nazism parable attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, “First they came for the communists …” I'm serious.

Let’s ignore the fact that if anyone ever "came for the communists," it would be Rush and the red-staters. The paranoia and self-pity would be funny, except it’s fueling an opposition to Obama that seems increasingly unhinged. Even as he denies it, Limbaugh is making himself the face of the Republican opposition, and today that face is puffy and tear-streaked and red with self-pitying rage. I can't wait to hear what he says on his show today.

LSB: I so badly want to make a comment about what Rush is measuring in this photo, but I'm going to abstain for fear that I may have to apologize for it later. (snark)

GOP Jack*ssery gone wild: Boehner's spokesbot says being gay is a choice, religion is not

Pam Spaulding, Pam's House Blend: Wow, I didn't think they would really try to lodge the claim that there's a religious denomination gene that ensures your faith is predetermined when you shoot out of the womb, but when you're an anti-gay Republican like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) , it's ok to send your spokesperson out there to look like a complete jackass.

Questioned about why the House's top Republican opposes a hate crimes bill penalizing violence against gays, his spokesman said he "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics," just not protections for things like being gay -- which conservatives occasionally claim is a choice.

When asked Boehner's office to comment, it's quite clear that the Ohio Congressman and his mouthpiece are completely ignorant about the law that is currently in place, since gender is not included. Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith was ridiculed for this religion-is-in-the-DNA logic for opposing adding sexual orientation and gender identity into the law.

Northeastern University professor Jack Levin, who co-authored the first book written about hate crimes, told Hotsheet that "to use immutability as a criterion doesn't make any sense at all."

"Especially if he supports the current stand," Levin continued. "Religion is clearly not ascribed. It's not built into the organism. People can change it at any time and people do."

FLASHBACK: Fox News Supported Bush White House’s War Against NBC Recently, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn escalated the tensions between the Obama administration and Fox News when she publicly declared that the network is “opinion journalism masquerading as news” and “often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Fox has responded with surprise and contempt. “It is extraordinary that the White House would go and target a news channel,” said Fox and Friends’ Steve Doocy, comparing Obama to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In a Special Report piece on the controversy, Fox correspondent James Rosen compared Obama to President Nixon. On his Fox show last night, Sean Hannity made a similar comparison, adding that he thought the media would freak out if a Republican White House did the same thing:

HANNITY: We have a White House that has now set up a Web site specifically to attack the FOX News Channel because we ask tough questions and they do not like that. They’re not used to that with the fawning news media.

So — I mean is this an enemies list? It seems like it to me. I can’t imagine a Republican doing this without, you know, a media outcry.

The website that Hannity is referring to is most likely the White House blog, which has mentioned Fox News twice, including one post that directed readers to Politifact for the truth about more “Fox lies.” Watch it:

Fox’s incredulous reaction to the White House is somewhat ironic, considering the supportive response of the network’s personalities last year when the Bush administration attacked the credibility of NBC News. In May 2008, then-White House counselor Ed Gillespie publicly sent a scathing letter to NBC News President Steve Capus, accusing them of deceptive editing and blurring the lines between “news” and “opinion.”

In fact, two Fox News contributors, filling in for Bill O’Reilly, suggested that the Bush White House should have considered freezing out NBC and MSNBC all together:

– INGRAHAM: Now Karl, why would the White House agree to do an interview with Richard Engel? I mean, this is the guy who, you know, really didn’t want to give the surge any credit and NBC, an organization, obviously that’s called this a civil war. Now it’s kind of not gone back and changed his view on that. We’re in a recession, etcetera, etcetera. I mean, why bother really at this point? [The O'Reilly Factor, 5/19/09]

– E.D. HILL: You know, I’m sure you know from watching this program that, you know, Bill has, you know, has been reporting for more than a year on a pattern suggesting that NBC News basically panders to the left and is, in essence, in the pocket for Barack Obama. Why go on a venue like that to begin with?

GILLESPIE: Go on a venue like MSNBC?

HILL: Yes.

GILLESPIE: I don’t know. It’s — you know, the – you know, there are elements there who are clearly advocates for a candidate or a point of view, not even commentaries or commentators really or analysts. So I don’t know why he would. [The O'Reilly Factor, 5/22/08]

Gillespie appeared to be supportive of freezing out NBC at the time. On his radio show, Glenn Beck asked Gillespie about Democrats “trying to blackball Fox,” adding, “You don’t see Republicans doing that to NBC, do you?” “No, and sometimes I question why,” replied Gillespie. “It is beyond me frankly.”

Obama Criticized as Too Cautious, Slow on Judicial Posts

Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post: President Obama has not made significant progress in his plan to infuse federal courts with a new cadre of judges, and liberal activists are beginning to blame his administration for moving too tentatively on what they consider a key priority.

During his first nine months in office, Obama has won confirmation in the Democratic-controlled Senate for just three of his 23 nominations for federal judgeships, largely because Republicans have used anonymous holds and filibuster threats to slow the proceedings to a crawl.

But some Democrats attribute that GOP success partly to the administration's reluctance to fight, arguing that Obama's emphasis on easing partisan rancor over judgeships has backfired and only emboldened Senate Republicans.

Some Republicans contend that the White House has hurt itself by its slow pace in sending over nominations for Senate consideration. President George W. Bush sent 95 names to the Senate in the same period that Obama has forwarded 23.

"I commend the president's effort to change the tone in Washington," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "I recognize that he is extending an olive branch to Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and in the Senate overall. But so far, his efforts at reconciliation have been met with partisan hostility." (more)

LSB: Blame is a two-way street it appears. Obstructionism vs. too few nominees. Sure, sending over too many would rile up the Repugs - 'He's moving too fast... jamming the courts with too many liberal judges..' - but surely the vetting process for qualified federal judges shouldn't be taking this long.

Beck’s Attack On Obama Adviser Ignores Right-Wing Interest In Mao On his Fox News show yesterday, Glenn Beck escalated his character assassination war against the Obama administration, promising his audience that he was going to show them “something that will melt your brain.” “I’m going to ask you to do something I don’t think I’ve asked you to do before,” said Beck. “Stay the hour with me. Please, watch this hour. Call your friends. There is information that you’re just not going to see anyplace else.”

After retelling his theory of communistic sympathies in the White House, Beck revealed that his big surprise was a video of White House Communications Director Anita Dunn quoting Mao Zedong and calling him one of her “favorite political philosophers,” who she cites to “deliver a simple point, which is, you’re going to make choices.” Beck then used the video to connect Dunn to the millions of people Mao killed, saying “this is her hero’s work!” Watch it:

The Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel, noting the audience’s laughter when Dunn praises both Mao and Mother Teresa as political philosophers, writes “it’s a joke to everyone but the grim-faced Beck.” Weigel then points out that Dunn is not the only prominent political figure to quote Mao in order to “deliver a simple point,” linking to a video of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) saying, “in the words of Chairman Mao, it’s always darkest before it’s totally black.” Watch it:

Media Matters notes the many prominent conservatives who have cited Mao, Lenin and the Viet Cong for political advice. Barry Goldwater adviser Stephen Shadegg said that he always followed “the advice of Mao Tse-tung” in the campaigns he ran (Beck has implored Republicans to “get back to the conservative roots of Barry Goldwater.”) Strategist Ralph Reed has been quoted saying, “Mao Tse-Tung said politics is war without bloodshed. Clearly, there are some metaphors that sit nicely with politics.” Also, Karl Rove said President Bush urged him to “read a Mao biography.”

Update: Media Matters notes Newt Gingrich citing Mao.

Patient Denied Care For Her Brain Tumor Says Insurers Want You To ‘Die Now, So We Can Save Money Later’ Yesterday, Dawn Smith — who has a brain tumor her insurer has refused to help treat — traveled from her home in Atlanta, Georgia to request a meeting with H. Edward Hanway, CEO of the health insurance giant CIGNA. She has been a victim of a series of insurance company abuses, and she wanted to give both Hanway and leaders in Congress a message. Hanway refused to meet with Smith, and instead dispatched his Cheif Medical Officer Jeff Kang to listen to her. Kang admitted that CIGNA’s complex claims unit requires serious changes but said his company would not even review the possibility of paying for her care until November.
Smith, a premiums-paying customer of CIGNA, was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor in 2005, then another one in 2007. Although CIGNA covered her brain biospy and some medication payments, she has battled with the insurer for years because of multiple denials of payment for the specialized care she needs to cure the tumors. After paying out-of-pocket for care in one instance, CIGNA nearly doubled her premiums anyway. In early October, a CIGNA representative told her that the co-pay on her anti-epileptic medicine was being hiked by more than $3,000 a year.
With the assistance of, Smith has launched a nationwide campaign to not only receive the treatments she deserves from her insurance company, but to help reform the entire system and help all Americans gain quality, affordable healthcare. ThinkProgress asked Smith what message she has for Congress:
DAWN SMITH: I would encourage them to hear the stories from their citizens because, you know, a lot of people talk about the cost [to] children of our future, our grandchildren. But, there are grandchildren dying now. There are children dying now. […] I don’t understand how you can justify ‘die now, so we can save money later.’ Because that’s what it is; that’s what it boils down to.
Watch it:
CIGNA has a long history of denying care for its own policyholders. One of the most infamous cases involves Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17-year-old who died after CIGNA refused to cover her liver transplant. When Nataline’s mother requested a meeting with CIGNA officials, employees of CIGNA reportedly started heckling her from a balcony above the building’s lobby, with one giving her “the finger.”
Rather than use Smith’s or Sarkisyan’s premium dollars to pay for life-saving medical treatments, CIGNA has poured its cash into lobbying against health reform. Those premium dollars are also spent on two private luxory jets, sky-high CEO compensation (Hanway was paid $25.8 million in 2007 alone), and profits.
Update: In an e-mail today, Dawn Smith said that CIGNA's PR officials never explained to her why the the insurance company had denied her coverage nine times. They instead showed her "promotional YouTube videos about other cases they'd successfully resolved."

Bill Maher On The Year In Ridiculous Republicans On ""Real Time" Friday night, Bill Maher decided to end his show by mocking all the Republicans who have become prime targets for jokes now that George Bush is no longer front and center. "It turns out there were plenty of ridiculous Republicans behind him that we just couldn't see," Maher said. "His stupid star doth shone too brightly.

Rep. Alan Grayson on "Real Time"

Goldman Can Spare You a Dime

Frank Rich, The New York Times: ... It was hard not to think of Rockefeller’s old P.R. playbook while watching Goldman Sachs’s behavior when the Dow hit 10,000 last week. As leader of the Wall Street pack, Goldman declared surging profits, keeping it on track to dispense a record $23 billion in bonuses for 2009. But most Americans know all too well that only the intervention of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money saved Goldman from the dire fate of its less well-connected competitors. The growing ranks of under-and-unemployed Americans, meanwhile, are waiting with increasing desperation for a recovery of their own...
The idea of investing in the real economy — the one that might create jobs for Americans — remains outré in this culture. Credit to small businesses remains tight. The holy capitalist grail is still the speculative buying and selling of companies and the concoction of ever more esoteric financial “instruments.” The tragic tale of Simmons Bedding recently told in The Times is a role model. This successful 133-year-old manufacturing enterprise was flipped seven times in two decades by private equity firms. Investors made more than $750 million in profits even as the pile-up of debt pushed Simmons into bankruptcy, costing a quarter of its loyal workers their jobs so far...
In particular, the tone-deaf Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, never ceases to amaze. His daily calendars reveal that most of his contacts with the financial sector in the first seven months of 2009 were limited to the trinity of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan. And last week Bloomberg News reported that his inner circle of “counselors” — key advisers who, conveniently enough, do not require Senate confirmation — are largely drawn from the same club. It’s hard to see how any public official can challenge a culture that he is marinating in, night and day...

House Vote On Insurance Industry Antitrust Exemption Coming

Ryan Grimm, The battle against the health insurance industry is steadily intensifying. House Democrats have formally scheduled a vote to revoke the industry's cherished antitrust protection, according to a statement from Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.; shown at right). The move comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) have put up a unified front, calling for an end to the anti-competitive practice.
On Thursday, Pelosi noted to reporters that the Judiciary Committee had held a hearing on repealing the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, which exempts the insurance industry from antitrust laws.
Conyers announced Friday he'd take it to the next level and hold a vote on October 21. "These abuses are plainly illegal in other industries, and it does not make sense, when Congress is working so hard to bring meaningful reform to the market in health insurance, that health insurers should continue to be exempted from federal antitrust oversight," said Conyers. "This bill is an important complement to the public insurance option in ensuring that American families get the full benefits of choice, affordability, reliability, and quality service that competition brings."
That Conyers' announcement followed Pelosi's and Reid's push indicates an orchestrated offensive against the industry. A statement released Friday night by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a close Pelosi ally and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, further indicates a concerted effort.
"For far too long, health insurance companies have been exempted from playing by the rules that most other businesses must live by. They have abused that benefit. Now is the time to require them to abide by the same rules as everyone else. I believe it is long past time to repeal this exemption," he said.
LSB: I'm not dusting off my party hat just yet. This is usually the time when Rahm Emanuel usually steps in and sells us out to the lobbying group. Remember the drug companies? Besides, the only thing this Congress appears to be able to pass is gas!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Interracial couple denied marriage license

Associated Press: HAMMOND, La. - A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.
Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.
Neither Bardwell nor the couple immediately returned phone calls from The Associated Press. But Bardwell told the Daily Star of Hammond that he was not a racist.
"I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children."
Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.
"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."
If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

Thirty-year-old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay, both of Hammond, say they will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint. (more)
LSB: With two wars and the fight in Congress over health care, the White House has too much on its plate to worry about gay marriage, but let's see how long it takes the Department of Justice to get involved with a case that appears to affect only a few couples in some backwater Louisiana town.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jon Stewart Takes On Fox News For Not Covering Gay Rights March

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Gov. Rick Perry: Cameron Todd Willingham "Was A Monster"

Lila Shapiro, The Huffington Post: Texas Governor Rick Perry insisted again today that the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham was appropriate and that Texas did not, contrary to growing opinion, execute an innocent man.

"Willingham was a monster. He was a guy who murdered his three children, who tried to beat his wife into an abortion so that he wouldn't have those kids. Person after person has stood up and testified to facts of this case that quite frankly you all aren't covering," Perry told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Perry was already under fire for stifling a panel reviewing Willingham's case (he abruptly removed three people from the group 48 hours before the review, forcing its cancellation.). Now, the ousted head of the review panel claims he felt pressured by Gov. Perry's aides to shut down the probe. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Lawyers representing Gov. Rick Perry on two occasions grilled Austin lawyer Sam Bassett on the activities of his Texas Forensic Science Commission, telling him its probe into a controversial Corsicana arson case was inappropriate and opining that the hiring of a nationally known fire expert was a "waste of state money," the ousted commission chairman said Tuesday.

Bassett, who served two two-year terms as commission chairman before Perry replaced him on Sept. 30, said he was so concerned about what he considered "pressure" from the lawyers that he conferred with an aide to state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who reassured him "the commission was doing what it's supposed to do."

Basset added that he was told by aides that the group "should be more forward-looking, more current rather than examining older cases."

LSB: Yet another example of why Perry needs to go. I'm not sure Kay Bailey Hutchinson willbe any better, so is there a Dem on the horizon that can win the governorship next year?

Democrats launch attack on insurer exemption

Patrick O'Connor & Carrie Budoff Brown, The long-simmering tension between insurers and congressional Democrats is erupting into open warfare, with lawmakers stepping up their push to revoke a key federal protection for the insurance industry.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday called for an amendment to the health care reform bill that would remove the long-standing antitrust exemption for insurers [LSB: WTF?], echoing a push by other Democrats to crack down on the industry.

“The health insurance’s antitrust exemption is one of the worst accidents of American history," Schumer said. "It deserves a lot of the blame for the huge rise in premiums that has made health insurance so unaffordable. It is time to end this special status and bring true competition to the health insurance industry."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill last month to remove the anti-trust exemption and convened a hearing Wednesday, where Schumer called for eliminating the exemption as part of the health bill working its way through Congress.

Schumer's push comes on the heels of a controversial industry-sponsored report released over the weekend that makes the case that insurance premiums will go up by as much as $4,000 per family by 2019 if the Senate Finance Committee legislation is signed into law. The release of that report by the industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans sparked angry blowback from Democrats in both chambers. (more)

Dan Savage on the Joy Behar Show

Joy Behar has a new show on HLN (CNN's Headline News Channel). Tonight, her guests were Dan Savage and Bryan Batt on the topic of "Is Obama doing enough for the gays?"

It's good watching:

Repercussions face Snowe if she votes with Dems. But, no consequences for Dems. who undermine Obama health insurance reform agenda.

Check out Adam Green's diary at DailyKos, titled "Weak = Senate Dem Leaders."

Here's the gist: If Olympia Snowe votes for health insurance reform, her GOP colleagues will punish her by taking away her seniority on a key committee. On the flip side, if Democrats vote against the top priority of their party and their president, there are no repercussions. None. And, that includes Joe Lieberman who campaigned against Obama but still has a chairmanship. He won't rule out supporting the GOP filibuster of reform. Let's not forget, Lieberman was kept his position thanks, in part, to Obama. That turning the other cheek doesn't work so well on Capitol Hill.

Of course, in a article, "Dem Leaders brush off the left," we get a quote from another unnamed Senate Democratic aide, dismissing accountability and trashing the activists:

"This is a silly and unnecessary distraction that is not going to happen — period," added a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
Silly activists. Imagine expecting Democrats to be Democrats. We just all need to shut up and just do all the election work to make sure all the Democratic Senate aides get to keep their jobs.

Keep in mind, all we're asking is that Democrats deliver on the campaign promises made by Democrats.

LSB: Of course, Snowe did vote with the Dems, so it remains to be seen if Reps follow-through on the threat. If so, that says a lot about Snowe and it says a lot about both parties as Joe points out above.

"Even greedier than we imagined"

Robert Reich on how the insurance industry tipped its hand yesterday, by saying they'll have to increase the price of everyone's insurance plans if health care reform is passed:
[T]hey've now hoisted themselves on their own insured petard. They've exposed themselves. If they had to compete with a public insurance plan, they couldn't get away with this threat. They couldn't pass on the extra costs. They'd have to compete with a public insurance option that forced them to give consumers the best deals possible.

Now's the time for Congress and the White House to say to the insurance industry: You want to play hardball? Okay. We'll play it, too. You didn't want a public insurance option. That was one of your conditions for supporting the bill. You wanted gigantic profits from having thirty million new paying customers and the market to yourself. The Senate Finance Committee and the White House agreed because they wanted your support and were afraid of the negative ads and hurricane of opposition you could finance. But you're even greedier than we imagined. And now you've demonstrated that greed to the American people. They don't want to turn over even more of their hard-earned money to you. So, insurance companies, we've got news for you. We're going to make sure Americans have the freedom to choose a public insurance option that's cheaper and better, and you're going to have to work hard to keep them your customers.