Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why the 11th Circuit's Ruling Invalidating the "Individual Mandate" is a Positive Development

In John Nichols' column about the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' recent opinion striking down the "individual mandate" (IM) portion of the Affordable Care Act, he correctly points out that this decision is actually a very positive development in the fight over the American people's "right" to adequate medical care versus the "right" of large health insurance companies to deny care at their whim so as to maximize their profits.

After all, the primary effect of the IM will be to force people to pay money that many can't afford and thereby produce more windfall profits for greedy health insurance company executives and shareholders.

The most critical part of the appellate court's opinion consists of its conclusion that the IM provision is "severable" from the rest of the law i.e. the court's finding that the IM is unconstitutional does NOT invalidate the entire law, only the IM portion of it.

I can hear the Blue Cross executives screaming from here. And I think they're somewhere in the Midwest. Most of them are probably on their way home after over indulging in fried butter sticks and voting for Michele Bachmann in the Iowa straw poll.

What follows is a copy of a letter that I wrote on The Nation's blog in response to Mr. Nichols' article:

"In reference to John Nichols' column about 'Medicare for All,' he neglects to mention some of the most significant negative effects that will surely ensue if single payer is enacted:

(1) 120 Americans will no longer have the opportunity to die each and every day from lack of adequate medical care;

(2) We will lose the privilege of paying $350 billion per year for Health Insurance Companies' profits and administrative costs;

(3) We will be forced to pay approximately 40% of what we currently pay for our medications, thereby costing our friends in the pharmaceutical industry an equivalent share of their current profits; and

(4) We will no longer be able to enjoy some of the most important benefits of the current system, such as paying for our deductibles and co-pays.

But the worst part of all of this is that insurance company executives will lose the take home packages to which they have become accustomed, such as the $14 million that Wellpoint CEO Angela Braly took home last year shortly before she explained to the press that Blue Cross had no choice but to raise its premium rates by up to 39% this year because they had suffered through such a terrible fourth quarter last fall.

So, in view of this entire parade of horribles, doesn't our 'free market society' demand that our system of dispensing medical care remain exactly as is?'

Sunday, June 26, 2011

David Schuster Sums Up Everything That's Wrong With Our Obsequious President.

David Schuster, in a colloquy with Keith on the June 24, 2011, edition of "Countdown," pretty well summed up everything about this president that has been driving those of us on the left C-R-A-Z-Y. At least now we know that even Congressional Democrats are fed up with Barack Obama's always playing nice to people who constantly pull every dirtry trick in the book on him.

They use the term, "adult in the room," to describe the president's chosen approach to dealing with dirt bags. I regard that term as woefully inadequate to accurately describe the president's non stop capitulation to the GOOP's unreasonable demands.

In my mind, it's more like a street fight in which one participant boxes with strict adherence to the Marques of Queensbury Rules while his adversary uses brass knuckles, knives, and anything else he can find to cheat with. I wonder who ordinarily wins fights like this?

So, what follows is reasonably close to a verbatim rendition of last week's conversation between Keith and David. And, BTW, it's really great to have both of them back on the air even though Keith can't resist getting in digs at Chris Matthews at every opportunity....

David: “Part of the problem is that the Democratic caucus is infuriated because they see the president and Max Baucus essentially being the grownups in the room, saying, “Yes, we will be willing to put Social Security cuts, Medicare cuts, and Medicaid cuts on the table if Republicans will be willing to put tax changes on the table.

But now there’s Eric Cantor behaving like a two-year old, and a lot of Democrats are mad that there’s been no discipline; there’s been no punishment for Cantor walking out of the talks. And there’s a lot of anger in the Democratic caucus that the White House is trying to be grown up and, they believe, trying to talk rationally to people who are acting like children in terms of the Republican caucus.

“This has given Democrats essentially the opportunity to whack Republicans, to say they’re not being serious; that, if Republicans are willing to let the economy go into the ditch, and they don’t care, and Republicans only care about tax cuts for the rich, and they’re willing to wreck the economy for them.... The Democrats were very much on message on this talking point today.

Keith: “Senator Demint threatened his fellow Republicans today, saying, ‘vote for no compromise or start looking for another job.’ Is there any indication that the Democrats are willing to play a similar brand of hardball?”

[Ed.'s Note: You have to give Sen. Demented at least some credit. After all, he's the first GOOP who has done anything to create jobs this year.]

David: “There is. If you listen to people on the hill, they are eager for the White House to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to deliver a speech to the nation and say, ‘You know what? This raising the debt ceiling - it’s not about Medicare; it’s not about Social Security; it’s not about tax relief. It’s about protecting the economy or sending the economy into a tailspin. It’s that simple. And either the Republicans stand for protecting the economy, or they want to damage it.

“The Democrats believe that, at a certain point, the president can remove the side issues and make it that simple. He can go before the American people, deliver speech after speech, and use the bully pulpit of the White House to essentially beat up the Republicans, beat them into submission.

[Ed. Note: Didn't the President and the First lady recently campaign against bullying? Apparently, his aversion to this conduct also extends to his use of the bully pulpit.]

“But the president hasn’t been willing to do that. He’s still trying to be the grownup in the room. Nevertheless, this card can still be played, and it’s one that a lot of Democrats are eager for the White House to put on the table. “

Keith: “At what point though does this get hammered home to the president?”

David: “That where there’s a lot of nervousness, Keith. There are a lot of Democrats and a lot of progressives who are concerned that this is a president who, time and again, issue after issue, has not shown the stomach to play the sort of hardball politics, bare knuckle politics that, say, George W. Bush was willing to play or Bill Clinton was willing to play. That this is not a president who likes to bring the hammer down. He doesn’t want to be the guy who’s being tough, who’s saying, ‘We’re going to do it my way or else we’re going to beat the hell out of you. That’s not his style, and yet there are a lot of Democrats who like to say that, at a certain point, when the president is up against Republicans who are playing dirty politics, the president can NOT be the adult in the room. He’s got to show that he can be respected; that he can fight just as hard, stand just as hard for his principles as Republicans are trying to stand for theirs.”

I'm not holding my breath. IMHO, by repeatedly capitulating to the scumbags and goofballs on the right, Barack Obama is just as responsible for ruining this country as they are.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The following is a copy of a solicitation that I received this morning (June 21, 2011) from Credo requesting signatures on their petition to urge Justice Clarence Thomas to resign. At the end, I have added a couple of additional details about his writings while on the High Court.
This cause will be my primary goal for the foreseeable future.

"It's time for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign."

A New York Times expose published Sunday details the improper ties between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and influential right wing funder and activist Harlan Crow.

Crow is a major contributor to conservative causes and a stalwart supporter of Clarence Thomas. In past years he reportedly gave Thomas' wife, Ginni Thomas, $500,000 to exploit the Citizens United decision [in which her husband concurred] and start a shadowy, Tea Party-related group called Liberty Central. He gave Thomas a Bible (estimated value $15,000) that once belonged to Frederick Douglass, and allegedly provided the Supreme Court Justice with access to his yacht and private jet.

As if that wasn't enough, the New York Times has revealed that Thomas may have improperly solicited a multi-million dollar donation from Crow to benefit one of his own pet projects near his birth place in a remote coastal community outside Savannah, Georgia.

Enough is enough. It's time for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign.

Shockingly, the Supreme Court is not legally bound by the code of conduct for federal judges, though Justices Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy have testified to Congress that members of the Supreme Court voluntarily follow the code which explicitly prohibits justices from directly soliciting charitable donations. If Thomas can't legally be removed from office because adherence to ethics rules for the Supreme Court are voluntary, then we must simply demand his resignation.

Crow is far from a disinterested philanthropist. He has donated nearly $5 million to Republican campaigns and right wing groups, including a six digit donation to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth which so effectively attacked Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. He's on the board of the ultra conservative American Enterprise Institute which brought a case to the Supreme Court challenging federal voting rights laws, a case that found only one sympathetic vote on the court — that of Clarence Thomas.

Recusal is not enough. It's time for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign.

Crow is not the sole source of questionable ethical behavior on the part of Clarence Thomas. His highly questionable relationship to an ethically challenged Supreme Court justice is simply the latest to be exposed.

Clarence Thomas participated in a secret political fundraising event put on by the Koch brothers to fund Tea Party infrastructure groups.

And for years, Thomas disregarded rules requiring him to report his wife's income on financial disclosure forms. His household received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the conservative Heritage Foundation during a period when he was voting on landmark cases in which the right wing think tank had a clear ideological stake.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must resign.

This type of behavior wouldn't be tolerated for any other federal court judge. Common Cause Attorney Arn Pearson says in the Times, "The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period. If any other federal judge was doing it, he could face disciplinary action."

Even absent a legally binding code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices, a Justice resigning for ethics violations is not without precedent. Justice Abe Fortas resigned in disgrace in 1969 after it was revealed that he had received gifts from interested benefactors similar to those received by Clarence Thomas.4

Fortas, prior to resigning, actually recused himself from voting in cases related to his benefactor. Thomas, however, has refused to recuse himself from cases before the court in which organizations related to Harlan Crow continue to file briefs.

Enough is enough. It's time for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign.

Clarence Thomas' behavior has long been beyond the pale. In response to these latest revelations by the New York Times, it's long since time to demand Clarence Thomas' resignation.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics, New York Times, June 19, 2011.
2. What Role Have Scalia And Thomas Played In The Koch Money Machine?, Think Progress, October 20, 2010.
3. Clarence Thomas failed to report wife's income, watchdog says, Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2011.
4. Justices Have Been Forced To Resign For Doing What Clarence Thomas Has Done, Think Progress, June 19, 2011.

Postscript. Here are just two of Thomas's writings of which I am aware:
He has written that, in his opinion, the constitution does not prevent prison guards from torturing inmates (for the fun of it).
He penned the lone dissent from a decision of the High Court in which the 8 to 1 majority ruled that it was unconstitutional for school officials to strip search an elementary school-aged female solely because they had received uncorroborated information that she might be in possession of a legal drug! (She wasn't.)

This menace must be removed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Best Commentary I Have Heard about Congressmant Anthony Weiner and the Democratic Party in General.

Mike Papantonio expressed these most eloquent thoughts about Congressman Anthony Weiner on "The Ed Show" earlier this week.
Unfortunately, these comments were made before the latest alleged photo was released, which caused Papantonio to do a 180, which one can obviously understand.
However, in the course of recanting, for want of a better word, last night (June 8th), Papantonio did interject a few "pithy" comments about just how low on the evolutionary scale Andrew Breitbart is.
Here is a reasonably accurate recap of what he said on Monday night, June 6th:
"When Republican David Vitter was caught on the top of the DC Madame’s list, he didn’t resign, and Republicans stood behind him. Ensign was caught in a steamy sex tryst and then tried to cover it up with campaign funds. He didn’t resign until four years later when he had no choice. People forget that John Boner helped cover up the Mark Foley story when Foley was soliciting sex from underage Congressional pages. So it’s wrong to throw Anthony Weiner under the bus.
Look: progressives need courageous people with conviction. Weiner’s one of them. This is the time you stand behind them. It’s typical of Democrats to be afraid to go to bat for him. You could have gotten Weiner to show up for another Democrat. But it doesn’t surprise me that the Democrats ... they typically show this kind of lack of courage. They cave in. They’re afraid of every damn thing. So they won’t say, “Listen, let’s talk about what a lie is.
A lie is when you look at a camera and tell the American people that there are weapons of mass destruction, and it ends up in the deaths of thousands of Americans. THAT’S a lie. This is a bump in the road, and, if Democrats would show some courage like this Congressman does, they would be out there for him. Unfortunately, it’s a problem Democrats have. Weiner would be there for them; I can promise you that.
Boner lies every day about creating jobs, and Ryan lies every day about what he’s going to go to Medicare. These guys lie all the time. These are the lies that bother me.
What we’re missing about this whole thing is that Weiner isn’t just a Congressman. Weiner frames issues. Weiner says the things that other politicians are afraid to say. He’s like Bernie Sanders. I’m saying he’s worth fighting for because he’s the guy who will go out on the front line and say what every other Democrat might be thinking but doesn’t have the darn courage to say. And right now that’s what the Democrats need more than anything else: people with courage.
Nancy Pelosi did the right thing by calling for an ethics investigation. But don’t push this thing too much.
Let’s remember who we’re talking about. Yes, he may have some gremlins that he needs to deal with, but, when it comes to taking care of the American people, to taking care of people who are out of work, taking care of people in the country who need help, Anthony Weiner’s the guy who’s always there for them, and we’ve got to remember that as we go forward."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

With "Friends" Like Harry Reid, Ed Schultz, and Jon Stewart, Who Needs Rush Limbaugh?

Besides death and taxes, there are two other things that can be counted on like clockwork: Republican deception and lies and Democratic spinelessness.
It was sickening to watch the rats desert the sinking ship known as Anthony Weiner today. At least we now know why Harry Reid is their "leader." When asked what he would say if Weiner called him for help, Harry bravely proclaimed: "I'd tell him to call someone else." Nice going, Harry. That’s the way to stand up for your fellow liberals.
Some Ohio Congresswoman also engaged in Obamaian preemptive capitulation by donating $1000 that she had been given by Anthony's campaign to charity as instructed to do by the Republicans who, to their credit, would have circled the wagons around one of their own when he was in his hour of need. (Lord knows they've had plenty of practice.)
Then Big Ed,. great Big Ed, came unhinged. I've never seen him so furious. And who were the hapless targets of his fury? Joan Walsh and Bill Press, because they had the temerity to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Anthony should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be presumed guilty of tweeting an X-rated picture of himself strictly on the say so of, of all people, Andrew "The Editor" Breitbart, who is quite possibly the least credible individual on the planet.
Plus Breitbart looks like he should be the star of that commercial where the guy crawls out from under his rock to discover that he can save 15% on his insurance premiums.
It hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Big Eddie. First he needlessly, IMHO, apologized to Laura Ingraham; now he yells at Joan Walsh and Bill Press because they tried to mount a lukewarm defense of Anthony Weiner, who, notwithstanding the abject foolishness of his adolescent behavior, is still the most passionate and eloquent voice on the hill for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised in this country. Anthony deserves something for that, at least something more than the trembling, weak kneed response of Harry Reid and the out of control fury of Ed Schultz.
Congratulations, Ed. In the space of less than ten days, you have stood up for Laura Ingraham and Andrew Breitbart, two of the lowest forms of life in a right wing currently overloaded with bottom dwellers.
However, the most shameful performance of everyone, by leaps and bounds, belonged to Anthony's "friend," Jon Stewart. Look, I know Stewart is first and foremost a comedian; he relies primarily on the day's headlines for his material; and certainly no stories are, unfortunately, more headline grabbing this week than stories about Anthony Weiner.
But there is a limit, and for Stewart to strut around stage with his chin pushed out to mock his "friend's" appearance on top of all the other piling on that was taking place in the press, the blogosphere, and, of course, on right wing radio and The Fox Propaganda Channel, was a stunning act of disloyalty.
If an apology is warranted in all of this mess, Jon Stewart is the one who owes one to his former house mate, because, if anything was conclusively demonstrated tonight, it was that oldest and most hackneyed of aphorisms that, with friends like Jon Stewart, who needs Rush Limbaugh?

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Much More of Life Achievement Award Winning Scumbag and Professional Liar, Andrew Bretbart's, Malevolent Dirty Tricks Are Going To Be Tolerated?

“I deeply regret what I have done, and I am NOT resigning.” - Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY)
As difficult as it obviously was for Congressman Weiner to "come clean," it is heartening to hear that he has no plans to resign, which was obviously the primary objective of professional liar and dirt bag emeritus, Andrew Breitbart.
But the real story here is Breitbart, who, along with many of his 16-legged relatives and associates, should be behind bars (for multiple violations of people's rights to privacy as well as libel) where he can while away the hours with the rest of the vermin, instead of besmirching the internet with his incessant efforts to close down every successful, left leaning program and ruin the lives of every effective,left leaning politician, usually by photo shopping, tape splicing, and every other low rent, underhanded, dishonest, scumbag method of deception known to man.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ideological Terrorism

What follows is a summary of comments made by Sally Kohn on the May 31, 2011, edition of "The Ed Show" with Thomas Roberts filling in [very well I might add] for Ed. Ms. Kohn is the founder of The interview is not repeated verbatim, but it's close.

Ms. Kohn's remarks essentially pertain to the current Republican efforts to use the debt ceiling as leverage to try to force their mean spirited, medieval agenda on Democrats and the American people in general:

[A few observations by this blogger are internally bracketed.]

We’re at a new level of political threat. The Republicans are using the so called debt crisis for political theater. This time they are seriously threatening to ruin the future of the middle class. Let’s be very clear: This is ideological terrorism. They are threatening to blow up our nation’s economy and our future for the sake of some political point.

[Blogger’s Note: Yes, "some political point" all right. Like reducing taxes to the bare minimum for their rich and corporate campaign contributors, and the hell with everyone else].

This is a manufactured crisis that is being exploited by Republicans in order to cram down our throats a long held ideological agenda to kill government and everything that’s made America work for the middle class and the poor.

The truth at this moment is that businesses are sitting on record levels of capital that they’re not spending. Government is the spender of last resort. In the private sector, successful businesses have two times, three times, 14 times, sometimes 50 times, larger debt-to-income ratios than the government has. So why is it okay for them but not for us?

The so called deficit problem is merely a red herring that Republicans are trying to exploit. If they were serious about the deficit, 70% of their budget plan wouldn’t be going to more tax cuts for the rich. They would actually be lowering the deficit, which their plan doesn’t do.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan said, “Defaulting on the federal deficit would be unthinkable.” But that Republican Party was very different from the one we have now - the current Republican ideological terrorists are holding our government and our economy hostage.

[Blogger's Notes: This is hardly anything new. They forced the obscene 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthy down our throats last December by holding the extension of unemployment benefits hostage even though the consequence was that legions of people, who were unemployed through no fault of their own, faced the all too real prospect of becoming homeless and/or starving.
Yet the Republicans' only concern was protecting their mega-rich campaign donors from (gasp!) paying a few more dollars in taxes, money that wouldn't support most of them for two days.

Then they took us down to the wire again by threatening to shut down the entire government if Democrats didn't agree to a galaxy of immediate and substantial spending cuts.]

We will lose standing in the world if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. Our future, our children’s future, our grand children’s future will not continue to go on. Moreover, if Republicans get their way and slash government by 3/4 as they are planning to do with discretionary spending, our kids will not have the life that Americans have come to know.

-End of Ms. Kohn's Remarks-

What follows is commentary by this blogger should anyone wish to read on:

The scenario that we are witnessing has an eerily familiar feel to it. Hypothetically, what invariably happens when a spoiled child asks for $5, and you give it to him even though he doesn't necessarily need (or deserve) it? Why, he asks for more, of course. So the next time you give him $10. Is that going to satisfy him? Not a chance. He's on a roll now, and he's well on his way to asking for $15 and then $20. And he will continue to increase his demands into eternity unless you authoritatively put your foot down and say, "That is enough." And hold to it.

This is precisely what is happening with today's extremist incarnation of the Republican Party. They have become too damned used to getting their way. They keep dragging Democrats farther and farther to the right, and weak-kneed liberals and moderates (and a few Democrats who are philosophically not that far away from the Flea Party crazies) continue to accommodate them, thereby invariably causing "the goal posts to keep moving rightward."

Bill Maher said it best: "For 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital."

Well, what happens when you continually compromise with residents of an asylum? Yep, eventually you wind up with your own suite.

And this is precisely what is going to happen unless Democrats, and particularly the Capitulator-in-Chief, draw the proverbial line in the sand, and, once and for all, say, "That is enough. No more. We're done."

In other words, I'm waiting to hear Democrats, especially the President, say, with firm conviction and no hesitation:

"We will NOT address budget issues unless tax increases for the rich and for corporations are front and center on the table, and the oil subsidies are eliminated once and for all. And all reductions to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits are absolutely off the table. We can address waste and inefficiency in these programs, as well as the overinflated costs of medical care, but we will not cut so much as one cent from benefits."

I'd like to hear those words come from our President and Democratic Congressmen and Women with the same certainty and confidence that you hear from the Town Crier (Speaker John Boehner) when he says that "tax increases are off the table" and demands "trillions of dollars in spending cuts" in return for voting to raise the debt ceiling, and from Senate Majority Leader and tortoise lookalike, Mitch McConnell, when he says that he will not agree to an increase in the debt limit unless it is accompanied by substantial cuts to Medicare.

This is what this country has been waiting to hear, Mr. President. Without it, we are lost.

I called in and spoke with Big Eddie yesterday morning (June 1st) and asked what he thought of the debt ceiling issue because we have been hearing from Lawrence and most everyone else that the failure to raise the limit would have cataclysmic, worldwide effects.

Ed wasn't quite as sure about this as everyone else seems to be so one probably has to defer to the majority in this situation. But there is a middle ground that solves the entire quandary, and, on this aspect of the problem, I fully agree with Ed, Lawrence, and just about everyone else on MSNBC:

Even though the freshmen Flea Baggers in Congress are completely clueless (in addition to being mean spirited and stupid) and would eagerly watch with unvarnished glee as we plummeted into the abyss of default, "old timers" like Boehner, McConnell and their contemporaries well know that would be too crazy, and they will never allow it to happen. Neither would their Wall Street masters permit them to wreck our economy. The masters reserve that right for themselves.

So the course is clear: If the GOP forces us to play "chicken" again, we have no choice but to accept the dare. But this time, we don't have the option of swerving off to the side of the road even at the last moment. As dangerous as it may be, we have to go all the way to the precipice. Because, if we don't, the demands of that spoiled child will never end until the wheels finally come off, and our beloved country careens off the cliff and plummets into the darkness below.