Monday, November 30, 2009

Ensign's Selfless Act

How selfless of Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada). He's not resigning because it will hurt the Republican Party and its effort to oust the senate majority leader.

Perhaps he should get himself a gig writing for The Daily Show.

Misleading Headline for a Very Good Article

The Hill has a very good article summarizing the CBO's analysis of the senate health care bill's impact on health insurance premiums.

See if the headline matches the news article and then ask yourself, did the headline writer read the story?

Here's the headline:

"CBO: Senate bill would increase individual insurance premiums"

Here's the CBS' findings as summarized by the reporter:

1. "It finds the Senate legislation would reduce premiums by up to 3 percent for 134 million people who get insurance as a job benefit at a large company. This population is by far the largest component of the health insurance market: When the reforms kick in, 70 percent of people with coverage would get it from their jobs, a slight increase from the current rate."

2. "The average premium for people who work at large companies would remain about the same: $7,300 annually for an individual plan and $20,100 for a family policy."

3. "For small businesses that cover their workers in the so-called small group market, the average change in insurance premiums would range from a 2 percent decrease to a 1 percent increase. Under the bill, 13 percent of insured people would fall into this category. Factoring in new subsidies available to people with incomes below 400 percent of poverty, individuals in this market would pay 8 percent to 11 percent less than they do now."

4. "The direst finding for Democrats — and the figure most highlighted by Republicans — is health insurance premiums would be 10 percent to 13 percent higher for the 13.3 million people required to buy insurance under the bill, compared to what they would pay absent the legislation."

but please note the caveats to #4:

a. the [expensive] subsidies noted to offset those increases [a public option that was open for every American citizen would eliminate the need for the subsidies since that would drive down costs] for 17.7 million people (57% of those who will see their premiums increased)

b. the reason for the increase - better quality care

"One of the chief reasons insurance premiums would be higher for some people is that reform would require insurance companies to offer everyone in the individual and small-group market more generous and more stable coverage and increase competition among insurers, the report notes."

In other words, the price isn't really going up, the services that you are required to pay for are.

So, back to my original question? Did the person who wrote the headline read the article?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Priorities: Afghanistan vs. Domestic Concerns

see here.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) raised a good point on ABC's "This Week" today.

"You know, if I were to put Afghanistan into the context of what's happening in America today, and what's happening now is not only a $12 trillion national debt; we're in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The middle class is collapsing. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider.

Piece in the paper today, one out of four kids in this country are on food stamps. One out of eight Americans. And when we go Christmas shopping, we're going to be buying our products from China, who are lending us money to fight the war in Afghanistan. So I've got a real problem about expanding this war where the rest of the world is sitting around and saying, isn't it a nice thing that the taxpayers of the United States and the U.S. military are doing the work that the rest of the world should be doing?"

We have only a finite amount of resources and the question our president has to ask is whether he would devote our financial resources to job building programs and health care for working American citizens or if he would squander it on an endless commitment to Afghanistan.

Well, we know where Senator Lugar (I-Indiana), who was on CNN's "State of the Union" stands:

"I believe there will be a separate accounting, but in any event, I think we will have to pay for it. I would just make this suggestion, that in the three weeks of debate we still have ahead of us, we really ought to concentrate in the Congress on the war, on the overall strategy of our country and the cost of it. And we ought to be on the budget. Passing appropriations bills in a proper way.

Now in the course of that, we may wish to break out that. We may wish to discuss higher taxes to pay for it. But we're not going to do that debating health care and the Senate for three weeks through all sorts of strategies and so forth.

The war is terribly important. Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money."

I wonder if the Republicans understand what most hard-working Americans are going through.

Obama is really blessed by his enemies, for as much as he has fumbled the ball on health care reform and as much as he has decided to tie his policies to the "bankers" on Wall Street, his opponents are much worse. They really, as Matt Taibbi pointed out in his latest Rolling Stone article, hate him for the wrong reason. They hate him because he is a liberal, or because he is black or because he doesn't get offended when two male lovers hold hands and not because he is selling out to Wall Street. They hate him because he, however tepidly, "fighting" for something that could ultimately help them. Go figure.

"-Obama's Big Sellout" by Matt Taibbi

I get Rolling Stone, and read this depressing but must-read article. Too bad the link is not up yet.

Basic gist: Obama hired the people who have no interest in promoting financial regulatory reform.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Best Saturday Night Live Sketches

in a long time by far. They absolutely nailed it last night most notably with with the imaginary Sino-American press conference.

Palin's Prayer Porn

Get a look at this at this excerpt from Sarah Palin's "book" provided by Sally Quinn of The Washington Post.

(By the way, in her book Palin writes about, how, during the campaign, she took a call from Pastor Rick Warren when she was showering and that he offered to pray with her."I said, absolutely! Pray away! I would never turn down prayer even with limited hours in a campaign day, standing in a few inches of water with a shower curtain for a wardrobe. You do what you've got to do."

Obviously Sally Quinn doesn't think too highly towards claims that some higher being tells us what to do and she does a great job pointing to the contradictions in that line of thinking but on a lighter note,

I'm curious, since the former governor didn't mention it when she spoke about her shower prayer experiences - was she wearing the rosary in the shower and did the towel cover that?

Monday, November 16, 2009


Sarah Palin:

David Brooks nailed it on "This Week."

The 9-11 Trial:

The conservatives are split. David Brooks opposes it; George Will does not.

The Obama bow

a simple act of courtesy that probably went a long way towards restoring some good will from the president's counterparts. I'll take Obama's bow over his predecessor's "cowboy" persona any day.

Prejean's Hypocrisy Did Her In

"All Carrie Prejean ever really decided to do was answer a question that way." - Kathryn Jean Lopez defending Carrie Prejean in The National Review

Point 1:

"All Carrie Prejean ever really decided to do was answer a question that way" then behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles she espoused. Prejean survived Perez Hilton's question. Donald Trump defended her right to stand up for what she believed. What doomed her were the sex scandals that followed. Prejean's hypocrisy was her undoing.

Point 2: Concerning NOW's Silence

I don't think the National Organization for Women regards a woman's decision to dress up like a [straight] male's sex object highly.

Point 3: The Title "Honestly!"

Needs to be changed since it only reminds us of ex's claim that she told him to lie about the timing of the sex tapes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Solid Gay Rights Victory in Washington

Our margin for victory in Washington exceeds 6% points as of now, with approximately 9,500 votes left to count.

Trials: Punishing Terrorists the Right Way

Today our Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr., said his office will prosecute five war detainees accused of participating in the 09/11/2009 terrorism plots, in civil court and four war detainees, including one involved in the bombing of a U.S. naval destroyer in 2000, before a military commission.

Some conservatives, no doubt will oppose this decision. John Yoo, a law professor who served in the Bush administration's Justice Department, said will allow the accused to expose our intelligence gathering techniques within the courtroom. Others say Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who may be the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist act that killed 3,000 + men, women and children, may be released or otherwise acquitted by a jury of his peers since some of the information which his interrogators obtained was gathered through illicit means.

The information which the accused may seek may no doubt include classified information that should not be released to the public. The judge that ultimately hears the case, however, can impose restrictions on the release of that information and close at least a part of these trials from the public while letting the accused cross-examine the witnesses testifying against them.

Mohammed will have his day in court. He will face his accusers and the charges that are leveled against them and he will have the opportunity to refute them before a jury of his peers. If Mohammed and his co-conspirators are convicted they will face the death penalty, where again they will have an opportunity to confront, and refute the evidence used to justify its use. If they are acquitted, and there are no other charges pending against them, Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be set free.

Conservative grand-standing notwithstanding, this is a risk we face every day. Your local pedophile can be released if the evidence that is used against him was tainted by substandard evidence-gathering techniques. The suspected serial killer might be released if the testimony provided by him (or by other witnesses) is proven unreliable since it is coerced. Timothy McVeigh, the man who was convicted of and executed for the bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City fourteen years ago could have walked (to bomb again) another federal building if he was acquitted by the jury of his peers. Had the decision gone the other way, McVeigh would have lived to bomb another day.

In one sense, the stakes involved hear are loweer. Should he be acquitted, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed won't be released into the general public. Since he is not an American citizen, he will be released to the country of his birth or any other country that would accept him.

"The Right to Have a Roof Over [Their] Heads"

"The issue before you tonight is the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against." Michael Otterson, for the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

"Sexual orientation is an illusion. It only exists in the minds of activists, and their academics, who need to explain away why people do what they do even when they don't want to do it."
- Paul Mero of the nutty Sutherland Institute, brought to you by Chino Blanco at Pam's House Blend

I don't know why no one laughed when Mero (almost sounds like Nero) of the Sutherland Institute spoke before the Salt Lake City council.

But while I'm on the topic, why doesn't Obama use Mr. Otterson's talking points to push for ENDA which offers gays the most rudimentary of job protections but no housing rights. If anything, he could use the LDS talking points to push for housing protections once ENDA is passed. What did Mr. Otterson say this ordinance would protect? The gays' "right to have a roof over their heads?" who can object to that?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Obama's "Dithering" Quite Welcome

President Barack Obama's most strident critics, including former Vice President Richard Cheney, accuse him of "dithering" on the war in Afghanistan. They say he has proven himself to be an indecisive leader since he cannot decide whether he should send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, as General Stanley A. McChrystal said, or leave the country altogether. Failure to provide the requested troops would, they assert, lead to Afghanistan's loss to the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorist groups which provided them with the safe haven they used for planning the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks.

He was expected to endorse a smaller troop surge after his return from Asia but recent developments put that in doubt. First, Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, doubts the efficacy of sending any new troops into the country. Mr. Eikenberry, the report suggests, would have the president redirect our focus from the military to the civilian theater of operations in an effort to rebuild the nation.

Second, the president himself reportedly rejected all four proposals for the shift in strategy. Mr. Obama was not satisfied since he is specifically looking for an attainable, measurable goal so that he can withdraw our forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

I don't know if this can really be done and the president will probably be criticized no matter what he does. We will be second-guessing everything which the president does. There are no good options. Losing Afghanistan could mean losing Pakistan. The Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan are connected to the terrorists the Pakistanis once considered their allies in its dispute with India. Doubling down however, adds to the cost in both both, manpower and finances. Billions of dollars could be squandered building a nation that cannot be built for an unspecified period of time before we ultimately conclude it was all for naught. The troops that might be needed elsewhere could be tied down in Afghanistan for years and the money that is wasted in Afghanistan could be used nation-building projects needed at home.

But I do find his "dithering" very comforting. He's thinking about this and he is challenging his advisers to think this through. At the very least, he doesn't want us to believe he will make a decision between flawed options that are justified by faulty or baseless assumptions.

I'll take his "dithering" over his critics gun-ho swagger any day.

If The LDS Can Back Gay Rights, Could Obama?

If the largely anti-gay LDS can endorse something as basic as nondiscrimination in housing, and employment, why can't the president and the Democrats, our purported allies, pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which only protects us from job discrimination?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Diversity in the Millitary Taken Too Far

On Sunday, the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said he worried about a backlash against Muslims in the armed forces and emphasized the military’s reliance on those men and women.

“Our diversity, not only in our Army but in our country, is a strength,” General Casey said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
excerpt from The New York Times

I don't see why it should unless those who knew of this militant's background were so dense that they couldn't distinguish between a person who prays five times a day after saluting the flag and a person who condemns the United States for going to war, endorses jihad, and attempts to contact Al Qaeda.

The Attack on Diversity in the Military Taken Too Far

"There are lessons in the Pentagon’s gender wars for anyone who doubts the power of political correctness in the military. The feminization of the military has been at the hands of military leaders with medals attesting to their physical bravery who surrendered in the face of liberal cultural warriors. In recent years, the military’s ranks have been ruthlessly patrolled for any sign of resistance to the brass’s gender-blind agenda. When official definitions of sexual harassment, for example, include expressing reservations about women in combat or making note of gender-normed scores in physical tests, officers and troops learn to keep their reservations to themselves. Kingsley Browne has a terrific piece recounting the injustices that have resulted from the military’s aggressive zero-tolerance policies with respect to gender integration. General Casey has now reiterated his zero tolerance for misgivings about “diversity.” Message received. Is it any more likely that a colleague would report the jihadist sentiments of an active-duty soldier today than a week ago? When General Casey would be fretting about “chilling effects” and “backlashes?” at The Corner

Um. No. Major Nidal Malik Hasan's actions was not a woman. He is a man, so letting women serve in the military did not expose the soldiers to the likes of Hasan. And he acted like a "stereotypical" man. He didn't cry. He got enraged and then he killed people. And then he was stopped by a woman. Perhaps Mrs. O'Beirne should shop around for another excuse for keeping war hawks like herself out of harm's way.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"AP sources: Officials reviewed suspect's Web posts"

What a surprise.

Apparently some officials knew about this mass murderer's thoughts through his postings on the internet six months ago. And he was going to the Middle East.

Homophobia in the News Business

"Strange Bedfellows

Washington voters approve expanded gay rights" - strange, homophobic headline

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Some Good News on the Gay Rights Front

in Kalamazoo, we won.

We're losing in Maine. The enemy had just pulled into the lead. The results from Portland are in so the only hope we really have lies in Bangor but it's still close and we may pull ahead with any absentee ballots. Yes, we outspent the enemy but don't let that fool you. They don't need as much since they have the religious establishment behind them. They need only have their priests condemn gay people during one of their homilies, then get their volunteers to drive them to the polls.

I'll add the results to Maine when that happens.

In the meantime we are behind in Washington which is really bad. Yes, 13% of the precincts reporting but this isn't about marriage. It's about domestic partnerships.

This is a very bad night overall. The theocrats sweep Virginia and take the governor's mansion in New Jersey (though the Democrats kept the Assembly), they pulled ahead in Maine, albeit slightly and they are winning in Washington.


Oh. we are now winning in Washington (with three counties left to report) so we might have a split verdict with a 2.26%$ margin of victory in Washington (obviously with most of the support coming from the Seattle Metropolitan Area) and a 4% point loss (with most of our support coming from Portland).

Well, we at least won in two elections and on two important points.

We trounced the bigots in a small Michigan city on an anti-discrimination ordinance and then we upheld, albeit by a small margin a domestic partnership law in Washington.

I love this tidbit from the "The Stranger:"

Washington state's anti-gay bigots are slinking out of the Holiday Inn in Everett. The SECB wasn't allowed to reenter the ballroom after one of the security guards saw spotted the SECB's notebook. We did manage to catch up with Larry Stickney, director of the Washington Families Alliance and the "brains" behind R-71, in the nearly-empty hallway outside the ballroom.

"I don't deal with you guys," Stickney told the SECB. "You guys need to be practiced in civil discourse before I talk to you guys."

Still, ballots have yet to be counted in each county. The good news -

Andrew Sullivan
, as usual, sees some good out of Maine. Perhaps he was smoking a little too much.

NJ Gubernatorial: Turnout for Republicans Felt like a a Presidential Election; Turnout for Democrats Did not

Gloucester County - Corzine lost.

Middlesex County - Corzine is behind by a point though approx. 1/2 of the precincts have yet to report.

Cumberland County
- Corzine wins but with only 1/2 of the voters who turned out behind him.

Ocean County - overwhelmingly for Christie as expected

Monmouth County - again no surprise, for Christie with high voter turnout (hovering around the 50% mark)

Morris County - with turnout hovering around 47% of the vote - wipeout for Christie. No surprise

Corzine won Essex but turnout was low - hovering around 36%

Chris Christie unseated a very unpopular incumbent whose polling numbers never hovered near the 50% line. He was an ineffective communicator and an ineffective governor who failed to control spending in Trenton because he failed to reign in the unions that backed him. Voters in New Jersey were furious because they were paying high property taxes and getting nothing for it.

Republican Sweep

The Republicans not only swept Virginia but they took New Jersey. This may not have been a referendum on President Barack Obama but he was a political embarrassment since voters in both states ignored his plea for support. Corzine was a terrible candidate. He couldn't explain himself. He barely edged Christie out in Union and lost in Gloucester. Wow.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Maine: No on 1

Like their counterparts in Washington, Maine's residents will have an opportunity to affirm or reject the rights that state's legislature and governor have provided to Maine's gay and lesbian community but while the opposing camps in Washington are battling over domestic partnerships that read like civil unions, the opponents in Maine are battling over marriage, as well as the rights that it entails.

Before Governor John Baldacci (I-Maine) signed Maine's marriage bill into law, gays and lesbians who entered into relationships were given limited domestic partnership rights that included the same health care proxy and visitation rights referred to in prior post as well as some probate rights. Those are not being challenged by the "Yes on 1" people's veto campaign. Nevertheless, residents in Maine should vote "No on 1" for the same reason Washington's residents should vote for Referendum 71. Granting Maine's gay and lesbian Americans marriage rights will mean granting them all of the rights that they are currently deprived of now.

Those who oppose Maine's inclusive gay marriage law say teachers will use it to teach about homosexuality in Maine's public schools. They point to one case where Massachusetts' inclusive gay marriage law and another case in California's Alameda County to do just that. They have a problem with the facts. Maine, like California, leaves these matters within the hands of each school district so the conservative leaning school districts won't be forced to change their school curriculum to promote homosexuality. Liberal school districts, however, won't be deterred from implementing their anti-bullying programs if Maine's voters reject gay marriage. California's Alameda County promotes tolerance even though California's passed a constitutional amendment overturning that state's inclusive gay marriage law.

Voters should reject the fear-mongering their Catholic leaders are engaging in and affirm the right of all residents to care for their loved ones without any hindrances from the state.

Washington: Affirm Referendum 71

When voters in Washington State go to the polls this Tuesday they will be asked to either uphold or reject a law that grants same-sex couples (and senior citizen couples that don't marry) the same legal rights and responsibilities opposite-sex couples take for granted when they marry.

The state began the gradual process of granting these couples rights nearly 2.5 years ago. Legislation that was signed into law in 2007 and expanded in 2009 granted these couples the right to visit their loved ones in a hospital and to make fully-informed life-sustaining/ending decisions on his or her behalf and the right to make funeral arrangements, donate the deceased partner's organs, and dispose of the deceased partner's body as he or she sees fit. The legislation also provided for basic inheritance and estate administration rights and made communal property and domestic violence laws applicable to domestic partners.

Thankfully, Referendum 71 does not ask Washington voters to accept or reject those rights which were granted in legislation passed in 2007 and 2008. Gay Washingtonians will have the same hospital visitation and probate rights whether their neighbors vote to affirm referendum 71.

This referendum concerns the rights granted in legislation passed and signed into law this year. Senate Bill 6588 grants domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities that the state affords to married, heterosexual couples without the label that purportedly offends those who consider "marriage" to be a religious sacrament. Specifically this legislation addresses the disparities in worker compensation coverage offered to married couples and domestic partners, and provide for the remaining disparities in familial treatment that were not addressed in the prior legislation.

This law, for example would grant an employee the same right to use sick leave to care for his or her same-sex domestic partner that an employee would have to care for his or her opposite sex spouse. Workers who would otherwise not be allowed to enroll their significant other into the company's health insurance plan will be allowed to do so under the same terms that are granted to married heterosexual couples. Unpaid wages will pass on to the surviving member in a domestic partnership.
and the state will treat domestic partnerships like married couples with respect to spousal rights, and child custody.

Referendum 71's proponents have done themselves no credit by casting this as a basic issue of fairness, nor have they done themselves any favors by allowing their opponents to cast this as a referendum on the homo-sexualization of their public schools. Programs designed to combat anti-gay prejudice in schools predate gay marriage and gay domestic partnerships. They thrive in jurisdictions where gay marriage is the law and they thrive in jurisdictions that do not offer gay marriage. And they are challenged in jurisdictions that have and don't recognize same-sex unions. One need only look at the gay tolerance program challenged in Massachusetts, where gay marriage was legalized and the gay tolerance program that thrives in Alameda County, California in spite of that state's repeal of that state's inclusive marriage laws.

Nor have they done themselves any favors by appealing for the rlease of the names of anyone who signed the petition challenging Washington's expanded domestic partnership law. Attention and resources devoted to this endeavor could have been used to educate Washington's voters about the ways this law affects their neighbors in their daily lives.

Those who say this amendment is about fairness and equality have been selling themselves short. No this is not merely about some abstract constitutional right or principle which voters can accept or reject and then move on with their lives. This is about real people facing real challenges. A vote to reject Washington's domestic partnership legislation isn't merely unfair towards those it was designed to help; it is cruel towards to them. It isn't merely a vote to deny gay people some abstract right married couples take for granted but rather a vote to deny them the right to use sick time to care for their loved one to in their moment of need or the right to provide their loved ones with the same access to their employers' health care plans their straight counterparts take for granted. This isn't merely about the same custodial rights to a child but the need to consider the son or daughter's strong bond to both parents in a dissolving familial unit.

Washington isn't merely voting on some abstract rights. They are voting on people's lives and once that state's residents see that they should be able to push these other side issues to the side. If this referendum's opponents are afraid this will encourage gay Washingtonians to press for the right to marry they can always gather the signatures required to challenge that law, just as they have done here. They could see this is about the disparity in employee pay offered to two individuals doing the same work.

So Much for Wall Street Regulation

"Whereas the original TARP included some oversight language and power to limit Wall Street bonuses, TARP on steroids includes no specific oversight or executive pay constraints. Whereas TARP permitted the government to underwrite both small and large banks, TARP on steroids allows taxpayer cash to go only to the behemoths (which, not coincidentally, tend to make the biggest campaign contributions). And whereas TARP limited the Treasury secretary's check-writing authority to two years and $700 billion, TARP on steroids would let him spend as much as he wants for as long as he wants." from Salon

Read this and weep. President Barack Obama promised change and one area where that change was most obvious was on Wall Street, where those who were responsible for the collapse on the stock market, the ones who wiped out pension plans got bailed out while the smaller banks that actually lend to small businesses have been ignored. Do not the Democrats, who now run both the White House and Capitol Hill know who they work for? Why are they giving the Obama and future administrations the authorization to write these Wall Street thugs a blank check when they should be devoting their time to cutting this banks down to size?