Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Health Insurance Companies Have No Moral Scruples

They apparently are looking for a way to deny children coverage and they think they found the loophole. Perhaps they would have child labor laws repealed so the children as young as six years old can work in the factories that haven't closed down and pay for their own health care. Now what were the liberals saying about eliminating the middle man and letting everyone buy into Medicare? Oh right.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Race-based Abortion?

So let me get this straight. A black woman would abort her own child if she had any reason to believe it would grow up black? Did Georgia really have to protect fetuses from parents with the same racial complexion?

I'd think prospective parents down there would abort their children if they had any reason he/she would turn out gay.

Conservatives Contradicting Themselves

This really amazes. Georgia's senate passes a bill requiring public schools to teach a "study of the Pledge of Allegiance" while dedicating a portion of their highway to honor the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Both. the bill and the resolution were passed on the same day. I wouldn't be too surprised if the very people calling for Texas' secession from the union are the same people who backed a flag burning amendment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wacko Letter to the Editor

'hem gays and KKK folk should march together.

Maybe it's me but it seems like Bernardi would be one of the people wearing the dunce caps at the march given his reverence for confederates.

But aside from that, didn'Bernardi hear about the right to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble? Deekster says the acceptance of practices (or well in this case, First Amendment activities) would lead to anarchy if unregulated. Gay pride parades are conducted in many American cities (and many democratic countries around the world) and for some reason they have not led to riots, house burnings, or the the breakdown of law and order.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Relief Bill Passes

It took them nearly a year but the president and the Democratic majority in Congress have passed a health care reform bill which will be signed into law within the very near future. It is by no means a perfect bill and in fact some of us would question whether it can even be described as a good reform bill but it will nevertheless provide 30 million Americans with more affordable access to health care. It will, in the long term, ban insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions (children now; adults in 2014) and it will allow younger Americans to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until the age of 26.

The president has now accomplished what former President Bill Clinton did not. He passed a health care reform package. Mr. Clinton did not. The bill reads more like a health care relief rather than a health care reform bill. It does not reign in the health insurance companies. It neither offers Americans the liberal option of promoting competition (by allowing them to buy Medicare coverage) nor does it offer them a modified conservative plan to promote competition (by allowing us to purchase health insurance across state lines, which might have worked if the insurance rules were leveled nationwide and strictly regulated as a utility, two things not included within the Republican proposal).

But the Republicans were never in this debate and never made an effort to contribute to this debate. They haven't proposed any market-based reform package that would cover 30 million uninsured Americans when the president offered them an opportunity and they haven't proposed any market-based reform package to do that when they were in power. To be perfectly honest, the Republicans have proven that, for the past decade anyway, that they have no interest in making health insurance more affordable to those who cannot as of now purchase it.

Ultimately if the United States is going to cut health care costs, it will have to (a) shift the payment reimbursement incentives away from services to one based upon effective treatment, (b) reform tort law, and (c) cut into the profits of the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies that inflate the health care costs (either by promoting competition or by eliminating the profit-based system entirely).

Passing this bill, however, allows health care reform advocates to work on the next steps at a future date. For passing this bill which provides more Americans with an opportunity to purchase affordable health insurance, the Democrats deserve our commendation.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Moral Failings of Conservative Priorities

"There is a fundamental problem here, one that can't be elided by pointing out the differences between "true" conservatism and Republicans. A bias toward time-tested, societal institutions almost necessarily means a bias toward institutional evil. Likewise, a skepticism of change almost necessarily means a skepticism of those who seek to expand democracy beyond property-owning white men. Taken in sum you have an ideology, whatever its laudable merits, that will almost always, necessarily, look charitably upon those with power, or those who control the institutions, and skeptically upon those without power, or those who seek to change those institutions." Ta-Nehisi Coates on his web blog hosted at The Atlantic

Coates is definitely on to something even if he overstates the case against tradition with his "almost necessarily" statement. The conservatives' reverence for tradition, religious beliefs, and the social order does lead them to some morally callous political solution. I cannot understand how any conservative could accept the states' right position on abortion, for example, and simultaneously believe that the procedure is an act of murder. If abortion is murder, the state has no choice but to outlaw the procedure and prosecute violators to the fullest extent that the law would permit (even if that involves life in prison for the mother and the abortionist. Yet many conservatives hold to both principles simultaneously and then tell us they won't put the woman who is seeking an abortion behind bars even though they have all but accused her of being a murderer.

Chris Crain said as much on his blog a month ago:

"Beyond the power politics of it, I also cannot help but judge the conservative movement by its followers, not to mention its leaders, and to conclude there is something fundamentally wrong with their philosophy, their judgment, and their movement if they are so committed to opposing my equality, or cynically ally with those who are.

It is an inescapable indictment of the conservative philosophy or temperament that so many who are so wrong on our issues find a home in that movement and ascend to power within it. David Boaz was dead-on to call conservatives out for being on the wrong side of pretty much every civil rights movement in U.S. history, only embracing the principle of equality and justice after the dust settles in that particular battle. "

Monday, March 15, 2010

Comon Sense v the Religious Right

Sometimes you just have to let the conservatives make the case against the religious right's distorted views.

from the editorial:

"Anti-discrimination laws and policies don't create special classes of people who have more protection than others. For instance, the law doesn't say, "No discriminating against black people" -- thereby leaving open the door to discrimination against white people.

Rather, the law says, "no discriminating on the basis of race." The law protects everybody -- white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. That's why the Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of white firefighters who were denied promotion in the famous race-discrimination case in New Haven, Conn.

Likewise, a law forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation doesn't protect just homosexuals. It also would protect a straight man or woman who was discriminated against by a gay boss."

In other words, nondiscrimination laws remove from consideration a list of characteristics deemed irrelevant when distinguishing between people.

Hayworth, Marriage and Horses

Former U.S. Congressman, and conservative radio talk show host J.D.Hayworth (R-Arizona) is running against Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) in this year's primary elections. He is running to the senator's right by opposing the unpopular bank bailout on Wall Street, opposing immigration reform that includes amnesty for illegal aliens, and supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriages nationwide. When he appeared on a Florida radio talk show, the senator affirmed his support for a constitutional amendment by comparing the affectations men have with other men to affectations men may have with a horse.

This slippery slope argument doesn't work for one obvious reason that shouldn't but apparently does need stating - unless we are talking about "Mister Ed," (and he is of course fictional), horses cannot talk back and consequently, cannot inform the man or woman whether or not it wants to engage in an intimate relationship with him. The horse would not tell his male or female companion how much it loves him or her or how much it loves his or her eyes or, how much it wants to spend every passing moment with his man or woman and believing otherwise is well, horses---.

More on the Terrorism Trials

McCarthy strangely overlooks the basic fact that much of the litigation for the Guantanamo detainees concerns whether they are in fact the enemy. McCarthy presupposes that we all know that all the folks at Gitmo are terrorists, and the only issue is whether we feel like helping them knowing that it hurts America. But like the soldiers at the Boston Massacre, and like other criminal defendants, the Guantanamo detainees are “the accused.” Orrin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Health Care Bill and Rachel Maddow's Overconfidence

I think Rachel Maddow is way too confident about the president's prospects for getting health care reform passed. If the vote for the health care reform was the sure bet she thinks it is, the president would not have postponed his trip to Australia, Indonesia, and the U.S. territory of Guam.

At this point it makes far more sense to pass the watered down senate bill and it seems as if too many Congressmen want something added to the bill when the House of Representatives has to pass the bill as is if reform advocates are going to avoid a filibuster in the senate.

That means no entitlements for illegal (ahem "undocumented") immigrants, no new abortion restrictions and no new public option (as much as I'd like it). We are coming down to the wire and the House has to either take it or leave it.

Further changes can be made at some point in the future, when the people who stand to benefit from this bill take the rights it offers for granted.

Texas Education Agency: The Wrong "Thomas"

from The New York Times - Even the course on world history did not escape the board’s scalpel.

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

I couldn't believe I was reading this so I went to the board's sight just in case. They will have a full posting of their changes in April.

Please let Texas secede. Please. In fact, ask them to.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gay Marriage in the Capital

Beautiful. I hope it lasts and I hope that their marriages last too.

A Brief Comment Concerning Republican Talking Points on Rhetoric

Some Republicans, most notably those who are associated with former Vice President Richard Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth Cheney, claim that our president is inviting further terrorism by trying the 9-11 conspirators before a criminal court, offering them lawyers, and hiring lawyers who once defended terrorist suspects to work in the Justice Department.

These accusations have apparently worked insofar as they have brought the president's poll numbers down on national security. Demagoguery has its assets, particularly when the public has every desire to believe that a G.I. Joe "kill the bad guys" policy will solve every complex problem we face around the world. Our president, apparently, will undercut his Attorney General and move some of these terrorists, who originally were going to be tried in Manhattan before a civil court, to the military commissions, where the process favors the prosecutors. Like the Democrats who caved moments after the president signed an executive order designed to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the president will not fight for or make the case for the Democratic Party's values, even when they are more closely aligned with what is authorized in the Constitution.

I will not comment at length on Lynn Cheney's "jihad 7" lawyer ad (this concerns lawyers who represented Al Qaeda) since conservative and liberal commentators alike have debunked the guilt-by-association claim on the talk shows that have given it prime coverage. In our adversarial system of justice, someone has to represent the suspect and someone has to represent the government. Both make their case for why the suspect should be convicted or acquitted of the crime in question and then a jury (or judge if a jury trial is waived) decides if the suspect should go free or not.

One of perhaps the more galling "critiques" (at least for someone who has some rudimentary understanding and appreciation for our legal process) is the claim that the Obama administration is "treating the terrorists like any common criminal." Republicans have used this talking point on all of the major political talk shows.

Insofar as they are providing incomplete information, these Republicans are misleading the average viewer who watches these programs. The process by which we determine if a suspect is guilty or not guilty of committing the crimes he or she is accused of would be the same, as it should be, if he or she is tried in civil court. There can only be one standard, after all, for determining whether an individual who is on trial is guilty or innocent of the charges he or she is accused of. Either the individual in question is guilty or not and there is either enough evidence to convict the individual in question or there isn't.

The person who is convicted of committing an act of terrorism, however, would not be treated like a common criminal. In all likelihood, he or she will receiver a harsher penalty than the person who robs a jewelry store or the person who sells some marijuana to a group of high school or college students. Murderers (or would-be murderers) could get the death penalty if they are tried by a jurisdiction that would allow for it. Your run-in-the-mill thief would not.

So, in summary, the process by which people who are accused of committing crimes are proven guilty or not guilty is the same but treatment exacted on convicted criminals would differ at it should when the gravity of the crime differs substantially. The political slogan the Republicans are using may sound more catchy and it may scare and/or infuriate voters who rightly think terrorists shouldn't be treated like common criminals, but it is grossly irresponsible to use it since they are undermining the president's credibility with a lie.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Taibbi: Passing this bad Health Care Bill Beats Passing No Health Care Bill

"As much as Obamacare sucks, though, the alternative is even worse. For one thing, the defeat of Obama's health care initiative would set a decisive precedent: that even a transcendently popular new president armed with a congressional supermonopoly is forbidden to so much as put a regulatory finger on an organized, politically connected industry. For another thing, Obama's pukish bungling of health care may achieve what previously seemed impossible: exhuming the syphilitic corpse of George W. Bush's Republican Party, and, shit, who knows, maybe eight years of President Sarah Palin." - Matt Taibbi in Rollling Stone

He also says the president has to go for the jugular:

"Democrats and Republicans are basically the same on a lot of issues: They both voted for the Iraq War, they both love pork and useless weapons programs, they both lift their skirts for Wall Street. But they have one major stylistic difference: Republicans are unafraid to exercise power, while Democrats try to run government like one of those pansy-ass T-ball leagues, where every kid gets to have a hit, nobody loses, and nobody has to go home with an ouchie or hurt feelings.

Well, T-ball is over. If Obama wants to pass any kind of reform — even one as riddled with industry giveaways as the current measure — he is finally going to have to take a swing in anger. If he doesn't, it may well mark the moment when our government conceded that it can never force any powerful industry to accept any kind of change, no matter how minimal."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Social Conservatives Should Reconsider their Opposition to Women Serving Behind Enemy Lines

A story for all of those who don't think women should serve in the military, let alone work on the front lines. Perhaps you might want to reconsider your decision. General Stanley A. McChrystal is relying upon them to reach out to Afghanistan's women.

Teacher Accountability

“If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability,” - President Barack Obama, as quoted in The New York Times

You'd think this is a no-brainer. Most people who go to work know their employer will judge them on their job performance and if the results are good they might get a bonus, raise, or promotion and their evaluation is bad they might get a reprimand, passed over for a promotion, or worse, fired. That's the deal. You play be the rules, you get the paycheck. You don't measure up, you're axed.

This is why everyone is mad at the banks which were too big to fail. They failed, then got bailed out. Their CEO's meanwhile, are still "awarded" with 6-7 digit bonuses. Go figure.

The teachers' unions are no different. Everyone gets the raise whether their students are leaning how to read, write, add and subtract or not. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have stood in the way of anyone who is seeking to reform the system. No support for school vouchers. No support for charter schools. No merit pay. No bonuses and no ending teacher tenure. No nothing.

In order to win grant money from the federal government, Cedar Falls' school board backs its superintendent's offer to extend the school day by 25 minutes. The teachers in this school district demand added compensation. Perhaps they would have a point if the students in the aforementioned school district had high SAT scores and were, for the most part, accepted into some of the most prestigious public and private ivy league colleges across the country but they worked for "one of the worst performing high schools in Rhode Island." They were in no position to demand compensation. If anything they deserved to be fired and yet they will appeal that superintendent's decision to fire them all. Amazing.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rangel Should Resign

U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-New York) may be forced to step down from his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee if he loses the support of his Democratic colleagues on the Hill. That is the bare minimum. He accepted corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean, failed to pay back taxes, and rents four apartments in Harlem at below-market rates from an owner that includes a campaign contributor . At at a minimum, his Democratic colleagues should oust him from thom his leadership position. They should ask him to resign so that someone who isn't tainted by these ethically dubious practices could defend this seat.

Kathleen Parker v. Rick Warren

I know that I'm late with this but my blogging was sparse for a while. Parker criticizes evangelical conservatives like Rick Warren and Scott Lively for their tepid opposition to the Uganda "kill the gays" bill. Go Parker!

Uemployment Benefit Vote: 78-19

Know that nineteen senators voted against the bill extending unemployment benefits for another month at a time when the job market is weak. Basically, nineteen senators gave the unemployed the finger. This should have passed with unanimous consent. Those who voted against the bill - all Republicans. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) did not vote.

Marion Barry

The perpetual loser, potentially in trouble with the law again. Why city residents let him re-start his political career is beyond me. Do they have any pride?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Interesting Exchange on Morning Joe

Former U.S. Representative Harold Ford Jr (D-Tennessee) spends the first 5 minutes of his time trashing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, particularly for siding with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) (who he thinks isn't visiting her constituents enough) even though her reversal on gay marriage occurred over night while his purportedly happened over time. We've never heard the former representative speak out for gay marriage until he decided to run for Gillibrand's seat so his authenticity behind his claim can neither be confirmed nor denied. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough followed up, suggesting they are too obsessed about gay marriage and abortion.

Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University, to her credit, defended those who think abortion and gay marriage are important since these officials may affect them more than others. Straight people, the professor pointed out, can avoid these issues since marital laws are written for straight people by straight people. The financial and legal benefits straights take for granted when they marry are not provided to those who cannot marry their loved ones because they are gay.

Scarborough said he thought gays in Brooklyn might be more concerned about the economy because they, too, would like to keep their jobs so they can provide for their and their partners' welfare. At this point the professor should have asked Mr. Scarborough what he thought of (a) Governor Bob McDonnell's (R-Virginia) decision to repeal his predecessors' executive order barring state discrimination against gay civil servants and (b) the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Both relate to the gay person's need to obtain and hold onto a job to provide for themselves and their partner. Virginia's governor, arguably reignited the cultural war in Virginia by repealing the executive order forbidding job discrimination through his executive order.

Mr. Scarborough also claimed, incorrectly I might add, that a "pro-choice" Republican could get elected in any state while a "pro-life" Democrat can only get elected in a few states. "Pro-choice" Republicans might win their party's nomination in the northeastern states and California but I doubt they could win their party's primaries in the deep south where they face a conservative evangelical base.

The NY Times' Concern for Gun Control

In its editorial today, The New York Times urges the Supreme Court to incorporate the remaining Bill of Rights using the Privileges and Immunities Clause (I'd rather use Due Process but that's another issue) while upholding most gun control laws. I'd welcome a ruling that recognizes each and every sane and law abiding citizen's right to bear arms and see no contradiction between upholding that right and restricting the sale to to mentally stable, law abiding citizens who pass a background check and a standardized firearms course. The editorial writers, however, are contradicting themselves because they freely admitted their disappointment when the conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturned the capital district's law banning the sale and possession of handguns. They can't both, urge the Court to incorporate the Bill of Rights (which includes the Second Amendment) and disagree with the Court's prior decision to strike down a provision of the capital district's gun law. (Unless of course, they are resigned to the outcome). By incorporating the right to bear arms, the Supreme Court would be protecting the individual gun owner from the state and local municipalities as well as the federal government.

Again, I'd welcome a ruling that broadens our protections from gun bans imposed by the states and local municipalities. If the Second Amendment is to mean anything, it must be interpreted to protect an individual's right to bear arms. Claiming, as some who support gun regulations do, that it was designed to protect the state militias' right to bear arms means nothing since the militias that were around during colonial times were comprised of ordinary citizens and not, as they are now, agents of the state.

Patterson Should Go

“There is nothing to be served in the governor resigning today, getting his story out tomorrow, and everybody saying to him ‘Oops, maybe you overreacted.’” state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, as quoted in The New York Times

Mr. Jacobs proves how out of touch he is. The governor faces legal, nay, criminal sanctions related to his efforts to protect a staffer from domestic violence. Governor David Patterson squandered his political credibility. Both he and the media will focus a substantial, if not the bulk, of their attention on the developing scandal. At this point the governor should resign and let the Lieutenant Governor work on the budget.