As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Random Ten

Hey, why not? For old times sake! By the way, a reminder that you can read my output today at the FDL News Desk.

Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana
How High The Moon - Diane Reeves
Fell On Black Days - Soundgarden
Baby Love Child - Pizzicato Five
All The Dirt - Mike Doughty
Blue Xmas - Miles Davis & Bob Dorough (Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year)
Que Onda Guero - Beck
Soma - The Strokes
Girl/Boy Song - Aphex Twin
Sweetheart - Ween

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Site

So my new site is live over at Firedoglake. The URL is:

You can pick up a feed at: feed://

Thanks everyone. I'll be dimming the lights here now.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Other Stuff

I just can't get across all the beauteous links I have to share with the world with the space I am fortunate enough to be given at FDL as I await the dedicated site. So, um, here:

• Gavin Newsom has a new ad up doubling down on changing the Constitution and ending the 2/3 rule (he mentions it twice in a 1:00 ad). I think this is the beginning of more to come, as Newsom recognizes that moving into an aggressive reform pose is the only way for him to differentiate himself from Jerry Brown, who will find this too hot to handle.

• The unions are coming out hard against the Baucus bill, for two reasons: the public option and the tax on high-end insurance plans. On the former I'm glad to see them so aggressive; on the latter I just don't think it's good public policy to prop up an inefficient system of providing health care to people. Congress is debating this intensely, and my hope would be that the public option would be enough for the unions to back the bill even with a high-end tax, although I do think it should be indexed so we don't get a perpetual problem like the AMT.

• A deal in Honduras? But President DeMint said that the coup plotters were freedom fighters!

• Nancy Pelosi wants to allow children to remain on their parent's health plans up to 26 years of age. Great policy and great politics. This is one of those short-term deliverables that Mike Lux is talking about.

• Republicans are going to lose a House race in New York because of a third party from the far right getting all the attention and all the money. The Democrat in NY-23 (no great shakes himself) is outspending her 12-1 on TV. Nobody should trust Republicans to get their act together long enough even to make a dent in the Democratic majority.

• Abortion bans do not cut the abortion rate. They kill women.

• Why should the public be allowed to see Blackwater on trial for the Nissour Square murders? You'd think we have an open and transparent judicial system or something! I'm not talking about putting them on Court TV, the public would be banned from even ATTENDING the hearings.

• Wow, this isn't good.

American officials in Baghdad urged Iraqi lawmakers Tuesday to pass an election law crucial for organizing a January vote that the Obama administration considers key to withdrawing U.S. combat troops.

In a statement, U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill and Gen. Ray Odierno, the American military commander here, said they were concerned that parliament hasn't yet reached an agreement on the law. They urged lawmakers "to act expeditiously on this important legislation that will set the terms for successful, transparent political participation in this milestone event." A day earlier, Ad Melkert, the U.N. representative in Iraq, voiced similar concerns.

The Iraqi Parliament doesn't exactly move swiftly, and we're talking about an election scheduled for just a few months from now. In addition to delaying withdrawal it could throw Iraq's political system into crisis. Yikes.

• The green jobs bill in New York could be a model for the nation. It creates jobs and reduces emissions. Win-win.

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Insurance Industry Drops ANOTHER Flawed Report

(I'm writing this post in my role as a blogger fellow for Brave New Films' Sick For Profit campaign)

Not content having embarrassed themselves once this week with a "study" of health reform that doesn't look at any of the elements of health reform, AHIP has done it again. Blue Cross Blue Shield has sponsored this report, put together by the accounting firm Oliver Wyman, claiming that premiums will rise 50% on the individual market and 19% on the small group market should health reform pass.

Once again, the report doesn't factor in almost everything in the bill that would mitigate the premium increases, though it does come to a slightly better conclusion than the original AHIP report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the one that they immediately distanced themselves from. The White House characterized it this way - "if the AHIP report was a $3.50 bill, this one's a $3.00 bill."

As Ezra Klein points out, the real value in these reports is how it shows the bankruptcy of the insurance industry as a whole, and how they simply cannot conceive of anything resembling a legitimate market for their services:

Essentially, they've spent so long pricing the sick and the old out of the individual market that they don't really know what to do when they're allowed back in [...]

This is the house they've built: an insurance market where plans are written for the healthy and all legal efforts are made to exclude the sick. That's meant premiums are somewhat lower than they'd otherwise be, but only because the people who most need health-care insurance aren't able to afford it, or in some cases, aren't able to convince anyone to sell it to them. Now that arrangement is ending and they're scared that they can't provide an affordable product to the people who need it. They may be right, but it's evidence of how deeply perverse their business has become, not of what's wrong with health-care reform. When they say that the individual market would be cheaper in the absence of health-care reform, they're saying the individual market would be cheaper if they could continue refusing to sell affordable insurance to people who need health-care coverage.

That's not the kind of business anybody should be working to protect.

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The Marriage Equality Fight

While most politicos are looking at gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia to determine whether Democrats gain maintain a short-term advantage in 2010, it's clearly the battles over marriage equality and gay rights in Washington state and Maine where the true potential of a progressive realignment can be measured. On the heels of the March for Equality, we're entering the final weeks of two ballot measures to gauge this support.

In Washington, a vote against referendum 71 would actually take away domestic partner benefits from LGBT couples. Approve 71 has released their first ad, featuring a lesbian couple who has been together for 31 years.

In Maine, the fight is over marriage. The legislature passed a marriage equality law earlier this year, and the same forces who pushed through Prop. H8 in California have reassembled to try and revoke the law in Maine. This will feature two highly motivated forces with a clear decision to make on an issue of progressive values. Unlike in California, the pro-equality forces are well-prepared with a better message. For example, they actually show gay families in their ads:

Forces of bigotry are trying to pull that ad because it features a Roman Catholic mother. I guess they missed both the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion clauses in the First Amendment.

No on 1 just released their funding numbers for the third quarter, and they've raised a whopping $2.7 million dollars (very large for Maine), and have over 8,000 Mainers volunteering for the campaign. The Yes side reported only $1.1 million for the same period. And a brand-new poll shows the No side leading, 51.8%-42.9%. The Yes side is freaking out and sent an urgent email to their list yesterday asking for cash. Expect the Bat-Signal to light up at the Mormon Tabernacle any minute now.

Included in that fundraising total for No on 1 is nearly $1 million dollars in online contributions. The netroots is pushing for a moneybomb on Thursday, October 15, the last day of the financial reporting period. Joe Sudbay explains:

That's why in Maine, we're making one last major pitch before 11: 59 PM on October 15th. That date has special significance for two reasons: 1) It's the last day of the financial reporting period (the last one to be made public before election day); and 2) It's the first day of in-person absent voting. We want the No on 1 campaign to have all the resources it needs -- and to know that in advance [...]

The Courage Campaign, OpenLeft, Pam's House Blend and others are setting a goal to reach $1.1 million in online donations by October 15th. AMERICAblog readers have been very generous already. We beat our first goal of $25,000 and are heading to $50,000 now. Help us get there. And, help us win in Maine.

No on 1 is already at $1.077 million dollars on Act Blue as of 2:30pm ET today, so I'd expect the goal to rise.

The battle on marriage equality is the civil rights movement of the 21st century, and we've seen movement over the year, including yesterday. Whether Democrats have a 16-vote or 18-vote or 20-vote majority in the Senate is less suggestive of a progressive realignment than whether real advances for groups of Americans can be achieved. The fights in Washington and Maine would show that to be the case.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Other Stuff

So because I have some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder and am posting less right now as I await the ramp-up to a dedicated site on FDL, here are some quick hits on stories I didn't get to on that site today:

• Congress will hold hearings on those forged letters from astroturf groups sent to swing-state Dems urging them to vote against the House climate bill. This needs to be more than investigated by Congress; the Justice Department should get involved.

• Another day, another GOP front group headed by neocons. This one's called "Keep America Safe." It's a Bill Kristol/Liz Cheney special. Nothing but good can come of that.

• NOAA steps up and warns against indefinite offshore drilling without limits. This is one of those small benefits of the Obama Administration, that relatively sane regulatory agencies are starting to assert themselves.

• A nice piece from Peter Orszag on the delivery system reforms in the bill.

• Jon Corzine has a couple new attack ads out, slamming Chris Christie for his ties to corporate interests and the Bush Administration. Corzine has been relentless.

• Publius calls it Rick Perry's Saturday Night Massacre, and I agree. He's now fired ANOTHER member of the commission looking into whether Texas killed an innocent man. This is a huge story going completely unnoticed by the national media.

• Charlie Rangel's getting a primary challenge. Charlie Rangel NEEDS a primary challenge. Corruption is not a partisan issue.

• North Korea may be launching missiles, but they're also agreeing to talks. Guess the missile launches aren't going well. Meanwhile, Russia is splitting from the US over the issue of sanctions for Iran, with the Foreign Minister calling them "counterproductive."

• Tim DeChristopher, the activist who bid up oil and gas leases without the ability to pay in an effort to deep-six the potential drilling, is charged with two felony counts for his activism. For bidding on something? Really?

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Desperate Insurance Industry Now Running Ads Against Reform

(This post is part of my role as a blogger fellow with Brave New Films' Sick For Profit campaign)

Their strategy to blow up health care reform now blowing up in their face, the insurance industry kicked it up a notch today, by purchasing a million-dollar ad buy designed to scare seniors:

In a late-effort push to alter or torpedo health care reform, the major lobby for private insurers has made a multi-state, million-dollar ad purchase claiming that seniors will see their care cut under Democrat-crafted legislation.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which released a highly critical (and widely criticized) report slamming the Senate Finance Committee's reform proposal, has quietly put out a new spot claiming that millions of seniors will see their Medicare slashed by Congress.

"Is it right to ask 10 million seniors on Medicare advantage for more than their fair share?" the ad asks. "Congress is proposing over 100 billion in cuts to Medicare advantage. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says many seniors will see cuts in benefits."

You can see the ad here. It's airing in swing states with Democratic Senators: Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada.

One of two things is going on. The industry may truly be worried about the shape of reform and whether or not it will preserve its profits. Or they are giving space to the Baucus bill, the only one without a public option and the friendliest to their interests, so that liberals can be motivated to pass it or something like it. Savannah Guthrie just said this on MSNBC:

I think there will be courtship of those moderate Senators, but look, one thing I heard this morning here at the White House was that the insurance company report, the Price Waterhouse Cooper report, has actually been helpful to some extent (now granted this may be spin but let me just tell you what their argument is) is helpful because some of the liberal Senators who are concerned that the Baucus bill was just way too easy on the insurance companies, now have some cover. If the insurance companies think it's so objectionable that they're getting off the train and writing this report and signalling they're no longer at the bargaining table on health reform, it must be something that really hurts them.

Reform advocates are having NONE of that. MoveOn has slammed the Baucus bill, which just passed the Senate Finance Committee, in a video featuring health care hero and former CIGNA executive Wendell Potter.

"Take it from me, the Senate Finance bill is a dream come true of the health insurance industry. If there is not public option insurance companies aren't going to change. The choice of a public health insurance option is the only way to keep insurance companies honest."

This is only the beginning of the health care fight, not the end. But the insurance industry has laid their cards on the table. They are against reforming the system in any way that cuts into their profits. And they should not be appeased with a forced market and a monopoly on insurance.

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What Up?

I just thought Michael Steele had a good idea with that blog title, wanted to give it a road test.

What up! Homies! As the Sadlies said, "You down with GOP? Yeah you know me!"

By the way, click here to see Filibusta Rhmyez Chairman Steele (again, h/t Sadlies) right here on this website.

...and the "Future Leaders" page is empty.

We need a new Internet meme somehow bigger than epic FAIL.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Other Stuff

Boy, restricting myself to 3-4 posts a day is HARD! That's only temporary, however, as the FDL News site is still pending. So in addition to the stuff I've got up at FDL today, here's a few other things on my mind:

• This Scarlet A law in Oklahoma is extremely disturbing. Probing details of every abortion would get posted on a PUBLIC website. This is deliberately designed to shame women and enact a de facto ban on reproductive choice.

• One big story on the left today was John Harwood's NBC Nightly News report quoting an anonymous staffer who reportedly said "Barack Obama is doing well with 90% or more of Democrats so the White House views this opposition as really part of the Internet left fringe [...] For a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn't take this opposition, one adviser told me those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed, and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult." This sounds more like John Harwood than anybody else, and significantly, the White House issued a denial that the quote "reflected White House thinking." Sam Stein and Glenn Greenwald have more. I can't get too worked up about this because, while I'm sure this quote reflects how some people in the Administration think, it's a big White House and there's probably no monolithic perspective on pretty much everything.

• Notably, just as the White House was taking heat for their perspective on bloggers, they decided to hand out exclusive interviews to three blogs. I wouldn't call these partisan media sites, however: The Motley Fool, Consumerist and The Motherhood, a mommy blog. In each case, the blogs are asking their readers for questions, so at least there's a preference for the general nature of the format.

• People who think Lindsey Graham is going to be some kind of helpful moderate for the White House needs to recall this story from the weekend:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is trying to prevent the Obama administration from holding criminal trials in civilian courts for the alleged Sept. 11 plotters instead of bringing them before military commissions.

Graham, who helped craft the 2006 law that established the military commissions, said Friday that he'd attached an amendment to an appropriations bill that would prohibit the Obama administration from spending money on the prosecution and trial of the accused terrorists before U.S. civilian federal judges.

This came a day after Democrats basically agreed to allow Gitmo prisoners to be moved to the US for trial.

• This Joe Biden cover story in Newsweek is the big chatter piece of the day. I thought Jay Carney used to work for Time before joining Biden's staff, you'd think THAT magazine would publish this mash note.

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That Baby Should Learn About Personal Responsibility

(This post is part of my role as a blogger fellow for Brave New Films' Sick For Profit campaign)

Rocky Mountain Health Plans, an insurance company in Colorado, has denied coverage to a four month-old child on account of "obesity." How dare the kid not moderate his portions!

By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don't take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise.

"I could understand if we could control what he's eating. But he's 4 months old. He's breast-feeding. We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill," joked his frustrated father, Bernie Lange, a part-time news anchor at KKCO-TV in Grand Junction. "There is just something absurd about denying an infant."

Bernie and Kelli Lange tried to get insurance for their growing family with Rocky Mountain Health Plans when their current insurer raised their rates 40 percent after Alex was born. They filled out the paperwork and awaited approval, figuring their family is young and healthy. But the broker who was helping them find new insurance called Thursday with news that shocked them.

" 'Your baby is too fat,' she told me," Bernie said.

Rocky Mountain Health Plans' alibi is that as long as everybody denies coverage for a pre-existing condition, they will too.

So essentially, the insurance industry is telling this family to starve their child as the only way to get him health insurance.

That, or the baby should learn some personal responsibility and take care of himself better. Maybe push-ups.

UPDATE: A happy ending on this one. Rocky Mountain Health plans relented and will no longer consider an infant's added heft a pre-existing condition. Unfortunately, there aren't enough newspaper articles in the world to help everyone abused by the insurance industry.

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RINO: Reformer In Name Only

My first post at Firedoglake is up, about how Governor Chamber of Commerce's talk on health care is never matched by action. Again, the dedicated site isn't live, so for now I'm only posting on the main page.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review... Also The Last?

Well, before the new job I just want to clear out my tabs and what-not.

• I think the biggest threat to the economy right now remains the housing market. The Administration has apparently been using the FHA to prop up the market by continuing to guarantee high-risk mortgages which otherwise wouldn't have been made. Well, those are starting to go bad at an alarming rate, and now policymakers are talking about a federal bailout. At the same time, the federal program designed to slow down foreclosures isn't really working. However, none of this is stopping Democrats and Republicans from trying to extend an $8,000 homebuyer credit to... prop up the housing market. It's insane.

• In a story reminiscent of The Jungle, the New York Times did an expose of the meat inspection industry and its effects on the lives of people paralyzed for eating the wrong hamburger. The story was so powerful that the industry started striking deals for testing their meat for e.coli. Aside from the environmental concerns from eating meat altogether, at the very least we should be able to expect that we won't get paralyzed from it.

• Sonia Sotomayor was lively and active in her first week on the Supreme Court, asking more questions in an hour "than Justice Clarence Thomas has asked over the course of several years." Meanwhile, Antonin Scalia was trying to argue that the symbol of the cross wasn't actually a religious symbol. And he's supposed to be the conservative intellectual on the bench.

• This Karl Rove op-ed is as silly as the rest of them, but one part rings true.

The numbers may get worse for Democrats if they pass a health-care bill. Why? Because Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) wants to frontload the reforms with distasteful things. Under his plan, tax hikes and Medicare and Medicaid cuts kick in immediately, while new benefits are delayed for two-and-a-half years. Voters likely won't warm to reforms that slam them next year while promising benefits down the road.

This is unquestionably true, actually. You have to have some tangible benefits up front. I think the high-risk pools that could get the uninsured covered before the exchanges take effect could solve some of this problem.

• Good to see the DSCC taking this on - just why did 30 GOP Senators vote to deny rape victims justice in court?

• I'm still not sure whether the Senate is ready to pass a climate change bill, but the participation of Lindsey Graham in this op-ed doesn't hurt. Huckleberry often says one thing right before doing another, but it helps to put him in a box, saying that the Senate can pass the bill. Actually, it might help even more that a Midwestern Democrat like Sherrod Brown is leaning toward supporting the bill - the industrial-state Senators will make or break this.

• Not only did Rick Perry pull a bunch of members from a commission that wanted to look into his role in putting an innocent man to death, he cut the commission's funding. The rationalizations from the prosecutors aren't really cutting it, either.

• I didn't see Keith Olbermann's special comment on health care, but here's the transcript. It sounds like he took the experience of caring for his ailing father and interfacing with the health care system and pretty much came up with an hour full of stories. I don't know if he found out that some insurers consider domestic violence a pre-existing condition, or if his hospital charged a "facility fee" for his father to sit there, or if his father or someone in the hospital died from a preventable death. But the point is that, once you actually use the health care system, you have a far less positive view of it.

• You absolutely knew that Bill Frist would walk back his support of health care reform within about 24 hours. No surprise at all.

• I'm assuming that when Republicans get together, they use terms like "ghetto grandmothers" to describe all Democrats.

• I always hated the "look how many times that speaker used the words "I" or "me" as a proof of anything approaching narcissism, but Mark Liberman strikes a nail through the heart of this nonsense.

• In the grand scheme of things, $54 billion over 10 years is not a lot of money, certainly nowhere near the kind of numbers that Republicans always tout when they claim that medical malpractice reform is all that's needed to save health care.

• The ad I directed for Blue America targeting Blanche Lincoln for her stance on health care reform was featured on Rachel Maddow. Yay me!

• The latest conservative freak-out could be the dumbest ever - attacking Obama from choosing an artwork to adorn the White House because the wingnuts think it's a copy of a work by Matisse - when it's supposed to be a copy of a work by Matisse. I know it's not dogs playing poker, but really, maybe you should shut your mouth about things you don't understand.

• Well, blow me down - one of the top people in the Tea Party Movement owes the IRS a half a million dollars. Boy, he really doesn't like taxes!

• And finally, there's a Last Comic Standing show in Iraq. If they opened it up to the entire Muslim world, the head of the Pakistan Taliban would win in a walk.



Nobel Peace Prize-Worthy

Who got these two longtime enemies together?

Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark agreement Saturday to establish diplomatic ties, after a dramatic last-minute intervention by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to keep the event from falling apart.

The accord, aimed at ending a century of hostility stemming from Ottoman Era massacres, was brokered by the Swiss over the past two years, with the help of French, Russian and U.S. officials. Clinton had been in frequent contact with the two sides in recent months to help seal the deal.

But just as she arrived at the University of Zurich for the signing at about 5 p.m. Saturday, Clinton heard that the Armenian side was objecting to a Turkish statement prepared for the ceremony, officials said. Clinton's motorcade made a U-turn and raced back to the hotel, where a U.S. diplomat was talking to the Armenians.

In the hotel parking lot, Clinton sat in her black BMW sedan in a soft rain for about an hour, talking on one phone to the Armenian foreign minister and on another to the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Finally, she went into the hotel to invite the Armenian foreign minister, Edward Nalbandian, to drive with her to the university, where his Turkish counterpart was waiting.

Once there, further hours of negotiating ensued with a broader group of international diplomats, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, before the documents were signed. In an apparent compromise, neither the Turks nor the Armenians made a statement at the ceremony.

Could we see two in a row for the Obama Administration? (Probably not, the principals themselves are probably more deserving; this excerpt is written in an American paper for an American audience.)

Actually, some Armenians and their representatives in Washington are upset that the accord puts off the question of whether Turkey committed genocide against the Armenian people to a "committee of historical experts" for study. They want an immediate acknowledgement based on the known facts. Armenians throughout the world are not entirely pleased with the document. But the Armenian people will likely by helped innumerably by the opening of borders and normalization of relations with their most powerful neighbor.

Let's hope we see more agreements like this soon.

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Obama Adds Nothing To HRC Dinner

The President spoke at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, the biggest political event in the gay community, where he vowed to do the exact same things he's been vowing to do since he announced his campaign for President, without any timeline on when any of this would happen. About the only specific was that he would sign the Hate Crimes bill, which passed both houses of Congress in 2007 (even breaking a Republican filibuster). It's good that he didn't threaten to veto that bill, as George W. Bush did. But this is a speech that Obama could have made two years ago on the campaign trail. As John Aravosis said:

Barack Obama just promised us that if he becomes president, he's going to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and get ENDA passed.

He didn't even bother to mention the two big ballot fights looming in November - Prop. 1 in Maine, where the theocrats are trying to overturn the gay marriage law, and Prop. 71 in Washington, where they are trying to take away domestic partner benefits. Those campaigns in blue states could have used a soundbite from a popular President.

If you think part of life is just showing up, well, at least Obama showed up. But Obama really needs to show up when it counts. Nobody in the gay community is buying the promises anymore.

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