Monday, August 31, 2009

The tyranny of small state senators

From Sandy Levinson at Balkinization:

The one and only reason anyone takes such denizens as Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Olympia Snowe, Charles Grassley, Jeff Bingaman, and Michael Enzi at all seriously is because, representing a grand total of 2.77 of the American population (including 0% of our most urban populations or what used to be called the "industrial heartland" of America), they comprise 6% of the votes in the Senate.

Professor Levinson is analyzing Paul Krugman’s column in the NYT today about the role of lobbying money in the health care debate. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you, boys and girls, that Professor Levinson is a critic of the way power is distributed in the Senate and advocates a constitutional convention to deal with what amounts to overrepresentation of citizens of small states in that body.

There are actually SEVEN states that have more senators than representatives: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The same overrepresentation occurs, of course, in presidential elections where there is one elector for each member of a state’s congressional delegation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Focusing on the really, really important stuff

From today’s Strib:

"We keep hearing from the airlines that they can handle [the issue of passengers kept on airplanes on the ground for long periods of time] themselves," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. "And then we keep having moms with babies on their laps for six hours in the middle of the night."

Spot’s got news for you, Toots.

There are a lot of mothers up all night holding babies in their laps that has nothing to do with airplanes. It would be nice if you could figure that out.

Update: Be sure to read the comments.

Spot’s trying to figure out a way

To rip this one off wholesale, but until he does, here’s the link: Michele Bachmann bring the crazy to health care reform.

Nice job, PW.

Katherine Kersten: in a larger context

In today’s Strib, Kersten had another one of her weirdly almost-pornographic columns about the danger of sex in college. Quoting Cassandra  (that’s almost too good to be true, isn’t it?) Hough, a woman who started a support group for people who wanted to wait at Princeton, Katie says:

"On campus, you're constantly bombarded with reasons to dismiss and abandon" beliefs about marriage and family that run counter to the hookup orthodoxy, says Hough. "You hear nothing about the reasons that support them, and you're given nothing to put in their place."

At Princeton, for example, freshmen are required to attend skits on "date rape" that feature vulgarity and crude humor and seem to confirm that hooking up is the campus norm. They are also "strongly encouraged" to participate in "Safer Sex Jeopardy," where they are quizzed on their knowledge of anal intercourse, sadomasochism, dental dams, sex toys and flavored condoms.

Ironically, the pressure to seek instant intimacy doesn't bring men and women together but builds walls between them. "The sexes don't trust each other, don't respect each other," says Hough. "Even girls who don't want to hook up dress provocatively and dance suggestively. Then they're surprised and bitter when guys come on as if they were asking for hookups."

Sex, like anything else, is political for Katie. Who is really at fault for all this empty hedonism? Why, it’s the dirty hippies, of course:

Why this confusion and despair over male-female relationships? Today's students have inherited the fallout of both the 1960s sexual revolution and the epidemic of divorce that followed it.

"I see a whole generation of young people longing for authentic intimacy, for lifelong love, for marriage," says Hough. "But many have lost hope that this is even possible."

It’s the Woodstock Nation, says Katie.

Sex is a great issue for Republicans. Gay sex is even better. It makes Republicans out of a lot of culturally conservative people who would otherwise be Democrats. That’s why scolds like Katie continue to flog the issue. Really – she’s written the same column several times.

And who is Cassandra Hough? She’s the mother, so to speak, of the Love and Fidelity Network, and has been featured on Bill Bennett and Glenn Beck’s radio shows. Go figure.

Katie goes to college again

It's a new school year, and once again on-campus sexual activity has her slut-shaming in high gear. Anything that we could say about Katie's forays into matters sexual has already been said here, so unless Spotty has something to say on this tired subject matter, we'll leave it at that.

A comment about comments

Comments weren’t ever even moderated here until recently. A handful of them got axed after the fact, but that was it. Recently, however, some of the comment threads have turned into school yard taunts, with commenters choosing sides. Several comments on both “sides” have been rejected.

Comment moderation is an art, not a science, although efforts have been made to be even handed.

Especially annoying are the comments that are entirely non-germane to the post in question, referring to matters entirely collateral, and particularly if they are, on top of it, ad hominem.

In short, I am tired of the piss ant games. I’ve tried to give people some leeway to say what was on their minds, but it’s becoming an insult bulletin board. Enough.

So from now on, think of the Cucking Stool as a neighborhood bar. You know the sign on the door that says, “We have the right to refuse to serve anyone”?  That’s the Cucking Stool. Try to bust the place up a few times, and you might even get banned.

Don’t like it? Start your own blog. Buy a newspaper: you can probably get the Strib  or the PiPress pretty cheap.

If your comment does not get posted, do not write another comment to complain about it; it’s headed for the same place. You can send Spot an email if you want; you might even get a reply.

In the words of Yul Brynner, So let it be written; so let it be done.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Palin over Pawlenty!

TPaw by Avidor There was a story in today’s Strib about TPaw’s failure to get the nod for veep.

If you want a real inside story of events surrounding McCain’s choice of Palin, Spot suggests that you read this:

Scene: Backstage at the Xcel Center during the Republican National Convention. Tim Pawlenty and John McCain find themselves standing next to each other as the little knot of people they were talking with drift away. There is an uncomfortable silence for a while, then the stilted beginning of a conversation.

High drama, indeed.

sketch by Avidor

If we can name an aircraft carrier after Ronald Reagan

We can name a health care bill after Ted Kennedy.

Not according to the righties.

And one of Spot’s regular commenters reports that in some quarters Kennedy is even being begrudged a spot in Arlington National Cemetery.

Update: Read the Driftglass take on this, too.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Obsidian Wings’ publius on Ted Kennedy

Probably the best single paragraph that Spot has seen written about Ted Kennedy:

What's most striking about Kennedy is that he dedicated his life to helping people who he had no reason to help.  As russell noted in the comments yesterday, he could have had a very nice life yachting, and reading books, and traveling.  But he didn't do that.  He spent decades in the Senate fighting -- truly fighting -- for people who most needed help, who most needed a voice.  Unlike so many legislators, he wasn't the voice of the already-enfranchised.  He was, in this sense, a universal Senator for those with no champion, with no lobby.  Those people were the focus of his efforts.

This, Spot submits, describes the essence of being a liberal: helping people who he had no reason to help.

Jesus’ General had a list of legislative initiatives of Ted Kennedy’s:

  • The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996
  • State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP)
  • Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 (Americorps)
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
  • Fair Housing Act of 1968
  • Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986 (overturning a SCOTUS decision)
  • Ryan White Care Act of 1990 (AIDS care)
  • Americans with Disability Act of '90
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991
  • Minority Health & Health Disparities Research & Education Act of 2000
  • National & Community Service Trust Act of 1993 (Americorps)
  • Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1990
  • Military Child Care Act of 1989
  • The WARN Act of 1988 (60 days notice prior to plant closings)
  • Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act of 1986
  • Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 (vetoed by Reagan)
  • Job Training Partnership Act of 1980
  • Refugee Act of 1980
  • Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980
  • Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act - 1975
  • Title IX of Education Amendments of '72 (bans sex discrimination by schools getting Fed $)
  • Establishment of Women, Infants & Childrens ("WIC") Nutrition Program at USDA
  • Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Act of 1970
  • Older American Community Service Employment Act of 1970
  • Occupational Safety & Health Administration Act of 1970
  • The Voting Rights Act amendments of 1970
  • The Bilingual Education Act of 1968
  • The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (War on Poverty: Head Start, Job Corps)

Pretty good epitaph.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I knew Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy was a friend of mine.

Really, Spot? You never told us that.

[No, not really, grasshopper, but work with me here, OK?]

And Amy Klobuchar, you’re no Ted Kennedy.

But here’s AKlo, keening for the loss of Ted Kennedy in today’s Strib:

"I had the privilege to serve with Ted Kennedy in the Senate for just two years. He was a mentor to so many of us just starting out, not in the traditional 'this is how you get it done' way, but instead as an inspiration.

Here’s what the Baltimore Sun said about Ted Kennedy today:

He called health reform the "cause of my life" during last year's Democratic National Convention, said it was a "defining issue for our society" years earlier, and throughout his recent illness continued to champion universal coverage while pushing Congress to act now on legislation.

Apparently, Ted Kennedy inspired AKlo to champion legislation to keep people from getting cooped up too long on airplanes.

Way to go, Amy. But here’s Amy on health care reform:

"I will tell you this," the senator said. "I'm open to a
competitive option. You need to put pressure on the insurance
companies. One way to do that [is allow the public to join] the
federal health care plan or one just like it. The government does
administer it, but it's a private plan. That's one way. And then
there's this co-op plan proposal [in the Senate]. That really hasn't
been formed yet. Those are some of the ideas. I want to make sure
whatever option we choose works for our state. Make sure it makes
it easier for small businesses and the self-employed."

Ted Kennedy will roll over in his grave, as soon as he has one. If Ted Kennedy was a liberal “lion,” AKlo is a housecat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

False Witness!

Here’s a little video about the comic book False Witness that creator Bill Prendergast calls the the first political biography of Michele Bachmann. It was taken several weeks ago when the comic first came out. Interviewed are cover artist Ken Avidor and Bill Prendergast.

This is the only comic book that Spot has ever seen that has footnotes; footnotes because you’ll be reading Michele Bachmann’s own words.

Mayor Chris Coleman comes to Drinking Liberally

chris coleman On Thursday, August 27th, Mayor Chris Coleman will be our guest at Drinking Liberally for an informal “meet and greet.” We’ll meet at the usual place, the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis, from six to nine or so. PM, of course, PM.

We expect the Mayor about seven.

Photo credit: Minnesota Public Radio

Quote of the day

From the New York Times on an employed, white, older, well-insured man whose wife contracted breast cancer and had $63,000 of her treatments refused by his insurer:

“We’ve got to do something about those people who can’t get insurance,” he said. “There has to be a safety net there. But I don’t want that safety net to catch too many people.”

Just so long as it catches you and your family, Mr. Collier?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Klobuchar disappointment, part whatever

It was estimated that ten thousand Minnesotans took the time this weekend to call into Senator Klobuchar's telephonic town hall to hear her views on the health care reform proposals. In response to a question about the public option, the Senator had this to say:
"I will tell you this," the senator said. "I'm open to a
competitive option. You need to put pressure on the insurance
companies. One way to do that [is allow the public to join] the
federal health care plan or one just like it. The government does
administer it, but it's a private plan. That's one way. And then
there's this co-op plan proposal [in the Senate]. That really hasn't
been formed yet. Those are some of the ideas. I want to make sure
whatever option we choose works for our state. Make sure it makes
it easier for small businesses and the self-employed."

Got that?

I'm afraid that one of the most difficult and widespread problems Americans face has now been given what is becoming the Klobuchar treatment: A wishy-washy, unresponsive, cover-your-ass, hackneyed, and trite response that commits to nothing but ill defined platitudes.

Minnesotans deserve better than this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Death panels! II

From the U.K.’s Guardian website:

Such scaremongering [at town hall meetings and elsewhere] has dismayed and infuriated Sharon Lee, the doctor who now treats Manley [a physician with Huntington’s disease who lost his practice and his own health insurance] in Kansas City. "I'm very angry, very angry," she says. "Many of the people I treat have already been in front of a death panel and have lost – a death panel controlled by insurance companies. I see people dying at least monthly because we have been unable to get them what they needed." [italics are Spot’s]

The article features Dr. Lee’s clinic in Kansas. It’s a very good read. Here’s another couple of paragraphs from the article:

[Dr. Lee] rattles off a litany of horror stories. There was the man who walked into the clinic with a brain tumour [British spelling]. It took Lee three months to get him an MRI scan and another two to get an appointment with a neurosurgeon. Or the patient whose nerves in his neck were pushed against his spinal cord so that he lost use of both arms; by the time Lee found a way of getting him an MRI he was so sick he had to be operated on immediately. Or the woman who had such heavy periods she would wind up in ER every three months requiring a blood transfusion. What she really needed was a hysterectomy. "It took us almost a year to beg hospitals until she finally did get a hysterectomy," Lee says.

These are the stories, the broken lives, that have been obscured by the fury generated by the Republican rump. Unless Obama finds a way to regain the political initiative, to remind Americans that only nine months ago they voted overwhelmingly for change, then the future of millions appears bleak. [italics are Spot’s]

A thump of the tail to

Shorter Katherine Kersten

Our disinformation campaign seems to be working.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Death panels!

They do exist:

A thump of the tail to Dump Michele Bachmann.

Let’s go to the mall

Let’s go to the mall and pray to the Invisible Hand for help.

Are you sure he’ll be listening, Spot?

Hard to say, but he — the Invisible Hand has to be a “he,” right? — may not be able to help, anyway.


Because the Hand relies on lots of people like you and me — well, like you, anyway — to go out and spend money like drunken sailors when the Hand whispers in their ears. Right now, even people who have money are replying, “Hand, are you nuts? I could lose my job or house at any time, and this rash may not clear up! I’m not going to spend money; you spend it.” But the Invisible Hand doesn’t have any money of his own; no credit cards, either.

The problem is especially acute in the United States’ efforts at economic recovery where worshipping at the mall — the Temple of Conspicuous Consumption — accounts for such an out-sized part of our economy:

The strength of the German and French economic recovery has got to be puzzling the Laissez-Faire economics crowd. As Stratfor points out, the reason is simple. Consumer spending accounts for only 18% of German GDP (as opposed to 72% of U.S. GDP) and Exports account for 46% of German GDP. So in the U.S. the sudden incidence of consumer thrift is a huge problem, whereas in Germany it is not. As I pointed out last month, until we revive our export business and lessen our dependence on the Mall Economy we are in for a ton of hurt. Forty years of Chamber of Commerce cheerleading for globalization and outsourcing have hollowed out the American manufacturing economy. Unless we can quickly build a Green manufacturing capacity for Wind and Solar equipment, this recovery will be anemic and we will continue down to road towards the Sharecropper Society, Warren Buffett warned about.

When the Invisible Hand sees what is going on, won’t he help?

No, grasshopper, Spot is afraid that the Invisible Hand is the grasshopper in the old fairy tale: the one who won’t plan for tomorrow. Which is funny, because conservatives like to paint the grasshopper as lazy; his real problem was the inability to look down the road.

Just like the grasshopper — the one in the fairy tale, not Spot’s grasshopper — the Invisible Hand does not take the long view; he urges people to just buy what feels good today and hang the consequences: to the economy, to the nation’s industrial capacity, the environment, and to society.

Maybe the Invisible Hand is more like Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neumann, whispering “What, me worry?” in our ears. Only now, we are worried.

A thump of the tail to techno and NBBooks.

One question

Throughout the course of the health care debate, we have seen stories such as this one and this one, about the worries of parents with ill children who are, by virtue of their parents' good insurance coverage, receiving excellent medical care. These parents are understandably worried what will happen to their children should any reform measures pass. There are chronically ill people in my family, and I know how every parent worries.

But there's a problem with those so tied to the current system that they can't see where our broken health care infrastructure will land their children once they hit adulthood. At Truth v. Machine, I left the following comment:

What happens when she reaches adulthood? Employer-based coverage under a parent’s policy ends once schooling is completed. If the young adult is disabled, full employment with benefits is often not possible. The pre-existing conditions eliminate them from privately purchased coverage (and from employer coverage for many months). Medicaid and SSI doom most disabled people to poverty.

Who is going to pay for Cady’s IVIG treatment (or whatever the treatment is in 15 years) when she’s no longer on her parent’s policy? How is she ever going to be able to afford such care, especially if something tragic happens to her parents? For that matter, what would happen if her parents lost that coverage now, something thousands of people face everyday now.

I don’t mean to be mean or anything, but it’s a question parents of uninsurable kids (and I’m one of those parents) will have to face.

So far no one has answered the question.

I have a relative who has been ill since she was a teenager and has never been able to work. Coverage under her parents' plans ran out decades ago. No private insurer will go near her. She's on Medicaid, and although it has its bureaucratic snafus, she does get care, and her providers do what they can to help her along. The $967 per month new prescription will take some time to get approved, but they're feeding her samples until that takes place.

But she has care. She's limited on how much she can ever earn, but there's a doctor and a hospital and medications there for her thanks to the government plan.

Medicaid has guidelines that she's sick enough to meet. But what about the one protester's daughter, and the young Cady that Gary Miller introduces us to? They're going to grow up and they're going to get booted off of their parents' plans.

What then?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Health care reform

A new poll out shows strong support for a public plan option or choice in health care reform:

public plan is important






If you add the “extremely important” and “quite important” numbers of adults responding together, you get 77%. A majority of adults surveyed think a public plan choice is “extremely important.”

Thanks to Robin for the tweet.

A wrathful, windy, God

Behold God’s message to Central Lutheran Church, and Lutherans generally:

central lutheran steeple

What does the message mean, Spotty?

According to a Baptist preacher in town, it means this:

The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA [meeting this week at the Convention Center to consider the ordination of gay clergy] and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

This is the God of miracles, who can help you find your car keys and turn the letter confirming your cancer diagnosis into good news right in the envelope, just by praying for help.

A thump of the tail to Andy Birkey.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An excellent idea, but unlikely to happen

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Guénaël Mettraux suggests that we set up an international criminal tribunal for the detainees at Guantánamo.

The Guantánamo detainees pose a similar conundrum [to the situation the Allies faced in 1945] today. Trying these men stateside would necessarily require the compromise of long-cherished principles of American law. Yet continuing to hold them without the prospect of a fair trial or delivering them to undemocratic governments are alternatives not worthy of the Obama administration or of the United States.

America’s own endeavors at Nuremberg offer a way out of this impasse: an international tribunal for detainees. Such a tribunal would allow the Obama administration to finally try these individuals and close down Guantánamo — and it would bring the nation back within the tradition of law and justice that it so forcefully defended six decades ago.

Conservatives will never put up with it, of course: international panel are well and good for acts perpetrated on other people, but not us.

Mr. Mettraux concludes this way:

An international criminal tribunal would not answer all the legal questions surrounding the war on terrorism. But by putting its faith in the law, the Obama administration would send a potent message to both its supporters and its enemies. By giving a fair trial to the Guantánamo detainees, the United States would reassert its core values and demonstrate the supremacy of those values over the evil that has been challenging them.

The chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert H. Jackson, said: “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well.” Let us hope that the wisdom of his prophecy has not been lost to those who will decide the fate of the Guantánamo detainees.

And just who was Robert H. Jackson? He was the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, but he was also a Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1941 to 1954. An appointee of Franklin Roosevelt, he also served as Solicitor General and Attorney General of the United States.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drinking Liberally: general kvetching

stylized 331 Club - DL Tomorrow night (Thursday) we’ll meet as usual, from six to nine or so at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. No guest is scheduled, but we’ll get together to talk about health care reform, Charles Grassley, dining room furniture, and whatever else is on your mind.

Debating with the dining room table

Spot thinks that Barney was being charitable.

Video from Crooks and Liars; the video has already been posted in too many places to link.

Mr. Gore, this is the Pentagon calling

From an editorial in the New York Times:

One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet. One would also have expected from Congress a plausible strategy for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that lie at the root of the problem.

That has not happened. The House has passed a climate bill that is not as strong as needed, but is a start. There are doubts about whether the Senate will pass any bill, given the reflexive opposition of most Republicans and unfounded fears among many Democrats that rising energy costs will cripple local industries.

The problem, when it comes to motivating politicians, is that the dangers from global warming — drought, famine, rising seas — appear to be decades off. But the only way to prevent them is with sacrifices in the here and now: with smaller cars, bigger investments in new energy sources, higher electricity bills that will inevitably result once we put a price on carbon.

But here’s an issue that ought to make politicians, especially conservative ones, sit up and take notice:

Proponents of climate change legislation have now settled on a new strategy: warning that global warming poses a serious threat to national security. Climate- induced crises like drought, starvation, disease and mass migration, they argue, could unleash regional conflicts and draw in America’s armed forces, either to help keep the peace or to defend allies or supply routes.

This is increasingly the accepted wisdom among the national security establishment. A 2007 report published by the CNA Corporation, a Pentagon-funded think tank, spoke ominously of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that could lead to wide conflict over resources.

Alan Greenspan already admitted what most conservatives can’t: the Iraq war was about oil.

Spot says, at it’s base, the whole “war on terror” is about oil and the way that the United States, and the European powers before it, have tried to manage geo-politics in the MIddle East to insure its supply. We don’t seem to have any intention of stopping.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When the package of hot dogs has a longer life expectancy than you do

You have to ask yourself: should we really be eating this stuff?

Andy Driscoll will help you answer that question tomorrow on Truth to Tell. Eleven o’clock AM on KFAI.

Tune in; Spot’s going to.

Spot would call it a collapse of will, not ambition

Here’s Rachel Maddow describing the retreat from the “public option” in health care reform:

Video from Firedoglake, and a thump of the tail to Avidor for calling it to Spot’s attention.

A few minutes with Andy Driscoll

Andy, who has a program on KFAI radio Wednesday mornings at eleven (click on the graphic in the sidebar for more information) was at Drinking Liberally last week. Here are some clips of the discussion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Without a robust public option

Without a robust public option, health care reform is an oxymoron.

Update: Howard Dean agrees with Spot:


Former Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said Monday he doubts there can be meaningful health care reform without a direct government role, putting him at odds with President Barack Obama who says such a public option is only a sliver of the solution.

    Dean, a leading figure among the party's liberals, carefully tried to avoid criticizing the president openly, but he urged the administration to stand by statements made early on in the debate in which it steadfastly insisted that such a public option was indispensable to genuine change. Dean said Medicare and the Veterans Administration are "two very good programs that have been around for a long time."

What if Katherine Kersten planned Woodstock?

Headliners would have included Pat Boone, The Cowsills, The Carpenters, maybe Mama Cass as a solo act, and a sprinkling of edgy Christian rock bands. Attendees would be expected to have their bedrolls rolled and their teeth brushed by 0700.

Each morning would kick off with the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem by Kate Smith. Imagine how much fun it would be!

Now, roll forward forty years and imagine this conversation:

Man, you’ve taken a humble beginning and done great things with your life! Lookit all the toys you’ve got: boats, SUVs, houses, women, you name it!

I owe it all the Woodstock. It turned my life around completely. If it wasn’t for Woodstock, I’d probably just be a druggie or a gangbanger somewhere. Or dead.

Absurd? Well, of course. But our Katie believes that the reverse is true. In her column on Sunday, where she urges us to remember what a “dark basement of the soul” Woodstock really was, she writes:

In a larger sense, Woodstock -- as a cultural moment -- hasn't ended yet. It symbolizes a generation's embrace of uninhibited self-expression and instant gratification as an ideal.

Is there a happy ending in sight on this front?

It depends. The middle-class college students at Woodstock -- now in their late 50s or 60s -- have largely done OK. They began their flings with "protest," recreational sex and drugs with a built-in margin of safety.

Most reentered the mainstream, buoyed by supportive families and the middle-class virtues they had once belittled -- self-control, perseverance and ambition. Some, like Pareles [who wrote a piece about Woodstock on its 40th anniversary that Katie mentions], got jobs at the New York Times.

But another group of Americans paid a larger price for the cultural transformation that Woodstock helped to usher in. Largely poor and minority, they lacked a strong, middle-class support system. When Woodstock's values invaded their lives -- conferring new approval on "legal and illegal pleasures" -- their communities crashed and burned.

Ah, Katie, always on the hunt for the “larger sense.” She can find the larger sense in damn near anything, the way people can find the image of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich: pretty similar phenomena, actually.

Katie moans about the overflowing toilets at Woodstock and all the kids to forgot to bring their toilet brushes along with their toothbrushes; she wails about all of the mud, trash, and ruined sleeping bags, not acknowledging that the organizers — the business people in all of this, remember — were the ones responsible for the preparation for the event.

But to me, the most odious thing about Katie’s hack job on Woodstock is that she is oblivious to its obvious cultural context: the Vietnam war. The festival of peace, love, and music took place the summer after the watershed year of 1968, which was the year of the Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite’s sober observance that we weren’t going to win the war, race riots in the United States, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the police riot at the Democratic National Convention, and the year that brought us the highest number of deaths in the entire war. 1967 wasn’t much better, either.

Do you know what age group paid the highest price in Vietnam? It was twenty-year olds. Followed by twenty-one and nineteen year olds. One wonders what the median age of the people as Woodstock was? The demographics probably matched up pretty well with the casualties.

Katie says there was some great music at Woodstock, but completely misses — or refuses to acknowledge — what the music was about, rather like Tim Pawlenty liking Bruce Springsteen, but failing to understand what the Boss is singing about.

Katie’s flip and insulting gloss on Woodstock is a libel on a generation. The Boomers have some things to atone for, but Woodstock and the agitation to end the Vietnam war aren’t among them.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Constitutional scholar confronts Arlen Specter!

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Lashing out at Sen. Specter, she tells him to just “Get back, Jo Jo!” [with apologies to the Beatles].

Lawrence O’Donnell’s exchange with the Rep. from Texas is not to be missed, either.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Teabagging our way to fascism

Here the whole video from which the clip in the last post was taken. Watch it and keep Sara Robinson’s three stages in mind:

Town hall meetings: a stop on the road to fascism

Sara Robinson, along with her sidekick David Neiwert, the author of The Eliminationists, are a couple of the more astute right wing watchers around. Sara has a new series of articles on fascism; the first installment was published last week; the second one was published this week, and the final one is yet to come.

Sara says we are at a defining moment, a third stage:

All through the Bush years, progressive right-wing watchers refused to call it "fascism" because, though we kept looking, we never saw clear signs of a deliberate, committed institutional partnership forming between America's conservative elites and its emerging homegrown brownshirt horde. We caught tantalizing signs of brief flirtations -- passing political alliances, money passing hands, far-right moonbat talking points flying out of the mouths of "mainstream" conservative leaders. But it was all circumstantial, and fairly transitory. The two sides kept a discreet distance from each other, at least in public. What went on behind closed doors, we could only guess. They certainly didn't act like a married couple.

Now, the guessing game is over. We know beyond doubt that the Teabag movement was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. We see the Birther fracas -- the kind of urban myth-making that should have never made it out of the pages of the National Enquirer -- being openly ratified by Congressional Republicans. We've seen Armey's own professionally-produced field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process -- and the film of public officials being terrorized and threatened to the point where some of them required armed escorts to leave the building. We've seen Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."

This is the sign we were waiting for -- the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It's also our very last chance to stop it.

Robinson — and Neiwert, too in his book — draw heavily on the work of Robert Paxton. Here are Paxton’s first two stages on the road to fascism:

In the first stage, a rural movement emerges to effect some kind of nationalist renewal (what Roger Griffin calls "palingenesis" -- a phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes). They come together to restore a broken social order, always drawing on themes of unity, order, and purity. Reason is rejected in favor of passionate emotion.

In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power. Interestingly, in every case Paxton cites, the political base came from the rural, less-educated parts of the country; and almost all of them came to power very specifically by offering themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of the large landowners.

It’s funny you mention the teabag movement, Sara. Here’s a little video of a teabagger rally at the Minnesota state capitol. Watch especially for Sue Jeffers exhorting the crowd and saying that the rally was the start of “something big.”


Spot will have more on this topic later.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another remark from the Orwellian overseers

There has been some recent discussion in the comments over whether the Democrats of the Republican are the better propagandists. Spot said that the Democrats were just “sloganeering pikers” compared to the Republican “Orwellian overseers.” Just after writing that, he saw this article in Salon:

The future of healthcare in America, according to Sarah Palin, might look something like this: A sick 17-year-old girl needs a liver transplant. Doctors find an available organ, and they're ready to operate, but the bureaucracy -- or as Palin would put it, the "death panel" -- steps in and says it won't pay for the surgery. Despite protests from the girl's family and her doctors, the heartless hacks hold their ground for a critical 10 days. Eventually, under massive public pressure, they relent -- but the patient dies before the operation can proceed.

It certainly sounds scary enough to make you want to go show up at a town hall meeting and yell about how misguided President Obama's healthcare reform plans are. Except that's not the future of healthcare -- it's the present. Long before anyone started talking about government "death panels" or warning that Obama would have the government ration care, 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, a leukemia patient from Glendale, Calif., died in December 2007, after her parents battled their insurance company, Cigna, over the surgery. Cigna initially refused to pay for it because the company's analysis showed Sarkisyan was already too sick from her leukemia; the liver transplant wouldn't have saved her life.

The article continues:

Opponents of reform often seem to skip right past any problems with the current system -- but it's rife with them. A study by the American Medical Association found the biggest insurance companies in the country denied between 2 and 5 percent of claims put in by doctors last year (though the AMA noted that not all the denials were improper). There is no national database of insurance claim denials, though, because private insurance companies aren't required to disclose such stats. Meanwhile, a House Energy and Commerce Committee report in June found that just three insurance companies kicked at least 20,000 people off their rolls between 2003 and 2007 for such reasons as typos on their application paperwork, a preexisting condition or a family member's medical history. People who buy insurance under individual policies, about 6 percent of adults, may be especially vulnerable, but the 63 percent of adults covered by employer-provided insurance aren't immune to difficulty.

Newton Gingrich tell us not to trust the government, but Spot says the government is a better bet than health insurance companies who profit by denying claims. Spot’s got a whole gaggle of commenters who are so poisoned by the Palins and the Gingrichs that they cannot think rationally.

Rationing goes on now, boys and girls:

That kind of utilitarian rationing, of course, is exactly what Palin and other opponents of the healthcare reform proposals pending before Congress say they want to protect the country from. "Such a system is downright evil," Palin wrote, in the same message posted on Facebook where she raised the "death panel" specter. "Health care by definition involves life and death decisions."

Coverage of Palin's remarks, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's defense of them, over the weekend did point out that the idea that the reform plans would encourage government-sponsored euthanasia is one of a handful of deliberate falsehoods being peddled by opponents of the legislation. But the idea that only if reform passes would the government start setting up rationing and interfering with care goes beyond just the bogus euthanasia claim.

Comments like Palin and Gingrich’s get passed along sub silentio by people like Donald E. Wildmon in widespread emails campaigns that are never subject to scrutiny or corrected when demonstrated to be false.

Spot’s friend the Disco Stoo had a good post about health care that Spot has been meaning to link to, but hasn’t gotten around to it before now. Here it is. The Stoo also addresses the rationing argument:

And then there's the rationing argument. Leave aside the fact that health insurance companies do a perfectly fine job of rationing health care, care is also being rationed by price, as in the poor can't afford good health care. I'd also argue that giving everyone access doesn't mean that everyone will pound down the doors (except perhaps at the beginning, when people can finally afford to see a doctor for the first time. That will pass.). I've been sick for the last week. I didn't go to a doctor. Why do you think everyone else will?

The Stoo also makes this comment, from a young Stoo’s perspective:

And please get off of the "insuring lazy people" bullshit. When I was working full time as a security guard, I couldn't go to a doctor. The insurance I was offered was little more than catastrophic coverage. That was fine for me, a young, healthy single guy with no kids. At the pay we were getting, the cost for decent health coverage was astronomical. And that was for full time work.

Here’s a good summary of the leading House plan, with a link to the House website.

Andy Driscoll visits Drinking Liberally

andy driscoll This Thursday, the 13th, Andy Driscoll will be our guest at Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis. Andy hosts a weekly show on KFAI radio called To Tell the Truth Truth to Tell. The show airs on Wednesdays at 11 AM. You can get podcasts of past shows at the link. Lynnell Mickelsen, another name that might be familiar to you, is a co-host of Truth to Tell.

Andy will talk with us about community affairs programming at KFAI and also about one of his favorite topics, media literacy. We expect him around 7 o’clock.

We’ll meet from six to nine or so at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Update: We had a great visit with Andy. Spot will try to get to representative video up in a few days. In the meantime, check out the badge to Andy’s show in the sidebar.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Local dispatches

Just yesterday, I read Barbara Erenrieich's piece in the New York Times about the criminalization of poverty.

Today, I read this in St. Paul's Highland Villager's crime report column:
A man was cited for indecent exposure at a laundromat on the 600 block of West 7th Street about 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 10. He was waiting with no pants on while the ones he had been wearing were in the washing machine.

Silence of the lambs attack dogs

Although the unofficial mouthpiece of the Republican Party of Minnesota has been all over the story about the Minnesota DFL's possible money woes, the silence from the RPM's offices has been deafening. They just elected two of the fiercest slime merchants in the state to the top two slots, for crying out loud. One would figure that Chair Tony Sutton or Vice Chair Michael Brodkorb would be screaming like crazy about misconduct on the part of the DFL, kind of like how Brodkorb reminds us about how cowardly Dems who hold town hall meetings on the Kline/Bachmann/Paulson schedule are.

But comment about the DFL bookkeeping is apparently not to be. We only have this eerie silence coming from 525 Park Street. Sutton twitters about which kids made it to FarmFest this year, Brodkorb tells us about the cool new facebook group he's joined, but nothing about the allegations against the DFL.

Let's take a look at why this might be. One would think that Mr. Sutton, who we last talked about here, would be outraged at sloppy bookkeeping, especially when it happens at the Minnesota DFL. He just wants honor, transparency and accountability to be the norm for political parties across our great state, by golly.

Actually, Mr. Sutton's silence is interesting. I suspect this all might have something to do with Sutton being the former treasurer of the Republican Party of Minnesota. He’s had plenty of experience wallowing in the mess of sloppy bookkeeping and developing close personal relationships with the auditors at the Federal Elections Commission.

Let’s just look at one of the many letters that the Federal Elections Commission’s auditors have sent to Mr. Sutton. The letter can be viewed in its entirety here and it covers the period of April 2007. Among the problems the FEC auditor has with Mr. Sutton’s bookkeeping? Let’s look at the problems identified. There’s a failure to account for aggregated receipts that may have to be reported (#1), over $24,000 of unitemized transactions (#2), disbursements for which no purpose is given (#3), a failure to account for payments to those who may be engaged in “federal election activity” (#4, 5), a failure to properly account for federal versus non-federal expenses (#6, 7), the misidentification of GOTV efforts (#8), failure to properly document reimbursements to individuals (#9), improper accounting of federal versus non-federal funds (#10), and the misuse of non-federal monies for federal activities (#11).

And that’s just one month’s auditing questions from the FEC auditor to Mr. Sutton. There are many months' worth of such questions directed to former Treasurer Sutton.

Let’s just put it this way. If the DFL deposited a check into the wrong account, it demonstrates that they have in place fiscal controls that allow them to know that the error took place. Contrast this with the RPM, where things are such a jumbled mess that it’s taken years to figure out where donor money came from, where it went, what it was used for, whether it was properly accounted for, if it was ever stolen, whether it was used for improper purposes or what the hell happened to it.

Now some might say that the RPM is being silent because it's living in a very fragile glass house, but here at the Cucking Stool we are eternal optimists and like to think that Mr. Sutton's empathy just kicked in.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

At a town hall meeting somewhere in America

creamed corn mafia Okay, people, those are my prepared remarks on why I support health care reform. Now, I am prepared to entertain – so to speak -  some questions. You there, ma’am, upfront.

I’m just Soylent Green on the hoof to you, aren’t I?

I beg your pardon.

You know, the movie starring our hero, Moses, I mean Charlton Heston, where old people got made into food. That’s what you want to do with us. You want to kill us just to get us out of the way.

That’s patently absurd.

Well, you’re going to counsel us to kill ourselves: same thing.

Where did you ever get that idea?

I have it on good authority.

Really? What authority?

I am quoting Donald E. Wildmon from the American Family Association [no link; it’s in an email]:

In a recent New York Post column, Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York and health care expert, wrote:

"One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care (House bill, p. 425-430). The sessions cover highly sensitive matters such as whether to receive antibiotics and 'the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.' This mandate invites abuse, and seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care."

Question for your Congressmen: Will you oppose any healthcare reform bill that in any way promotes euthanasia?

Pastor Wildmon is a pioneer in television censorship; you know that, don’t you Congressman? He’s nobody to fool with!

Ah, well, Betsy has had to back off; you know that, too, don’t you?

Betsy McCaughey was forced to backtrack after calling the provision "mandatory" -- a "pants on fire" falsehood. As Media Matters for America noted, after repeatedly falsely asserting that the bill makes end-of-life counseling for seniors "mandatory," former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey was forced to backtrack from her claim -- a claim called "a ridiculous falsehood. That's a Pants on Fire." Confronted with accusations that she lied about the bill, she claimed, as she had done with a prior falsehood about another bill, that she was right about the effect (if not the literal wording) of the legislation.

Has Pastor Wildmon sent you a retraction, ma’am?

Well, no.

Ask him about it. And while you at it, ask Rush Limbaugh to correct what he said about it, too.

Rush won’t take my calls.

I see. But now that you mention advance care planning, do you know what one of the House bills does say about that?


Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. Or I’ll let Media Matters tell you:

Advance care planning is not mandatory in the House health care bill. The House health care reform bill provides coverage for counseling as a service through Medicare and is not mandatory. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the provision "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [, accessed 7/29/09]

Rep. Blumenauer: "Myth: Patients will be forced to have this consultation once every five years." Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who co-authored the provision, released a fact sheet on advance planning consultations in the House health care bill that states: "Myth: Patients will be forced to have this consultation once every five years. Fact: Advance planning consultations are not mandatory; this benefit is completely voluntary. The provision merely provides coverage under Medicare to have a conversation once every five years if -- and only if -- a patient wants to make his or her wishes known to a doctor. If desired, patients may have consultations more frequently if they are chronically ill or if their health status changes."

I still think it’s a bad idea, Sonny.

Congressman Sonny? I like that. Anyway, there are some important advocacy groups, including AARP, who do think it is a good idea:

AARP: Supports provision, criticized "gross," "cruel" distortions. A July 28 Politico article on the counseling provision reported: "'This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves but also better ensure that their wishes are followed,' AARP Executive Vice President John Rother said in a statement. 'To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion -- especially for any family that has been forced to make the difficult decisions on care for loved ones approaching the end of their lives.' "

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: Supports provision, no "responsible legislative analyst" would indicate it is mandatory. The July 28 Politico article also reported: "Jon Keyserling, vice president for public policy and counsel at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said: 'I was surprised that any responsible legislative analyst would indicate this is a mandatory provision. That is just a misreading of the language and, certainly, of the intent.' " According to a fact sheet distributed by Blumenauer's office, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization supports the provision.

AARP? Buncha communists!

Well, there it is. Anything else on your mind?

Yeah, keep the government out of my Medicare!

Update: A thump of the tail to commenter James for a heads up on the Wildmon email.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Nature abhors a vacuum

From Charles M. Blow’s column in the NYT today:

Trapped in their vacuum of ideas, too many Republicans continue to display an astounding ability to believe utter nonsense, even when faced with facts that contradict it.

A Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll released last Friday found that 28 percent of Republicans don’t believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States and another 30 percent are still “not sure.” That’s nearly 6 out of 10 Republicans refusing to accept a basic truth. Then again, this shouldn’t surprise me. According to a Gallup poll released last summer, 6 in 10 Republicans also said they thought that humans were created, in their present form, 10,000 years ago.

Let’s face it: This is no party of Einsteins. Really, it isn’t. A Pew poll last month found that only 6 percent of scientists said that they were Republicans.

But his basic point wasn’t criticism of Republicans:

Democrats should be leading this discussion. Instead, they’re losing control of it. That’s unfortunate because the debate is too important to be hijacked by hooligans.