Friday Mashup Part One (7/23/10)

July 23, 2010

  • 1) Christine Flowers tells us here today that, as long as the Obama Administration is apologizing to former USDA worker Shirley Sherrod for their overreaction to the doctored videotape from Andrew Breitbart of Sherrod’s speech to the NAACP, they should apologize to Alberto Gonzales also (and speak for yourself about “short-memory spans,” Christine)…

    Given our short memory spans, here’s a brief recap. Toward the end of the Bush administration, the Gonzales-led Department of Justice was criticized for firing a handful of U.S. attorneys over what liberals called “political reasons.” (Here’s where we insert the word “duh,” this being Washington and all.)

    Democrats were up in arms about the firing of prosecutors who they maintained had lost their jobs not for legitimate reasons but for their refusal to toe the Bush line. Notable among the firees was David Iglesias, accused of being soft on voter fraud in New Mexico. (He went on to parlay his dismissal into a lucrative career doing books, interviews and op-eds in the New York Times.)

    Which, of course, automatically makes Iglesias guilty of rank opportunism as far as Flowers is concerned – speaking of the Times, they had a lot to say about why Gonzales should resign, which he eventually did, here (some of this is repeated in posts that appear below).

    (Also, the third bullet here tells us who else wrote to the Times.)


    In response to the uproar, which reached a crescendo during the run-up to the presidential election, the Department of Justice in 2008 assigned Nora Dannehy, a career prosecutor, to investigate the firings. Dannehy had a strong history of uncovering official corruption and was viewed by both liberals and conservatives as a straight-shooter.

    This was no exception. While acknowledging that the Justice Department was wrong to have fired Iglesias without bothering to get all the facts about the accusations against him (hmm, sounds familiar, White House . . . controversy . . . half the facts . . . pink slip!), Dannehy concluded that no crime had been committed and there was no effort to influence prosecutions, as Democrats had long alleged.

    Oh yes, Abu G. was merely a victim of Bushco circumstance, as it were, all this time; this post about his eventual hire at Texas Tech University for a job recruiting minority students and teaching a junior-level poli sci course touches on the ways that he fronted for the Bushco gang (more here) – and the fact that he wasn’t hired by a law school speaks volumes (interesting that Christine ignores that – yet another occasion where lawyer Flowers chooses to cast a blind partisan eye concerning her ostensible area of expertise).

    And as noted here by Glenn Greenwald, Gonzales tried to argue that he was innocent in the 2004 DOJ dispute over warrantless surveillance because he approved only of “data mining” of the calls as opposed to the surveillance of the calls themselves; spying on the calls of American citizens in the way Gonzales approved (and the manner objected to by former AG John Ashcroft as well as Robert Mueller of the FBI and deputy AG James Comey) was then illegal under FISA, though the Democratic congress, to their eternal shame, amended FISA to basically let Gonzales off the hook.

    Comparing Shirley Sherrod with Alberto Gonzales is typically monstrous Flowers demagoguery…just add this to her bilious pile of literary dreck.

  • 2) And speaking of journalistic hackery, J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times linked to this L.A. Times story about trying to resurrect the “public option” in health care reform as a deficit-reduction measure (with typically “brilliant” insight, Mullane dismissed it with the remark that “Nov. 2 can’t get here fast enough”).

    Well, I hate to break the news to you, J.D., but it would lower the deficit in a big way; this post tells us it would save $400 billion, and this from Media Matters tells us that it would “reduce the federal budget deficit by about $15 billion” in 2020 and would save “about $68 billion” through 2020.

    Of course, I’m sure that, by 2020, you won’t have a job as a pundit any more because of your paper’s loss of circulation, leading to its extinction (doesn’t give me a kick to say that, but I can’t imagine any other outcome, seeing as how they continue to allow you space to propagate your brand of wingnuttery, among other reasons).

  • 3) Finally, this from the Democratic Party tells us the following about Wingnut Pat Toomey, running as a Repug for the U.S. Senate from PA…
  • Even as the BP oil crisis raged on, (Toomey) advocated for expanding offshore drilling — and in the past has said that regulating oil companies “borders on the criminal.”
  • He voted to allow drilling in the Great Lakes, even though the amount of oil the BP oil spill crisis has leaked into the Gulf would contaminate every drop of Lake Erie, a source of drinking water for millions.
  • He is running a campaign funded by special interests. He’s pulled in $851,489 from Wall Street and $54,950 in donations from the oil and gas industries — including the largest donation that Halliburton’s PAC made in May.
  • Under his watch, the Club for Growth spent about $10 million on a publicity campaign to privatize Social Security; Toomey lamented that it was a “pity” that Bush’s proposed privatization “couldn’t be implemented sooner.”
  • After making a fortune trading derivatives on Wall Street, he wrote legislation repealing key laws that kept banks and investment firms separate — spurring massive deregulation that led to the economic crash.
  • In response, to help Admiral Joe, click here.

  • Lending A Lifeline To The “Funemployed”

    July 19, 2010

    Did you know that, according to J.D. Mullane in yesterday’s Bucks County Courier Times here, that “unemployment compensation discourages a substantial number” of people from finding work,” and that a cause of that could be that our beloved commonwealth doesn’t require proof that the unemployed have actively sought work?

    Or that two economists produced a report in the ‘80s “show(ing) that a week before unemployment checks lapsed, about 4 percent sought work. A week later, job seeking spiked to 30 percent…it’s elementary economics. If you pay someone not to work, they won’t”?

    And it gets even better – the “funemployed” can attend an “Erotic Writing Workshop” in their spare time (based in San Francisco, of course).

    All of this was published in what purports to be a daily newspaper read, ostensibly, by adults (with Mullane also supporting Repug PA gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett’s assertion that the unemployed simply aren’t looking for work hard enough, featured in an ad by Corbett’s challenger, Dem Dan Onorato, here; Mullane dutifully ignores the part of the ad telling us that 800 people recently showed up at a Bucks County job fair that advertised 100 positions).

    Meanwhile, for the reality point of view, I give you this from Jane M. Von Bergen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (there aren’t many reasons to read that paper any more, but she is one of them)…

    Longtime software developer Malinda Ward has a Drexel degree in computer science. But after 17 months without a job, the programs she looks at today have more to do with feeding her family than with managing a company’s network capabilities.

    She now knows, for example, that on Thursdays a homeless shelter in Coatesville distributes “extra vegetables, or they’ll hand out some food that has expired that day.” Free bread and cakes are available another day.

    “Oh, I’m definitely scared,” said Ward, 48, who lives in West Brandywine Township with her four children and her husband, William, who also doesn’t have a job right now. Her unemployment benefits, $566 a week, ran out July 3.

    Sue Kaiden, a professional career counselor and longtime volunteer with Joseph’s People, a support group for the unemployed, worries about their job prospects.

    “Employers are saying, ‘We don’t want to hire you because you’ve been out of work so long,’ ” she said.

    Her comments were buttressed by Peter Gioacchini, a senior director of talent acquisition at Cigna Corp., who said his company always looked for the best talent – and often those people are employed, not unemployed.

    That’s the kind of thing that bothers Paul Beckmann, 63, of East Rockhill Township, a designer and draftsman who has been out of work since April 2009.

    According to the Rutgers study, and another one by the Pew Economic Policy Group, people in his age bracket tend to have the hardest time finding another job. Nearly 30 percent of those who lose their jobs are out of work for more than a year, Pew found.

    “I think the supervisor stuff is hurting me more than anything,” said Beckmann, who once earned $80,000 a year but now would accept much less.

    And I don’t suppose it should be necessary to point out what is contained in this excerpt, but I will anyway…

    Since December 2007, Congress has passed a series of extensions, known as tiers, to stretch the typical 26-week unemployment benefit an additional 53 weeks, with the proviso that funding would begin to peter out at the end of May. Twenty more weeks had been added in many high-unemployment states, including Pennsylvania.

    Those opposed to another extension say the country simply can’t afford it. And some assert, as did Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, that the benefits encourage people to stay at home instead of looking for work.

    Public-policy professor Carl Van Horn, Zukin’s coauthor, disagrees.

    “In a strong labor market, when unemployment is low, having an unemployment benefit does contribute slightly to the unemployment rate,” said Van Horn, who directs the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

    But that’s absolutely not the case in this prolonged recession, he said, with nearly one in 10 workers out of a job and many more underemployed or discouraged.

    Gosh, you mean none of them are “funemployed”? Why, whatever will J.D. say in response?

    Also on the subject of unemployment, Mikey Fitzpatrick, running for the U.S. House seat he once held in PA-08 against Patrick Murphy, sent one of his foot soldiers to a recent job fair hosted by our congressman (here)…

    Of 26 (hiring) participants, six were schools or job search entities more interested in selling services than offering jobs (Delaware Valley College provided a listing of primarily part-time openings from its website). Five more were insurers or pyramid operations looking for commissioned sales people.

    A “pyramid operation,” huh? Want to try naming the ones you’re talking about to warn people?

    Of course not, because if you did, you’d probably get sued.


    These employers showed up to help Murphy even though they didn’t have many jobs to offer. When one was asked why he was at the job fair, he replied, “Because my congressman asked me to come.”

    And of course, that’s proof of a patronage operation by a Dem, as every good Repug knows.

    The author then goes on to blame Murphy because there weren’t as many jobs there as the author (and probably everyone else) would have preferred, though the companies did collect resumes in the event that funding became available for more positions. Which to me begs the question, how the #@!$ is Murphy supposed to be responsible for the hiring decisions of these employers?

    (As an aside, I should tell you that I have attended job fairs that were little more than exercises in resume collection to obtain attendee demographic information for marketing purposes. I’m not sure how any politician can be blamed for that either, as opposed to the participating companies themselves.)

    Fortunately, Murphy himself responded to this individual yesterday here, saying (in part) the following…

    …in a stunning display of cynicism and arrogance, the accompanying guest opinion on this page, written by a campaign worker for Mike Fitzpatrick, mocks the job fair as a “stunt” and a waste of time. It belittles the job offerings as mostly “entry-level” positions. Jobs like security guards. Or health caregivers. Apparently, these careers aren’t good enough for Fitzpatrick. No doubt job seekers will be hurt and insulted by the characterization. My father still works as a security guard, as he has for over a decade. It’s an honest job that he’s proud to have, one that puts food on the table and pays the bills.

    Maybe those in the Fitzpatrick camp have been living under a rock for the past couple of years. Otherwise, it’s hard to understand how they could be so incredibly out of touch. Eight years of failed Bush economic policies put American families through the wringer. Those economic policies, which Congressman Fitzpatrick supported, cost our country 8.2 million jobs. Families have seen their 401(k)s devastated and college savings accounts depleted.

    Fitzpatrick talks a lot about creating jobs, but he’s stood against the very investments that are necessary to grow our economy. He opposed tax credits that helped green energy companies like Gamesa expand – the same company with a table at my Saturday event announcing 10 open positions.

    He opposed tax incentives that helped Y-Carbon expand and move to Bucks County, another company with a table at the job fair looking for engineers and managers for its spin-off companies.

    The truth is, Fitzpatrick isn’t just out of touch with what folks are facing today. He simply never has and never will make it a priority to fight for middle-class families.

    Also, here is more information on Murphy and jobs (and to reward good behavior, click here).

    Monday Mashup Part One (7/12/10)

    July 12, 2010

  • 1) Based on this post from J.D. Mullane’s wretched blog, he apparently believes that animals don’t deserve any spiritual benefit from the guidance of a benevolent creator (with him calling anyone alleging that animals have souls a “neo-pagan crackpot” – Mullane apparently isn’t satisfied with wingnuttia in the temporal world and aspires for metaphysical wankery also).

    Well then, I guess it would be surprising to consider this heroic individual as a “neo-pagan crackpot” also.

  • 2) Also, the New York Times decided to write a puff piece on Chris Christie today (here)…

    The governor has repeatedly used his powers more confrontationally than his predecessors, wading into school budget fights, freezing the actions of semiautonomous public authorities and breaking with tradition by refusing to reappoint a State Supreme Court justice.

    Gee, I would say that more than a little bit of context is missing; as tells us here…

    TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie today nominated attorney Anne Murray Patterson to the state Supreme Court to replace Justice John Wallace.

    Wallace is the high court’s only African-American. He is the first sitting justice to be denied tenure, though there have been those who resigned to avoid a renomination battle.

    Christie said his decision was more about reshaping the court than about Justice Wallace, whom he said he had “great respect for … personally and professionally.”

    Apparently, Christie had so much “respect” for Wallace that he decided to deny him tenure and try to replace him with a product liability lawyer (who usually takes the side of corporations) instead.

    Oh, and by the way, would it have been too much trouble to also tell us the following (from here)…

    All seven members resigned…from a Judicial Advisory Panel that recommends potential judges to New Jersey’s governor, in protest of Gov. Chris Christie’s decision not to reappoint Associate Justice John Wallace Jr. to the state Supreme Court.

    Memo to “The Old Gray Lady” – next time, try reporting (and in addition to the items mentioned above, here is more “fun” with Christie).

  • 3) Finally, it seems as if the bogus deficit-reduction commission is floating some “trial balloon” recommendations to see which ones will get shot down (here)…

    Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles told a meeting of the National Governors Association that everything needs to be considered — including curtailing popular tax breaks, such as the home mortgage deduction…

    Oh, brother, here we go again (no wonder Atrios calls these jokers the “catfood commission”).

    On the one hand, this tells us that the home mortgage deduction costs about $131 billion.

    On the other hand, this tells us that the first tax cut of Captain Clueless in 2001 alone cost $1.35 trillion (and there is plenty or argument raging back and forth as to whether or not we should allow that and the cut in 2003 to expire).

    But I’m a reasonable person, so I’ll tell you what – allow both Bush tax cuts to expire and end both wars, bring everybody home (because we’re not going to be able to remake Afghanistan in our image – we’d need a draft to legitimately fight the Taliban for any serious duration, and I most definitely do NOT support that) and cut the defense budget in half, to the point where we’re outspending the rest of the world, oh, maybe three times as much as our nearest country as opposed to five or six times…do that, and I’ll relent on the home mortgage interest deduction, OK?

    And by the way, I heard about this story from the paper version of The Philadelphia Inquirer that was delivered to our door step today, presumably by accident.

    Memo to the Inky – we’re never going to subscribe again. And if you’re going to give us a free copy, at least be smart enough not to give it to us on a Monday, when you publish Krauthammer and his weekly Obama-bashing.

    Update 7/15/10: Hat tip to Atrios for this (a “know-nothing sociopath” indeed)…

  • Monday Mashup (6/14/10)

    June 14, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Times ran a Guest Opinion today from Rob “Self” Ciervo, running as a Repug against incumbent Dem Steve Santarsiero for the PA-31 State House seat (here).

    Among Ciervo’s supposedly innovative ideas is to cut the staffing of each state representative’s office (which I’m sure will do wonders for response to constituent requests) and cutting down the number of mailers allowed per state representative (Ciervo states that Santarsiero has sent out five over the prior year, but I honestly cannot recall that many – by the way, I’ll await word on how many campaign mailers have been sent from Repug PA House reps Frank Farry, Gene DiGirolamo and Paul Clymer during that time, as long as Ciervo has brought this up).

    Ciervo also states as follows…

    No state senator or representative should be allowed under any circumstance to hire an individual who was paid to perform political tasks for any campaign the two years prior to their appointment. This is one of the main problems with our legislature; Harrisburg politicians hire their campaign staff to be on the state payroll. Santarsiero did just this by hiring all three of his paid campaign staff from the 2008 campaign to the state payroll immediately after winning election. How will we know they will not continue to do political campaigning for him, perhaps unpaid, while they are supposed to be serving the residents of our area?

    That’s a pretty low, baseless attack against Steve’s staff, with no proof of any wrongdoing of course.

    Ciervo also says that any state employee under 50 should have his or her pension benefit “frozen and transferred into a 401(k) style defined contribution retirement account,” which makes me wonder what other industry or category of worker in existence has been subject to such a draconian measure (I realize we have a pension issue in this state, but the public employees have paid their fair share while the state has been neglectful in paying its matching amount, as noted here).

    And as noted in the prior linked post, Santarsiero voted in favor of a bill to amend payment of unfunded actuarial liability to PA pension plans (again, not that Ciervo would ever acknowledge that…curious that the Courier Times published this from Ciervo the day after they gave column space to that nitwit Simon Campbell for his monthly rant against the Pennsbury teachers union – their contract expires on the 30th, Simple Simon; are you gonna move “off the dime” and do the job you were elected to do, or goad them into a strike instead…dumb question, I know).

    This is all part and parcel for Ciervo, who accused Steve of voting against funding state colleges (here – not true), and who trivialized Steve’s efforts on behalf of PA residents working for the state of New Jersey who face the very real issue of forced relocation to keep their jobs (here).

    I can hardly wait for more bold ideas in Ciervo’s next Guest Opinion, such as placing a quota on the number of Post-Its, ballpoint pens and notepads allocated to each State House rep. And how about mandating that each member of our legislature hold up one or two fingers as appropriate for a “bio break,” Rob?

    (And by the way, to contact Steve, click here.)

  • Update 6/15/10: Gee, I wonder if Teabagger Rob will endorse Steve’s idea of a constitutional convention, one of the many worthy suggestions from Santarsiero’s Guest Opinion today (here)?

  • 2) Also, I give you J.D. Mullane of the Courier Times (here)…

    June 12, 1987. President Reagan delivered one of the great speeches of the Cold War era. Two years later, the hated wall came down, endng “the brutal division of a continent.” The columns behind him are real, by the way.

    I guess that last sentence is a dig at Obama and his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party Convention in 2008 (here).

    While Mullane is not factually incorrect for a change, his insinuation that The Sainted Ronnie R had one damn thing to do with the collapse of the former Soviet Union is laughable (yes, I know this is familiar territory, but J.D. is the one resurrecting this piece of mythology, not me).

    For, as Madeleine Albright, secretary of state to President Clinton, put it here, “attributing the end of the Cold War to Ronald Reagan is like attributing the sunrise to the rooster’s cackle.”

  • 3) And speaking of Repug presidents, Laura Ingraham over at Fix Noise took a short at Number 44 also with the specious claim that he was “fundraising off the Gulf spill” (here).

    She continues…

    Did President Bush ever raise money off of 9/11?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that he used it in his campaign commercials when running for president in 2004, as noted here, with some relatives of the victims claiming that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History was “exploiting the tragedy for political gain.”

    I guess John Kerry is too honorable of a man to do what I’m suggesting he should have done, but if I were his campaign manager in 2004, I would have run an ad showing 43 sitting dumbfounded in that Florida classroom next to film of the WTC, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA crash sites while the attacks were in progress, with the words, “it happened on his watch” onscreen, and absolutely nothing else.

  • Wednesday Mashup (6/9/10)

    June 9, 2010

  • 1) J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times (here) criticized Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Daily News today, for supposedly “hat(ing) himself and his generation.”

    I guess J.D. would know something about that, having trashed baby boomers in ’07 here for supposedly not fighting the war against terrorism/Islamofascism/whatever the hell it used to be called, as well as the looming crisis with Social Security and Medicare (yep, as bad as things are now, think of how much more fracked up we’d be if we’d privatized our retirement insurance).

  • 2) Also, I know this is waay too easy, but I can’t resist (here, on the subject of Sarah Palin supposedly coming to the aid of fellow Repugs such as Nikki Haley, who won the right to compete in a runoff election for SC governor last night)…

    (Palin) had a pretty good Super Tuesday. Three of the four candidates she endorsed won, bringing her record in tightly contested races to 8-3 overall this midterm election year. Earlier in the day, TIME asked Palin how she makes her endorsement decisions. “Oftentimes I’m looking at the candidate who shares the circumstances in which I’ve been: underfunded, up against the machine, no big endorsements, running a grassroots campaign with the help of volunteer friends and family,” Palin told TIME. “When I see that, and can feel the momentum they can create with their passion in spite of greater challenges than their more comfortable opponents have, then I empathize, I relate, and I want to help.”

    Too funny – as noted here…

    Of the roughly $1.3 million she raised for her primary and general election campaigns for governor, more than half came from people and political action committees giving at least $500, according to an AP analysis of her campaign finance reports. The maximum that individual donors could give was $1,000; $2,000 for a PAC.

    Of the rest, about $76,000 came from Republican Party committees.

    Ya’ think Palin is, as usual, full of some steamin’ moose dookey here? You betcha!

  • 3) Finally, from the worlds of sports and music, I give you Michael Medved (here – didn’t know he had a connection to Washington state)…

    (Ken Griffey Jr.), approaching his 41st birthday, offers a sad shadow of his former excellence, and our Seattle media deliver frequent complaints about his punchless season. In 2010’s first 50 games, the once fearsome slugger has watched his average drop below .190, with no home runs, after slapping some 630 dingers in his previous 20-year Hall of Fame-worthy career.

    This tells us that, at this moment, Ken Griffey Jr. has retired from baseball, though apparently no formal announcement has been made. Wonder how Medved supposedly didn’t know that?

    I’m a bit interested in how the Seattle Mariners are doing this season (not too well, apparently) because they ended up as the destination for Cliff Lee, the Cy Young Award-winning lefty who was so instrumental to the Phillies’ late-season run to the World Series last year. And I really didn’t give the club much more thought than that until I found a local radio sports personality wondering if the Mariners were going to just chuck the season and have a “fire sale” at some point. And if they trade any marquee players, I’m sure Lee would be one of the first to go.

    God, please don’t let him end up in Atlanta.

  • Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

    March 30, 2010

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.

  • Thursday Mashup (10/1/09)

    October 1, 2009


  • The New York Times reported the following today (here)…

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told lawmakers that it opposes legislation that could protect reporters from being imprisoned if they refuse to disclose confidential sources who leak material about national security, according to several people involved with the negotiations.

    The administration this week sent to Congress sweeping revisions to a “media shield” bill that would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify.

    The bill includes safeguards that would require prosecutors to exhaust other methods for finding the source of the information before subpoenaing a reporter, and would balance investigators’ interests with “the public interest in gathering news and maintaining the free flow of information.”

    But under the administration’s proposal, such procedures would not apply to leaks of a matter deemed to cause “significant” harm to national security. Moreover, judges would be instructed to be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

    The two Democratic senators who have been prime sponsors of the legislation, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that they were disappointed by the administration’s position.

    Mr. Specter called the proposed changes “totally unacceptable,” saying they would gut meaningful judicial review.

    On balance, I agree with Specter and Schumer on this. I think the White House is kind of torn between honoring what Candidate Obama said about ensuring reporting safeguards, though President Obama is now loathe to give back some of the privileges it inherited from the Bushco regime in the matter of executive rights versus the judiciary (and Congress).

    However, as I read this, I wondered where Specter’s concern for judicial review was during the FISA mess last year. And to be fair, I should note that Specter introduced an amendment that would have ensured judicial review (here), though the amendment was defeated.

    In spite of that, however, Specter voted for the sham FISA bill anyway, stating as follows from his web site here (showing some typical brass, I have to admit)…

    In offering an amendment for judicial review, I am mindful of the importance of what the telephone companies have been doing on the war against terrorism from my classified briefings. It is a difficult decision to vote for retroactive immunity if my amendment fails, but I will do so, just as I voted for it when my substitution amendment failed because I conclude that the threat of terrorism and the other important provisions in the House bill outweigh the invasion of privacy.

    In other words, “civil liberties don’t mean much when you’re dead,” huh Arlen?

    And I’m sure THIS wasn’t a factor in any way (and by the way, Admiral Joe Sestak, the legitimate Dem running against Specter for his Senate seat, earns no bragging rights here either based on this).

  • Dogs_539w

  • As noted here from last week’s Inquirer…

    Federal authorities have opened a civil-rights investigation into the Valley Club’s alleged discrimination against swimmers from a northeast Philadelphia day camp last summer.

    In a letter made public today, U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King wrote that the Department of Justice was looking into whether the private club’s treatment of black and Hispanic children from the Creative Steps Summer Day Camp amounted to prohibited discrimination.

    And here’s Snarlin’ Arlen again…

    U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.), who wrote to the Department of Justice in July seeking an investigation, said today the federal involvement would “give the public greater assurance” about the handling of the high publicity matter.

    And as Phillyburbs columnist Phil Gianficaro noted here last Sunday (don’t know much about this guy)…

    The Valley Club has long cited overcrowding/safety issues as the reason it pulled the plug on the Creative Steps campers, as well as on another day camp’s plans to swim this summer.

    On Tuesday it was learned the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission didn’t agree. The commission made public the findings of its investigation that concluded the Creative Steps campers were denied swimming privileges due to race, and advised the swim club provide sensitivity training to its board members and club members and pay a civil penalty of $50,000.

    However, Creative Steps attorney Gabriel Levin interprets the $50,000 figure as being for each individual child, which, if true, would raise the total amount owed by The Valley Club to more than $3 million.

    On Wednesday (9/23) it was learned that the US Department of Justice is also investigating allegations of discrimination by the swim club. If the swim club and day camp cannot settle the dispute on their own, the state Human Relations Commission board will conduct a public hearing and vote on the case. That outcome could be appealed to Commonwealth Court.

    And in case anyone has any doubts about the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission, I can assure you that they took this matter very seriously and conducted thorough interviews with many individuals at the pool on the day of the incident.

    That being said, I can’t think of a word to describe the absurdity of awarding each of the Creative Steps kids $50 grand each because of the ignorant insensitivity of the Valley Swim Club members.

    With all of this in mind, I’d like to put forward an idea.

    To lessen any punitive costs incurred by the swim club, how about if they agree to some kind of an “exchange” program next summer, whereby some of the Creative Steps kids will be able to attend the Valley Swim Club free of charge, while some of the Valley Swim Club members will be granted free pool admission to a facility in Northeast Philadelphia near where Creative Steps is located. I’m sure it will be an enlightening experience for all concerned.

    (Also, I believe the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board opined on this subject recently, but as far as I’m concerned, any alleged editorial board that publishes an opinion column with a headline of “loony liberals” doesn’t even deserve a link.)

    And in other news pertaining to Phillyburbs columnists, I should note that J.D. (Keeping It Local) Mullane waxed philosophic today here about the fact that, as a consequence of his attendance at the 9/12 rally in Washington, he ended up getting stuck with the bar tab for a couple of drunken teabaggers.

    Heh, heh, heh…

  • hua

  • This CNN Ticker post tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican Sen. Bob Corker suggested Wednesday that when it comes to health care, Canada and France have a “parasitic relationship” towards the United States.

    During a hearing of the Special Committee on Aging, the Tennessee Republican told Canada’s former Public Health Minister, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, that her country is “living off of us” because they set lower prices for health care and “all the innovation, all the technology breakthroughs just about take place in our country and we have to pay for it.”

    You truly can cut the stoo-pid with a knife, people; this tells us the following (concerning a study comparing U.S. treatment outcomes and other quality indicators with that of at least 30 developed countries, including Australia, France and the United Kingdom). …

    (The study) examined health care system research conducted during the past 10 to 15 years and found there was “no hard evidence” that U.S. health care quality stands out across the board. They did find that the U.S. had high scores in some specific treatment areas, such as cancer care. However, it didn’t do as well when compared to other nations at handling preventive care or treatment for acute conditions, including heart disease and hip fractures.

    Perhaps one of the study’s most unexpected findings—depending on your political point of view —is that the quality of health care in Canada tends to be higher than in the U.S. The researchers looked at 10 statistically adjusted studies of broad populations and found that five favored care in Canada. The U.S. came out better in two. Three were inconclusive. Docteur points out the universal coverage in Canada helps to ensure that Canadians receive the care they need throughout their lives. “I think the main point is that our study showed quite clearly that it is not the case that the U.S. is dominating Canada … in terms of quality of care,” she said.

    And as far as France is concerned, this tells us the following…

    French public health experts thought patients with chronic disease weren’t getting the kind of sustained, coordinated medical care that they needed.

    But in the course of a few dozen lengthy interviews, not once did I encounter an interview subject who wanted to trade places with an American. And it was easy enough to see why. People in these countries were getting precisely what most Americans say they want: Timely, quality care. Physicians felt free to practice medicine the way they wanted; companies got to concentrate on their lines of business, rather than develop expertise in managing health benefits. But, in contrast with the US, everybody had insurance. The papers weren’t filled with stories of people going bankrupt or skipping medical care because they couldn’t afford to pay their bills. And they did all this while paying substantially less, overall, than we do.

    In both the Netherlands and France, most people have long-standing relationships with their primary care doctors. And when they need to see these doctors, they do so without delay or hassle. In a 2008 survey of adults with chronic disease conducted by the Commonwealth Fund – a foundation which financed my own research abroad – 60 percent of Dutch patients and 42 percent of French patients could get same-day appointments. The figure in the US was just 26 percent.

    The contrast with after-hours care is even more striking. If you live in either Amsterdam or Paris, and get sick after your family physician has gone home, a phone call will typically get you an immediate medical consultation – or even, if necessary, a house call. And if you need the sort of attention available only at a formal medical facility, you can get that, too – without the long waits typical in US emergency rooms.

    The article notes that it took longer on average to see a specialist in France and the Netherlands than in this country, though I would take that trade if it meant better access to everyday and preventative care.

    Oh, and when it comes to “parasites,” let’s not forget that Corker owes his Senate seat in part to former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who was responsible for the infamous ad against Corker’s Senate opponent Dem Harold Ford in 2006 in a which a white woman claimed to have met Ford at a “Playboy party” and said “Call me” to him (here).

    Tennessee must be so proud (more here).

  • Time For Thursday Health Care Hackery (And More)

    August 13, 2009

    If you’re thinking that all I ever do is post about health care anymore, I should tell you that that’s not correct, though you are close to the truth.

    In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Former Senator Man-On-Dog laments the cost of the health care reform legislation here (as a former U.S. Senator, I’m sure he has no coverage issues concerning his own health care) and tells us the following…

    Even after all this new spending, almost half a million Pennsylvanians would still be uninsured, according to the Lewin Group, a health-care consulting firm. And if a government plan modeled after Medicare became available to everyone, the firm predicts that a majority of privately insured Pennsylvanians would move to the government plan.

    Oh, by the way, as Media Matters notes here, the Lewin Group is owned by United Healthcare, so don’t expect anything approximating a “fair and balanced” point of view (the Media Matters post also tells us of another sky high – and incorrect – enrollment estimate from Lewin…I would say there’s quite a difference between 88 million and 2 million.)

    And here’s more from our former “family values” senator…

    The health-care proposals could be financed partly through cuts in Medicare reimbursements to health-care providers. Pennsylvania ranks third, behind West Virginia and Maine, in the share of the population on Medicare. So not only would our doctors and hospitals be hurt disproportionately, but other insurance rates would go up as costs are shifted to the private sector.

    Philadelphia also would feel a disproportionate impact. A proposed surtax on the “rich” to pay for expanded coverage would disproportionately strike higher incomes in the region. But the biggest hit would be to the region’s bioscience industry.

    American health care was born in Philadelphia. The city boasts a list of national health-care firsts: first hospital, children’s hospital, medical school, cancer center, and more. Not surprisingly, those institutions are also among the nation’s best. This region leads the country, and our country leads the world in innovative medicine.

    Why? Because private markets reward excellence and innovation. Government-managed systems won’t pay for either. With more than 40,000 people employed in bioscience jobs in the Philadelphia area, a shift away from quality and innovation would disproportionately penalize the region.

    As noted here, the Philadelphia life sciences industry is funded also by the city and the state (I have no information on federal funding, and Santorum’s argument that enrollment in a government-funded public option could mean less for the life sciences industry from Uncle Sam is nothing more than typical propaganda).

    But wait, there’s more!…

    As to the climate bill, it would make coal Public Enemy No. 1, slapping enormous taxes on states that produce it and burn it for electricity. Pennsylvania is among the top five coal-producing states. More than 900 active mines employ more than 20,000 workers in the Commonwealth, in addition to almost 60,000 other jobs related to mining.

    Taxing poor people in Appalachia for the benefit of California, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey may be politically appealing to Democrats.

    But is it change Pennsylvanians can believe in?

    Demagoguery aside, Santorum actually has a point, shockingly enough. And that’s why ten Democratic senators, including PA’s Bob Casey and Arlen Specter, signed off on a letter that stated as follows (here)…

    In a letter to Obama, the senators asked for a strong “border adjustment mechanism” to help U.S. industries adjustment to higher energy costs. Such a “mechanism” might include a tax or tariff against foreign manufacturers whose costs aren’t affected by the legislation.

    “Any climate change legislation must prevent the export of jobs and related greenhouse gas emissions to countries that fail to take actions to combat the threat of global warming comparable to those taken by the United States,” the senators write.

    And as long as I’m taking note of Little Ricky, this tells us that he’s been “making the stops” in Iowa. To do some ground work. For three years from now. Contemplating the “big chair” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    It’s almost too scary for words.

    JDMullaneOh, and since it is Thursday, that means that it’s time once more for J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times to inflict more nonsense on our public deliberation on health care reform (here…and by the way, read commenter “my2cents” for the reality-based perspective).

    And today, that means attacking something else in the House version of the bill, and that would be Section 1233 (and in so doing, Mullane singles out Dem Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon)…

    Blumenauer, a lawyer, insists that Section 1233 is “carefully crafted” and “bipartisan” and that the “advance planning” it promotes is “voluntary.”

    Yet, the word “voluntary” does not appear in the law. To be fair, neither does the word “mandatory.” This leaves the legal intent vague.

    Blumenauer has denounced critics as “unhinged.” He has issued a “myth vs. fact” paper, insisting that Section 1233 “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.”

    In fact, Section 1233 says more than that. A patient’s wishes may be “known” and “respected,” but the treatment a patient receives will be “guided by a coalition of stakeholders.” These include doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, long-term care facility managers, lawyers, hospice caregivers and state departments of health.

    I read through Section 1233 from the bill (here), and I can’t find evidence of what Mullane is talking about. But in case I missed something, here is Section 1233 of the bill…

    6 (a) MEDICARE.—
    7 (1) IN GENERAL.—Section 1861 of the Social
    8 Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x) is amended—
    9 (A) in subsection (s)(2)—
    10 (i) by striking ‘‘and’’ at the end of
    11 subparagraph (DD);
    12 (ii) by adding ‘‘and’’ at the end of
    13 subparagraph (EE); and
    14 (iii) by adding at the end the fol15
    lowing new subparagraph:
    16 ‘‘(FF) advance care planning consultation (as
    17 defined in subsection (hhh)(1));’’; and
    18 (B) by adding at the end the following new
    19 subsection:
    20 ‘‘Advance Care Planning Consultation
    21 ‘‘(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the
    22 term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a con23
    sultation between the individual and a practitioner de24
    scribed in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning,
    25 if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has
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    •HR 3200 IH
    1 not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such
    2 consultation shall include the following:
    3 ‘‘(A) An explanation by the practitioner of ad4
    vance care planning, including key questions and
    5 considerations, important steps, and suggested peo6
    ple to talk to.
    7 ‘‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of ad8
    vance directives, including living wills and durable
    9 powers of attorney, and their uses.
    10 ‘‘(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the
    11 role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.
    12 ‘‘(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list
    13 of national and State-specific resources to assist con14
    sumers and their families with advance care plan15
    ning, including the national toll-free hotline, the ad16
    vance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal
    17 service organizations (including those funded
    18 through the Older Americans Act of 1965).
    19 ‘‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the
    20 continuum of end-of-life services and supports avail21
    able, including palliative care and hospice, and bene22
    fits for such services and supports that are available
    23 under this title.
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    1 ‘‘(F)(i) Subject to clause (ii), an explanation of
    2 orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar
    3 orders, which shall include—
    4 ‘‘(I) the reasons why the development of
    5 such an order is beneficial to the individual and
    6 the individual’s family and the reasons why
    7 such an order should be updated periodically as
    8 the health of the individual changes;
    9 ‘‘(II) the information needed for an indi10
    vidual or legal surrogate to make informed deci11
    sions regarding the completion of such an
    12 order; and
    13 ‘‘(III) the identification of resources that
    14 an individual may use to determine the require15
    ments of the State in which such individual re16
    sides so that the treatment wishes of that indi17
    vidual will be carried out if the individual is un18
    able to communicate those wishes, including re19
    quirements regarding the designation of a sur20
    rogate decisionmaker (also known as a health
    21 care proxy).
    22 ‘‘(ii) The Secretary shall limit the requirement
    23 for explanations under clause (i) to consultations
    24 furnished in a State—
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    •HR 3200 IH
    1 ‘‘(I) in which all legal barriers have been
    2 addressed for enabling orders for life sustaining
    3 treatment to constitute a set of medical orders
    4 respected across all care settings; and
    5 ‘‘(II) that has in effect a program for or6
    ders for life sustaining treatment described in
    7 clause (iii).
    8 ‘‘(iii) A program for orders for life sustaining
    9 treatment for a States described in this clause is a
    10 program that—
    11 ‘‘(I) ensures such orders are standardized
    12 and uniquely identifiable throughout the State;
    13 ‘‘(II) distributes or makes accessible such
    14 orders to physicians and other health profes15
    sionals that (acting within the scope of the pro16
    fessional’s authority under State law) may sign
    17 orders for life sustaining treatment;
    18 ‘‘(III) provides training for health care
    19 professionals across the continuum of care
    20 about the goals and use of orders for life sus21
    taining treatment; and
    22 ‘‘(IV) is guided by a coalition of stake23
    holders includes representatives from emergency
    24 medical services, emergency department physi25
    cians or nurses, state long-term care associa-
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    •HR 3200 IH
    1 tion, state medical association, state surveyors,
    2 agency responsible for senior services, state de3
    partment of health, state hospital association,
    4 home health association, state bar association,
    5 and state hospice association.
    6 ‘‘(2) A practitioner described in this paragraph is—
    7 ‘‘(A) a physician (as defined in subsection
    8 (r)(1)); and
    9 ‘‘(B) a nurse practitioner or physician’s assist10
    ant who has the authority under State law to sign
    11 orders for life sustaining treatments.
    12 ‘‘(3)(A) An initial preventive physical examination
    13 under subsection (WW), including any related discussion
    14 during such examination, shall not be considered an ad15
    vance care planning consultation for purposes of applying
    16 the 5-year limitation under paragraph (1).
    17 ‘‘(B) An advance care planning consultation with re18
    spect to an individual may be conducted more frequently
    19 than provided under paragraph (1) if there is a significant
    20 change in the health condition of the individual, including
    21 diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease, a
    22 life-threatening or terminal diagnosis or life-threatening
    23 injury, or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a
    24 long-term care facility (as defined by the Secretary), or
    25 a hospice program.
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    •HR 3200 IH
    1 ‘‘(4) A consultation under this subsection may in2
    clude the formulation of an order regarding life sustaining
    3 treatment or a similar order.
    4 ‘‘(5)(A) For purposes of this section, the term ‘order
    5 regarding life sustaining treatment’ means, with respect
    6 to an individual, an actionable medical order relating to
    7 the treatment of that individual that—
    8 ‘‘(i) is signed and dated by a physician (as de9
    fined in subsection (r)(1)) or another health care
    10 professional (as specified by the Secretary and who
    11 is acting within the scope of the professional’s au12
    thority under State law in signing such an order, in13
    cluding a nurse practitioner or physician assistant)
    14 and is in a form that permits it to stay with the in15
    dividual and be followed by health care professionals
    16 and providers across the continuum of care;
    17 ‘‘(ii) effectively communicates the individual’s
    18 preferences regarding life sustaining treatment, in19
    cluding an indication of the treatment and care de20
    sired by the individual;
    21 ‘‘(iii) is uniquely identifiable and standardized
    22 within a given locality, region, or State (as identified
    23 by the Secretary); and
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    •HR 3200 IH
    1 ‘‘(iv) may incorporate any advance directive (as
    2 defined in section 1866(f)(3)) if executed by the in3
    4 ‘‘(B) The level of treatment indicated under subpara5
    graph (A)(ii) may range from an indication for full treat6
    ment to an indication to limit some or all or specified
    7 interventions. Such indicated levels of treatment may in8
    clude indications respecting, among other items—
    9 ‘‘(i) the intensity of medical intervention if the
    10 patient is pulse less, apneic, or has serious cardiac
    11 or pulmonary problems;
    12 ‘‘(ii) the individual’s desire regarding transfer
    13 to a hospital or remaining at the current care set14
    15 ‘‘(iii) the use of antibiotics; and
    16 ‘‘(iv) the use of artificially administered nutri17
    tion and hydration.’’.
    18 (2) PAYMENT.—Section 1848(j)(3) of such Act
    19 (42 U.S.C. 1395w–4(j)(3)) is amended by inserting
    20 ‘‘(2)(FF),’’ after ‘‘(2)(EE),’’.
    21 (3) FREQUENCY LIMITATION.—Section 1862(a)
    22 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395y(a)) is amended—
    23 (A) in paragraph (1)—
    24 (i) in subparagraph (N), by striking
    25 ‘‘and’’ at the end;
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    1 (ii) in subparagraph (O) by striking
    2 the semicolon at the end and inserting ‘‘,
    3 and’’; and
    4 (iii) by adding at the end the fol5
    lowing new subparagraph:
    6 ‘‘(P) in the case of advance care planning
    7 consultations (as defined in section
    8 1861(hhh)(1)), which are performed more fre9
    quently than is covered under such section;’’;
    10 and
    11 (B) in paragraph (7), by striking ‘‘or (K)’’
    12 and inserting ‘‘(K), or (P)’’.
    13 (4) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made
    14 by this subsection shall apply to consultations fur15
    nished on or after January 1, 2011.
    TIVE.—Section 1848(k)(2) of the Social Security Act
    20 (42 U.S.C. 1395w–4(k)(2)) is amended by adding at
    21 the end the following new paragraphs:
    24 ‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of re25
    porting data on quality measures for covered
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    1 professional services furnished during 2011 and
    2 any subsequent year, to the extent that meas3
    ures are available, the Secretary shall include
    4 quality measures on end of life care and ad5
    vanced care planning that have been adopted or
    6 endorsed by a consensus-based organization, if
    7 appropriate. Such measures shall measure both
    8 the creation of and adherence to orders for life9
    sustaining treatment.
    11 Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register
    12 proposed quality measures on end of life care
    13 and advanced care planning that the Secretary
    14 determines are described in subparagraph (A)
    15 and would be appropriate for eligible profes16
    sionals to use to submit data to the Secretary.
    17 The Secretary shall provide for a period of pub18
    lic comment on such set of measures before fi19
    nalizing such proposed measures.’’.
    23 (A) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 1 year
    24 after the date of the enactment of this Act, the
    25 Secretary of Health and Human Services shall
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    1 update the online version of the Medicare &
    2 You Handbook to include the following:
    3 (i) An explanation of advance care
    4 planning and advance directives, includ5
    6 (I) living wills;
    7 (II) durable power of attorney;
    8 (III) orders of life-sustaining
    9 treatment; and
    10 (IV) health care proxies.
    11 (ii) A description of Federal and State
    12 resources available to assist individuals
    13 and their families with advance care plan14
    ning and advance directives, including—
    15 (I) available State legal service
    16 organizations to assist individuals
    17 with advance care planning, including
    18 those organizations that receive fund19
    ing pursuant to the Older Americans
    20 Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 93001 et
    21 seq.);
    22 (II) website links or addresses for
    23 State-specific advance directive forms;
    24 and
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    •HR 3200 IH
    1 (III) any additional information,
    2 as determined by the Secretary.
    4 VERSIONS.—The Secretary shall include the in5
    formation described in subparagraph (A) in all
    6 paper and electronic versions of the Medicare &
    7 You Handbook that are published on or after
    8 the date that is 1 year after the date of the en9
    actment of this Act.

    Everybody got that? Good.

    And as noted here…

    Many observers now today write in the media that erroneous interpretations of Section 1233 of Health Care Reform Bill is (sic)very “egregious,” as it involves the lives of our senior citizens. The erroneous interpretation is that the government will counsel the senior citizens every five years on how to end their lives early. This is outrageous interpretation of end of life planning.

    What the Section 1233 of the Health Care Reform Bill really reads is that “Medicare will pay for an “advance care planning consultation” once every five years. Section 1233 is actually creating a new benefit for seniors that will be paid for by Medicare. It will only pay for one consultation every five years unless the patient’s health changes. If that happens, the provision then calls for Medicare to pay for a new consultation when the change in health occurs,” explains SV Herald.

    (More information is available here.)

    By the way, I actually visited J.D. Mullane’s blog yesterday (where common sense goes home to die) and found out that his column will, according to Mullane, now “run…in the Burlington County Times, our sister newspaper across the river, beginning September. I’m looking forward to covering the governor’s race, one of the highest profile matchup’s in the country. With the Courier, the Intel in Doylestown and the Burlington paper, the audience expands to more than 100,000 readers.”

    I just thought anyone out there who was thinking of renewing their subscription to the Courier Times (and who may be reading this) should know that Mullane’s publisher thinks rank propaganda should be rewarded instead of punished.

    And newspapers wonder why they’re losing circulation…

    It’s “More Health Care Hijinks” Monday!

    August 10, 2009

  • I stumbled across some truly wankerific punditry by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times yesterday in which she attempted to draw a faux equivalency between the “teabaggers” disrupting the town hall meetings (with this as the next logical step in their hooliganism, unfortunately) and members of the SEIU and other Dem-simpatico organizations trying to ensure order at these meetings and make their points in favor of reform. And I was all set to lay into Stolberg for it, but the good people at Media Matters did it for me here (h/t Eschaton).

    However, it looks like Stolberg’s playmate John Harwood is picking up right where she left off here…

    Spontaneous or contrived, the shouting, shoving and other shenanigans at lawmakers’ town-hall-style meetings point to one probable outcome: the demise of bipartisan health care negotiations.

    Those negotiations have proceeded tortuously all summer, with centrists on the Senate Finance Committee maneuvering around obstacles erected by the Democratic left, the Republican right and the White House.

    And what exactly would those “obstacles” be, Harwood? The public option, for example, supported by 70 percent of those polled, as Bob Cesca notes here?

    Or, as noted here (from July 30th)…

    When given a fairly detailed description of the plan they are pushing, Americans registered strong approval, with 56% saying they favor the plan versus 38% who oppose it.

    Many of these details, such as requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, haven’t been the focus of the congressional debate, which has centered on more controversial issues.

    Americans are persuadable but are not sold on what they hear on the news. Specific plans sell, but the opposition is well financed and quite skilled at obstruction.

    Uh, yep. And continuing with Harwood…

    …the rowdy start of the August Congressional recess has galvanized activists on both ends of the ideological spectrum. That makes it tougher for negotiators to stake out a middle ground — especially in conservative locales that Democratic centrists call home.

    “There are groups that are out there trying to disrupt public meetings with specific strategies that they have put on the Internet,” Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and one of the Finance Committee negotiators, said in an interview. “I mean, is that what we’ve come to in the United States, that we’re going to have people basically functioning as thugs?”

    Do you see where Harwood is going with this? The bland descriptor “groups…with specific strategies” from Kent Conrad (a guy who, as noted here, laughed when ads were run in his district reminding him of how important it is to do this right and include a public option) is used to tar those on both sides of this debate equally. And that of course leaves it to the Democratic “centrists” (re: Evan Bayh’s coalition of cowards in the Senate and the hopelessly compromised “Bush Dogs” in the House) to ensure that nothing of substance actually occurs anyway.

    Harwood also tells us the following…

    The backdrop is political danger for the president’s party, with fat budget deficits and high unemployment increasing the risk of traditional midterm election losses. In Mr. Conrad’s view, 2010 “could be a very challenging year.”

    Uh, Kent? Try unsucking your thumb, do your job and forget about the midterms, OK? If you won’t deliver, then there’s no sense worrying, since the result could be a foregone conclusion.

    Revamping one-sixth of the United States economy without Republican help would compound those anxieties. Yet many Democrats perceive greater risk in failing to deliver as Washington’s governing party — and stand ready to act under special “reconciliation” rules that would heighten partisan tensions by blocking Republican filibusters.

    And by the way, do you know who supports using reconciliation personally doesn’t support reconciliation on health care (which the Repugs used to ramrod Dubya’s horrific tax cuts through Congress when they were in charge) but acknowledged that the Dems could use it (update from comment below)? That noted “liberal” Dr. Bill Frist (here), that’s who.

    Also, on the subject of how those supporting health care reform are part of the same amorphous blob standing in the way of their prized notion of “bipartisanship” (to Harwood and Conrad’s thinking), I should point out that I actually have viewed some YouTube videos filmed by conservatives in St. Louis and Tampa where misbehavior against them is alleged, and as is always the case with these people, the films are heavily edited, no one is identified, and what you inevitably see is the aftermath of something having occurred that we know nothing about.

    On the other hand, if you watch any video filmed by a progressive (Mike Morrill in particular), everything and everyone is identified, questions are asked and answers are provided (if the respondents reply, that is), and you have the full context of what is going on. I know this is obvious stuff to people who pay attention, but I thought it should be pointed out anyway.

  • And what would health care demagoguery be without more from J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday (here)…

    At the National Constitution Center a week ago, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter looked spectral as a crowd of hundreds booed and jeered him and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a “town hall” meeting on health care.

    Across the country, members of Congress have been confronted by constituents demanding answers to questions regarding the prospect that the Obama Administration intends a GM-style takeover of medical care.

    See, never forget that, as far as J.D. is concerned, those who stand up and make every effort to shout down a member of Congress or someone in the Obama Administration from speaking on this issue or addressing a legitimate constituent concern, to say nothing of resorting to violence (such as hanging a member of Congress in effigy), are not bought-and-paid-for thugs courtesy of Dick Armey or Rick Scott, among others. They’re “constituents.”

    Sure they are.

    Anyway, Mullane then decides to confront Bob Casey, Jr. on this since he’s been “laying low,” which – shockingly – makes sense for J.D. since Casey is on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, from which the Senate bill has originated (I believe there is only one bill in the Senate, but I’m not positive). And in so doing, Mullane does his very best “cherry picking” of the draft bill…

    …under “Shared Responsibility” (p. 103), it mandates each citizen to purchase health insurance, or be fined. This means if you are healthy and young and starting out life on a shoestring budget and you need to spend your thin resources on rent and car payments, Bob Casey, Jr. has a message: Tough. Pay us, kid, or else.

    Then, something bizarre. On page 411 under “Data Analysis, Detection and Quality,” the bill instructs the health and human services secretary to “develop standards for the measurement of gender.”

    Unless Sen. Casey and his committee colleagues have top secret information, there are only two measurements of gender: (A) male and (B) female.

    And as a result, according to J.D…

    Casey Jr. told (a Politico) reporter that he wants Pennsylvanians to know that 10 Republicans who sit with him on the Health, Energy, Labor and Pensions committee voted against the committee’s mammoth health care reform bill.

    Republicans voted against national health care? Gee, stop the presses.

    My response…

    I read pgs. 103-107 of the draft of the Affordable Health Choices Act, and I think the following should be noted (by the way, you cannot directly access the .pdf from Casey’s web site – you need to go from the Casey site to the HELP Committee site and find the link there).

    What Subtitle D – Shared Responsibility for Health Care discusses beginning on pg. 103 is the individual tax liability for anyone who didn’t have “qualifying coverage.” However, there are exemptions noted in the draft of the legislation, such as for someone who didn’t have qualifying coverage for less than 90 days, for someone who does not reside in a “participating State or an establishing State” (as such terms are defined in section 3104 of the Public Health Service Act…I read over the legalese on that, and I’m a bit fuzzy on it, to tell you the truth), someone who is an enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe, someone for whom affordable health care coverage is not available, or someone for whom “a payment…would otherwise represent an exceptional financial hardship.”

    Also, under his “measurement of gender” remarks concerning pg. 411, I hate to break the news to J.D., but there are lots of LGBT individuals out there who have health care needs also and thus deserve coverage.

    Of course for good measure, Mullane harks back at the end of the column to Casey’s father who “chose principle over party – paid the price for it, too.”

    Well, as long as J.D. decided to mention Casey Sr., the following should also be noted about Senator Casey’s father, PA’s former governor (here)…

    He lobbied unsuccessfully for universal health care in his state, but, failing that, as The New York Times reported in its May 31 obituary, “he did sign a bill providing health insurance for children whose families were too poor to pay for it but whose incomes were too high to be eligible for public assistance.”

    So Bob Casey, Sr. supported universal health care in his state, for which he “paid the price” at the hands of PA’s Repugs, J.D.’s ideological playmates (and which Casey’s son is now trying to help enact on the national level)?

    Gee, stop the presses.

  • And finally, as a response to the tactics of the town hall meeting disruptors, at least one Dem congressman has had enough (here), from Stephen Hayes at The Weakly Standard)…

    “The war’s on,” Representative Baron Hill (D-IN) told the Indianapolis Star. And his opponents are “political terrorists.”

    Hill is not holding town hall meetings. Why? “I’m trying to control the event,” Hill said. “What I don’t want to do is create an opportunity for the people who are political terrorists to blow up the meeting and not try to answer thoughtful questions.”

    Hill is not alone. Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi believe that “drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.” Just like Democrats argued when they condemned unruly Iraq War protesters.

    I’m not aware of anyone protesting Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq who ended up threatening anyone either face to face or over the phone, or who shut down a town hall meeting, or (as noted previously) ended up leaving a gun behind at one of their appearances.

    Some apples with your oranges, Hayes?

  • Monday Mashup (8/3/09)

    August 3, 2009

  • This column of “analysis” courtesy of the AP’s Liz Sidoti tells us the following…

    Obama is approaching (the challenges of his agenda, including health care reform) as he did the (election) in 2008 — at least in style, for top advisers recognize that Obama himself is his presidency’s best asset.

    The strategy comes with a risk of overexposure, a diluting of the Obama “brand” advisers are so careful to protect. Many politicians over the years have had difficulty translating campaign success into governing success.

    Probably most all politicians, I’d imagine…

    So far, it seems that Obama’s postelection campaigning has helped convert his popularity into support for his policies. He successfully lobbied for passage of the economic stimulus only to watch the public grow skeptical of its effects.

    I swear, I just find this stuff people – I honestly don’t look that hard for it (and by the way, this projects that 750,000 “stim” jobs will be added by August – and yes, I know the data is from the White House, but Obama economic adviser Christina Romer will be reporting to Congress regularly, so there’ll be plenty of chances to “call BS” if that is needed).

    And the AP actually even ends up in deeper doo-doo here than in Sidoti’s “watch the public grow skeptical of (the stim’s) effects” horse hockey…

    WASHINGTON (AP) – The success of President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda _ from health care and climate change to education _ could depend on how quickly he recovers from the sharp drop in support among white voters after criticizing a white policeman’s arrest of a black Harvard scholar.

    Obama’s impromptu comments about the incident could become a defining moment. Nearly immediately after Obama’s remark that police had “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates, his approval rating plummeted among whites, dropping over two days from 53 percent to 46 percent in a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

    If Obama is to have success with the policy changes he wants, he can’t afford to shed white support. Not to mention the disaster that losing the affections of many in the blue-collar, Reagan Democrat constituency would spell for any re-election campaign.

    Silly me – I never considered a seven-point slide as a “plummet,” but I’m just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, so what do I know? And can anyone seriously explain to me why some pundit would care about how a politician’s actions would affect a likely re-election campaign that is three years away???

    (Oh, there goes Obama losing those “disaffected white people” again? Why, whatever shall we do??!!).

    In response to both Sidoti and Loven, this tells us the following (quoting the same Pew poll)…

    While the American public has grown more critical of Obama’s handling of the economy and budget deficit over the last few months, majorities continue to express optimism about his ability to fix the economy and deal with the budget deficit in the long term. As in June and April, more than six-in-ten (63%) say they are optimistic that Obama’s policies will improve the economy, and more than half (55%) say they are optimistic that he can reduce the budget deficit over time. The views of political independents account in part for the disparity between Obama’s sinking approval ratings and the continued optimism that he will succeed. Independents remain largely optimistic, but critical of the way the president is currently dealing with the economy and budget deficit. In contrast, partisans tend to see it just one way – Democrats mostly approve of Obama’s performance and are overwhelmingly optimistic about his policies. Republicans mostly disapprove and are pessimistic.

    Trying to right our economy from the ruinous Bushco reign will be a long, hard slog (like me, I’m sure you heard Obama and most Democrats use words to that effect). Basically, these approval numbers won’t mean much one way or the other for at least a year (with the gubernatorial elections this year and the congressional/gubernatorial ones next year as the best indicators as to whether or not voters believe that the “stim” is working – to be realistic, though, what else could Obama and the congressional Dems have done?).

    And by the mid-terms of 2010 and beyond, the only ones who will still care about the Gates/Crowley dustup are people who probably wouldn’t vote for Obama anyway.

  • I also encountered this somewhat interesting item (only somewhat) from J.D. Mullane’s column in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday (see, Bucks County’s Journalistic Mistake did some preliminary shopping to try and replace his 1998 Chrysler Town and Country Minivan, and in the process, tells us the following about the “Cash for Clunkers” program, which hopefully will get more money from the Senate shortly, as noted here)…

    According to its Web site, Cash for Clunkers is “a $1 billion government program that helps consumers buy or lease a more environmentally friendly vehicle from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck. The program is designed to energize the economy; boost auto sales and put safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the nation’s roadways.”

    Fine, fine. I just want a deal. If it makes a few global warmists happy, it’s win-win.

    Under the program, which is modeled on a European plan, the U.S. government will credit a car buyer up to $4,500 toward the car purchase. I checked the Department of Transportation Web site. My clunker qualifies.

    With three kids, I need a minivan. It’s practical. But, under Cash for Clunkers, I cannot get the same vehicle. The 2009 Town and Country does not qualify, since it gets a combined city/highway mileage of just 18 mpg, a measly one more mile per gallon than my present heap.

    However, what does qualify me for $4,500 is either impractical (Toyota Yaris), an ego crusher (“Smart Car”), or both (Prius).

    I’m not sure exactly how J.D. completed the online form here aside from what he tells us, but a cursory review of the vehicle selections tells us that Mullane could have also selected a Saturn VUE Hybrid, which ranks 20th out of the 26 most affordable hybrid SUVs (MSRP $28,160, 32 MPG Hwy, 25 MPG City). It has a 2.4L engine with 172hp, so I’ll admit that it might not have the “jump” Mullane would want, but it would be economical anyway.

    The Chevy Colorado is also available (a 4-door, up to 6 passenger compact pickup, with a standard 2.9 liter, 185-horsepower engine that achieves 18 MPG in the city and 26 mpg on the highway). This is a bit more of a heavy duty vehicle that Mullane could drive anywhere (probably a bumpy ride for the kids, though).

    And if our hero really wants to splurge on price, he could go for the Buick Enclave Minivan ($35-$43K), with its 3.7L engine and 16 City – 21 Highway mileage estimates (notice that the lower the mileage estimates, the more expensive the vehicle).

    Now I don’t know whether or not a buyer would receive a credit or a voucher in the amount of $4500 for each of these vehicles, but I’m merely trying to point out that there is a more diverse selection out there than Mullane would have us believe.

    Oh, and by the way, good luck retiring on that $35,000 “nest egg.”

  • Finally, I came across this column recently from John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News, in which he laments the fact that President Obama is heading to Martha’s Vineyard for a vacation shortly…

    … I wonder if folks newly or recently unemployed (the national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent is the highest since 1983, more than a quarter-century ago) forced to cancel family vacations are cheered by Obama headed to The Vineyard.

    It’s an island off the south coast of Cape Cod, an exclusive summer haven for the rich and famous, including the Clintons, David Letterman, actors such as Meg Ryan and Bill Murray, TV network types such as Mike Wallace and Diane Sawyer – in other words, hardly a slice of Americana.

    Those who view Obama as an elitist will have new ammunition.

    Now before I begin, I should note that Baer is a bit more of a “straight shooter” than most; he says at the beginning that, though he’s criticizing Obama, he also tells us that he didn’t appreciate the frequent vacations by Commander Codpiece during wartime either (who, let’s not forget, set a record for the most vacation days while in office, shattering the mark previously set by The Sainted Ronnie R).

    But if there’s one thing I get incredibly tired of reading, it’s someone waxing indignant about Martha’s Vineyard because it’s supposed to be some place where only the hoi poloi congregate.

    That, most definitely, is not true (I should put this post in a place where I can merely recycle it every year, since this comes up every summer). Me, the missus and the young one have visited the island three times, and I can tell you that we most definitely are not likely to be caricatured in a “New Yorker” cartoon anytime soon (well, hopefully not one by Gahan Wilson, anyway).

    There’s the touristy part (Vineyard Haven), the part where middle class families have established themselves over time, including Portuguese and African Americans (Oak Bluffs), the “old money” part of the island (Edgartown), the places where the celebrity enclaves are probably located (Chillmark, West Tisbury, Lambert’s Cove, as well as Chappy), and the section where most of those who fish for an income as well as for recreation congregate (“Menemsha,” where “Jaws” was filmed). There’s a lot more to the island than that, but that’s enough for now.

    And actually, I’d like to think that, because everybody can, for the most part, get along, live their lives and enjoy themselves (no easy feat on and island with virtually no traffic lights – I haven’t been able to find one, anyway), the island is more of a “slice of Americana” than most people, including Baer, will ever realize.

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