Wednesday Mashup (12/2/09)

December 2, 2009

  • 1) Amy Sullivan here at Time tells us the following (in a story timed for World AIDS Day, which took place yesterday)…

    George W. Bush didn’t get a whole lot of attaboys on his way out of the White House. But on World AIDS Day near the end of last year, the outgoing U.S. President was the man of the hour, fielding praise from global health advocates and world leaders for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPfAR, which increased tenfold the number of HIV-infected patients in Africa who receive antiretroviral treatments.

    But now some critics are wondering if Bush’s successor is doing enough. Many global health advocates worry that the success of PEPfAR — an initiative that has consistently enjoyed broad bipartisan support — may be jeopardized by harsh economic realities and shifting political priorities. Although Barack Obama pledged during the 2008 campaign to boost PEPfAR funding by $1 billion each year, his first budget proposed just $366 million more for fiscal year 2010 than the current year, and a majority of the 15 countries that receive PEPfAR funds will see no increase.

    I never understood the point of PEPFAR as opposed to pledging full support to the already established and internationally acclaimed multilateral initiative known as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This was true particularly since PEPFAR created a duplicate bureaucracy with lower funding versus the Global Fund (as well as typical Bushco nonsense such as prioritizing abstinence-until-marriage programs – this and more is discussed here).

    Also, as noted here, Obama has promised to double aid over the next years (sic), according to an interview with Bono, “because even though (President George W.) Bush tripled it … the United States is still about half as what European countries give as a percentage (sic), and I think he knows that’s not right.”

    (It should be noted, though, that concerning the claim that the U.S. is supposedly giving half of what European countries give, Bono was talking about all foreign aid and not just anti-AIDS funding, as the story tells us.)

    I will also acknowledge that the Obama Administration has more work to do on this score (just add this to the pile of the mess he inherited). And even though Number 43 was easily the worst president I’ve ever seen or hope to ever see, if he’s legitimately entitled to some credit for African AIDS relief, then let him take a bow, and then disappear.

  • 2) Also, this story at The Hill tells us the following…

    A handful of Democrats pushing for a new jobs bill are criticizing the $787 billion economic stimulus for not creating enough jobs.

    “To the extent that I would have criticism of the stimulus, it was that it didn’t sufficiently meet the three-T test: ‘targeted, timely, temporary,’ ” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

    In response, this tells us the following…

    …the stimulus bill goes right to the heart of many of the conversations I heard in my three months going town-to-town in North Dakota, including:

    • more than $170 million toward road improvement projects in North Dakota – a critical, job-creating need, as many county commissioners told me;
    • more than $85 million the state government can use to help our public universities and colleges meet high-priority projects, from making buildings more energy efficient to updating classroom technology;
    • more than $25 million toward weatherizing homes to improve energy efficiency, and more than $24 million in energy-related funding;
    • more than $39 million for high priority water projects;
    • more than $266 million in middle-class tax relief, or about $860 for the average family at a rate of savings of more than $70 a month; and
    • $156 million in relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax.

    The bill also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for North Dakota health care and to update the electrical transmission grid. There is no doubt in my mind that these are important priorities for North Dakota that deserve my support.

    So now that you have the chance, you’re trying to “wash your hands” of the stim, Conrad? I guess that’s to be expected, though, from someone who laughed about others in your state without health care (here).

    The fact that I have to share a party allegiance with life forms like Kent Conrad continually disgusts me.

  • 3) Finally, for history buffs out there, it should be noted that today is the 150th anniversary of the hanging of anti-slavery abolitionist John Brown; he staged the unsuccessful raid at Harper’s Ferry and was hanged for the offense.

    With that in mind, writer David S. Reynolds claimed here that Brown should receive a presidential pardon, since Brown’s plan “was (only) to create panic by arousing fears of a slave rebellion, leading Southerners to view slavery as dangerous and impractical,” and (the thinking may go) Brown was thus trying to head off The Civil War which followed his seizure of the Harper’s Ferry armory.

    Besides, as Reynolds puts it, “none of the heroes from that period is unblemished. Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, but he shared the era’s racial prejudices, and even after the war started thought that blacks should be shipped out of the country once they were freed. Andrew Jackson was the man of his age, but in addition to being a slaveholder, he has the extra infamy of his callous treatment of Native Americans, for which some hold him guilty of genocide.”

    Seriously.

    Oh, I can just picture what would happen if this country’s first African-American president pardoned a guy who attacked a federal armory in an effort to free slaves (and who also murdered pro-slavery southerners in Kansas three years prior to his Harper’s Ferry raid). If that wouldn’t be giving the green light to every teabagger and right-wing militia nut case out there (who, ironically, would believe they have common cause over removing their newfound benefactor from office any way possible), then I don’t know what would.


  • Responding To “The Fearful Five” (updates)

    September 29, 2009

    Fearful_Five1
    (Fearful of what their handlers in the insurance racket would do to them if they voted against their interests, that is…)

    As noted here, Max Baucus, Kent (“A Public Plan Would Bankrupt Hospitals”) Conrad, Blanche Lincoln (from top to bottom above), Bill Nelson and Tom Carper (from top to bottom below) did what we all expected them to do today, and that is to utterly cave on public option amendments introduced to the atrocious Baucus health care travesty of a bill (though Carper and Nelson voted in favor of the Schumer amendment, while all five voted against the Jay Rockefeller amendment).

    Fearful_Five2
    This is totally in character (or lack thereof) given the following past behavior:

  • Both Baucus and Lincoln opposed lending any money to the automakers after supporting TARP, as noted here.
  • Conrad laughs here when told of a health care reform ad airing in his state encouraging him to do the right thing on this issue (even if it means the Dems losing control of the Senate – and what good does “control” do when they vote like this anyway? – it would be worth it to see Conrad get the boot over this).
  • Nelson said that public option supporters “don’t have a clue” here.
  • And dusting off the memory banks a bit, this shows us that, given a choice between Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Senate Democratic primary and a certain Joe “He’s With Us On Everything Except The War” Lieberman, Carper chose to endorse – well, I’m sure you can guess the answer.
  • If you’re as steamed about this as I am (though, sadly, not entirely surprised), then I would suggest clicking here and forking some bucks over to a worthy cause in response (though I honestly have to wonder why anyone thought Olympia “Lucy Holding The Football” Snowe would have actually done the right thing here).

    Attribution for the pics is as follows:

    Baucus (here)

    Conrad (here)

    Lincoln (here)

    Nelson (here)

    Carper (here)

    Update 1 9/30/09: Good point here – needs to be repeated over and over to try and drown out the right-wing blatherings on this issue…

    Update 2 9/30/09: Figures…

    Update 3 10/1/09: Typical Carper “Third Way” BS here (h/t Think Progress)…


    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?


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