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April 28, 2010

Report Says Health Care Will Cover More, Cost More

The story misses the point and the headline and some of the text get it wrong.  The headline item many people are focusing on is that this projection says the healthcare reform act will cost about 1% more than previous projections (while they accept/ignore the confirmation that 34 million more people will be covered!).

The 1% difference is essentially meaningless since the 1% difference is far less than the % uncertainty in the 10-year projections themselves!  I mean, tell me who can tell, within 1%, what their salary will be in 10 years?  Or what the GDP will be in 10 years?  Anyone that good would become a gazillionaire.  

In fact, given the slightly different assumptions and models, to be off by only 1%, is actually a confirmation that the estimates are all very, very close. 

Whereas adding 34 million (plus or minus even 1% or 0.34 million) is a huge improvement in health coverage in the US.  Adding healthcare for around 75% of those who don't have it today.

The story line should be: Report confirms: 34 million more people will be covered for the expected cost.

Economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department concluded in a report issued Thursday that the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance -- adding 34 million to the coverage rolls.

via www.nytimes.com

April 22, 2010

Obama and Bending the Arc of Justice

A friend asked me to say a few words about the politics of the day at her non-traditional Seder a few weeks ago.  Here's what I said:

At this Seder five years ago, I said that, “Our present America is flirting dangerously with its periodic fascination with the dark forces of fundamentalism, greed, and power, today stewing in a unique witch's brew of American fascism” but said that I thought that, “forces are now arrayed against this tyranny in an effort to awaken America from this nearly psychotic break from scientific reality, from constitutional government, and from truely moral values for the common good over private gain.”

The year before, when I first heard Barack Obama speak, to John Kerry’s 2004 nominating convention, my first thought was that Obama could be the progressive “Ronald Reagan”.  By which I meant specifically that he had a way of relating his conception of progressivism, as Reagan di of conservatism, in more universal  terms that resonated well outside of his “base” and could help set the country in a new direction.

So, now that he has been “President Obama” for 14 months, I thought I’d take a look at that initial notion.

Initially he had to clean up from the Bush disaster -- as the progressive populist, Jim Hightower said, “Obama has learned the old lesson that the worst job in the circus is cleaning up behind the elephants.”

Yet even here, with things like the stimulus, he started channeling government action into the long-term common good, like rebuilding infrastructure, supporting community health centers and investing in green projects instead of short-term tax refunds.

While well short of many of our aspirations in the specifics, the health care reform bill that did finally pass is something not achieved in over 60 years of effort including essentially all of Ted Kennedy’s potitical life: a path to universal coverage.

But Obama remains puzzling to many of us -- he approaches things differently from most politicians.  In particular, Obama is less concerned with the minor tactical or symbolic points along the way than the strategic ones.

What it took me some time to realize is that what he reminds me most of is what I like about the US Constitution.  What I mean is this: While conservatives like to claim that the constitution is a “conservative” document, only on planet Orwell could the US Constitution be conservative because our constitution set out a very progressive/liberal goal: a new, untested form of democracy for self-government.  A revolutionary war was fought for the right to do it.  It was a break from the past; it was not slow or deliberate nor a preservation of the status quo.

But it was also ruthlessly pragmatic in achieving those goals.  The founders kept their eyes on the ultimate goal of self-government but then asked: how can we actually make it workable?  And they incorporated their knowlege of two key elements: how individuals behave and how groups of people behave and then worked with those realities.  In particular the realities of how people, groups of people, and their institutions accumulate and exersize power.  And they tested their ideas for our system of government against those realities, resulting in the clearly limited roles for the three branches of government, in the “checks and balances” between the branches, and in the enumeration of personal rights protected by and from the government in the Bill of Rights.

I think that Obama is like that: he has highly progressive goals -- like: everyone has healthcare -- but he is pragmatic in how to achieve that.  Just as the founders, in order to create a United States, did not abolish slavery because they couldn't both abolish it and also set the USA in motion.  They left slavery in so they could birth the United States and left abolishing slavery for a future resolution.

In this respect I think the key attributes of Obama are:

  • he has long-term progressive goals
  • he is ruthlessly pragmatic
  • he plays the long game

In other words, he keeps his eye on the prize.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  

I think that what Obama wants to do, in one sense, is to embody that notion and to be a force that bends the moral arc of the universe more steeply toward justice.

April 21, 2010

The Filter That Protects Palin From Scrutiny

The problem here is not really Palin. Every delusional, ignorant nutcase should have a chance to get away with running for national office. The problem here is the system - a system that allowed someone no-one knew anything about to get very close to being a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the presidency, a system that deems some questions unaskable, a press that is more concerned with maximizing ratings and avoiding offence than in getting answers. This system is dangerous. If you construct a sealed media cocoon, and false narrative, and a massive money-machine, you can get further than most people imagine. And remember, presidents have been elected with 43 percent of the vote before. 

via andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com

April 20, 2010

Facebook | Christians Who Want A National Day Of Prayer!

A Facebook Page recently sprang up called "Christians Who Want A National Day Of Prayer!", declaring

The National Day of Prayer is currently under attack by radicals determined to silence any expression of faith.

via www.facebook.com

This issue (that Congress passed a law recognizing a National Day of Prayer and that that law was ruled unconstitutional) isn't that faith should be suppressed, nor that prayer should be repressed, nor even that people shouldn't have a National Day of Prayer. The issue is only that the our government via the US Congress is not allowed to pass a law recognizing a National Day of Prayer since the US Constitution says, quite clearly that they can't:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

What is puzzling to me is why these folks see the first part of the First Amendment ("shall make no law") as an attack on the second part of the First Amendment (nor "prohibiting the free exercise thereof").  (Some groups disengenuously claim that "prayer" is universal and not tied to any one religion, so it wouldn't apply, but (a) prayer would seem to require belief in a higher power/religion and the First Amendment says "of religion" (ie any and all religions) not "a religion" (some particular religion) and (b) the title of the group says it all: "Christians Who ...".)

Apparently this group defines "radicals" as American patriots that believe in both parts of the First Amendment -- (a) the US government is not in the religion business and (b) we can all follow our hearts without government interference.  

We can have a National Day of Prayer without the US Government getting involved.  What's so awful about that?


April 17, 2010

Tea Partiers, in short ...

A couple of polls out last week (CNN/Opinion Research and New York Times/CBS) about the Tea Partiers. Without belaboring the point, here's what it boils down to: older, whites who are very conservative, often too conservative even for the Republican Party. Depending on the polls I've seen, between 18 - 24% of Americans are supportive of the Tea Partiers but only about 7-10%% actively participate, donate, etc. in advancing the Tea Parties.  Given their self-described "very conservative" nature, we can be sure that almost none of them voted for Obama in the first place.

Even if you count the full, roughly, 20% that are supportive and not just the 7% that do anything about it, it is 20% vs 53% who voted for Obama. Yet Tea Partiers claim Obama is out of the mainstream when 2.6X as many people voted for Obama as support Tea Partiers.  Looked at another way, they represent roughly 43% of the people that voted for McCain. So you can see why the Republican Party is struggling to figure out how it fits with Tea Partiers because they represent a huge fraction of their "base".


... while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.” [Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated

No Tea Parties when Bush ran up the big deficits, started the Great Recession and had to bail out our financial system to avoid global economic collapse.  Obama is elected.  Tea Parties start up.

In short, Tea Partiers are some pretty sore losers.

"Fat Cat" vs "Public-spirited"

Years ago, Ronald Reagan asked (apparently not rhetorically!), "I've never been able to understand why a Republican contributor is a 'fat cat' and a Democratic contributor of the same amount of money is a 'public-spirited philanthropist'."

One might think the answer was so obvious as to need no answer or example, but the simple answer is that the wealthy Republican seeks tax cuts to further multiply his/her own riches, the wealthy Democrat accepts tax increases for the good of our Republic.

Here's an example of the latter from today's Oregonian:

I don't love taxes, nor am I impressed with everything government does with my money. But at the end of this year, Congress should let the 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts sunset for households with incomes of more than $250,000.

I have a responsibility to my country to pay my fair share so that we can make investments for future prosperity. My 30 years in business taught me the importance of orderly markets, an educated work force, public infrastructure and a functioning legal system.

via www.oregonlive.com

April 15, 2010

Federal judge: National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional

Which is more important: upholding the constitution or upholding an unconstitutional tradition?  Sadly, a conundrum for many of today's right-wingers who try to lecture others on the Constitution without themselves understanding the purposes it serves. 

A federal judge in Wisconsin declared Thursday that the US law authorizing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

US District Judge Barbara Crabb said the federal statute violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion.

Crabb said in her view the key test ... is whether the government’s conduct “serves a significant secular purpose and is not a call for religious action on the part of citizens.”

She said the law establishing a National Day of Prayer cannot meet that test. “It goes beyond mere acknowledgment of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context,” the judge wrote.

via www.csmonitor.com

April 14, 2010

Google backs Yahoo in privacy fight with DOJ

Google and an alliance of privacy groups have come to Yahoo's aid by helping the Web portal fend off a broad request from the U.S. Department of Justice for e-mail messages, CNET has learned.

In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon, the coalition says a search warrant signed by a judge is necessary before the FBI or other police agencies can read the contents of Yahoo Mail messages--a position that puts those companies directly at odds with the Obama administration.

..."Society expects and relies on the privacy of e-mail messages just as it relies on the privacy of the telephone system," the friend-of-the-court brief says. "Indeed, the largest e-mail services are popular precisely because they offer users huge amounts of computer disk space in the Internet 'cloud' within which users can warehouse their e-mails for perpetual storage."

..."This case is about protecting the privacy rights of all Internet users," a Google representative said in a statement provided to CNET on Tuesday. "E-mail stored in the cloud should have the same level of protection as the same information stored by a person at home."

via news.cnet.com

April 13, 2010

When America Was Attacked

Tragically, we all recall the gut-wrenching day in our history when rogue enemies of the United States attacked the sacred soil of this nation. In planned action, American citizens were killed on their very homeland by trained operatives who had one goal in mind, to bring down the government of the United States, a terrorist aim to break the fabric of our way of life.

...I am speaking, of course, of...

Oh, wait, sorry, did you think I meant 9/11? No, no, my apologies. I was referring to the rebel forces of the Confederacy.

The Confederacy was an enemy of the United States of America.

It attacked the United States. Made the first strike. Killed American citizens.

Its actions against the United States were carefully planned; its combatants carefully trained.

The Confederacy fought for the right to keep human beings in slavery.

The Confederacy was not a recognized nation by other countries of the world. It was a well-armed, rogue organization.

None of this in inaccurate. Nor in dispute.

And this is what Virginia wants to commemorate with a Confederate History Month. This is what South Carolina honored when it flew the Confederate flag. This is what Georgia, Texas and Mississippi celebrate with their Confederate History Month. This is what its defenders keep trying to justify.

Confederate soldiers died trying to protect the Confederacy.

Union soldiers died trying to protect the United States of America.

If you want to recognize the past, recognize it, but for what it is. Not for what you wish it was. Only this past Sunday, Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) called the omission of mentioning slavery in Confederacy History Month "something that doesn't matter for diddly."

It matters. Enslaving human beings matters. Treason matters.

It matters so that people understand and learn never to do it again.

via www.huffingtonpost.com

April 02, 2010

Mike Lux: That Anger Thing

3. To be clear, the tea partiers aren't the only angry people in America. There are plenty of working class swing voters who aren't inclined to buy into the tea party stew of racism, nativism, and Ayn Rand style libertarianism, but are deeply troubled that the jobs situation isn't improving and that no one in government seems to be looking out for them. There are plenty of progressive activists angry at the Wall Street bankers, the health insurance companies, and the other corporate interests that are screwing them, and are angry that too many politicians seem to be in their pocket. In both cases, Obama and his fellow Democrats still have the opportunity to reach them, still have the ability to make absolutely clear whose side they are on. If Democrats show those voters that they will reject those special interests, and fight hard for average folks' interests, they can still win this election. If they show voters that they are just as angry about what's been done to regular people as the regular people, they will have a better 2010 than anyone is predicting right now.

The media loves-loves-loves this tea party story, but the tea partiers really aren't anything new, and they don't represent a very big group of voters. There is a lot of anger out there, but most of it is righteous anger that Democrats can and should tap into -- anger that Wall Street and other bad actor big companies have been allowed to destroy our economy, and that no one is taking them on for it.

via www.huffingtonpost.com

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