Democracy Has Prevailed.

August 31, 2009

Well, isn't that special?

From the Post-Gazette:
Women, blacks and patients covered by Medicare with serious liver-related conditions are less likely to be referred and evaluated for a liver transplant, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study.

The study, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Transplantation, says race, gender and insurance status influence decisions on who goes on to receive liver transplants.
But God forbid we in any way reform our Best Health Care System in the WorldTM!

More On Steven L Anderson/More On Chris Broughton

Remember Steven L Anderson and Chris Broughton? One showed up to a recent Obama rally armed with an AR-15 and the other is his pastor who preached a sermon only a day earlier that he wants President Obama dead.

I wondered when the good pastor would be arrested for threatening the life of the President of the United States.

There are some follow-ups to the story.

Anderson has refined his position on the President's demise:
"If you want to know how I'd like to see Obama die, I'd like him to die of natural causes," said Anderson. "I don't want him to be a martyr, we don't need another holiday. I'd like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer."
And Broughton (bless his heart) adds:
"I concur, I think we'd be better off if God would send (Obama) where he's going now instead of later," said Broughton. "(Obama) is destroying our country."

When asked if he was advocating violence against the President, Broughton said he wouldn't answer the question directly.
That's enough. Add Chris Broughton to the list of Arizonans who should be arrested for threatening the life of the President of the United States.

TPM had this from the Secret Service:
Asked about pastor Steven Anderson and gun-toter Chris Broughton's repeated wishes for President Barack Obama to die, Special Agent Darrin Blackford of the Secret Service sends along this statement:

"We are aware of the situation and appropriate follow up will be conducted."
Which is probably all we'll get from the Secret Service (and rightly so) at this point.

August 30, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

In this week's column (a column my friend Ed Heath calls "silly") Jack Kelly both attacks and defends the CIA.

And en passant he spins torture into a clumsy euphemism. Take a look:
Attorney General Eric Holder -- who before his confirmation hearings told senators he wouldn't -- has appointed a special prosecutor to pursue CIA interrogators who discomforted al-Qaida bigwigs to get them to talk.
Discomforted? Is that even a word? First off, let's rid ourselves of the clumsy. It was torture. Take a look at this is from January of this year:
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

But even what Crawford calls torture won't be prosecuted (as the current investigation will only focus on the torture that wasn't authorized):

Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said. [emphasis added.]

So what was that which "discomforted" those bigwigs? From the LATimes:

Reporting from Washington - The CIA staged a mock execution and brandished weapons, including a gun and a power drill, during interrogation sessions with detainees, according to a long-secret internal CIA report expected to be released Monday.

The episodes are part of a catalog of alleged abuses -- a 2004 report by the CIA's inspector general -- that has prompted Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to consider appointing a criminal prosecutor to investigate cases in which the CIA strayed beyond its authorities.

Do we really need to look at the law again? Yea, I guess we do. Here's the US Code on Torture.

In it "torture" is defined as:
...means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
And includes:
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality;
So, yea, I am guessing that showing a detainee a mock execution or brandishing a running power drill (leaving him to believe he'll be subject a similar fate if he doesn't cooperate) constitutes torture. And it's against the law.

That's what Jack calls "discomfort." If it's for a good cause, Room 101 is sometimes necessary, I guess.

But let's look at the rest of the column. He says of the CIA:
Most of the intelligence we collect is gathered by the National Security Agency (electronic intercepts) or by the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency (spy satellites). The CIA's role has pretty much been restricted to human intelligence and analyzing intel gathered by others.

It's done a poor job of both. The most frighteningly funny book I've read in a long time is "The Human Factor," the memoir of "Ishmael Jones" of his career as a non-official cover officer (NOC) of the CIA.[emphasis added.]
Ishmael Jones may be in a bit of a pickle, however. Take a look at this from the Congressional Quarterly, July 2008:
A 25-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service has written a scathing — and unauthorized — account of the spy agency’s management, setting up an unprecedented legal test of former employees’ rights to pen tell-all books.

Writing under the pseudonym “Ishmael Jones,” the author says he wrote “The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture” in order to “improve the system and help it defend ourselves and our allies.”
The CQ article compares Jones to another ex-CIA writer, Frank Snepp, who got in trouble with the CIA for, among other things, by-passing the CIA censors. CQ continues:
Jones did something far more dangerous, Snepp thinks, by submitting his manuscript for clearance then “thumbing his nose” at CIA censors because he didn’t like their censorship decisions. “God knows what the hell could happen to him,” Snepp said.

“I did the best I could,” Jones told me. “I sent it to them more than a year ago, and I said, ‘Please tell me what you want taken out of this, or re-written,’ repeatedly. But they disapproved all of it, with the exception of a few sentences. They approved maybe one percent of the book.”

So he went ahead without their clearance, he said.
So it was sent to the CIA sometime in 2007 and he published anyway?? And Jack condones this?

All that aside, I have to ask (rhetorically, for I already know the answer), who was President in 2007? Jack never quite gets around to saying. Though he does, of course, lay out some serious blame on the current AG.

Nor does Jack include this in the chronology:
The CIA has also misled Congress on its spending, he maintains, diverting billions of dollars that were supposed to bolster its spying operations overseas into a dramatic expansion of offices inside the United States.

“It’s been a constant promise to Congress since I joined in the 1980s that we’re going to get out of the embassies. It didn’t mean into the United States,” Jones said. “The billions given to the agency after 9/11 to get case officers out of the embassies were intended to put them overseas,” he said. “And what they’re doing is hiring a lot of people, putting them in training for a very long time, and then they’re stacking them up in U.S. offices.”

“We probably had more case officers in California than we did in Iraq,” he writes.

Tell me again who was President post-9/11 and pre-Eric Holder?

Jack doesn't.

Oh, any by the way: Torture is illegal. Always illegal.

August 29, 2009

Four Years Ago Today

As many of us mourn the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy let's not forget the passing of nearly 2000 Americans on this date.

Four years ago today Katrina made landfall as a category 4 hurricane. Later that same day the levees were breached in New Orleans. This was just the beginning of tremendous devastation made worst nightmare by government inaction and ineptitude.

While Sen. Kennedy, thankfully, died in his bed surrounded by loved ones, four years ago others drowned in their attics or were simply swept away.

Kennedy was a champion of the best of what government could do for the people. The aftermath of Katrina was the outcome of what believing that government is the enemy will get you.
  • Katrina timeline here.

  • Some photos of victims here (which were kept from the public via the Bush Administration and the mainstream media).

  • Proof that the tragedy which Bush officials claimed that no one could have predicted was already concerning little liberal bloggers -- and others -- the day before Katrina hit.

  • .

    August 28, 2009

    When Will Steven L Anderson Be Arrested?

    Who is Steven L Anderson? In order to answer that question, we have to start with Christopher Broughton.

    So who's Christopher Broughton? From the Arizona Republic:
    The man who drew international attention by bringing an assault rifle to President Barack Obama's rally on Monday is a Phoenix resident with ties to several anti-government or Nativist groups.

    The man, who until now has been identified only as "Chris B," is actually 28-year-old Christopher Broughton, a former employee of a Tempe plastic-mold manufacturer.
    Oh, that guy.

    Talkingpointsmemo picks up the story:
    Chris Broughton, the man who brought an assault rifle and a handgun to the Obama event in Arizona last week, attended a fiery anti-Obama sermon the day before the event, in which Pastor Steven Anderson said he was going to "pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell", Anderson confirmed to TPMmuckraker today..
    But this isn't about the well-armed, anti-Obama, fundamentalist-Christian, well-armed, right-wing militia member. It's about his pastor, Steven L Anderson and what he said that Sunday.

    To get a feel for where Anderson is coming from, you should read some previous non-Obama rantings (h/t to Pam's House Blend for the partial transcript). Here's Anderson on the Death Penalty:
    The same God who instituted the death penalty for murders is the same god who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals, sodomites and queers.
    Immediately preceding that sentence, he said that the greatest hypocrite in the world is one who believes in the death penalty for murderers but not for homosexuals.

    So that's the heady theological atmosphere Christopher Broughton found himself breathing the Sunday before toting a weapon to an Obama rally.

    So let's get back to the sermon. (which you can listen to it here.)

    He begins with Psalm 58 and drawing parallels between an aborted fetus and the "melted snail" of verse 8. Then:

    But let me tell you something: I don't love Barack Obama. I don't respect Barack Obama. I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight. Because he needs to recompense, he needs to reap what he's sown.

    You see, any Christian will tell you that someone who commits murder should get the death penalty. Because that's what it says in Genesis Chapter 9, that's what it says in the Mosaic Law, that's what it teaches us throughout the Bible. 'Who so sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.' 'From the image of God created he Man.'

    And when Barack Obama is gonna push his partial birth abortion, his salty saline solution abortion, hey, he deserves to be punished for what he's done. I'm not going to pray for God to bless Barack Obama. This is my prayer tonight to Barack Obama.

    ...Now, look, if somebody wants me, it somebody twisted my arm and tells me to pray for Barack Obama, this is what I'm going to pray, because this is the only prayer that applies to him: 'Break his teeth, O God, in his mouth. You know, as a snail which melteth, let him pass away. Like the untimely birth of a woman, that he thinks -- he calls it a woman's right to choose, you know, he thinks it's so wonderful. He ought to be aborted. It ought to be, 'Abort Obama.'

    This coming from a man who already believes that abortion=murder.

    Now let's look at the law (the real law, not the Biblical law). Specifically US Code Title 18>Part I>Chapter 41> > § 871:
    Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect, or knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the President, President-elect, Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President, or Vice President-elect, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. [emphasis added.]
    So why hasn't Steven Anderson been arrested? He's preaching that President Obama needs to be punished for what he's done, to have his teeth broken and finally to be "aborted."

    Need I remind anyone that in 2005 (when there was a Republican in the White House):
    In Denver last year, three people were thrown out of a Bush town-hall meeting on Social Security after they arrived in a car sporting a bumper sticker that proclaimed: "No more blood for oil" and wore T-shirts under their other clothes that said "Stop the Lies."
    Does Anderson get away with threatening the life of the President of the United States (or otherwise inciting violence against the President) because the current President is a Democrat or the current threatener is quoting his Bible while doing it?

    Steven L Anderson needs to be arrested and charged with threatening the life of the President of the United States of America.

    Note: Lynn Cullen was talking about this on her show today. (Note: The link will only be live for a week or so. After that you'll have to go through iTunes to hear the show.)

    UPDATE: TPM is reporting that the Secret Service has interviewed Anderson.

    August 26, 2009

    Senator Edward Kennedy Dies at Age 77

    From Reuters:
    U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America's most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, died at age 77, his family said.

    "Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts)," the Kennedy family said in a statement early on Wednesday.

    One of the most influential and longest-serving senators in U.S. history -- a liberal standard-bearer who was also known as a consummate congressional dealmaker -- Kennedy had been battling brain cancer, which was diagnosed in May 2008.

    August 25, 2009

    Deacon Dr. Sen. Coburn Shares the Love

    When in DC, Deacon Dr. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) shares a dorm room with Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) at the C Street House, the residence of a secretive, controversial Christian religious and political organization known as "The Family" or "The Fellowship." Ensign admitted to an extramarital affair with a member of his staff.

    From Wikipedia:
    Senator Coburn is affiliated with a religious organization called The Family which has been criticized on Rachel Maddow's show. Senator Coburn lives in one of the Family's dormitories when in Washington, D.C. with Senator John Ensign, another Family member and longtime resident of the C Street Center who admitted he had an extra-marital affair with a staffer in 2009. The announcement by Ensign of his extramarital affair brought public scrutiny of the Family and its connection to other high ranking politicians including Senator Coburn.

    Senator Coburn, together senior members of the Family, attempted to intervene to end Ensign's affair in February 2008, prior to the affair becoming public, including by meeting with the husband of Ensign's mistress and encouraging Ensign to write a letter to his mistress breaking off the affair. Senator Ensign was driven to Federal Express from C Street Center to post the letter, shortly after which Ensign called to tell his mistress to ignore it.

    Senator Coburn refuses to speak about his involvement in Ensign's affair or his knowledge of the affair well before it became public on the grounds of alleged "privilege" due to his separate status as a licensed physician in the State of Oklahoma (OB/GYN) and an ordained deacon.
    Coburn knows that government isn't the solution to our problems, except of course when it comes to sodomy and abortion:

    (Maybe we can hold a bake sale for this woman and her husband.)

    August 24, 2009

    Birther Crazie Continues At FreeRepublic

    Via Jesus' General. The next step in the "birther skepticism" is found at You have to read this to believe it:
    Read a copy of Larry Sinclair's book this afternoon. Quick read. The list of character who attacked his character being names we see regularly and a few attached to Axelrod.

    The only other thing that hit me was that Sinclair said BO was not circumcised. When my son was born in a hospital that was done as a matter of routine without even consulting us. Would the same be for Hawaii? OTOH People born at home or in some other cultures are not circumcised. [emphasis added]
    See what the writer did? A verrry subtle insinuation that because Sinclair sez President Obama isn't circumcised, be might then be from "another culture" (i.e. KENYA).

    Sheesh what is it with these wingnut republicans and their obsessions with Democratic Presidential penises?

    And anyone notice the name of the author of the book? SINCLAIR.

    That's LARRY SINCLAIR. He's the guy who made up some fraudulent accusations against Obama during the 2008 election and then failed a polygraph test regarding those accusations.

    But let's be honest. For these folks, the only way for the President to prove to them that Larry Sinclair is lying is for the President of the United States to show them his penis.

    Nothing else will satisfy the birthers.

    Battling Polluting Waste Coal Plants In Western PA

    There's a proposed coal waste power plant to be built just west of our area. These types of plants produce fly ash -- fly ash which will add to our already particulate-polluted air.

    A new website has been created over the concerns raised by this proposed plant:

    The site includes information on public meetings about the plant.

    Give it a whirl!

    August 23, 2009

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    The message to be taken from this week's column by Jack Kelly: By making false accusations of racism, it's the DEMOCRATS who are playing the race card.

    We'll see.

    First Jack trots out some by-now well known Gallup poll numbers:
    A Gallup poll released Aug. 14 indicated that in all 50 states, there are more self-identified conservatives than there are self-identified liberals. The conservative advantage ranges from plus-34 percentage points in Alabama to plus-1 in Vermont and Massachussetts, and is 10 percentage points or more in 40 states.

    A plurality of voters in 21 states consider themselves moderates. It was the significant shift of moderates to the Democratic Party in 2006 and 2008 that gave Barack Obama the presidency and Democrats their handsome majorities in the House and Senate.
    Let's take a look at Gallup's numbers if only to flesh out Jack's "Dems are doomed" position. Here's the beginning of the report from Gallup:
    The strength of "conservative" over "liberal" in the realm of political labels is vividly apparent in Gallup's state-level data, where a significantly higher percentage of Americans in most states -- even some solidly Democratic ones -- call themselves conservative rather than liberal.
    Somehow I'm thinking, though, that this is a bit of a cheat. If the ONLY options were "liberal" and "conservative" then they'd have something but down the page we read:
    Because the percentage of moderates varies by state -- from 43% in Hawaii and Rhode Island down to 32% in Alabama -- the percentage identifying themselves as "conservative" does not by itself provide a complete picture of the relative strength of conservatism across states. [emphasis added.]
    "Moderates" being neither liberal nor conservative. By just comparing two of the three you don't really get a clear picture. Where do the moderates stand? How do they vote? If the size of the moderates in each state was the same across the states and they all thought the same, then (again) Gallup would have something. But without that data it's difficult to tell.

    Gallup hints at something here:
    When considered with party identification, these ideology findings highlight the role that political moderates currently play in joining with liberals to give the Democratic Party its numerical advantage. [emphasis added.]
    So let's look at Gallup's data on party affiliation. This is from June of 2009:
    Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.
    So this hasn't changed much in 15 or so years. HOWEVER when we look deeper at party affiliation we find:
    There is an important distinction in the respective ideological compositions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. While a solid majority of Republicans are on the same page -- 73% call themselves conservative -- Democrats are more of a mixture. The major division among Democrats is between self-defined moderates (40%) and liberals (38%). However, an additional 22% of Democrats consider themselves conservative, much higher than the 3% of Republicans identifying as liberal.
    Thus far in 2009, Gallup has found an average of 36% of Americans considering themselves Democratic, 28% Republican, and 37% independent. When independents are pressed to say which party they lean toward, 51% of Americans identify as Democrats, 39% as Republicans, and only 9% as pure independents.
    If anything, the data shows that while the GOP is the (mostly) conservative party, the Democratic Party is the conservative to moderate to liberal party. Which do you think looks more like America? (Rhetorical question - no need to answer that.)

    Not really Jack's fault for not fleshing this out. That's not his job in this column. His job is to spin and skew on race in contemporary American politics.

    But let's move into Jack's big charge:
    Many liberals have responded to rising concerns about massive deficits and government-run health care by calling those who express concern racists.
    His first example:
    After a town hall meeting at which most in attendance angrily opposed the health-care bill, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., told MSNBC: "The last time I had to confront something like this was when I voted for the civil rights bill. At that time, we had a lot of Ku Klux Klan folks and white supremacists and folks in white sheets and other things running around and causing trouble."
    Look carefully. Dingell didn't actually call the protesters racists - just that the vehemence of the protest matched the vehemence of the racists opposing the civil rights bill (and that's a lot). But what happened at that meeting anyway? Here's something from the Detroit Free Press:
    As Dingell opened the forum, Mike Sola of Milan interrupted the congressman as he pushed his son, Scott, in a wheelchair, to the podium. He said proposed changes wouldn’t help Scott and called Dingell a fraud.
    Actually, according to the blog Michigan Liberal:
    He proceeded to scream (literally scream) at Rep. Dingell, telling him that, under this new legislation, his son with cerebral palsy would be euthanized. Although Rep. Dingell assured him that this was certainly not the case, the man became more and more incensed, egged on by the crowd behind him. Dingell staffers were finally forced to move forward to ensure the man did not threaten Rep. Dingell.

    As he became more and more threatening, the Romulus police finally intervened and escorted him out of the room.
    They have photos to back it up, by the way. None of Milan's charges, of course, are true. But he had to learn them from someplace. Any guesses where (here's a hint: the conservative media)

    More from the Detroit Free Press:
    The interruptions continued with virtually every question Dingell answered. Many Dingell supporters pleaded, "Let him speak," even as others yelled louder and shouted more.
    While the blog Right Michigan complains about Democrats padding the meeting, the Detroit Free Press reported:
    Scott Hagerstrom, the Michigan director for Americans for Prosperity -- a group opposing President Barack Obama's health care initiative -- said that after he learned about it, he sent an e-mail alerting 18,000 members in southeast Michigan
    18,000 is a lot of people. That must be a huge mailing list. Americans for Properity, by the way, is a 501(c)(4) group. According to DeSmogBlog:
    AFP, and its former incarnation the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, are the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family of Foundations, which is run by the ultra-conservative oil baron Charles G. Koch. The Koch Family of Foundations has been a major funding source for many of the think tanks that are in the business of delaying action on climate change issues.
    Can't really say what happened in Michigan is grass-roots then.

    There was one protest poster equating President Obama to Adolf Hitler. We'll see more Nazi connections later.

    The point of the protests is not to protest or otherwise make your voices heard. It's to make sure no discussion takes place. It's metaphorically speaking burning down the marketplace of ideas because you don't like the ideas found there and then claiming that the flames are a valid form of protest.

    Want a chuckle? Take a look see at the Detroit Free Press story again. One protester was quoted as saying:
    The government wants to control my body, my health care decisions and the doctors I see.
    And who said that?
    Christine Wofford, 56, of Canton, who distributed literature from the Liberty Council, a Lynchburg, Va., religious civil rights law firm.
    The profoundly pro-life Liberty Counsel. Not too bright, I would say. Like Michelle Bachman.

    So what's next? This:
    "I have seen this kind of hate before," Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., told The Huffington Post. "I have seen snarling dogs going after people who were trying to peacefully assemble. I have seen the eyes of people who were being spat upon. This is all about activity trying to deny the establishment of a civil right."
    Here's the piece in the Huffington Post. What does Clyburn use as evidence? Take a look:
    Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, said he was particularly appalled by the use of the Swastika symbol at some of these town hall events. Noting that one had been painted on the office of Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), an African-American, Clyburn insisted that was proof enough that some of the protests were racially motivated.

    "There is no question in my mind," he said.

    Hmm. More Nazi imagery - swastika graffiti. Funny, Jack doesn't mention Congressman Scott.

    TPM does:
    Scott showed a letter similar to one received by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), showing the President Obam-as-Joker picture with the message, "Death to all Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!" The letter contained a message for Scott, who is black: "To: NIGGA DAVID SCOTT / You were / You are / And / You shall forever be a nigga!" It added, "The Ethiopian cannot make himself white."

    Another letter said that Scott will go down in defeat at the next election, "and any of your colored constituents ain't gonna stop it. The folks are not going to stand for socialized medicine, even though most negroes refuse to stand on their own two feet."

    Take a look:

    No racism here, nope none at all. Accusations of racism are FALSE, Jack says. FALSE!

    It's the DEMOCRATS who are desperately making the false charge, Jack says. Playing the race card for no reason.

    Yea, right.

    August 22, 2009

    Reminder: Political Pundits TONIGHT

    From Johnny Mac's blog:


    That's right - BOTH of us will be there. That ALONE is worth the price of admission.

    The President, Today

    The text.

    The President states outright:

    Let’s start with the false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform. That’s not true. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has never even been on the table. Some are also saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false. When it comes to the current ban on using tax dollars for abortions, nothing will change under reform. And as every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called "death panels" – an offensive notion to me and to the American people. These are phony claims meant to divide us.

    And we’ve all heard the charge that reform will somehow bring about a government takeover of health care. I know that sounds scary to many folks. It sounds scary to me, too. But here’s the thing: it’s not true. I no sooner want government to get between you and your doctor than I want insurance companies to make arbitrary decisions about what medical care is best for you, as they do today. As I’ve said from the beginning, under the reform we seek, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.

    Not sure if this will be enough to sway any of teh crazies. I mean they don't believe The Negro Socialist Non-Citizen Grandmother-Killing President to begin with, so why should they start now?

    "Capitalism: A Love Story" (Trailer for Michael Moore's Movie)

    "It's got it all — lust, passion, romance and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day."
    - Michael Moore


    August 21, 2009

    A Fallacious Argument

    I want everyone to take a look at Jerry Bowyer's latest article in the National Review Online.

    Before I get into analyzing it, I have to admit that Jerry's article disappointed. I used to listen to him on the radio all the time. While I agreed with about 1% of what he said, I was also greatly admiring his intellect and his obvious depth of reading. He's a very smart guy and you DON'T want to tangle with him unless you've done your homework very very well. If you don't prepare, you'll loose and be out the door before you even knew what happened.

    Jerry is the guy who turned me onto Peter Kreeft's book Socratic Logic. Great book. Kreeft takes the reader on a tour of Aristotelian (i.e. "classical") logic and - for the purposes of this posting, let me point this out - the range of logical fallacies possible.

    Unfortunately Jerry constructs an easily discernible logical fallacy (sorry, Jerr. but you're smarter than this).

    He begins by pointing out the good news regarding US life expectancy:
    It turns out that Americans are living longer than they did at any time in the nation’s history. The average lifespan is just shy of 78 years, with women living slightly longer than 80 years. Males and females, blacks and whites — we’re all living longer than ever before.
    All good news, of course. But then Jerry commits the fallacy:
    So what’s all this noise coming out of D.C. and the left-wing media about how terrible our health-care system is? Why are we told of its unsustainability, its inherent greed and corruption, and its tolerance for tonsillectomy mills? Watching all this hand-wringing, one might think that Americans had the highest death rates ever recorded, rather than the lowest.
    The fallacy here is that it's entirely possible for our health care system to be less-than-acceptable while still producing the highest lifespan in our history (more on that later). Those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

    Jerry's fallacy is that he writes as if they were.

    Here's an example that may clear things up: my chess game is pretty mediocre. If I studied any of the chess books on my bookshelf my chess game would undoubtedly get better. Let's assume for the sake of the argument that I studied hard and made my game better than it ever was.

    That does not mean I'd have a good chess game, however. It might be, it might not be, there's no way to know. All I'd know is that it would just be better than it was. See how that works?

    That's what Jerry did. He used the comparative "better" without putting it into an understandable framework and then skewed what he was comparing. Just because it's better than it was doesn't mean it's good.

    Jerry ends with this:
    The cable-television pundits remind us that we’re spending about 16 percent of our national output on health care, and conclude that this is some kind of national scandal. Why? What percentage should we be spending? Is 10 percent more acceptable? Is 5 percent?

    Let’s be clear: Prosperous countries spend more on doctors and medicine than non-prosperous ones. The poor allocate almost everything they earn to food, rent, and clothes, and have little to spend on medicine and even less to squander on fun. When a nation gets wealthy, however, food, roofs, and pants become less of a cost issue, while more money is funneled to matters such as health.

    Our great-grandparents spent much less than 16 percent of GDP on health care, and they barely made it into their 60s. Would any of you willingly give back 20 years in exchange for less health-care spending?
    The fallacy here is that he's comparing the US with only less prosperous countries. Omitting other prosperous ones (did you notice that?) as if to say that those are the only options.

    So how does the US fare compared to other industrialized nations in terms of life expectancy and health care costs as percentage of GDP?

    NOT as well as Jerry would like you think. According to the CIA Factbook the US ranks 50th among countries across the world (35th among UN member states) in terms of life expectancy. Behind Japan, Canada, Switzerland and so on.

    And how does the US compare in Health Care spending as a percentage of GDP? According to this article in the NYTimes (which gets its data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) we're way way way ahead of the pack.

    For the year 2007 (the last for which data is available) the percentage is about 16% - much higher than any of the other prosperous countries listed.

    So we're paying more for it than anyone else on the planet and yet our life expectancy (though higher than it's ever been) is not the highest on the planet. Not even close.

    See the fallacies in Jerry's argument now?

    PittGirl Featured in CNN Story

    From CNN:

    "The coming-out stories of anonymous bloggers"

    One More Reason To Read Krugman

    From today's NYTimes:
    According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the “public option” for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

    Well, I’m shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.
    Me, too.

    Krugman goes on to describe progressives' reaction and the nature of the "public option", how it's supposed to lower costs and how the "co-ops" are a sham.

    But here's the important stuff:
    But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will “pull the plug on grandma,” and two days later the White House declares that it’s still committed to working with him.

    It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

    Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.

    So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.
    Win it back.

    DOJ Misconduct Scandals NN09 Panel (The Selective and Wrongful Prosecution of Don Siegelman)

    Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman
    (after he let go of my arm)

    Dr. Cyril Wecht takes one for the blog

    The full title of the panel was Reporting DoJ Misconduct Scandals: Why Netroots Remains Last Hope for Justice and panelists included former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former coroner of Allegheny County Cyril Wecht, MD, JD.

    Most Pittsburghers have some familiarity with Wecht's trial (read here if you don't) and some thought his case was an example of selective prosecution by the Bush administration and U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan.

    Less Burghers may have followed the case of Don Siegelman. Way back in 2007, The New York Times in an editorial titled "Selective Prosecution" described it thusly:
    Putting political opponents in jail is the sort of thing that happens in third-world dictatorships. In the United States, prosecutions are supposed to be scrupulously nonpartisan. This principle appears to have broken down in Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department — where lawyers were improperly hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party membership, and United States attorneys were apparently fired for political reasons.

    Individual Democrats may be paying a personal price. Don Siegelman, a former Alabama governor, was the state’s most prominent Democrat and had a decent chance of retaking the governorship from the Republican incumbent. He was aggressively prosecuted by both the Birmingham and Montgomery United States attorney’s offices. Birmingham prosecutors dropped their case after a judge harshly questioned it. When the Montgomery office prosecuted, a jury acquitted Mr. Siegelman of 25 counts, but convicted him of 7, which appear to be disturbingly weak.

    The prosecution may have been a political hit. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, has said in a sworn statement that she heard Bill Canary, a Republican operative and a Karl Rove protégé, say that his “girls” — his wife, the United States attorney in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham — would “take care” of Mr. Siegelman. Mr. Canary also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that Mr. Rove was involved.

    The Rove controversy is still ongoing.

    You can watch the 60 Minutes expose on the front page of Siegelman's website:

    Unfortunately, like many of the Netroots panels that I wanted to see, the DOJ one conflicted with two others (Torture, Accountability, and Prosecutions: Looking Back to Move Forward and Advocating for Reproductive Rights in the Age of Obama).

    But Siegelman wasn't having any of that. He stood outside his panel room and literally grabbed people in the halls (including me) to convince them to hear him speak with the line, "I'll be speaking during the first 10 minutes -- just stay for that."

    I did just stay for his part (mostly because I already knew a lot about his case and the Wecht case), but if you're not as familiar, I urge you to check out his website, watch the 60 Minutes piece and then take action.

    By the way, Siegelman did have something new to say in those first 10 minutes.

    He had a chance to speak with Valerie Jarrett -- one of Obama's most trusted advisors -- that very day. He implored her to remove Rove's clones from the DOJ.

    I found her reported response to be terribly discouraging. He said she told him that it was up to us to lobby for that reform.


    You can contact Jarrett via Siegelman's website here.

    iBurgh @ Netroots

    (Still playing catchup from being ill.)

    By now, you've all hopefully have heard about iBurgh: the first iPhone application for registering citizen complaints through a mobile phone. You also know the part played by Councilman Peduto in trying to advance "e-democracy."

    Peduto hosted a panel at Netroots Nation 2009 called "How Technology Can Enhance Democracy in Pittsburgh and Beyond."

    Priya Narasimhan of YinzCam which developed iBurgh spoke during the panel and you can see her presentation here:

    Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill Peduto at NN09

    Priya Narasimhan, Director Carnegie Mellon's
    Mobility Research Center (left) at NN09


    I'm with stupid ->

    "There were a couple of people in the crowd “with YouTubes.” [meaning cameras]
    - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)

    "Will you ask the President to show me his gift certificate — I mean, his — gift certificate — his birth certificate."
    Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Dancing With The Stars)

    The "controversy" over First Lady Michelle Obama's shorts.
    Here (and everywhere)


    August 20, 2009

    PittGirl Fired

    Well this sucks but is not totally unexpected.

    From KDKA:
    Virginia Montanez, also known as PittGirl, was the marketing director for the Pittsburgh-based scholarship program NEED.

    Montanez revealed her identity in an interview with KDKA's Jim Lokay on Wednesday.

    She said she was fired this morning.
    You can read her take on it at her blog.

    And some people wonder why so many bloggers remain anonymous . . .


    Tom Ridge Confirms It

    From USNews:
    Tom Ridge, the first head of the 9/11-inspired Department of Homeland Security, wasn't keen on writing a tell-all. But in The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again, out September 1, Ridge says he wants to shake "public complacency" over security. And to do that, well, he needs to tell all. Especially about the infighting he saw that frustrated his attempts to build a smooth-running department. Among the headlines promoted by publisher Thomas Dunne Books: Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was "blindsided" by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over. [emphasis added]
    Atrios put it best:
    Sometimes it's a bit hard to remember just how nutty the world was in those post-9/11 days. Suggesting that Bush was using the terror alert for political purposes would have made you a crazy person, the mere suggestion of it would've put you outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.
    And now it's been confirmed. Wonder how that'll get played out.

    Wise Words From EJ Dionne

    Remember this?

    EJ Dionne continues the idea:
    Try a thought experiment: What would conservatives have said if a group of loud, scruffy leftists had brought guns to the public events of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush?

    How would our friends on the right have reacted to someone at a Reagan or a Bush speech carrying a sign that read: "It is time to water the tree of liberty"? That would be a reference to Thomas Jefferson's declaration that the tree "must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

    Pardon me, but I don't think conservatives would have spoken out in defense of the right of every American Marxist to bear arms or to shed the blood of tyrants.
    A few paragraphs later:
    This is not about the politics of populism. It's about the politics of the jackboot. It's not about an opposition that has every right to free expression. It's about an angry minority engaging in intimidation backed by the threat of violence.
    And that's all they have left.

    August 19, 2009

    One More Reason to Love Barney Frank

    NOTE: I haven't been blogging lately because what started out the first day of Netroots Nation as an annoying sinus thingy (perhaps a summer cold/allergies) turned out to be a nasty, raging infection. I've been taking antibiotics since Monday and am starting to get better (missed the Friday and Saturday NN parties). I'll try to start really blogging again soon. Make sure you check out all the great photos Spork took (scroll down at his blog).

    Just How Stupid ARE The Birthers?

    From a poll from Public Policy Polling.

    First off how many "birthers" are there?
    The answer is that 62% of Americans think Obama was born here, while 24% think he was not and 14% are unsure.
    So 38% are ignorant of the fact that Obama was born in the US.

    PPP breaks down that 38% into:
    10% of the country thinks that he was born in Indonesia, 7% think he was born in Kenya, and 1% think he was born in the Philippines.

    That leaves 20%, which includes at least some people who correctly believe that Obama was born in Hawaii, but who don't consider Hawaii to be part of the United States. You read that right- 6% of poll respondents think that Hawaii is not part of the country and 4% are unsure.
    How stupid are these people?

    The full results are here.

    Digging deeper into the crosstabs. Looking at both data-sets (Was Obama born in the US and the education of the person answering the question we see that;
    1. Of those with some post-graduate education, 70% said YES while 30% said NO or WEREN'T SURE (split 19/11).
    2. Of those with a bachelor's degree, 66% said YES and 34% said NO or WEREN'T SURE (split 22/12).
    3. Of those with a some college, 56% said YES and 45% said NO or WEREN'T SURE (split 31/14).
    4. Of those who graduated high school, 49% said YES and 50% said NO or WEREN'T SURE (split 28/22).
    5. Of those who didn't graduate High School, 48% said YES while 52% said NO or WEREN'T SURE (split 33/19).
    And let's be clear here - it's a fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. We're not talking about something subjective here. If this part of this poll is to be believed (and there's no reason why it shouldn't be), the less educated you are the more likely you are to be a birther.

    Pitt Girl: Anonymous No More

    At her blog (which has been renamed "That's Church") she gives up some info:
    1. My name is Virginia Montanez. My friends and family call me Ginny, but you can continue to call me Your Majesty, because I’ve grown accustomed.
    Now that her name's out of the way, I'll paraphrase the other stuff. She's married, two kids ("HOLY SHIT, PITTGIRL IS A MOM!"), four sisters and she still hates pigeons.

    Nice to meet you, Virginia. Good to have you back.

    Lynn Cullen Show

    The OPJ reported in early July:
    We get near daily hits from folks searching for info on where they can listen to Lynn Cullen.

    Well, she's back -- not on the airwaves -- but live streaming audio courtesy of the Pittsburgh City Paper.

    It will be a one hour, weekday show at 10:00 AM starting on August 18th. The shows will be archived and downloadable.
    Yesterday's show was pretty good - she had Chris Potter on.

    Today, it'll be me.

    I hope she's not setting a precedent of only having bald and/or balding men on but if Tony Norman's on tomorrow, we'll know for sure.

    The show starts at 10AM. Just go to City Paper and follow the link with Lynn's picture on it.

    August 18, 2009

    Political Pundits

    Hey, look:
    Don't know if you can see it, but BOTH POLITICAL JUNKIES will be on the McIntire's stage this Saturday.

    BOTH of us.

    And Gab's playing trumpet. That I wanna see. My undergraduate degree is in trumpet playing, you know.

    Here's McIntire's description:

    Saturday Night - 10:30 PM - Cabaret Theater - Downtown Pittsburgh - 7th St. and Penn Ave. - Parking and Food and Alcohol! - Be There And Be Theater Square!

    I Wish I'd Written This

    In response to reading about the dozen or so people carrying at Obama events in Arizona, watertiger at Firedoglake had this to say:
    Once again we see how irony deficiency maims the conservative's ability to reason: those most terrified of The Negro Socialist Non-Citizen Grandmother-Killing President taking away their assault weaponry [roll eyes here] are free who to openly carry them at Obama events without fear of reprisal.

    Could you even begin to imagine that sort of apparently lackadaisical approach during Bush's Orwellian tenure? Contemplate what would have happened to audience members had they shown up at one of Bush's "socha scurty" town halls packing heat. People wearing even vaguely anti-Bush t-shirts were summarily ejected from his little Potemkin village affairs and those whose cars brandished "liberal" bumper stickers were no doubt assigned to some DHS anti-American no-fly list. Anyone with a firearm at a Bush event would have found himself wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles faster than you could say "Dick Cheney's man-sized safe."
    Damn, I wish I'd written that.

    August 16, 2009

    Jack Kelly Sunday Part II

    But the real news of this week's column is how Jack Kelly uses this whole set-up to plant the idea that it's possible that the "death panel" stories might be true just because he's "proven" that Obama lied about the health care plan. He begins with a dangerous statement (for Jack, that is - it's sentences like these that usually come back to haunt):
    People who lie about some provisions in the health-care bill will lie about others.
    This, of course, is true. But then Jack defends as possible Sarah Palin's "death panel" lie.
    "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care," former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a post on Facebook.

    Hyperbole? You betcha! But wrong? Maybe not. [emphasis added]

    Now you gotta watch carefully. He quotes Washington Post columnist Charles Lane:
    "The measure would have an interested party -- the government -- recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations," Mr. Lane wrote. "You don't have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach."
    But Jack omits from that same column this part:
    Enter Section 1233 of the health-care bill drafted in the Democratic-led House, which would pay doctors to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years -- or sooner if the patient gets a terminal diagnosis.

    On the far right, this is being portrayed as a plan to force everyone over 65 to sign his or her own death warrant. That's rubbish. Federal law already bars Medicare from paying for services "the purpose of which is to cause, or assist in causing," suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing. Nothing in Section 1233 would change that. [emphasis added.]
    There's more rubbish. Remember someone who lies about some provisions will lie about others. Here's Jack caught in an egregious smear:
    In a 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Ezekiel Emanuel, President Obama's health-care adviser, touted the fiscal benefits of physician-assisted suicide. In January, Dr. Emanuel outlined his "principles of allocation of scarce medical interventions:"

    "When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated," Dr. Emanuel said.

    Here is the article Jack references. It's from the British Medical Journal, The Lancet (free subscription req to see the full text). Who'd'a thought The Lancet would publish an article advocating killing old people because it's too expensive to keep them alive?

    Of course they didn't.

    Jack wants you to believe that when Dr. Emanuel (who is also Rahm Emanuel's brother, by the way) wrote that the "principles of allocation of scare medical interventions", it had something to do with physician-assisted suicide. But take a look at the first sentence of the article as found in the Lancet:
    Allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines is a persistent ethical challenge.[emphasis added]
    They're (remember, there's three authors of this article) writing about the ethical issues surrouding how to allocate a limited number of organs or vaccines - not euthanasia. And it's an outright lie to say otherwise.

    But don't take my word for it, here's Dr Emanuel himself (by way of Jake Tapper at ABC):
    In another article used as grist for his critics, in Lancet in January 2009, Emanuel and two co-authors discussed rationing care. But Emanuel cautions the goal of the article was not to apply his views of rationing onto providing health care in general.

    We were examining a very particular situation,” he said.

    The situation: “we don’t have enough organs for everybody who needs a transplant. You have one liver, you have three people who need the liver - who gets it? The solution isn’t ‘We get more livers.’ You can’t. It’s a tragic choice.” It’s a decision made in the story in the context of “absolute scarcity.”

    It doesn’t apply generally to health care services more broadly,” Emanuel underlines. “Only by ignoring what we say there could anyone come to a different conclusion. Only by taking two sentences out of their complete context.” [emphasis added]

    To take that one sentence from Emanuel et al and spin it somehow into support for assisted suicide (which, by the way Dr Emanuel has already renounced) is just wrong.

    Simply factually wrong. No, it's not a matter of it being a different interpretation of the facts where Jack somehow just comes up to the line separating spin from falsehood.

    This is a falsehood. It's an outright lie.

    Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

    Jack Kelly Sunday Part I

    In this week's column, Jack Kelly wiggles his way into actually spreading the by-now debunked wingnut "government death panel" lie.

    In doing so he (inadvertently I am sure) offers us a way to describe his own MO. The first line of the column is:
    Who you gonna believe? Me ... or your lying eyes?
    It's of course from Duck Soup. (If you're in need of a chuckle, watch the scene for yourself - the joke above is about 2 minutes in.)

    The point of the joke (the exact wording of which, incidentally, Jack gets wrong) is that while it's a command to the listener by the speaker to trust the latter's statements over the former's own empirical data, it's the speaker who's wrong, he knows he's wrong, lies about it anyway and tries to get the listener to agree with him.

    Jack is hoping his readers will think this of Barack Obama, though any readers of this blog will surely realize it better describes Jack himself - an inadvertent mistake of Jack's to be sure.

    He finds his own "gotcha" moment to show that Obama can't ever be trusted. Here's Jack's set-up:
    In response to a question asking whether he still supports a single-payer system (one in which the government is the sole provider of health-care services, as in Canada), Mr. Obama said:

    "I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter because, frankly, we historically had an employer-based system in this country with private insurers, and for us a transition to a system like that I believe would be too disruptive."

    He gets his "gotcha" by going waaaay back in 2003 where State Senator Obama said:
    I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer health care program.
    Jack continues:
    Had the president said: "I used to support a single-payer system, but I changed my mind because ...," more people might give credence to the claims he's making for his health-care reform plan. Instead, he told an outright lie.
    Well, no. It's entirely possible that the man simply changed his mind in the last 6 or so years. Had the earlier statement been from, say, six weeks ago, then Jack would be entirely correct.

    But it wasn't.

    Let me ask a question only to answer it myself: how much has changed since mid-2003? The lies about Iraq's WMD became well known, Valerie Plame is outed to protect those lies, the Bush era illegal domestic surveillance was uncovered, a number of USAttorney fired illegally, and finally there's the Bush recession. It's hardly surprising that one person's mind would change during the time when all that happened.

    Perhaps Obama should explain himself on this, but it's hardly an "outright lie." It's not like he made stuff up.

    And if anyone knows about making stuff up, it's our friend Jack.

    In any case it's a tiny point. Even if it's true (which it isn't) it's hardly enough to support the entirety of Jack's argument. So let's continue. After pointing out the assessment from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) regarding the cost of the budget plan (something Obama has already refuted - not that Jack would let you know about it, though), he goes on:

    And when Mr. Obama says people who like their private insurance will be able to keep it, but the Lewin Group estimates the "public option" would force 88 million people with private insurance into the government program, people worry.

    He omits telling you that that same CBO says, uh no. How do I know this? It says so in the conservative Washington Times. They write:
    Republicans touted a report from theLewin Group, a health research firm owned by an insurance company, that predicted 100 million people out of the 160 million now covered by employer-sponsored insurance would go to the government coverage.

    But the CBO estimates about 12 million people would opt for the public plan. The wide difference in estimates is the result of drastically different assumptions about the price of the plans. CBO estimated the public plan would cost 10 percent less than private plans, compared with the Lewin Group estimate that it would be 20 percent cheaper.[emphasis added]

    See that? A research firm owned by an insurance company - something else Jack didn't tell you but the Washington Times did. I'll let the other newspaper in Washington DC explain in more detail:
    Generally left unsaid amid all the citations is that the Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers.

    More specifically, the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied UnitedHealth and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the "reasonable and customary" doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care.

    In January, UnitedHealth agreed to a $50 million settlement with the New York attorney general and a $350 million settlement with the AMA, covering conduct going back as far as 1994.

    So, um maybe, they might not be as,uh, unbiased as Jack would maybe like you to think. Maybe - I dunno, just a guess - that they might be spinning the data to favor their, you know, bosses.

    End of Part I

    August 15, 2009

    AP Article on Netroots Nation Quotes Both Political Junkies

    From ABC News, the article opens with:
    They wish he'd done more in his first eight months, but the liberal bloggers who helped propel Barack Obama to the White House are far from giving up on him.

    Gathered in Pittsburgh for the annual Netroots Nation convention, they say they're not disappointed. At least not too disappointed. Yet.
    David and I were interviewed separately. I was right outside the convention center -- OK, I was smoking a cigarette -- when the AP writer (Ramit Plushnick-Masti) approached me. Later on, I had met up with David inside and we were hanging with the P-G folks and the reporter saw me and I pointed out my co-blogger to her.

    We're on page 2.

    I will add that I said "the Great Progressive Hope" instead of just "progressive."

    Also, notice that the article appears under Technology & Science and not Politics.

    August 14, 2009

    NetRoots 2009 photos

    Johnny Mac, Ace photographer Gab Bonesso and the best man at my wedding, Tony Norman.

    A WELL-FOCUSSED photo of Maria (the Other Political Junkie), Spork (who knows absolutely everybody), and Mackenzie Carpenter of the P-G.

    NetRoots Update

    In case you hadn't heard, there was somewhat of a phone ruckus at NetRoots today. TPM has the story:

    Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just told a crowd of skeptical progressives that he's willing to take up and dispel the death panel rumor with perhaps its most respected proponent: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

    Specter said he'd call Grassley from back stage and tell him "it's not a death squad."

    I was there. It was sooo cool. Let me flesh out the details. Specter was being questioned about whether he thought that Grassley was wrong when he said what he said about the government "pulling the plug on grandma." Specter said he was definitely wrong. (But we all knew that).

    The crowd, I should say, was somewhat skeptical of Specter throughout the talk and there was some grumbling in the crowd when he said he'd talk to Grassley. Then Specter stepped right into it.

    He said he'd call Grassley today.

    At that point I saw a few dozen people in the crowd lifting up their cell phones - in a sense to offer them to Specter to make the call. A few people (including me) yelled out, "Call him now! Call him now!"

    After stammering through a few words, Specter then said, "And to those who yelled that out, come back stage and watch me dial."

    He was done only a few minutes later. That portion of the talk over (Congressman Sestak, Specter's challenger, was set to go on after) and Specter left the stage.

    A couple dozen of us went back stage to watch Arlen Specter dial his cell phone and call Chuck Grassley. Unfortunately, he didn't get through to Grassley. But it was cool nonetheless.

    And now Chuck and Arlen are tweeting at each other.

    Photos to come...

    Netroots Nation 09 - Photos from Day One

    Georgia Berner from at the Women's Caucus

    Fadia Halma, Politcal Director, Pennsylvania Democratic Party at the Women's Caucus (in purple)

    The Other Political Junkie and Post-Gazette's Tony Norman and my camera functioning poorly

    The Post-Gazette's Mackenzie Carpenter

    The Post-Gazette's Tim McNulty

    As always: What Digby Said (

    Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and Celeste Taylor from

    PA Rep. Chelsa Wagner talking about redistricting

    Pam Spaulding from takes one for the blog

    The crowd waits for The Big Dog

    Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato running for governor talking about our region

    Surprisingly this was taken before the heckler. Someone shouted out about Don't Ask Don't Tell. By the time that Clinton finished answering Lane Hudson, Hudson gave Clinton a Standing O.

    This way to the party at The Warhol

    Franco "Dok" Harris outside The Warhol

    August 13, 2009

    NetRoots Today

    Interesting day.

    I arrived at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center a little before 10am, met Spork and Fester. Did you know Fester has a beard now? Neither did I.

    Update: Maria was there, too.

    I got to see an amazing panel - "How to Get The Most Out Of The Polling Data You Read About":
    This panel will share insights and observations from some veteran pollsters and analysts that might help you interpret the next set of poll data you see. Charlie Cook (The Cook Political Report,, Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin (, and Nate Silver ( will join moderator Greg Dworkin (Daily Kos) on a discussion about how to get the most out of poll watching.
    McNulty was there, too:
    Charlie Cook of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report had bad news for the liberal Dems at Netroots Nation today -- political intensity has switched over to the Republican side and Dems are facing a bloodbath next year.

    Democrats had a great run from 2006 through 2008, Cook said, running up a 54 seat advantage in the House alone. But "there's offense and there's defense -- right now you're going to be spending time on defense," he said at a polling panel today.

    "Intensity matters a lot. Last time you had it, this time they have it."

    Cook expects Democrats to lose about 20 seats in the 2010 midterm elections, cutting their majority in the House of Reps in half.
    Superstar pollster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight doesn't agree with Cook -- he thinks the Dems will do worse.

    Silver said Democrats commonly told him his Obama-friendly polls comforted them last fall. "I don't think you should feel at all comforted about 2010," he said to the liberal Dems at the conference today. He said he was 80% confident Democrats will lose between 20-50 House seats and up to six Senate seats.

    There was a lot more stuff in the discussion. Lotsa stuff about how to place the numbers in context. Great talk.

    Lunch time - a sandwich at Sammy's. Earlier in the day, I'd e-mailed my friend Fred (who's got a radio show on KDKA) to let him know I was at NetRoots. Not really sure why I did but I did. Right in the middle of my roast beef on wheat (with provolone and mustard) my phone rang. It was Fred's producer. He wanted to know if I wanted to be on the air at 1:30. It was 1:20. I said yea, sure.

    The result can be found here.

    After lunch there was a panel on comedy and then a panel on the newspaper business. The former was very funny. The latter, while just as important, was (forgive me) kinda boring. Maybe I was just hungry.

    More tomorrow. And Saturday.