Still very busy. Maybe next week will be better.
It's tricky going through the revolving door twice without getting without getting hung up. Republican Dan Coats was the senator from Indiana then became a lobbyist and now wants to return to his old seat, succeeding Evan Bayh. On the campaign trail,[...]
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Note: This being the anniversary of one of the best walks I've ever taken, I've decided to rework and re-post this essay , the second most popular piece I've ever written. Is is cross-posted at Firefly-Dreaming, La Vita Locavore and Progressive Blue.Some[...]
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Sign the petition -- tell Congress to choose students over banks.[...]
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I covered a lot of this ground in a post a couple of weeks ago, but it's worth going over again as some of the usual suspects are alleging that the Democratic caucus has "scammed" their constituents out of a public option.
1. No, it isn't clear that the Democrats ever had 50 votes for the public option in the Senate. A couple of people have cited this list by Jane Hamsher, but that list interprets several ambiguous statements as yesses, includes some purported yes votes who actually voted against the public option in committee, and includes others (like Jay Rockefeller) who have said they support the public option, but not through the reconciliation process. A newer, fresher whip count on Senators who support including a public option in a reconciliation bill is now at 41 votes -- which reflects a lot of progress but obviously remains somewhat short of a majority.
2. It's also not clear that anyone connected with the Democratic leadership ever actually said (before Scott Brown was elected) that the public option had 50 votes in the Senate (but fewer than 60). Until Glenn Greenwald, et. al. can actually provide a link to someone who made a statement like this to the press (it wouldn't surprise me if they can, but they haven't yet), they're basically arguing against a strawman.
3. It's further unclear clear that the public option currently has the votes in the House. Obviously it did at one point, since a bill passed the chamber in November with a public option included. But that bill was passed with only two votes to spare, and there has since been attrition in the Democratic caucus. In addition, with several members of the Stupak block likely to switch their votes from yes to no, Nancy Pelosi will have to recruit several new members to replace them. With the lone exception of Dennis Kucinich, the only available targets are those who opposed the bill from the right.
4. Having said all that, it's also not clear that the public option doesn't have the votes, since a lot of Congressmen have uncommitted or ambiguous positions. My sense is that the votes probably could be whipped in the Senate, but that the House would be problematic depending on the size of the Stupak block.
5. The various comments made by Pelosi, Durbin, et. al. are indeed pretty lame and circular, but probably reflect something like the following:
Pelosi and Durbin/Reid aren't certain whether the public option has the votes or not. What they're not about to do is spend a lot of time whipping for it when (a) health care is a heavy enough lift as is; (b) there's only downside in terms of the vote-counting, since only Kucinich opposed the bill from the left whereas 38 Democrats did from the right, and (c) there's arguably as much political downside as upside, since even though the public option as narrowly construed is popular, it also makes the bill identifiably more "liberal" at a time when Democrats are trying (with some success, in fact) to frame both the process and the substance of the bill as bipartisan and moderate.
You can certainly argue that Pelosi has made the wrong calculation -- and you can certainly argue that she should be offering a more robust and honest assessment of her calculation to the public, since the people who care about this stuff are über-high information voters who quickly parse through bullshit. But it also isn't just a matter of willpower. A full-throttle effort to whip votes for the public option might succeed, or it might fail. The leadership has decided that it would invite too much trouble to find out.
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Amnesty International may be best known to American audiences for bringing to light horror stories abroad such as the disappearance of political activists in Argentina or the abysmal conditions inside South African prisons under apartheid. But in a new report on pregnancy and childbirth care in the U.S., Amnesty details the maternal-health care crisis in this country as part of a systemic violation of women's rights.
The report, titled "Deadly Delivery," notes that the likelihood of a woman's dying in childbirth in the U.S. is ?ve times as great as in Greece, four times as great as in Germany and three times as great as in Spain. Every day in the U.S., more than two women die of pregnancy-related causes, with the maternal mortality ratio doubling from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006. (And as shocking as these figures are, Amnesty notes that the actual number of maternal deaths in the U.S. may be a lot higher, since there are no federal requirements to report these outcomes and since data collection at the state and local levels needs to be improved.) "In the U.S., we spend more than any country on health care, yet American women are at greater risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes than in 40 other countries," says Nan Strauss, the report's co-author, who spent two years investigating the issue of maternal mortality worldwide. "We thought that was scandalous."
I very definitely agree. And without getting into particulars, which I am not at liberty to do, I will only say that it is critical for pregnant women to be mindful of their blood pressure. I know very well how important an issue that can be in the event that there are complications (all I'll say about that is that we ended up OK, but it was a real scare).
And while I don't have any kind of "smoking gun, cause and effect" numbers on this, it would stand to reason that emphasizing pre-natal care makes particular sense to try and reverse this over-20-year downward trend of an increased maternal mortality rate.
However, the forces of stupidity have marshaled themselves on this issue, as they have with so many others. Witness Jon Kyl of Arizona here?
Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, cited statistics showing that nearly 60 percent of insurance plans sold on the individual market do not offer maternity care. "For the women in these plans, or who are attempting to get insurance, no amount of money can buy maternity care that they need."
For Ms. Stabenow, her speech on maternity care was a return to an issue that led to one of the more pointed exchanges during the Senate Finance Committee's recent debate over the health care legislation.
Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, said during the debate that he disagreed with the idea of requiring insurers to provide maternity care because it would raise costs for people who don't need or want the coverage. "I don't need maternity care," Mr. Kyl said. "And so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."
Ms. Stabenow interjected: "I think your mom probably did." Mr. Kyl shot back, "Yeah, over 60 years ago my mom did."
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, in her floor speech?said: "Only 14 states in America require insurance companies to cover maternity care. Imagine, in a country that puts family values first, only 14 states. That will change?"
So, as far as I'm concerned, file all of this under "you get what you pay for" (or, more precisely ? and as Kyl, among others, would have it ? what you don't pay for).
2) Somebody named Jay Richards over at the AEI blog inflicted the following (here)?
There's something to be said for economies of scale, infrastructure, and military might when it comes to humanitarian aid. But there's also something to be said for local knowledge, religious conviction, and on-the-ground experience.
But not all humanitarian aid programs work so well. In fact, the world's largest one doesn't work so well. The New York Times reports that according to the United Nations' own study, its World Food Program is having a terrible time in Somalia:
As much as half the food aid sent to Somalia is diverted from needy people to a web of corrupt contractors, radical Islamist militants and local United Nations staff members, according to a new Security Council report.
Well, I have a feeling that Richards, the Times and the Security Council should take a look at this?
The World Food Program is challenging a U.N. report that alleges as much as half of the WFP food destined for the needy in Somalia is being diverted to corrupt contractors and Islamist militants. WFP officials say there are a number of inaccuracies contained in the report.
In a statement e-mailed to VOA, a WFP official said the U.N. food agency would welcome an independent investigation into allegations that local WFP contractors and staff members are diverting food and selling them for profit, sometimes to al-Shabab, a radical Islamist movement that is believed to be proxy for al-Qaida in Somalia.
The food diversion allegations against the World Food Program first surfaced last year, prompting the United States to reduce its funding to the agency last year amid concerns that the aid might fall into the hands of extremists.
The WFP official says many of the issues raised in the U.N. Somalia Monitoring Group's report have already been addressed, while parts of the report contain inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims.
According to the World Food Program, the report, for example, alleges corruption inside the food agency by stating that last year it steered $200 million, or 80 percent of its transportation contracts, to only three Somali businessmen. The World Food Program says the three men received only $41.4 million, or 22 percent of the transportation contracts.
The story also tells us that, concerning 1,000 metric tons of food stolen at a supposedly staged incident in Mogadishu, "the looting incident was not staged and the local contractor subsequently replaced all of the missing food."
Besides, as far as I'm concerned, some pundit purporting to speak on behalf of this country has no right to lecture anyone else in the world about properly dispensing foreign aid, considering this item (from 2004)?
WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (IPS) - Three U.S. senators have called on Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to account for 8.8 billion dollars entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq earlier this year but now gone missing.
In a letter Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Byron L Dorgan of North Dakota and Tom Harkin of Iowa, all opposition Democrats, demanded a "full, written account" of the money that was channeled to Iraqi ministries and authorities by the CPA, which was the governing body in the occupied country until Jun. 30.
The loss was uncovered in an audit by the CPA's inspector general. It has not yet been released publicly and was initially reported on the website of journalist and retired U.S. Army Col David Hackworth.
The CPA was terminated at the end of July to make way for an interim Iraqi government, which is in turn scheduled to be replaced by an elected body early in 2005.
"We are requesting a full, written account of the 8.8 billion dollars transferred earlier this year from the CPA to the Iraqi ministries, including the amount each ministry received and the way in which the ministry spent the money," said the letter.
(More of this utterly depressing history is detailed here.)
Here's a thought ? Rummy could begin to pay back the dough from the book sales of his autobiography, and the remaining balance should be attached to any further income generated by his estate in perpetuity (as a taxpayer who was ripped off, that's an "economy of scale" that works for me).
3) And finally, here is some wailing and gnashing of teeth from The Moonie Times as another pillar of Bushco malfeasance falls to the ground, as it were?
The Obama administration promised increased transparency in government but has rolled back rules proposed by the Bush administration that expanded the financial disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders.
Since President Obama took office, the Labor Department has rescinded or delayed three sets of rules proposed by the George W. Bush administration that would have required unions and their leaders to more specifically detail their finances, according to a review of records by The Washington Times.
The rules were rolled back while the Obama administration was seeking more stringent regulation of corporate America, including banks, insurance companies, health care providers and publicly traded companies.
The proposed Bush rules would have required labor unions to identify from whom they were buying and selling assets, forced union leaders and employees to file more detailed conflict-of-interest forms, and required unions to reveal the finances of hundreds of so-called labor trusts - largely unregulated entities set up to provide benefits for members.
Former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, one of the architects of the expanded Bush rules, said the Obama administration is "making a mockery of the regulations" and is giving "preferential treatment" to the unions.
The only "mockery" here is the eight-year battle waged by Mrs. Mitch McConnell (call her that and then watch her pitch a fit) as Labor Secretary against working men and women in this country, seeing as how those are the people she should have represented instead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their pals; as noted here (with much more on Puffy Chao here)?
While the new regulations could help union members deal with corruption, they appear to be intended to undermine a union's ability to act politically. This is particularly troubling in light of the spate of political attacks on workers and unions in recent years.
Forcing unions to report what percentage of staff time and total expenditures are made for political action and lobbying will make it easier to allege that unions which engage in vigorous efforts to elect pro-union candidates or support pro-worker initiatives have violated campaign finance restrictions.
Additionally, the breakdown of expenditures may result in more agency fee payers, those who choose to pay only that portion of dues used for collective bargaining purposes, demanding a larger share of their money back.
Memo to The Dragon Lady ? elections have consequences.
Needless to say, California GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Meg Whitman has had a week she'd probably rather forget. After all, our own DK/R2K poll showed that despite a month of saturation level advertising, she still trails the in absentia campaign of Democrat Jerry Brown by four points. Of course, that came after her absurdly bad press availability in the Bay Area this week, where she got the "deer in the headlights" look when reporters began peppering her with questions, tagging off to her press aide who promptly ushered the reporters out of the room with great haste.
This "press event without the press" fed an already growing campaign narrative that Whitman is deeply fearful of finding herself in unscripted situations.
This will do little to disabuse people of that notion:
A funny thing happened when Camp Whitman was filming its 30-minute info-mercial last night in Orange County. Oh, besides stuff like covert filming by her opponents, cops being called, crowd screening and Meg goosing the audience for applause.* * * * * *
The tickets to this "private" Meg event --- which didn't tell the ticket-holder that they were going to potentially be part of infomercial history -- found their way into the hands of Whitman's political opponents, both Democratic and Republican (of the Insurance Commish Steve Poizner variety.)
Somehow operatives from the two camps were giving off some sort of musk that told Team Whitman that they weren't Meg's type of people. The Poiz operative was told to stop filming. But before he did, he managed to get shots of Meg asking the crowd to make sure to applause loudly for her. "A lot of cheering would be good" she tells them.
The Democratic operative booted from the festivities was a Californian named Jeremy Thompson, who made the charge on his Twitter page that Team Whitman actually called the cops on him for being there, despite the fact that he had been invited to the event.
On its own, the incident probably would not amount to much embarrassment for the Whitman team. Stacking the crowd for a Town Hall is hardly political breaking news, nor is it a grand aberration for politicos or their subordinates to coach a crowd prior to cameras rolling.
But for a campaign that has already taken no small amount of heat for both secrecy, and for keeping their candidate in a hermetically sealed bubble, this was a gaffe targeted right at their Achilles' Heel.
Jerry Brown, whose campaign as of the close of the year had spent less than Meg Whitman had on staff travel alone, has to be thanking his good fortune that the Whitman campaign is building this quite perilous narrative for their candidate without his help.
President Barack Obama plans to donate the $1.4 million from his Nobel Peace Prize to helping students, veterans' families and survivors of Haiti's earthquake, among others, drawing attention to organizations he said "do extraordinary work."
Obama is giving a total of $750,000 to six groups that help kids go to college. Fisher's House, which provides housing for families with loved ones at Veterans Administration hospitals, will receive $250,000, the White House said Thursday. And the Bush-Clinton Haiti Fund, for which two former presidents are raising money to rebuild earthquake-ravaged Haiti, will receive $200,000.
The rest of the money will go to an array of other groups.
This week, Christian religious leaders have been criticizing Fox News host Glenn Beck for his controversial remarks that churches that promote social and economic justice are somehow dangerous. “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish,” said Beck. Progressive Christian group Sojourners has even launched a campaign calling on Christians to speak out against Beck.
A story posted on CNN today has a photo of a United Church of Christ congregation in Wantagh, NY that took its message right to the community:
Today, ThinkProgress spoke with Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church Pastor Ronald Garner, who explained that he put the sign up yesterday when he decided that he had to do something more public than just e-mailing Beck:
GARNER: Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church is a very progressive church. We’re open and affirming in our denomination, which means we accept into the full life of our church gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. We are a peace church, and so I just felt that it was a sign that should be in front of our building to say that Mr. Beck’s comments about the social justice being a perversion of the gospel was a total distortion of anybody that’s even given a cursory reading to the words of Jesus.[...]
I feel it was an unwarranted attack on Christians, and I felt like something needed to be said.
The pastor said that a priest in the area who liked the sign originally submitted it to CNN. He added that so far, he has received only positive responses to the church’s message.
This is how far it's gone. I wish David and I had a chance to include this Malkin nonsense in our new book, but we can't add much more.
Malkin: "Obama's war on fishing?!?!?!" In a March 9, post titled, "Obama's war on fishing?!?!?!" Michelle Malkin posted the ESPN column's claim that "[t]he Obama administration will accept no more public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing the nation's oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters." Malkin added, "Longtime readers know I love to fish and have been at war with the anti-fishing nuts at PETA for years."
Here's the piece by Robert Montgomery on ESPN that got the wingnuts all lathered up.
After fish, what's next? Will Obama ban kittens? And then hold Kitten death panels?
This is a woman who wrote book about liberals called "Unhinged" and she seems to believe that the Obama administration is secretly working as an agent of Code Pink and PETA. The Obama administration. At this point, they are so off the cliff that calling him a socialist is beginning to seem restrained. I'm expecting them to claim he's literally Satan by the next election.
It's too disorienting and weird to try to address rationally. The only thing I can do is shake my head and keep my fingers crossed that these people don't ever get their fingers on the button.