Why Progressives Are Batshit Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill

Via 538.com

Pick your subheadline:

a) It's time to stop being polite and start getting real.
b) Here's hoping a picture is worth 1,000 words.



Any questions?

OK, I imagine that there will be a few. Here's how I came up with these numbers.

Senate Bill. These estimates are straightforward -- they're taken directly from the CBO's report on premiums for people at different income levels. A family of four earning an income of $54,000 would pay $4,000 in premiums, and could expect to incur another $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs. The $4,000 premium represents a substantial discount, because the government is covering 72 percent of the premium -- meaning that the gross cost of the premium is $14,286, some $10,286 of which the government pays.

One caution: this reflects the situation before the public option was removed from the bill. But, provided that the subsidy schedule isn't changed as well, that shouldn't change these numbers much.

Status Quo. In 2009, the average premium for a family in the individual market was $6,328, according to the insurance lobbying group AHIP. However, this figure paints an optimistic picture for two reasons. Firstly, the average family size in the AHIP dataset is 3.03 people; for a family of four, that number would scale upward to $7,925, by my calculations. Secondly, the CBO's estimates are based on 2016 figures, not 2009, so to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we have to account for inflation. According to Kaiser, the average cost of health coverage has increased by about 8.7 percent annually over the past decade, and by 8.8 percent for family coverage. Let's scale that down slightly, assuming 7.5 annual inflation in premiums from 2009 through 2016 inclusive. That would bring the cost of the family's premium up by a nominal 66 percent, to $13,149. And remember: these are based on estimates of premiums provided by the insurance lobby. I have no particular reason to think that they're biased, but if they are, it's probably on the low side.

Not only, however, would this family paying a lot more under the status quo, but they'd be doing so for inferior insurance. According to the CBO, the amount of coverage in the individual market would improve by between 27 and 30 percent under the Senate's bill. Taking the midpoint of those numbers (28.5 percent), we can infer that there would be about $1,427 in additional cost sharing to this family in the status quo as compared with the Senate bill; this would bring their cost sharing to $6,427 total.

Add the $6,247 to the $13,149 and you get an annual cost of $19,576 -- for a family earning $54,000! Obviously, very few such families are going to be able to afford that unless they have a lot of money in the bank. So, some of these families will go without insurance, or they'll by really crappy insurance, or they'll pay the premiums but skimp on out-of-pocket costs, which will negatively impact their fiscal and physical health. But if this family were to want to obtain equivalent coverage to that which would be available to them for $9,000 in the Senate bill, it would cost them between $19,000 and $20,000, according to my estimates.

Status Quo with SCHIP. Fortunately, some families in this predicament do receive some relief via the SCHIP program. SCHIP eligibility varies from state to state; a family earning income at 225 percent of the poverty line, as this family does, is eligible for SCHIP in about half of the country.

Premiums are fairly cheap under SCHIP -- for a family at 225 percent of poverty, generally on the order of about $60 per month to cover two children. We'll assume that this will inflate slightly to $75 per month, or $900 per year, by 2016.

The two adults in the household will still have to buy insurance in the individual market, which will cost $7,684 by 2016. That makes the family's total premium $8,584.

For the adults, we assume that the cost sharing component runs proportional to premiums, and totals $3,756. For the children, this calculation is a little bit more ambiguous. Out-of-pocket costs under SCHIP are capped at 5 percent of family income, which would be $2,700 for this family. But that's a cap and not an average -- we'll assume that the average is half of the cap, or $1,350. Total cost-sharing, therefore, is $5,106 between the adults and the children.

This means that premiums plus out of pocket costs will equal $13,690 for this family. I estimate the subsidy by subtracting this figure from the cost of unsubsidized insurance in the individual market; the difference is $5,885.

Caveat/Disclaimer. There are, obviously, some simplifying assumptions here, especially with regard to SCHIP. The only thing I can promise you is that I'm "showing my work". I would actively encourage people to pick apart these numbers and come up with their own, more robust estimates. One thing that should probably be accounted for is that the families in both the status quo and the status quo + SCHIP cases will frequently be able to deduct their health care expenses from their taxable income, especially if they've incurred substantial out-of-pocket costs. That means that the difference in net costs is slightly exaggerated by my figures.

* * *

Nevertheless, it's clear that this family would be receiving a very substantial subsidy, on the order of $10,000 in pretax income, under the Senate's bill. The reason I picked this particular family is because it provides a reality check against the example selected by the great Darcy Burner, who argued in an article at Open Left:
Affordable coverage for everyone: FAIL.

The latest CBO estimates for the Senate bill say that a family of four with a household income of $54,000/year should expect to pay 17% of their gross income on healthcare - about $9,000/year. (And that was when there was a public option to hold down costs!) That's more than they'll spend on federal taxes. That's more than they'll spend on food. I'm guessing if you took a poll, very few Americans would consider that affordable. And because of the way they've approached this, there's no effective cost cap on premiums and nothing providing downward pressure, so this is a problem that would get worse rather than better over time.
We can debate whether $9,000 for a family earning $54,000 is "affordable"; what we know is that it's a hell of a lot more affordable than the status quo, under which the family might have to pay more than twice as much to receive equivalent coverage.

In fact, Burner's example is unfortunately chosen; she picked one of the groups -- a low-income family in the individual market -- that would benefit the most under the Senate package. Other groups would not be so beneficially impacted. Premiums are projected to rise slightly, for instance, for high-income earners in the individual market, although this is a small fraction of people and they'd get better health coverage as a result. And people in the employer market would not be much affected, except those with generous benefits packages subject to the excise tax; these folks would have to pay more out of pocket, although probably in exchange for more cash income. On the other hand, there are those who have a pre-existing condition and who are not able to buy health coverage at all, and for whom the benefit is almost incalculably large.

I understand that most of the liberal skepticism over the Senate bill is well intentioned. But it has become way, way off the mark. Where do you think the $800 billion goes? It goes to low-income families just like these. Where do you think it comes from? We won't know for sure until the Senate and House produce their conference bill, but it comes substantially from corporations and high-income earners, plus some efficiency gains.

Because this is primarily a political analysis blog, I think people tend to assume that I'm lost in the political forest and not seeing the policy trees. In fact, the opposite is true. For any "progressive" who is concerned about the inequality of wealth, income and opportunity in America, this bill would be an absolutely monumental achievement. The more compelling critique, rather, is that the bill would fail to significantly "bend the cost curve". I don't dismiss that criticism at all, and certainly the insertion of a public option would have helped at the margins. But fundamentally, that is a critique that would traditionally be associated with the conservative side of the debate, as it ultimately goes to mounting deficits in the wake of expanded government entitlements.

And please do pick apart my numbers: I'm sure that you will find some questionable assumptions and possibly some outright errors. But if you found a persuasive, progressive policy rationale against the bill, I'd be stunned.

EDIT -- Another important point or two: To the extent there are critiques about this post, they are liable to revolve around the fact that $9,000 is not so affordable for our not-so-imaginary family. Two things to note on this:

Firstly, in most years, the family will not be paying $9,000. They'll be paying closer to $4,000 -- the base cost of the premium -- or maybe $5,000 for a few meds and doctors' visits and so forth. The costs will be much higher in those years when a member of the family gets sick. But the alternative in those years would be not having health insurance at all -- and in that case, either the the family member might die from the condition or the family will go bankrupt trying to prevent that.

Also, frankly, the individual mandate penalty is not very harsh, especially for lower-income people, so there's some potential for gaming the system in a way that isn't economically optimal but would give this particular family a better deal than suggested above.

Secondly, the critiques over the level of subsidies are rather tangential to where the locus of progressive energy has been -- on the public option. The presence of a watered-down public option would make very little difference in terms of this family's cost structure -- and yet, this same bill with a public option is one that most liberals would be head-over-heels for.

I happen to agree that the cost subsidies need to be improved somewhat for this type of family and indeed I wish that this is where more of the left's energy had been directed. Fortunately, I think this is something that really can (still) be improved in conference committee or on the floor. For instance, if you adopted the House bill's subsidies for families at under 250% of poverty, and the Senate's (which actually become more generous) for people at greater than 250% of poverty -- perhaps in exchange for a harsher (not weaker!) individual mandate penalty -- you'd have a pretty reasonable compromise.

We Are Ruled by Sociopaths

Via Doug J

Matt Yglesias writes:

The leverage that Lieberman and other “centrists” have obtained on this issue (and on climate change) stems from a demonstrated willingness to embrace sociopathic indifference to the human cost of their actions.

A sociopath is often defined as “a person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” (This is what I found online and what I have always thought the definition was, roughIy—I realize there are more clinical definitions, but I know nothing about clinical psychology, maybe someone can help me out with this.)

I’m glad to see that this word is starting to get used more and more—not long ago, for example, Lindsay Beyerstein accurately described one of Slate’s new hires (a woman who had written books titled “How to Dump a Friend” and “Our Mutual Friend: how to steal friends and influence people”) as a sociopath.

To me, anyone who would start a war for no reason and show no remorse when it went terribly wrong is a sociopath. Anyone would not only torture but then try to use support for torture as a political wedge issue is a sociopath. Anyone who would hold the health of millions of Americans hostage so that he could get more face-time on “Meet the Press” is a sociopath.

I believe that the biggest question about our society is why it is that so many sociopaths rise to positions of power and influence. Are all societies this way or is there something special about the way ours is structured right now?

GOP Losing Lead Among Independents

Via Greg Sargent

The conventional wisdom for some time has been that Dems are bleeding support among independents, and this claim — based, in fairness, on a number of polls — has become central to GOP predictions of doom for Dems in 2010.

But new polling from Gallup suggests the trend is reversing, and finds that indys are swinging back towards Dems, though the Republicans still hold a narrow lead among them.

Gallup finds that Dems have edged into a small lead in the overall generic ballot matchup, 48%-45%, after having been behind in November, adding:

The major cause of the movement between November and the current poll is the changing preferences of independents. In the latest poll, conducted Dec. 11-13, independent registered voters tilt only slightly toward the Republican candidate, by 44% to 40%. In the November poll, independents’ preference for the Republican candidate was 52% to 30%.

That’s a sizable swing among indys: The GOP has dropped eight points among them, and Dems have gained by 10 points.

Still, Gallup notes, ominously for Dems, that if the current patterns hold, the traditional GOP turnout advantage could give them a real edge come Election Day 2010. That said, the narrative of a mass desertion of Dems by indys because of the Dem big-government agenda may have been premature or fleeting.

Bush E-mails Found: 22 Million Missing E-mails From G.W. Bush White House Recovered

Via Pete Yost

WASHINGTON — Computer technicians have found 22 million missing White House e-mails from the administration of President George W. Bush and the Obama administration is searching for dozens more days' worth of potentially lost e-mail from the Bush years, according to two groups that filed suit over the failure by the Bush White House to install an electronic record keeping system.

The two private groups – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive – said Monday they were settling the lawsuits they filed against the Executive Office of the President in 2007.

It will be years before the public sees any of the recovered e-mails because they will now go through the National Archives' process for releasing presidential and agency records. Presidential records of the Bush administration won't be available until 2014 at the earliest.

The tally of missing e-mails, the additional searches and the settlement are the latest development in a political controversy that stemmed from the Bush White House's failure to install a properly working electronic record keeping system. Two federal laws require the White House to preserve its records.

The two private organizations say there is not yet a final count on the extent of missing White House e-mail and there may never be a complete tally.

Meredith Fuchs, general counsel to the National Security Archive, said "many poor choices were made during the Bush administration and there was little concern about the availability of e-mail records despite the fact that they were contending with regular subpoenas for records and had a legal obligation to preserve their records."

"We may never discover the full story of what happened here," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. "It seems like they just didn't want the e-mails preserved."

Sloan said the latest count of misplaced e-mails "gives us confirmation that the Bush administration lied when they said no e-mails were missing."

The two groups say the 22 million White House e-mails were previously mislabeled and effectively lost.

The government now can find and search 22 million more e-mails than it could in late 2005 and the settlement means that the Obama administration will restore 94 calendar days of e-mail from backup tape, said Kristen Lejnieks, an attorney representing the National Security Archive.

Sheila Shadmand, another lawyer representing the National Security Archive, said the Obama administration is making a strong effort to clean up "the electronic data mess left behind by the prior administration."

Records released as a result of the lawsuits reveal that the Bush White House was aware during the president's first term in office that the e-mail system had serious archiving problems, which didn't become publicly known until 2006, when federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disclosed them during his criminal investigation of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

A Microsoft Corp. document on the Bush White House's e-mail problems states that Microsoft was called in to help find electronic messages in October 2003, more than two years before the problem surfaced publicly. October 2003 was the month that the Justice Department began gearing up its criminal investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked the identity of Plame, the wife of Bush administration war critic Joseph Wilson.

Learning from History to Reform Wall Street

Via The White House

The President explains that while he continues to focus on jobs, it is also profoundly important to address the problems that created this economic mess in the first place. He commends the House of Representatives for passing reforms to our financial system, including a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and blasts Republican Leaders and financial industry lobbyists for their joint "pep rally" to defeat it.

Obama in Oslo

Via

President Obama's Nobel prize acceptance speech is receiving ample praise back home in the states. But first, one of the key portions of the speech is this (slightly edited down) six-graph stretch:

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war..[I]t will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms....We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
That is some pretty powerful prose. The ever-more-readable Kathleen Parker opened her Washington Post column today (just inches away from always-whiny Charles Krauthammer) with these lines:
After Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, anyone still questioning whether he is really a Christian, rather than a Muslim aligned with fanaticism, needs to seek therapy forthwith.

Anyone still unconvinced that Obama is really an American committed to his nation's values, rather than an impostor who doesn't pledge allegiance to his critics' satisfaction, should probably surrender to the asylum.

Obama's speech, an artful balance of realism and idealism, was both a Judeo-Christian epistle, conceding the moral necessity of war, and a meditation on American exceptionalism. He was, in other words, the unapologetic president of the United States and not some errant global villager seeking affirmation.

The speech was a signal moment in the evolution and maturation of Obama from ambivalent aspirant to reluctant leader.
Slate's Kaplan was also impressed, and situated the speech in the broader context of Reinhold Neibuhr's political philosophies:
Rising to the occasion, he managed to redeem himself at a low point in his popularity by reminding Americans of what is best about themselves.

Read in its entirety, Obama's speech seems a faithful reflection of another theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who, during World War II and the Cold War that followed, sought to reconcile the principles of Christianity with the imperatives of national defense...

Obama's speech doesn't mention Niebuhr, but back in April 2007, early on in the presidential campaign, David Brooks asked Obama whether he'd ever read Niebuhr. The candidate replied, "I love him, he's one of my favorite philosophers." Asked what he took away from Niebuhr, Obama answered, "I take away the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world"; that "we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate these things, but we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction"; that "we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

The Nobel lecture that Obama delivered today is a fuller elaboration of the same ideas.
Hanging like a shadow over the speech, of course, is Obama's recent decision to send an addition 34,000 troops to Afghanistan. Cynics would say Obama's Oslo address was little more than justification for the ironic juxtaposition of that decision with his choice for the award itself.

Obama is aware of the tension. In his toasting remarks later in the day, Obama echoed the familiar refrain about the irony that the award's namesake was an inventor of dynamite and yet promoter of peace. And he also said this:
...I would like to thank the committee once again for the extraordinary confidence that they placed in me and this great honor that I have received tonight. As I indicated before, no one was more surprised than me. (Laughter.) And I have to say that when the chairman spoke introducing me, I told him afterwards that I thought it was an excellent speech and that I was almost convinced that I deserved it. (Laughter and applause.)
Obama knows that he won the award prospectively--for the promise of what he will do, not what he has done thus far. Earning it over the long term is going to be tougher than accepting it, that's for sure. And the process of delivering on that promise begins in Afghanistan.

Grayson To Cheney: 'STFU'

On MSNBC's "Hardball" Wednesday night, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) had a succinct response to Dick Cheney for the former vice president's recent comments on President Obama: STFU.

"On the Internet there's an acronym that's used to apply to situations like this: STFU. I don't think I can say that on the air, but I think you know what that means."


Ron vs Ron Over Ron

Via John Cole

I think if Ron Reagan was in the same room as that idiot scumbag Ron Christie, he would have punched him in the damned neck for trying to bring up his dad.

You really have to watch that clip. And just as an aside, Dick Cheney is a toxic piece of filth whose poison still infects this nation. I wish he would just drop off the face of the earth, and he can take that punk Ron Christie with him. Christie is now whining because Obama doesn’t say he loves America enough. Although if you listen to Cheney’s breathing on that Fox interview, he is not going to be around here long.


Just Can't Help Himself, Can He?

From the December 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

Limbaugh: "The black frame of mind is terrible" and "Tiger Woods' choice of females not helping 'em out"

Previously:

Limbaugh's "colorblind" history of racially charged comments

Limbaugh: Because of Great Society, War on Poverty programs, black fathers "found it necessary not to stay home"

CNN reports Limbaugh dropped from Rams bid, cites his "comments in years past about race"

Obama: We’re Fixing Economy “Without Help Of An Opposition Party”

Via Greg Sargent

One interesting moment during Obama’s big speech on jobs, which just finished:

The President, who has kept up at least the pretense of hoping that bipartisanship on health care is still possible, declared it dead and buried when it comes to fixing the economy, even as he laid the blame for the whole crisis squarely in the GOP’s lap:

So, in the weeks and months that followed, we undertook a series of difficult steps to prevent that outcome. And we were forced to take those steps largely without the help of an opposition party which, unfortunately, after having presided over the decision-making that led to the crisis, decided to hand it over to others to solve.

Despite this sharply partisan charge, Obama nonetheless concluded on another call for bipartisanship:

And the question we’ll have to answer now is if we are going to learn from our past, or if — even in the aftermath of disaster — we are going to repeat it. As the alarm bells fade, and the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish. But I have every hope and expectation that we can rise to this moment, that we can transcend the failures of the past, that we can once again take responsibility for our future.

In political terms, it represents a gamble that if the economy turns around, the White House and Dems will be able to argue that they cleaned up the GOP mess entirely on their own, and that the GOP was never even part of the conversation about how to make things better.

Full speech here.

Former Missouri House Speaker (R) Beats Up, Chokes Mistress During Sex

Via Wonkette

In an incident in which the perpetrator should have considered that he would become a household name on Wonkette before going through with it, former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton is facing assault charges for allegedly beating the shit out of his mistress while having sex. His ladyfriend had not uttered the “safe word,” probably because Jetton was beating her unconscious.

The Scott County court clerk confirms a felony complaint has been filed against former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton for an incident that allegedly took place Nov. 15 in Sikeston, Mo. [...]

The complaint alleges Jetton “recklessly caused serious physical injury to ——- by hitting her on the head, and choking her resulting in unconsciousness and the loss of the function of part of her body.”

UPDATE, 3:50: The affidavit attached to the probably cause statement alleges Jetton went to the home of the victim Nov. 15, where he and the victim drank wine and watched a football game. The victim claims Jetton hit her on the face and choked her, leaving bruises that the police department photographed.

The affidavit claims the assault occurred during the night and into the morning of Nov. 16. It says Jetton and the victim agreed on a “safe word” “to use as a stop word during intercourse.”

The “safe word” is hard to utter when you’re being CHOKED TO DEATH.

Rod Jetton is married divorced-ish (SEE UPDATE) with three children and attends Methodist church regularly. He is affiliated with the Republican Party. He is a Real American, the end.

UPDATE: First the boring correction: Jetton and his wife agreed to a divorce settlement earlier this year, although it’s unclear if that’s been finalized. We don’t know why they got this divorce, but probably because Rod Jetton likes to beat people unconscious during sex.

But the big news: the password was “green balloons.” As in, “You should have said green balloons,” which is a direct quote from Rod Jetton.

“Green balloons” is common street slang for “ha ha you are unconscious and cannot say this term right now.”

[Kansas City Star]

Ad Nauseum

Via Maddow


Entire "I Guess I'm a Racist" Video Here

The GOP's Newest Fake Controversy

Via Melinda Warner

This morning on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid commented that the current efforts to derail health care reform are similar to the type of obstructionism used to stop slavery over a century ago. The simple, historical analogy - that did not place blame on anyone - struck a nerve.

Unsurprisingly, prominent members of the GOP as well as conservatives from the blogosphere have jumped all over the comparison in the most blatant publicity grab we've seen from them in, well, hours.

Sen. Reid's comments were offensive to Sen. Coburn, felt irresponsible to Sen. Thune, and struck Sen. Chambliss as desperate. RNC Chairman Michael Steele said:

"Having made this disgraceful statement on the floor of the United States Senate, Mr. Reid should immediately apologize on the Senate floor to his colleagues, to his constituents, and to the American people...If he is going to stand by these statements, the Democrats must immediately reconsider his fitness to lead them."

Where was all this outrage with Rep. Michele Bachmann likened health care reform to slavery?

Right-wing blogger and Republican talking point machine Michelle Malkin tweeted:

Where to begin?

The various ideologies of the two major American political parties have changed greatly over the years. While the "Republican" party was, in fact, the party of Lincoln, it has since lost the mission of Lincoln. For it has been the Republican Party who has fought against ensuring basic rights for the LGBT community - to the extent of disgracing the memory of a murdered teen in front of his mother - the party who has continually attempted to prevent women from taking control of what happens to their bodies, the party who tries to defund programs that help Americans get back on their feet, and the party who can't see individuals behind one's ethnicity and religion.

The Republican Party has also, very recently, been guilty of using a false slavery smear tactic to attack President Obama.

It isn't the Democrats who are being desperate here - it's the Republicans.

As Steve Benen pointed out: "Republicans may not like being on the wrong side of history -- though, at this point, you'd think they'd be used to it..." Apparently not.

To support the claim that Republicans were actually the architects of civil rights, conservatives often point out that a “higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the civil-rights bill.” But this ignores the “distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians” on the issue. When this is taken into account, the facts show that “in both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.”
(June 1, 1999) in the Washington Times, R.D. Davis, a member of the black leadership network Project 21 and a writer and radio talk show host in Huntsville, Ala., commented that, "History tends to unilaterally and falsely depict Republicans as racists when Southern Democrats truly deserved this title." In defense of his argument he cites the voting record of Democrats and Republicans on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On this monumental piece of legislation, Republicans supported the bill 27-6 in the Senate (82%) and 138-34 in the House (80%) while Democrats supported the bill 46-21 in the Senate (69%) and 152-96 in the House (61%). On the surface it would indeed appear that the Republicans, and not the Democrats as commonly assumed, were the champions of civil rights in the 1960s.

However, a slightly more careful analysis of the Civil Rights Act voting record shows a distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians. Among the southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), Senate Democrats voted 1-21 against the bill (5%) while Republicans voted 0-1 (0%). In the House, southern Democrats voted 7-87 (7%) while southern Republicans voted 0-10 (0%). Among the remaining states, Democrats voted 145-9 in favor of the bill (94%) while Republicans voted 138-24 for the bill (85%). In both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.

In Single Appearance, Cantor Can’t Come Up With A ‘Big Idea’ On Job Creation, and Denies Climate Science

Via Wonkroom

Today, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) appeared at the Economist’s World in 2010 conference (attended by ThinkProgress), where he took exception to NBC’s David Gregory characterizing Republicans as “not really a party of ideas, because they don’t want to be.” Cantor claimed that it’s actually the media’s fault that no one hears about Republican ideas, because “it’s not as sexy of a story to cover our ideas right not.” But when the Economist’s Daniel Franklin gave Cantor an opportunity to present his big idea for job creation, Cantor couldn’t come through:

FRANKLIN: What is the big idea? “Jobs” is not an idea.

CANTOR: The big idea is to get, to get, to produce an environment where we can have job creation again. And see, that’s where the Obama administration’s agenda so clearly disadvantages the Democrats in this upcoming election in eleven months and advantages us.

Watch it:

If Cantor’s goal is “to produce an environment where we can have job creation again,” shouldn’t he have supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e the economic stimulus), which has boosted GDP growth and lending to small businesses, while cutting taxes for workers, thereby boosting demand? And shouldn’t he be supporting further efforts in Congress to craft a jobs bill that emphasizes infrastructure spending and lending to small businesses?

Instead, Cantor has put forth a “no-cost jobs plan” that Andrew Leonard rightly called a “magic pony jobs plan.” “Cut regulations. Freeze spending. Cut taxes. No new taxes. That’s the plan,” Leonard wrote.

Later in the discussion, Cantor replied to a question about the U.S.’s role at the climate change conference in Copenhagen by saying, “I think from the larger sense the question of climate change comes down to, if there’s been any constant in human history it’s been climate change, and the real question is the severity of that and the involvement of humans in all of that.” Watch it:

Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart responded, “I wouldn’t have predicted last year that scientific doubters would still have this strong a voice.”

"Could anything be more cowardly and contemptible?"

Palin's Pals
Sarah Palin's brand of populism is dangerous and deceptive.

By Christopher Hitchens

The Worst Health Care Issue Spot, Ever: "I Guess I'm a Racist"

Via Gawker

Any video emailed to you with the words "oh christ" as the only context with which to view it is worth a look. This did not disappoint. Via Andrew Sullivan, presenting the worst issue-ad I've seen in a long time.

This is the worst thing telling me what's racist and what isn't since Crash. It's that bad:

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. No, you're racist because you fear/hate/assume/stereotype/pigeonhole [insert various ethnicity]. Also, because you're an ignoramus.

2. Really? People think the people opposed to Obama's health care plan are racists? No. If they're opposed to Obama because they're racist, that's one thing. Those people exist! And they're probably opposed to all of his policies, not just health care. People are most likely opposed to Obama's health care plan because there's some provision in it they disagree with, or because it trends in a direction they don't feel like having our government go.

3. If you hate Obama because he's black, then yes, you're a racist. And you should flush your face into another universe. Also, the use of multiple minorities in this video is especially disingenuous, as if to imply that people from other ethnicities can't be racist, because they're from other ethnic backgrounds! Which is something only someone who hasn't spent any time around other ethnic groups would be ignorant enough to imply or stupid enough to take as true.

4. Do the people who made this understand the concept of projecting? Really: this red herring is dead and it smells like ass, or more appropriately, horseshit. Has the opposition of Obama's health care plan developed a persecution complex about being racist? There's a reason it's a complex. If you're so concerned about being a racist, you should probably do things to prevent being perceived as a racist. And the people stupid enough to perceive you as a racist for something that patently doesn't make you one are stupid, so why listen to them?

5. Forgetting the fact that the first guy looks curious like George W. Bush, or that whole "I guess I'm a racist" thing. The lede is buried, or as Andrew Sullivan puts it, the ad is most effective by sneaking the real propaganda at the end:

Conflating wider worries about the intensity of vaguely articulated loathing of Obama as racially tinged with specific worries about health insurance reform is, however, a useful piece of sophism. But really: a total government take-over of the healthcare system? For a reform where almost every newly insured person will get coverage under a private insurance company and get prescription drugs from private drug companies and get treated in non-government-run hospitals? Sigh.

Lying liars are not only liars about what racists they are, but about what they're racist about, too. People suck. Or as I emailed back: for fuck's sake.


Wonkette: All Of These People Are Racist

It was also featured on Rachel Maddow Monday night: http://is.gd/5fHlF

Improving Unemployment Numbers Make Political Case for Jobs Bill Stronger, Not Weaker

Via Nate Silver

Paul Krugman is worried that the today's relatively good employment situation report -- just 11,000 jobs were lost, and the unemployment rate (which is calculated from a different set of data) dipped nominally from 10.2 to 10.0 percent -- may deter Congressional action on a jobs bill that might push that number down further.

Perhaps Paul is right -- no one has a keener sense of the ways in which political factors have become endogenous parts of the economic equation. But the Democrats would be silly if they failed to take action on a jobs bill. The economy, needless to say, is a long ways from full employment and will continue to be so for a very long time -- a bill that reduced unemployment by, say, 1.0 percent for a period of 18 months would not encounter diminishing returns. Indeed, since most of the improvement in the numbers seems to have come because employers have stopped firing people, but have not actually begun to hire new staff in great numbers, job-creation incentives would work somewhat at the other end of the candle.

Nor, certainly, ought the employment numbers to weaken the political case for jobs bill. You can look at the politics of job creation in essentially two ways: either there is a roughly linear relationship between the unemployment numbers and the number of seats that Democrats will retain in the Congress, or there are some sort of threshold effects. If the former, then the case is not changed at all. A bill that would create 2 million new jobs and save 13 seats in the Congress will still create 2 million new jobs and save 13 seats, regardless of the starting point.

In the latter case, the outcomes are more binary: the Democrats' job creation efforts will either tend to be branded as a "success" or a "failure", and their performance at the midterms will follow accordingly. But if there is more organic momentum in the jobs market, that makes it less likely that the Democrats pass a "successful" jobs creation bill but fail to get credit for it. For example, suppose that a jobs bill reduces unemployment by 1 percent relative to the status quo. If the status quo unemployment figure were headed upward to 10.8 percent, this would only get things down to 9.8 percent -- and the Democrats' policies would probably be branded as a failure. But suppose instead that status quo unemployment is headed downward to 9.3 percent by next summer. Now the jobs bill would get things down to 8.3 percent, and they'd come out looking pretty good. With more of a wind at their backs, then, the Democrats will have the same reward but with perhaps considerably less risk.

Plus, there are the intangible benefits to pushing a jobs bill forward: Republicans will either have to help the Democrats get the jobs numbers down and give Obama a "bipartisan" victory, or they'll oppose the bill and risk looking like out-of-touch hypocrites. It's not like they'll be eager to say that the economy is actually recovering and therefore does not need a jobs bill, which would tacitly acknowledge the success of the Democrats' original stimulus. In contrast to the politics of health care, where the Democrats are damned if they do and damned if they don't, something the opposite is true on the jobs program. (Unless the White House and the Congress really screw up the strategizing -- a possibility we would be foolish to neglect.)

Meanwhile, it would help to get the Democratic base excited. If the base is weighing, say, health care reform without a public option, a decent financial regulation package, and the various stimulus efforts passed by the Congress this spring on the one hand, versus Afghanistan, Bernanke/Geithner, and inaction in areas like gay rights and climate change on the other, it could very easily be the presence or absence of a jobs bill that tips the balance in terms of enthusiasm.

On Track From Depression to Job Growth

Via Cesca

While we aren't quite feeling it yet, it's entirely possible that this month or next month will show jobs growth.

jobs_nov.png

It's no easy feat to go from 700,000 job losses per month to job growth within a year. Adding the balance of the TARP funds to a jobs package might supercharge the process even more.


Weekly Address: Pushing Forward on Jobs

President Obama's weekly address focuses on the job report numbers that were recently released showing 11,000 people become unemployed in November, a better than expected number. Obama acknowledges that unemployment is still very high and that the public is feeling the pain of recession, but he also sounds an optimistic note, saying "our economy's growing for the first time in a year."

Leaving the Right, Ctd

Via DailyDish

A reader writes:

I agree with your reasoning in Leaving the Right, but I am confused as to what you have just left. It forces me to question whether the terms we use to describe ourselves and our beliefs are losing their distinctions? If the right is synonymous with Republican, then I think you walked away many years ago, like myself. But I certainly hope that there is still a distinction between the words conservative and Republican, since I have always referred to myself as the former, and attacked the entirely non-conservative policies of latter.

Do you think that individuals like Bush and Palin, or entire movements like Christian fundamentalism and neo-conservatism, have co-opted the term conservative as well? If we say that the conservative movement has left us, have we not conceded the term to its modern twisted definition? And if so then I have to ask what are we? And what are we entering on our way out?

There's been some confusion here, probably because of the title of the post. The only person who just announced a break with the conservative movement is Charles Johnson. My own spur-of-the-moment manifesto was merely inspired by his. And quite obviously, as I explained in the post, I left that movement many years ago, in so far as I was ever a part of it. (Which "movement conservative" backed Clinton in 1993 and Kerry in 2004, as I did?)

But as I quixotically insisted in The Conservative Soul, I refuse to give up the term 'conservative' and any fair-minded reader of that book would understand why.

I continue to call myself a conservative, of the tradition of Burke and Hume and Montaigne and Oakeshott. I suspect that all four of them would regard the term "conservative movement" an oxymoron anyway, as I do, even if they understood it at all. And although I have deep respect for the liberal tradition, I am much too much a skeptic, and an individualist, and an anti-collectivist to join the Democrats. I try to join as few organizations as I can get away with. And I lived under socialism so know how poisonous it can be.

So my reader and I remain conservatives without a home. That happens in life and politics. Perhaps one day the GOP will return to its saner, calmer roots, and we can feel more comfortable supporting them from time to time. But I suspect that the fundamentalist and neocon take-over will prevent that any time soon. So we carry on without a home but with an argument and a tradition instead. Good enough for me.

Moreover, conservatives of the sort I describe should not be dismayed by the lack of a party. It may even increase our leverage to hover between the two, goading each toward the center-right in the long run, while tolerating various adjustments in response to changing circumstances all the while. And it's certainly more symptomatically conservative not to get too attached to any political party. In fact, factionalism and partisanship has helped destroy conservatism in America almost as much as religion. Burke, one recalls, was not a Tory but a Whig. Churchill was a Liberal as well as a Tory. Reagan began life as a Democrat.

The point of conservatism, you see, is not political. Real conservatives get involved in politics because they have to, not because they want to. And they have to to rectify obvious disasters or utpoian assaults on freedom or radical attacks on established modes and orders. We are conservative in politics in part to restrict the claims of politics and to enlarge the claims of life.

So cheer up. I certainly feel less gloomy about America than I did two years ago, and confident that the good sense of its silent center will navigate the treacherous waters ahead. Yes, America is in much worse shape today than a decade ago - but some of that is the dispelling of illusions, the pricking of bubbles and the consequence of hubris. This will not deflate the conservative. There is always something bracing about rediscovering reality, however grim the disillusionment may be. For conservatism begins in a lack of illusions and builds from there.

The Biggest Lies About The "Global Warming Hoax"

Via Katherine Goldstein

A few weeks ago, hackers broke into the emails of one of the Climate Research Unit of The University of East Anglia, and climate skeptics have been having a field day making mountains out of molehills about what the emails contain. The verdict on global warming is in -- it's caused by humans and it is happening and nothing in the emails remotely challenges that. However, with the internet abuzz about what has been labeled "ClimateGate," we thought we should set the record straight about the rumors, lies and insinuations about what the emails actually contain -- and what they "prove" about climate change.

"ClimateGate" itself is a misnomer, the nickname should be "SwiftHack" for the way people with political agendas have "swiftboated" the global warming reality. As world attention turns to the climate conference in Copenhagen this December, this email hack acts as a distraction from the huge task at hand of getting world leaders to commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As professor Richard Somerville says, "We're facing an effort by special interests who are trying to confuse the public."

Manipulating Data
CLAIM: Scientists have manipulated data.

Skeptics have been pointing to an email from scientist Phil Jones where he said he used a "trick" with his data. As climate expert Bob Ward writes, "Scientists say 'trick' not just to mean deception. They mean it as a clever way of doing something -- a short cut can be a trick." RealClimate also explained that "the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term 'trick' to refer to ... 'a good way to deal with a problem', rather than something that is 'secret', and so there is nothing problematic in this at all."
Scientists Doubt It
CLAIM: Scientists had private doubts about whether the world really is heating up.
TRUTH: Combing through over a decade of personal correspondence, which is then taken out of context can seem to prove just about anything. Skeptics have been pointing to one email from Kevin Trenberth, in which he said, "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." However, this is clear example of cherrypicking quotes. Trenberth was referring to that there was an "incomplete explanation" of the short-term variability of temperatures, but concludes that "global warming is unequivocally happening."
Suppressing Evidence
CLAIM: These scientists worked to suppress evidence and deleted emails.
TRUTH: Thousands of emails from over 13 years were stolen, and edited, and have been taken out of context for those with a political agenda. As blogger Jeff Masters writes,

"Even if every bit of mud slung at these scientists were true, the body of scientific work supporting the theory of human-caused climate change—which spans hundreds of thousands of scientific papers written by tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different scientific disciplines—is too vast to be budged by the flaws in the works of the three or four scientists being subject to the fiercest attacks."

As climate czar Carol Brower says, "I'm sticking with the 2,500 scientists [of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.] These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real."
Silencing Dissent
CLAIM: Scientists have been working to remove skeptical peers from the climate discussion.
TRUTH: Organization politics, disagreement and strife are hardly foreign ideas in university, research and scientific communities. As the blog run by climate scientists Real Climate writes, "Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement." Again, this does not remotely prove any sort of cover-up, and the critiques of these papers were made and debated by scientists PUBLICLY, but perhaps less bluntly than they were stated in the emails. (Here's what the "infamous" line about keeping people out and peer review was ACTUALLY about.)
This Changes Everything
CLAIM: These emails are the final nail in the coffin for the idea that humans cause global warming.
TRUTH: If the denier's wildest claims were true that are bantered around throughout the Internet, wouldn't nearly 15 years of emails ACTUALLY SHOW some of these insipid rumors to be true?

More from Real Climate: "More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though."
Reopens Debate
CLAIM: This reignites the debate about if global warming is real.
TRUTH: There is strong consensus in scientific community that global warming is real and is caused by humans. The top scientists in the world have just released a new report on the realities of global warming. Kevin Grandia summarizes some of the key points about emissions, melting ice sheets, and rising sea levels. The emails don't change any of this reality.

Senate GOPers: It's Al Franken's Fault We're Being Attacked

Via TPM

The Politico reports that Senate Republicans are outraged at Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) due to their votes against an amendment he introduced, to crack down on the rape of employees of military contractors, now being used against them:

The Republicans are steamed at Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers -- and because Franken isn't doing much to stop them.

"Trying to tap into the natural sympathy that we have for this victim of this rape --and use that as a justification to frankly misrepresent and embarrass his colleagues, I don't think it's a very constructive thing," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an interview.

...

"I don't know what his motivation was for taking us on, but I would hope that we won't see a lot of Daily Kos-inspired amendments in the future coming from him," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in the Senate Republican leadership. "I think hopefully he'll settle down and do kind of the serious work of legislating that's important to Minnesota."

No, this is not The Onion.

Zombie Reagan Raised From Grave To Lead GOP

Wingnuts Go Ballistic Over LGF

I thought their big thing is "no name-calling"

Via Eric Boehlert

We told you right-wing bloggers were not going to be happy reading yesterday's Little Green Football fond farewell, as blogger Charles Johnson detailed the reason he could no longer be part of the far-right Internet movement. ("Homophobic bigotry," 'anti-government lunacy," "hate speech," and "conspiracy theories," were among the stated reasons.) And we told you insults, rather than reasoned debate, were going to be the end result.

And oh my, angry right-wing bloggers love to throw around insults. And so they spent all day yesterday denouncing Johnson for being (are you ready?) "illogical," a "lunatic," "leftard," "worthless piece of shit," "leftist asshole," "self loathing," "traffic-whore drama-queen." They mocked "Chuckles," for being an "execrable CAIR tool," with a "sickness of soul," for being "barking moonbat unhinged crazy," a "whiny girly man," the "Driver of Crazy Train," and just plain"crazy,"

Gee, think LGF hit a nerve?

Constitutional Chicanery

Via Tom Schaller at 538.com

Where in the Constitution, sir, do you see it authorized that Congress can be involved with "health care," or fund "health care"? I am asking here about the Constitution, not any court rulings. Thank you.
This was the content, in its entirety, of an email I received last night from John Lofton, editor of TheAmericanView.com, a friend and supporter of Constitutional Party 2004 presidential candidate Michael Peroutka, and—get this—communications director for an organization called the Institute on the Constitution. We heard a lot from last summer’s protesters and people like Mr. Lofton about the sanctity of the Constitution and constitutional principles. Granting that tea partiers and people who send me silly emails should not necessarily be taken seriously as constitutional experts, there nonetheless seems to be an unusually high level of either uninformed or knowing manipulation of the Constitution in service to pre-ordained agendas.

I’m not a constitutional scholar. (N.B.: Protestors and other critics attacking the president ought to take note that he is.) Nor do I want to get into specific constitutional controversies. My aim is to rebut a few of the most absurd fallacies that seem to have gained traction--primarily but not exclusively in conservative circles--about the nature of American constitutionalism. To wit:

First, there is the fallacy that anything not specifically prescribed by the Constitution is unconstitutional. True, the Constitution doesn’t mention health care; but neither does it mention air traffic control. Is the FAA’s safeguarding of our skies from commercial crashes therefore unconstitutional? Of course not. First, there is the matter of the “necessary and proper” clause. And second, just because the Founders clearly meant to avoid the whole business of constitutionalizing specifically policies--see point #3, below--doesn't mean they didn't want the government to have any policies. If they did, why create a legislature?

Second, and conversely, there is the fallacy that anything not specifically proscribed by the Constitution is constitutionally permissible. We have one of those nutty preachers who shows up in the common areas of campus. One of his favorite claims is that because the Constitution makes no mention of the separation of church and state, we are free to infuse church into state. He’s right about the omission, but the Constitution doesn’t mention sex with minors, incest, or gay marriage, and so, by the omission-is-permission logic an adult man could consummate his marriage to his 14-year-old nephew. I mean, the Founders didn’t say anything about not doing that, so it must be OK constitutionally, right?

Third, too few people wrapping their policy arguments in constitutional claims understand that the Founders wrote a short charter dedicated almost exclusively to the design, structure, officers and powers of the government because they wanted to avoid constitutionalizing specific policies. The Constitution has only thrice ventured into the prescription or proscription of a specific public policy: the slavery provisions, the prohibition of alcohol, and the enactment of the income tax. The first was the most glaring, nearly fatal problem with the original document; the second, initiated by amendment, was such a bad idea it led to the only direct reversal of a previous amendment; and the third, well, you’d think anti-tax conservatives would have long ago advanced the argument that constitutionalizing policies is a bad idea, given the establishment of the national income tax. Oh, and since the latter two were policies enacted via amendment, that means only slavery--which the Founders avoided mentioning by name--was an “originalist” policy. That should be cautionary tale enough. Look, the Founders were brilliant, but imperfect, but the part they were near-perfectly brilliant about was not constitutionalizing policies, which is what they designated the elected and appointed branches of government to handle.

Fourth, the federal court system is--brace yourself now--constitutional. The quote from Mr. London implies that a matter decided in some way by courts must be either unconstitutional, or at least inferior or suspect. Come again? Given the four previous points, the business of the courts is to clarify and fill in constitutional gaps, especially on matters where the Constitution is silent or ambiguous. We don’t need the Supreme Court to clarify whether one needs to be 35 years old to be elected president, but we do need it to decide whether torture is constitutional. The sad consequence of the decades-long campaign to systematically denigrate “liberal activist” judges—even though there are “conservative activists” aplenty on the federal bench—has been to delegitimize the court system and judges generally, as if they are impostors who have visited themselves upon our democracy by force and without invitation. So, even if the original or amended Constitution did, in fact, prescribe or proscribe a whole list of policies, that still doesn’t mean federal courts can’t insert themselves. Last time I checked, the federal court system was provided for by the Constitution's Article III; ignoring the courts is ignoring the Constitution.

Fifth, if you want to be a strict constructionist, fine, but be one even when it’s inconvenient. Imagine if the Second Amendment read as follows: “A woman’s ability to survive childbearing being necessary to a free state, the right to abort a fetus shall not be infringed.” Now, do you think the anti-choice movement would simply ignore the leading clause and resign themselves to the idea that a woman has an unconditional right to abortion? Not a chance, and they'd be right to fight because the language clearly implies a conditional right. And yet we almost never hear gun rights advocates mention the actual Second Amendment’s leading clause, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….,” which at least suggests a collective right—indeed, obligation—to an armed defense of the state, rather than an individual’s right to use arms to protect himself and his property. For the record, I support gun rights with some restrictions, but that’s besides my point, which is that you can’t be so selective in citing the language in the Constitution that you chop off inconveniently ambiguous parts of the same sentence upon which you base a categorical claim.

Well, I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list of the sort of rhetorical chicanery currently used by proponents of this or opponents of that. I love the Constitution and believe in it. But my ears tend to perk up the moment somebody reaches for the Constitution and the Founders to justify an argument--especially when they do so fallaciously and without an understanding of the historical meaning of the document.

UPDATE: I obviously couldn't know at the time that the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus would be writing today about the supposed controversy over the constitutionality of health care reform and mandates, but sure enough, she has a nice takedown here. (Thanks and a hat-tip to 538 reader Mike in Maryland.)

Constitutional Chicanery

Great read from Tom Schaller at 538.com:

Constitutional Chicanery

Treasonous: Dick Cheney

Via Countdown

Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson discusses how former Vice President Dick Cheney's blunt opposition to President Barack Obama's foreign policy influences the American public's feelings about the new troop deployment plan



Via Atlantic: James Fallows

The former vice president, Dick Cheney, has brought dishonor to himself, his office, and his country. I am not aware of another former President or Vice President behaving as despicably as Cheney has done in the ten months since leaving power, most recently but not exclusively with his comments to Politico about Obama's decisions on Afghanistan. (Aaron Burr might win the title, for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but Burr was a sitting Vice President at the time.) Cheney has acted as if utterly unconcerned with the welfare of his country, its armed forces, or the people now trying to make difficult decisions. He has put narrow score-settling interest far, far above national interest.

A Major Defection in the Conservative Blogosphere

Via Salon: War Room

Charles Johnson, founder of Little Green Footballs, announces a final break

For much of this decade, Charles Johnson was one of the right's leading bloggers. His blog, Little Green Footballs, was famous for its focus on Islamic terrorism, but also for the role it played in "Rathergate" and in exposing various faked photography.

Lately, though, Johnson has been trending back to the left, where he was before the attacks of 9/11. He's been picking fights with some people on the right, arguing with old friends over bloggers like Robert Stacy McCain, a former Washington Times editor who he believes is a racist.

On Monday, Johnson made the split official, with a post headlined, "Why I Parted Ways With The Right." In it, he gave a list of reasons for the break, including:

1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.) ....

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.) ....

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

Johnson concluded the post saying, "The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff. I won’t be going over the cliff with them."

At this point, his former comrades in the conservative blogosphere aren't likely to be shedding any tears over his loss. But Johnson was once one of the biggest figures among them.

Andrew Sullivan Finds His Own Purity Test

Via DailyDish

Leaving the Right

It's an odd formulation in some ways as "the right" is not really a single entity. But in so far as it means the dominant mode of discourse among the institutions and blogs and magazines and newspapers and journals that support the GOP, Charles Johnson is absolutely right in my view to get off that wagon for the reasons he has stated. Read his testament. It is full of emotion, but also of honesty.

The relationship of a writer to a party or movement is, of course, open to discussion. I understand the point that Jonah Goldberg makes that politics is not about pure intellectual individualism; it requires understanding power, its organization and the actual choices that real politics demands. You can hold certain principles inviolate and yet also be prepared to back politicians or administrations that violate them because it's better than the actual alternatives at hand. I also understand the emotional need to have a EdmundBurke1771 default party position, other things being equal. But there has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so - against the conservative degeneracy in front of us. Those who have taken such a stand - to one degree or other - demand respect. And this blog, while maintaining its resistance to cliquishness, has been glad to link to writers as varied as Bruce Bartlett or David Frum or David Brooks or Steve Chapman or Kathleen Parker or Conor Friedersdorf or Jim Manzi or Jeffrey Hart or Daniel Larison who have broken ranks in some way or other.

I can't claim the same courage as these folks because I've always been fickle in partisan terms. To have supported Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Dole and Bush and Kerry and Obama suggests I never had a party to quit. I think that may be because I wasn't born here. I have no deep loyalty to either American party in my bones or family or background, and admire presidents from both parties. My partisanship remains solely British - I'm a loyal Tory. But my attachment to the Anglo-American conservative political tradition, as I understand it, is real and deep and the result of sincere reflection on the world as I see it. And I want that tradition to survive because I believe it is a vital complement to liberalism in sustaining the genius and wonder of the modern West.

For these reasons, I found it intolerable after 2003 to support the movement that goes by the name "conservative" in America. I still do, even though I am much more of a limited government type than almost any Democrat and cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I'm not). My reasons were not dissimilar to Charles Johnson, who, like me, was horrified by 9/11, loathes Jihadism, and wants to defeat it as effectively as possible. And his little manifesto prompts me to write my own (the full version is in "The Conservative Soul"). Here goes:

I cannot support a movement that claims to believe in limited government but backed an unlimited domestic and foreign policy presidency that assumed illegal, extra-constitutional dictatorial powers until forced by the system to return to the rule of law.

I cannot support a movement that exploded spending and borrowing and blames its successor for the debt.

Oakeshott I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.

I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.

I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful.

I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation.

I cannot support a movement that sees permanent war as compatible with liberal democratic norms and limited government.

I cannot support a movement that criminalizes private behavior in the war on drugs.

I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.

I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.

I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.

I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.

I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.

I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.

I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations.

Does this make me a "radical leftist" as Michelle Malkin would say? Emphatically not. But it sure disqualifies me from the current American right.

To paraphrase Reagan, I didn't leave the conservative movement. It left me.

And increasingly, I'm not alone.

Palin Suggests Reforming Canada’s Universal Health Care System

Via ThinkProgress

Canadian comedian Mary Walsh (playing the character of Marg Delahunty) attended a Sarah Palin book signing in the United States last week and asked the “thrilla from Wasilla, the Alaskan Aphrodite” if she had “any words of encouragement for the Canadian conservatives who have worked so hard to try to diminish that kind of socialized medicine we have up there.”

“Keep the faith and that common-sense conservatism,” Palin said to Walsh, who was being pushed out of the store by bodyguards. “It needs to be plugged into Canadian policies too. Keep the faith!” Palin cried out.

After the event, Walsh waited in the loading dock of the Borders bookstore “close to where Palin’s bus was parked.” Palin came over and energetically encouraged Walsh to “keep the faith” again and suggested that Canada needs to reform its health care system to “let the private sector take over”:

WALSH: Ms. Palin, I tried to ask you a question inside, but I didn’t hear your answer! The Canadians! Ms. Palin!

PALIN: Well, my answer was too keep the faith. My answer was to keep the faith. Cause that common sense conservatism can be plugged-in there in Canada too. In fact Canada needs to reform its health care system and let the private sector take over some of what the government has absorbed. So thank you, keep the faith.

Watch:

In Canada, “the private sector” is already “a crucial part” of the Canadian health care system. The federal government finances the basic health care plan, (through a “Medicaid-like arrangement in which Canada’s 10 provinces and 2 territories jointly fund” the system), but care is independently organized and managed by each province or territory. Canadians spend billions on private supplemental coverage and physicians work in private practices. Everyone has access to care, and patients “can see any doctor they want anywhere in the country with no copays or deductibles.”

While the system has longer waiting periods for certain elective surgeries, research suggests that Canadians do enjoy better access to care and “superior” health outcomes compared to Americans. According to a Commonwealth Fund of deaths that could have been prevented “with access to quality medical care in the leading 19 industrialized countries,” the United States ranked last and Canada came in sixth.