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34 posts from August 2009

August 21, 2009

Idaho Republican who pulled a gun was on "9-12 Project" steering committee

An Idaho Republican activist has been arrested for pulling a gun on a resident who objected to his photographing a home. Charliss E. McAffee works for a company that monitors the condition of homes in foreclosure.

It's not clear from media reports whether McCaffee was allegedly trespassing, or whether he was taking pictures on public property (which he would have every right to do). The resident later told police that a verbal argument ensued and McCaffee ended up pointing a gun at her. 

McCaffee is charged with felony aggravated assault. If convicted, he could face up to 5 years in prison.

McCaffee is a member of the Ada County Republican Central Committee. I found a cached web page listing McCaffee as a member of the Idaho 912 Project's steering committee, as of August 14.

The 912 Project is Fox News host Glenn Beck's organizing project. Members were fixtures at the anti-stimulus tea parties earlier this year and recently at healthcare town halls.

NYC photog arrested for filming a public building

Homeland Security arrested a professional photographer for filming the FBI building in lower Manhattan from across the street. 

A DHS agent asked 43-year-old Randall Thomas why he was filming and Thomas told the agent that it was none of his business.

Thomas was arrested, cuffed, and held in a holding cell for 6 hours. He's been charged with disorderly conduct, failure to comply, and impeding a federal agent. Thomas is pleading not guilty.

This is the second time Thomas has been arrested for filming the FBI building.

Carlos Miller has the details.

Jon Stewart vs. Betsy "Death Panels" Betsy McCaughey

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August 20, 2009

Emerging narrative: Shut up, liberals. You're ruining it.

"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."

"It's a mystifying thing," he added. "We're forgetting why we are in this."

Another top aide expressed chagrin that a single element in the president's sprawling health-care initiative has become a litmus test for whether the administration is serious about the issue.

"It took on a life of its own," he said. [WaPo]

The foregoing paragraphs sparked massive speculation when they appeared on the front page of Washington Post yesterday in a story by Michael Shear and Ceci Connolly.

If the president really favors a public option, why would members of Obama's inner circle undermine him in the Washington Post?

Over the past several days, there's been a pattern out of the White House. On Saturday, Obama told a town hall in Colorado that a public option was just that, an option--not the be-all-end-all of reform. 

At Netroots Nation, key Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett made it clear that the "American people" were going to have to push the Blue Dog Democrats. Because the White House wasn't going to.

Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said the public option wasn't an essential component of reform, though yet another anonymouse later insisted that she misspoke. (Arguably, a Freudian slip is a manner of misspeaking.)

Continue reading "Emerging narrative: Shut up, liberals. You're ruining it." »

August 19, 2009

"Co-Ops Are the Single Dumbest Idea I Have Heard in the Health Care Debate in Twenty Years"

Bob Lazewski lays out what's wrong with the Blue Dogs' vacuous, ill-conceived "compromise" proposal to create non-profit co-ops that people could join to purchase health insurance instead of buying directly from the insurance company. Short answer: everything.

The ethics of scoring pot

Free meta-advice: Heavily discount advice containing the phrase "high on life."

Slate's Emily Yoffe completely misses the point in her counsel to a guy who wants to know whether it's okay for him to obtain marijuana for his infirm sister-in-law (SIL). The letter-writer (LW) tells Prudie (Yoffe's alter ego) that he is close to both his brother and his sister-in-law, a woman in her mid-sixties who suffers from obesity and diabetes and who is nearly housebound from the pain of diabetic neuropathy.

According to LW, SIL has fond memories of marijuana from her youth and asked if he might be able to use his connections to get her some. It's not clear whether she wants the drug as medicine, but LW clearly hopes that the pot will help her neuropathic pain.

LW is very clear about the moral dilemma: SIL wants to keep her drug use a secret from her husband who is "very closed minded" and who would never approve of her using marijuana.

Continue reading "The ethics of scoring pot" »

Your mainstream media mavens: It's kind of extreme to link Nazis and health insurance

Mark Silva writes on the Chicago Tribune's blog, "The attempted equation of a health-care overhaul with Nazism, fascism or any such oppressive political mechanism probably defines the outer boundaries of the debate."

Great, Silva thinks that Nazi analogies are the "outer boundary" of debate. I.e., a fringe and minority view, but still part of the debate.

It's not. It's demagoguery trivializing the Holocaust. If Sarah Palin and the Republican establishment weren't encouraging the Nazi talk, Silva wouldn't set up the following video as a "debate" between Jewish Rep. Barney Frank's and a protester who accused him of supporting Nazism:

August 17, 2009

Protesters tote semi-automatic assault rifles at Obama event

Picture 3

CNN has video of a protester carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle outside an Obama event in Phoenix, Arizona today. The gunman told the media that the gun was loaded.

CNN's White House correspondent said he saw several other people carrying guns including another anti-Obama protester with an AR-15 who was screaming about socialism.

The Associated Press is reporting that a dozen people were openly carrying guns outside the Obama event.

This is the third gun-related incident at a presidential speaking engagement in the space of a week.

It's legal to openly carry a firearm in Arizona. So what? Taking a loaded assault rifle to a protest is naked intimidation. Whoever is organizing these militia mental midgets needs to call them off right now. They may be within their legal rights, but their behavior is profoundly anti-democratic.

Republican senator Thad Coburn went on TV yesterday to say that the state deserves the anger of teabaggers because it has made these people believe that they are about to lose control of their government.  That kind of rhetoric plays into the paranoid fantasies of gun nuts steeped in the idea that they should use their guns in defense of liberty. Notice how Coburn and GOP leaders in polite company couch these statements in terms of what people think, as if they had no responsibility to tell their followers the truth or deescalate the situation in any way. If they had any interest in discourse or even safety, they would try to ratchet down the tensions by reminding people that just because they don't agree with the president doesn't mean he's on the verge of becoming a tyrant. Clearly they don't believe that Obama is an incipient dictator, they know he's not even committed to serious heatlhcare reform. He has already wavered on the public option. In his more radical moments the president wants to give the insurance industry subsidies and force the public to buy more of its crappy products. The GOP knows this perfectly well, but it won't exercise leadership to reign in its base. On the contrary, it's systematically and gleefully ratcheting up the tensions at every turn.

"People are concerned at the American way of life being threatened and business being vilified," former White House spokesperson Dana Perino said of the furious protesters disrupting town halls around the country. 

The fevered theories of the birthers also reinforce the perception among the president's critics that Obama is not merely wrong but illegitimate. Signs reading "death to Obama" and "it's time to water the tree of liberty" have cropped up at town halls. (Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that the tree of liberty must periodically be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.) Glenn Beck has been likening Obama to Hitler on the air and Sarah Palin has been insisting that the president wants to kill her baby with Downs Syndrome. Between the sick rhetoric, the summer heat, and the guns, it's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt.

Republicans and their lobbyist allies are riling up the militiamen. They don't care who gets hurt as long as the insurance industry's profits are safe.

Tom Daschle is working for the insurance industry, again

Ever wonder why single payer is never, ever on the table? Maybe because so many ostensibly liberal health policy leaders are as beholden to the insurance industry as their conservative counterparts.

For example, Business Week reports that former Democratic senator Tom Daschle is once again working closely with UnitedHealth, the nation's largest health insurance company.

Sommer has retained such influential outsiders as Tom Daschle, the former Democratic Senate Leader who now works for the large law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird. Daschle, a liberal from South Dakota, dropped out of the running to be Obama's Secretary of Health & Human Services after disclosures that he failed to pay taxes on perks given to him by a private client. He advised UnitedHealth in 2007 and 2008 and resumed that role this year. Daschle personally advocates a government-run competitor to private insurers. But he sells his expertise to UnitedHealth, which opposes any such public insurance plan. Among the services Daschle offers are tips on the personalities and policy proclivities of members of Congress he has known for decades.

Conceding that he doesn't always agree with his client, Daschle says: "They just want a description of the lay of the land, an assessment of circumstances as they appear to be as health reform unfolds." He says he leaves direct contacts with members of Congress to others at his firm. [BW]

Even reform standard-bearer Howard Dean joined the lobby firm of McKenna, Long & Aldridge in March as a strategic adviser and policy consultant. McKenna lobbies on behalf of several health care, life science, and insurance companies. When Dean joined the firm, it was announced that he would be advising the firm's lobbyists on healthcare issues.

The White House shouldn't allow Daschle and Dean to continue such apparent conflicts of interest. I'm guessing that their job descriptions have been carefully vetted to avoid violating any ethics guidelines, but let's get real here. Lobbyists are paying top dollar for inside information from current movers and shakers in healthcare policy. That stinks.

Even if everything is on the up-and-up, these arrangements make me question Daschle and Dean's leadership. Can't they wait just a few more months to cash in their public sector credentials?

Sometimes the oligarchy in the United States seems every bit as intractable as the power structure in Honduras.

"Grassroots" FreedomWorks paid Armey $400,000 for part-time job

Former House Majority Leader turned lobbyist Dick Armey resigned from the lobbying firm of DLA Piper on Friday amid criticism of his leadership role in FreedomWorks, one of the main right wing groups organizing town hall mobs against health care reform.

Armey probably wasn't spending that much time at DLA Piper anyway. He earned a total of $400,000 from FreedomWorks and the FreedomWorks Foundation during the 2007 tax year, according to tax records. The records say that Armey was putting in 36 hours per week at Freedom Works and the Freedom Works Foundation. (This is original reporting. Please support Majikthise by crediting.)

One wonders whether Armey had much time left over for his lobbying clients at DLA Piper that year, which included pharma giant Sanofi-Aventis and the Medicines Co.. Armey represented Sanofi again in 2008 and continued to represent the Medicines Co. through 2009.

The former Republican congressman told Politico he was resigning because he didn't want his lobbying clients to face media scrutiny for their association with FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks has been accused of laying down astroturf at town halls. The protesters are real people, but the town hall protests are organized by Freedom Works and other groups underwritten by industries with a financial stake in derailing healthcare reform. 

Continue reading ""Grassroots" FreedomWorks paid Armey $400,000 for part-time job" »