Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Dear Bulworth readers:

I'll be hanging out over at No More Mister Nice Blog's pad until about New Year's. Come over for some fine reading and get your New Year's off to a good blogging start.

Senator Jay Billington Bulworth

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Republican Hack: Thy Names are Bill Donohue and the Catholic League

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog checks out whether Bill Donohue at the Catholic League is being "fair and balanced".

That would apparently be, uh, no.

Attention: "Harsh Interrogation Treatment" has just entered the building

Andrew Sullivan catches the AP carrying the Administration's water (no pun intended) on torture revisionisms.

Why are they shilling for the Bush administration? Here's their second sentence in a story today:

The destruction in late 2005 of the tapes, showing harsh interrogation treatment of two terrorism suspects, is being investigated by the Justice Department, the CIA itself and by several congressional panels.

No serious source denies that these two individuals were - at the very least - waterboarded. And no serious, reasonable student of history, warfare or basic ethics can deny that waterboarding is now and always has been a torture technique. Why can the AP not use the word clearly in accord with its plain meaning in English? They have to make a choice. And they have decided to enable the Bush administration's Orwellian perversion of the law and the English language. Really: a factual correction is required. This is not a subjective judgment. It is an objective fact.

Huck and his kookie friends

Well, Robert Novak's column today was a bit of a revelation, or as much of a revelation as one could expect given what we already know about Mike Huckabee's Christianist beliefs. Novak reveals that Huckabee:

Huckabee's base is reflected by sponsors of Tuesday's fundraising luncheon (requesting up to $4,600 a couple) at the Houston home of Steven Hotze, a leader in the highly conservative Christian Reconstruction movement. State Rep. Debbie Riddle was the only elected official on the host committee, most of whose members were not familiar names in Texas politics. David Welch is executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council. Jack Tompkins heads a firm providing Internet services to the Christian community. Entrepreneur J. Keet Lewis is an active Southern Baptist.

A better-known committee member was Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America. In endorsing Huckabee on Nov. 1, Scarborough said, "I acknowledge that Huckabee is not the perfect candidate" but one "who will listen to wise counsel."

If the term "Christian Reconstruction movement" send shivers down your spine, then you probably have some idea of the political and social regression that would occur in America should any of that inclination gain high office. For those unfamiliar, you might want to read a little of this Cato Institute post (via Andrew Sullivan), and the links contained therein:

Christian Reconstructionists, for those unfamiliar with the term, are Religious Right radicals who believe that America, and the rest of the world besides, should be governed in accordance with strict Biblical law. And yes, that includes stoning adulterers. Here’s a snippet from “A Manifesto for the Christian Church,” a 1986 document from an outfit called the Coalition on Revival that was signed by, among others, Steven Hotze:

We affirm that the Bible is not only God’s statements to us regarding religion, salvation, eternity, and righteousness, but also the final measurement and depository of certain fundamental facts of reality and basic principles that God wants all mankind to know in the sphere of law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communication, medicine, psychology, and science. All theories and practices of these spheres of life are only true, right, and realistic to the degree that they agree with the Bible.

For more, check out this audio clip of Hotze from back in 1990. Over the years, Hotze has achieved some prominence for his anti-abortion and anti-gay activism. Also, the good doctor appears to be a total quack.

Meanwhile, Novak reports that among the members of the fundraiser’s host committee was Baptist minister Rick Scarborough. The founder of Vision America and a self-described “Christocrat,” Scarborough made news earlier this year when he argued that the HPV vaccine improperly interferes with God’s punishment of sexual license.

Just when you thought the Huckabee campaign couldn’t get any creepier….

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Theoconic Hypocrisy

I don't know what Kos is thinking with this description of the Christianist wing of the Republican Party:


This is the Christian Coalition/Moral Majority crowd, desperate for the wedding of state and religion, desperate to prevent the wedding of same sex couples. Unafraid to spend tax dollars on "faith-based" initiatives, while seeing immigrants as a replenishing source of new converts and religious foot soldiers.

Government spending: Pro

Aggressive foreign policy: Against
Immigration: Pro
Traditional values: Pro
Notables: Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, James Dobson

My own description of the Theocons would be:

Government Spending: Against
Agressive Foreign Policy: Pro
Immigration: Against
Traditional Values: Pro

Maybe Kos is only looking at Huckabee and his gubernatorial record, along with some of his campaign statements, relative to the most anti-government spending, pro foreign policy agression, and anti-immigrant Republican in Congress. But I wouldn't depict the Theocons as a base of the party as having the perspectives Kos assigns them.

That in fact also seems to be the observation of this already much referenced op-ed from Harold Meyerson in today's Wash Post:

But it's on their policies concerning immigrants where Republicans -- candidates and voters alike -- really run afoul of biblical writ. Not on immigration as such but on the treatment of immigrants who are already here. Consider: Christmas, after all, celebrates not just Jesus's birth but his family's flight from Herod's wrath into Egypt, a journey obviously undertaken without benefit of legal documentation. The Bible isn't big on immigrant documentation. "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him," Exodus says the Lord told Moses on Mount Sinai, "for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."

Yet the distinctive cry coming from the Republican base this year isn't simply to control the flow of immigrants across our borders but to punish the undocumented immigrants already here, children and parents alike.

So Romney attacks Huckabee for holding immigrant children blameless when their parents brought them here without papers, and Huckabee defends himself by parading the endorsement of the Minuteman Project's Jim Gilchrist, whose group harasses day laborers far from the border. The demand for a more regulated immigration policy comes from virtually all points on our political spectrum, but the push to persecute the immigrants already among us comes distinctly, though by no means entirely, from the same Republican right that protests its Christian faith at every turn.

We've seen this kind of Christianity before in America. It's more tribal than religious, and it surges at those times when our country is growing more diverse and economic opportunity is not abounding. At its height in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was chiefly the political expression of nativist Protestants upset by the growing ranks of Catholics in their midst.

It's difficult today to imagine KKKers thinking of their mission as Christian, but millions of them did.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Democratic Chairman of Senate Committee Endorses Republican for President

While I'm not surprised by this announcement, it's worth highlighting the fact that Lieberman is not just a Senate "Independent" Democrat, but he's a Senate "Independent" Democrat who happens to chair (by virtue of the Democratic majority in the Senate which Lieberman's caucusing with the Democrats helps create) an important (in the age of Bush) Senate committee (Governmental Affairs), which has done virtually nothing in the year it and Lieberman have been given.

To revoke Lieberman's chairmanship would probably drive Joe over the edge to caucus with the GOP, thus switching control of the chamber. Leaving Lieberman in his chair would (a) provide a continuous source of embarassment; (b) continue to ensure that the Committee he heads will do nothing and (c) maintain nominal Democratic control of the chamber to allow it to...what?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Huckabee Leading in Iowa, South Carolina, and now, Florida

Buckle your seat belts.

Sex and the Religious Right

The war against sexual pleasure:

“Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign… [T]he only purpose for which government may rightfully exercise power… over anyone is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”- John Stuart Mill, 1859 essay On Liberty

“Puritanism - the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”- H.L. Mencken

Do you have or want to have sex? If so, are you willing to limit your sexual expression to the missionary position within the confines of state-sanctioned marriage? If your answer to the first question is “yes,” and the second “no,” you ought to read Marty Klein’s book America’s War on Sex as soon as possible.

Since the onset of the second Bush presidency, we’ve all become familiar with the term “culture war.” (Although its roots go back as far as the Reagan era and the Moral Majority. Someone, I forget who, once said, “The Moral Majority is neither moral nor a majority.“) I’d always thought of this “war” in terms of free speech, prayer in the schools, displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings or nativity scenes in public places, the separation of church and state, and abortion, contraception and family planning controversy.

The culture war has always been framed as the Right vs. the Left, Republicans vs. Democrats, Conservatives vs. Liberals, theocracy vs. democracy, and science vs. faith. It seems that over the last seven years, the conservatives led by George W. Bush and his faith-based initiatives appear to be winning.

It never occurred to me that President Bush wanted to eliminate the right of the American people to acquire dildos. That’s right. Dildos.

According to Klein, “The state of Alabama has been in and out of court, trying to criminalize the sale of vibrators for a decade. When a U.S. district judge ruled against the state ban on sex-toy sales - twice - the state appealed - twice. Finally, a federal court actually ruled that the government has a compelling interest in keeping ‘orgasm stimulating paraphernalia’ out of our hands. Were they concerned that women would stop having sex with their husbands if they could buzz off with a vibrator?”

Klein goes on to write in depth on the various “battlegrounds” the Right has chosen to fight:
1. Sex EducationAbstinence-only programs. Do they work? No.


2. Reproductive Rights
Klein wants to know why the right to get pregnant, give birth, or not should be a major concern of the Right, both political and religious, though they don’t always overlap. “Other than your partner - and possibly your mother,” Klein asks, “why would anyone - especially a stranger - care about whether or not you use a condom…?”

The belief underlying the move to limit everyone’s access to contraceptives is that the only legitimate purpose of sex is procreation and marital intimacy. Contraception means that sex can be used for other reasons, that is, pleasure. That is what the battle over reproductive rights ultimately is: limiting sex for pleasure.

If you think it’s really about the right of the fetus to come to term, or the “every sperm is sacred” argument (see song by Monty Python’s Flying Circus), then look at this quote by Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life action league. He said, “I would like to outlaw contraception. It is disgusting - people using each other for pleasure.” He really said that. It isn’t often the power brokers of the Religious Right admit the truth behind their political maneuvering.

As a result of this political activity on the part of what Klein calls “erotophobes” (people who hate anything sexy), most states now allow pharmacists to refuse to fill any legal prescription, though they usually refuse to fill RU-486 (the morning-after pill). New laws are being enacted to protect pharmacists who then refuse to refer patients to other pharmacies that will help them.

Klein writes, “Pharmacists do not have this right. Your Aunt Mabel does - in private. Indeed, pharmacists have the same rights as your Aunt Mabel to withhold, cajole, persuade, and bully in order to shape your behavior - in private.” Is refusing to sell medicine to help someone have responsible sex any different than refusing to sell a black family a house in a white neighborhood? No. It’s discrimination, pure and simple.

Klein goes on to ask if there is a limit on people’s right to enforce their morality on others? Could a department store clerk refuse to sell you clothing made in China? Could a physician refuse to give you a blood transfusion because it’s against God’s will? Can a guidance counselor refuse to help a girl get into MIT because girls can’t be scientists?

3. Broadcast “Indecency”
Remember the furor caused by the “accidental” exposure of Janet Jackson’s nipple during the Superbowl halftime show? Organizations like Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Kevin Martin at the Federal Communications Commission have banded together to restrict content they have labeled “indecent” (not allowed on the air from 6 a.m. to midnight) or “obscene” (not allowed ever).

The original purpose of the FCC when it was created in the 1940’s was to 1) encourage diversity of programming, 2) make sure there was programming specifically for children, and 3) assign unique frequencies to radio and television broadcasters from the usable spectrum that was limited by the technology available at that time.

The FCC no longer bothers with its first two mandates, and, with the invention of satellite, cable and broadband, the public airwaves are not the same kind of resource that they once were, thus eliminating the third reason for the FCC.

Perhaps in an effort to justify its ongoing existence and budget, the FCC has assumed the role of government watchdog, policing the content of airwaves. It justified its intrusion because “TV and radio come into the privacy of people’s homes.” According to Klein, “It was a ridiculous argument, but the courts agreed. The rise of satellite radio, cable TV and pay-per-view TV has demolished that audience-as-passive-victim argument,” but the government intrusion continues. Fines imposed by the FCC have risen from $48,000 in 2000 to $7.9 million in 2004.

An example of how far the culture of censorship has taken us is Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. A Kentucky public radio station refused to air an episode in August 2005 because of the word “breast,” meaning “heart,” “soul,” or “conscience.” Klein quotes WUKY station manager Tom Godell as saying, “I don’t question the artistic merit, but I have to question the language. The FCC has been so inconsistent, we don’t know where we stand. We could no longer risk a fine.”

I haven’t got the time or space to describe in detail Klein’s other “battlegrounds”: Adult Entertainment (bookstores and strip clubs closed to expensive court battles over misuse of zoning laws), the Internet (public libraries forced to use filtering software or lose federal funding, software that indiscriminately shuts down sexual health sites and sites that use the name “Dick” for example along with porn sites), the War on Pornography (“In West Germany, rape rates declined once bans on pornography were lifted in 1973 - Philip D. Harvey, The Government vs. Erotica: The Siege of Adam and Eve.), and Sexual Privacy and Sexual Minorities (“It is heartbreakingly ironic that, although victims of domestic violence rarely have their children taken from them, the court’s insistence on treating [practitioners of sadomasochism as victims of domestic violence] provided the rationale limiting [parents contact with their own children].” Klein, p. 168).

The most thought provoking idea in Klein’s book, however, can be found in chapter three “The Most Powerful ‘Minority’ in the United States.” He writes, “I’m confused. Exactly who is this ‘they’ that the Religious Right keep saying has hijacked the country?… And who are the consumers of the cultural products the Religious Right constantly criticizes? Who do they think is watching Desperate Housewives, going to see Maid in Manhattan, buying Cosmopolitan, and downloading Janet Jackson’s half-second nipple?…They have gotten the government and media to support them as defenders of America’s wholesomeness against some mythical, incredibly powerful ’them’… But the Right is like the kid who kills his parents and asks for mercy because he’s an orphan. Somehow, they neglect to mention that it’s the consumer choices and other preferences of their own constituents that are the so-called problem.”

In other words, it is the average, working- and middle-class, Republican voters that are watching porn in private and crying out (and voting) against it in public. The most visible leaders of the Right, including Jimmy Swaggart, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Guiliani and Strom Thurmond had extramarital affairs, visited prostitutes and participated in sexual harassment.

Are they included in the “them” that is hijacking the country from decent folk like you and me?
The central trouble with this war on sex is that early on in the history of Western civilization, sex has been demonized by religious leaders until today it is the norm to be ashamed of any sexual impulse whatsoever.

Who in their right mind is going to stand up for the rights of Americans to get a lap dance? Which of us will be strong enough to battle our own guilt and throw off the oppressive shackles of shame to stand up to these hypocrites? I hope that I can when the time comes, and I’m grateful that Marty Klein and the American Civil Liberties Union does.

h/t Andrew Sullivan

Maybe one or more of our criticism-sensitive candidates could address this concern.

Yes, and?

The Carpetbagger:

I’m obviously not a neutral observer when it comes to ideology, but I like to think I’m objective enough to evaluate the quality of the two sets of presidential hopefuls. And by every measurement I can think of, the Democratic field is more serious, more credible, more knowledgeable, more consistent, more principled, and more dignified.

And I wish those terms were predictive of campaign success.

More seriously, while all that is true from our perspective, a more disinterested examination of the respective party fields might also ponder what the actual electoral attributes and prospects are of the candidates. One Democratic candidate is a racial minority, another is a woman (and spouse of a male president whose partisan hate-club spans over two decades) with her own high negatives. A third main contender hails from the South, which offers the potential to pull in electoral votes Democrats haven't won in over a generation, but has no executive experience.

While I am proud to support Obama, and think the upside of nominating him outweighs the downside of going "safe", let's not get too heady, here.

CNN online goes Nation Inquirer

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while now, but this most recent page of CNN online "Latest News" items reminded me again:

Latest News

WDIV: Tots left home alone three days
WPLG: Woman, 26, married to 10 men
Woman chained inside home scrawls 911
Girl, 9, drives dad having a heart attack
Cloned cats glow red in the dark
Digital wanted posters help find fugitives
Eva Longoria denies hubby Tony cheated

There are some legitimate news stories at the top but as the list descends it envelops more and more of the bizarre. And this is pretty typical. I figure we're not too far away from "Two Headed Alien From Mars Stays The Night, Says Family" or "JFK Still Lives, Man Says".

Here's more:
Roaming, thieving monkeys sought in roundup
Christmas card arrives 93 years late
'Baseline Killer' suspect gets 438 years
Lawmaker choked by tie in assembly brawl
Soldier dad pops out of girls' Xmas box

Thursday, December 13, 2007

At Least Important Republican Legislation is Getting Passed (Updated below)

Glenn Greenwald laments the tidal wave of media attention to Democratic Party "capitulation", "bowing" and "backing down" to various Administration demands in Congress related to the war and various spending measures but balances such distressing news by highlighting the very important, Republican-sponsored legislation the "Democrat"-led Congress did pass recently.

Update: In addition to it's "Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill" the Washington Post also graced us with this homage to Democratic Party haplessness in Congress.

"secular Sweden is free while religious Iran is not"

That's Roger Cohen's retort to Romney's much quoted “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.”

...The U.S. culture wars have produced what David Campbell of Notre Dame University called: “the injection of religion into politics in a very overt way.”

Much too overt for Europeans, whose alarm at George W. Bush’s presidency has been fed by his allusions to divine guidance — “the hand of a just and faithful God” in shaping events, or his trust in “the ways of Providence.”

Such beliefs seem to remove decision-making from the realm of the rational at the very moment when the West’s enemy acts in the name of fanatical theocracy. At worst, they produce references to a “crusade” against those jihadist enemies. God-given knowledge is scarcely amenable to oversight.


Religion informed America’s birth. But its distancing from politics was decisive to the republic’s success. Indeed, the devastating European experience of religious war influenced the founders’ thinking. That is why I find Romney’s speech and the society it reflects far more troubling than Europe’s vacant cathedrals.


[Romney] shows a Wikipedia-level appreciation of other religions, admiring “the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims” and “the ancient traditions of the Jews.” These vapid nostrums suggest his innermost conviction of America’s true faith.


Today's surging political religiosity among the party elite is not only irrational, it's highly ahistorical. We could stand for someone, a political candidate perhaps, reminding us of the history of those years when religion--Christian religion--was much more involved with the state and what the effects of that involvement were.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hillary in Iowa

In the middle of this NYT piece on Hillary having trouble in Iowa, is this sentence:

“It’s a unique and difficult dynamic,” said Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who has become one of Mrs. Clinton’s top Iowa advisers.

Ordinarily, you'd kinda think that having Tom Vilsack--a former two-term governor of Iowa who was once a presidential candidate in this very campaign--endorse you and serve as one of your top state advisors in Iowa would mean that you'd have a pretty good handle on the state. Guess not.

What is "Ethnic Balkanization"?

I know, I should know better than to ask, but this statement from the National Review's endorsement of Mitt Romney for president jumped out at me as being particularly bizzare:

While he has not talked much about the importance of resisting ethnic balkanization — none of the major candidates has — he supports enforcing the immigration laws and opposes amnesty.

Gonna go out on a limb here and conclude that this has something to do with making the country more White again, or something. Maybe the NRO wants a mandatory speak English law established in the name of the "limited government" it also claims to value. But hopefully the folks at NRO will get their wish and the Republican nominee, whoever he is, will run ads about the "importance of resisting ethnic balkanization". I bet it will go over well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We Interrupt This Attack Hillary Broadcast...

One of the consequences of the Huckabee surge, of course, is that after trying to make their debates, and potentially any valuable advertising spending, about Hillary, God's Own Party must re-form into a circular firing squad.

"A Return to Normalcy"

David Brooks is making sense:

In Washington, the National Intelligence Estimate was released, suggesting the next president will not face an imminent nuclear showdown with Iran. In Iraq, the surge and tribal revolts produce increasing stability. In Pakistan, the streets have not exploded. In the Middle East, the Arabs and Palestinians stumble toward some sort of peace process. In Venezuela, a referendum set President Hugo Chávez back on his heels.

The world still has its problems, but it no longer seems to be building toward some larger crisis. The atmosphere of fear and conflict has at least temporarily abated. With the change in conditions, the election of 2008 is beginning to feel like a postwar election. American voters are coming out of the shells constructed after Sept. 11th and are looking for a new normalcy. They’re looking for something entirely different.


But the more comprehensive difference between a wartime election and a postwar election is that there is a shift in values. In wartime, leadership traits like courage, steadfastness and ruthlessness are prized. Voters are willing to vote for candidates they distrust so long as they seem tough and effective (Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani).

In a postwar election things are different. When Wall Street Journal/NBC pollsters asked voters what qualities they were looking for in the next leader, their top three choices were: the ability to work well with leaders of other countries; having strong moral and family values; bringing unity to the country. Those are cooperative qualities, not combative ones. They require good listening skills, openness and the ability to compromise.

It’s clear that voters are not only exhausted by the war, they are exhausted by the war over the war. On the Democratic side, Obama captured the mood exactly with his Jefferson-Jackson Day speech of a few weeks ago. In that speech, he asked voters to reject fear, partisanship and textbook politics. He asked them to vote instead on the basis of their aspirations for a new era of national unity. As a result, Obama has pulled ahead in Iowa and approached parity in New Hampshire.

The tragedy of the Republican race is that Mitt Romney and Giuliani, who could have offered a new kind of Republicanism, opted to run as conventional Bush-era Republicans. Now Huckabee has emerged as the fresh alternative. Huckabee is socially conservative, but not a partisan culture warrior. He’s a pragmatic gubernatorial Republican, not a rigid creature of the beltway interest groups.

My guess is that this race has a few more twists and turns. Something terrible could happen in the world, in which case the wartime mentality would be back in spades. Obama and Huckabee could beat Clinton and Romney, respectively, in the early states, only to fall victim to their own weaknesses later on. You laugh, but this thing could still spin into the lap of Fred Thompson or John McCain, Chris Dodd or Joe Biden.


Yeah, I know he talks about how the "surge" has helped "produce increasing stability" and doesn't qualify his statements about the importance of Iraq to voters.

But the theme of a "return to normalcy" doesn't sound all that bad to me.

Now, if Obama would take this idea and apply it to the unnecessary infringements on the Constitution made in the name of fighting a never-ending war on terrorism, a return to normalcy campaign would be substantive as much as rhetorical.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well give you security if you'll give us back the Bill of Rights

Jamie Holly at Crooks and Liars has this to say about the recent shootings in the heartland:

All this has had me thinking about the FISA debate when proponents of the warrantless wiretapping were quick to argue it was necessary to give up freedoms for security. Would these same people apply that argument to the second amendment instead of the fourth? I think we all know the answer on that. Perhaps the next time a Republican Senator says that we should give up freedoms for security when it comes to listening in on phone calls, then he should be asked about giving up the right to bear arms as a way to protect us in church or at the local mall. Let’s see how quickly the subject changes then.

Yes, lets.

Tancredo No Show (updated below)

I was surprised to read this morning that the GOP candidates debated on Univision before a Hispanic audience. Give credit where credit is due. They aren't giving up yet. But there was a strange absence. All the GOP candidates showed up except...Tom Tancredo.

Why would that be? Everyone knows that opposition to illegal immigration isn't opposition to immigration generally, and certainly not an opposition to Hispanic immigration specifically. Right?

You might be asking me right about now, why do you say everyone knows these things? Why? Because all the opponents of illegal immigration say so. Lou Dobbs says so. The very patriotic Minutemen say so. I'm sure that the author of Whatever It Takes, who got his ass bounced outta Congress last year, probably said it. Hell, I bet even Tom Tancredo has said so.

So why then would Tancredo be a no show at the Hispanic-sponsored debate? I'm totally stumped.

Update: Uh, Tom, this explanation probably won't help:

All the GOP candidates but Tom Tancredo participated in the debate. Tancredo said he would not attend because the debate was to be conducted in Spanish. "It is the law that to become a naturalized citizen of this country you must have knowledge and understanding of English, including a basic ability to read, write, and speak the language," he said in a release. "So what may I ask are our presidential candidates doing participating in a Spanish speaking debate? Pandering comes to mind."

Friday, December 07, 2007

In the public square, part II

Just on the opposite side of the NYT's editorial on Romney's speech this morning is an op-ed by the author of Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ali's op-ed is prefaced by a quote from the Koran:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)

Hmmm. Wonder what the Judeo-Christian Holy Bible has to say about adultery and fornication?

Leviticus 20:10. "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 "If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you."

Here endeth the lesson.

In the public square

As the NYT editorial on the subject pointed out this morning:

The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

Is it true, that religion has been eliminated from the public square or that there are people who want to eliminate it from the public square? What is the "public square" and what is religion's role in it?

This got me to thinking about all the hand-wringing that has surrounded the recent release of best-sellers from a spate of New Atheist writers (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens) and the occasional presence of the same on the teevee and in press. The New Atheists are portrayed as particularly angry and why after all are these people trashing religion anyway?

But haven't Harris et al been doing what the New Calvinists say they want? They're putting religious belief front and center in the "public square".

Religionists claim they want their faith, and even faiths they profess not to adhere to, to have a place in the "public square", put on display so that...I don't know. So that people of faith will feel secure? So people will be united (even while excluding those of minority faiths or no faith at all)?

Being in the public square necessarily entails having your ideas the subject of discussion, challenge and debate. But by their shreaks of fear and vitriol, the Christianist religionists are giving ample evidence that they really don't want their faiths challenged or subject to discussion and debate.

Too bad. You want the public square? You got the public square. For better or worse.

Enter Collins

I'm sorry Jason Campbell got hurt last night.

But the only thing he accomplished in the last five weeks was to not win.

And last night's win came with, and despite, a paltry 31 yards rushing. I hope we can begin to dispense now with the idea that Washington must run the ball to be successful. They must punch the ball in the end zone to be successful. And get a few defensive turnovers while they're at it. Shawn Springs' pick at the end of the first half setting up the first TD with 17 seconds to go was huge.

The Problem with Romney

Brooks nails it:

When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?

In order to build a voting majority of the faithful, Romney covered over different and difficult conceptions of the Almighty. When he spoke of God yesterday, he spoke of a bland, smiley-faced God who is the author of liberty and the founder of freedom. There was no hint of Lincoln’s God or Reinhold Niebuhr’s God or the religion most people know — the religion that imposes restraints upon on the passions, appetites and sinfulness of human beings. He wants God in the public square, but then insists that theological differences are anodyne and politically irrelevant.

Romney’s job yesterday was to unite social conservatives behind him. If he succeeded, he did it in two ways. He asked people to rally around the best traditions of America’s civic religion. He also asked people to submerge their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end.


I don't agree with Brooks that "most New Age-y secularism" is "wishy-washy", but at least Brooks, from his perch on the right-center side of things, appears to recognize the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of Christianism's victim-identity politics for what it is.

The true absurdity of Romney's argument is his claim that religious faith is both essential to political life and American community while it is nevertheless to be exempted from challenge and any form of rational debate.

And if secularism is a religion, even a religious faith, are atheists, agnostics, humanists and other free thinkers therefore equal partners in this community? Romney's derision would seem to indicate not, but the armies of the New Calvinists and their fellow travelers can't simultaneously whine that secularism is a religion while claiming that their religion and all religion--but not the world views of secularists--should be revered and protected by the State.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pass-the-buck Huck blames the Cletus

I originally missed this part of Huckabee's DuMond defense:

Huckabee said it was the decision by former Arkansas Govs. Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker that made DuMond eligible for parole, and Huckabee declined to reduce DuMond's sentence further.

So, first, according to the anti-Clinton wing-nuts, it was Bill Clinton's fault this guy was prosecuted (and persecuted) at all. Now Huckabee is claiming that it was really Clinton himself who set the wheels in motion for this murderer and seriel rapist to go free? I wish the wing-nuts would keep their stories, and their finger-pointing, straight.

Huckabee--Not Taking Responsibility

Given our current experience with a president and an administration that loaths accountability and avoids taking any responsibility for its actions, Huckabee's claim that he isn't responsible in the case of Wayne DuMond is not encouraging. He certainly wasn't the only government entity involved. But I don't know why he wouldn't own up to his own role and acknowledge his mistake.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hugo loses

I share the irritation of Atrios concerning how Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is reported on by the corporate media and, in contrast, regarded by Chavez's American socialist apologists. Neither perspective is terribly informative about the facts and context of any particular situation.

The largely socialist Democracy Now! reported on Friday of last week that (a) the CIA was working in opposition to Chavez's referendum and trying to stir up trouble generally and that (b) the fact that former supporters of Chavez were against the referendum only served to illustrate the fact that many of Chavez's original supporters were a disparate group of sunshine patriots/corporatists who were really in up to their elbows in some kind of corruption or another and were now turning against Chavez because the reforms would undermine their livelihoods, etc.

Meanwhile, the NYT reported, also on Friday, that the document claimed by the Venezuelan government and Chavez supporters to reveal CIA involvement in the opposition to the referendum was most probably a fake.

Still, given the now acknowledged role the U.S. government played in encouraging and supporting the failed 2002 coup against Chavez, it's not surprising that Chavez and his supporters, in and out of Venezuela, are suspicious of present and future U.S. Government involvement and the words of the American corporate press, which also wrote in support of Chavez's brief ouster in 2002.

The upshot of all this mishmash of biased reporting is to make one more cynical in doubting that any news source can be trusted.

Another Fine Mess

I know a lot of people blew their fuses yesterday afternoon when Joe Gibbs inexplicably called a second straight "ice 'em" time out in the final seconds bringing on a fifteen-yard penalty, a much shorter game winning kick, and ultimately the loss. (I didn't realize it was a penalty either).

But the Redskins couldn't run the ball to save their lives yesterday. Everybody who's been complaining about Portis not getting enough carries hear this: Portis carried 25 times yesterday for 50 friggin yards.

And the Skins defense allowed a third string back to run on them to the tune of 82 yards on 16 carries. That's 5+ yards/carry.

And how on earth does a defense give up a 31-yard pass play in the final minute of the game--on third down no less?

After some efficient first half drives that resulted in FG's instead of TD's, and finally crossing the goal-line early in the third period, the offense just shut down.

But it was a total team loss. While Gibbs muffed up, he manned up at his press conference saying there wasn't anyone to blame but himself. But DC Williams has some explaining to do.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Do Democrats Suffer From Abused Spouse Syndrome?

Glenn Greenwald points out how the so-called liberal media, such as Time magazine, regularly piss all over Democrats while cowering in fear from Republicans:

Regarding the virtual silence from Democrats in the face of media assaults like the one Time launched here, consider this most amazing revelation, from The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:

In his new memoir "No Excuses," veteran Democratic consultant Robert Shrum says Time columnist Joe Klein doubled as a "sometime adviser," and that the Massachusetts senator "craved his approval."

Klein "would chastise Kerry on the phone when he didn't like a speech, counseling both Kerry and me about what the candidate should say and what our strategy should be," down to the kind of health care plan the senator should propose, Shrum writes.

John Kerry "craved the approval" of Joe Klein. Most Beltway journalists fear conservatives. But those same journalists intimidate, mock and step on Democrats, because they know that Democrats "crave their approval."

Thus, the path of least resistance for media outlets is to do what Joe Klein does -- loyally pass on GOP-fed smears of Democrats, because they know that conservatives will pat them on the head for it, while Congressional Democrats not named "Rush Holt" will remain passive and silent, all in the hope that by doing so, the press will like them more and treat them better next time.

That's why Rep. Holt's aggressive response to Time's falsehoods today was so impressive, and so rare.

And Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog notices Republican Mike Huckabee's unapologetic shout out to religious conservatives in a recent Iowa campaign ad?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why Social Security "Reform" Needs to Wait a While

This morning brought an op-ed in the Washington Post by someone named Ruth Marcus giving the smack down to Paul Krugman's rebuke of the Washington, D.C. Insider's cries for Social Security reform on the basis of that program's "crisis" status.

You can follow the back and forth here.

But the most important issue to address regarding Social Security's long term financing status is taken up by Josh Marshall in a post I am going to quote at length here. In particular, Marshall challenges the conventional wisdom that Social Security reform must start sooner rather than later in order to minimize the magnititude of the tax increases/benefit cuts establishing long term solvency would require. As Marshall points out, this is just wrong:

I said last night that I disagreed with the oft-stated claim that it just gets harder to 'fix' the non-existent Social Security crisis the longer you wait. In fact, as I thought about Obama's proposal to remove or retool the cap on Social Security taxes I got to thinking that it's not just not necessary to do right now but that it actually might be a bad idea altogether.

Many have argued that having this debate at all buys into the right-wing argument that there's a 'crisis' that needs to be solved and thus that the politics are all wrong. But put that aside, let's talk about whether it makes sense even on substance.

When it comes to the policy and number-crunching nitty-gritty of Social Security I'm definitely an amateur. But I think I've got a decent sense of the political-economy of the question. We need to remember that now and for at least a decade into the future Social Security is actually subsidizing the rest of the federal budget. The program brings in much more than it pays out. As we all remember from the voluble debates two years ago, the surplus is being used to buy US government bonds which go into the Trust Fund. And that socked away money will keep the program solvent through the middle of this century as the baby boomers retire, and revenues in no longer cover promised payments out.

We've been doing that for about a quarter of a century.

The problem on the political side of the equation is that the enemies of Social Security have spent a couple decades arguing that the Trust Fund doesn't exist or that it is simply a bookkeeping device with no true financial meaning. If that's true, it means that American workers have spent the last twenty-five years using their payroll taxes to subsidize general revenues and make it easier to float big tax cuts for upper-income earners without getting anything in return.

If we start pumping a lot more money into Social Security coffers now it will by definition go into more government bonds, which is another way of saying that it will go toward funding our current deficit spending. In fact it will enable more deficit spending and probably more upper-income tax cuts because it will make the consequences of both easier to hide.

If we want to push the buffer of the Trust Fund further out onto the horizon, then fiddle with payroll taxes when Social Security would need to start dipping into Trust Fund. In other words, in a decade or so. I see no reason why this approach doesn't work just as nicely then as it would now.

As Paul Krugman noted in the interview I did with him a few weeks ago, the window of time we had to seriously pare down the national debt to prepare for the retirement of the baby-boomers is close to over. Still, though, our best way of ensuring the future health of Social Security is to stop running up the national debt now. So I'm very reluctant to put more payroll taxes in the pot while we're still running big deficits because of the Bush tax cuts. The money will just go to subsidizing that irresponsible fiscal policy.

If there is any sense in which the 'Trust Fund' is not 'real' it is that it must be paid back from general revenues. And that will only be harder the more other debt we're running up. So rather than solving the problem, I think we're actually enabling it.

The second problem is that we need a national agreement or consensus that the Trust Fund is real, that it will be honored, and have the debate about the future of the program on that basis. Otherwise, we're still risking getting played in the same bait-and-switch privatizers have been trying to pull for years -- using regressive payroll taxes to fund current government spending and then telling future recipients that that money has disappeared and thus Social Security has to be phased out altogether.

Lifting the payroll tax cap while Social Security is still running a big surplus not only solves a problem that doesn't exist it enables the very policies that put the program in danger. Perhaps this is all another way of saying that I'm not a fan of putting more hens in the hen house while the foxes are still at the door, or even in the house.


This I think is exactly right. The only thing a benefit reduction or tax increase to Social Security would do now, is what it has succeeded in doing for the past two decades, and that is subsidize the rest of the federal budget, allowing for income, capital gains, corporate and other tax cuts, which would benefit mostly the well to do, and encourage deficit spending generally, both of which are bad for Social Security and its recipients, further magnifying the ultimate day of reckoning when Social Security's bonds will come due.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Time for another blogger ethics panel

Gee, it doesn't seem all that long ago when we terribly partisan and vitriolic bloggers were being lectured on our having lowered the tone of political discourse to previously unheard of vile depths, posing an existential threat to the happy bipartisan landscape. But I guess our Very Serious Village Elders are taking some time out from their let's all get along musings to get their own little raunchy oats on:

From the November 14 edition of CNN's American Morning:

CHETRY: All right, so then on the flip side, let's go over to the GOPs for a second, and maybe being too candid can be the problem in this case. This was a campaign event of John McCain's in South Carolina on Monday. And let's just listen to what happened.

[begin video clip]

FEMALE QUESTIONER: How do we beat the bitch?


McCAIN: May I give the translation?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: Leave it alone.

McCAIN: The way that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2: John, I thought she was talking about my ex-wife.


McCAIN: But that's an excellent question. ... I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat [sic] Party.

[end video clip]

CHETRY: All right, Mike, does that hurt McCain?

[Politico scribe Mike] ALLEN: Oh, give me a break. Of course not. First of all, I think it's kind of funny. You watch that tape, it's clear to him who she was referring to. He could have said, whoever were you talking about? Which might have been the deftest way to handle it.

CHETRY: But he said that's an excellent question.

ALLEN: All right. But what Republican voter hasn't thought that? What voter in general hasn't thought that? And what people like about McCain is his straight talk, his candor, and if he had folded or buckled under that question, that would have looked ridiculous. There's no question about, as he said, the respect that the two of them have -- this is something actually your viewers would not know -- Senator McCain and Senator Clinton actually do have a genuine friendship in part because of their overseas travels from the Armed Services committee, so they do not attack each other. But Kiran, this was just a funny moment on the campaign trail.

CHETRY: Well, it's only funny unless you're offended by somebody calling a woman the b-word. And I'm sure there are many who are. So it'll -- I mean, yes or no before I let you go: Should Hillary address this or just leave it alone?

ALLEN: This question? I think she should leave it alone because others will address it for her. People who are upset about it will have seen this clip, and Senator McCain will pay that price.

CHETRY: All right, it was great to have you on the show this morning. Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico. Thanks.

ALLEN: Likewise, have a good week Kiran.

CHETRY: You too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We Did Not Vote for Chavez

In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But a team of women who represented Venezuela at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Chavez.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the Venezuelan Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Internet bloggers loyal to the Chavez administration also lashed out at the Bridge team:

" about we add suspending their passports for a couple of years and put them on a no-fly and no-drive list to prevent them from leaving the country during that time …"

Saturday, November 03, 2007


While the U.S. army continues to occupy Iraq and while Bush and Cheney continue to issue bellicose threats against Iran, the country that continues to host the growing remnants of those who attacked us on 9/11 and which is under seige from those who legitimately appear to represent the much vaunted Islamofascists of wingnut lore doesn't get any attention from our government or teevee-talk radio media, but this NY Times piece is pretty informative--and chilling.

And Pakistan, unlike Iraq or Iran, actually does possess nuclear weapons.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gail Collins on Conservatives and Huckabee

From today's NYT:

[W]hy aren’t the social conservatives rallying around this guy? Unlike any of the major candidates, he’s still on his first wife and first position on abortion...

Yet the leaders of the Values Voters keep waiting for one of the top-tier candidates to change — a strategy that any woman who’s had an unsatisfactory boyfriend could warn them is never going to pan out. They pace around muttering that maybe Fred Thompson will start acting more ... alive, or that Mitt Romney will stop being a Mormon. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, seems to think Rudy Giuliani has come around on gay marriage. (Perkins should talk to Rudy’s gay former roommate Howard Koeppel about the time the then-mayor promised to marry Koeppel and his partner as soon as the laws change.)

Huckabee’s problems say more about the leaders of the religious right than about him. They’re united mainly by their hatred of abortion and gay marriage, and a desire to win. Considerations like who has the most Christian attitudes toward illegal immigrants don’t register. And the fact that as governor Huckabee spent a lot of time trying to spend money on the needy doesn’t go over all that well with the ones who believe that God’s top priority is eliminating the estate tax.

Lately, anti-Huckabee conservatives have been suggesting he’s soft on crime. The story involves an Arkansas man, Wayne DuMond, who was accused of kidnapping and raping a high school cheerleader in 1985. While he was free awaiting trial, masked men broke into his home, beat and castrated him. His testicles wound up in a jar of formaldehyde, on display on the desk of the local sheriff. At the trial, he was sentenced to life plus 20 years. When Huckabee became governor, DuMond was still in an apparently hopeless situation, though theoretically eligible for parole. Huckabee championed his cause, and wrote him a congratulatory letter when he was finally released in 1999. Then in 2000 DuMond moved to Kansas City, where he sexually assaulted and murdered a woman who lived near his home.

“There’s nothing you can say, but my gosh, it’s the thing you pray never happens,” the clearly tortured Huckabee recently told The National Review. “And it did.” If by some miracle he became the presidential nominee, there would obviously be many opportunities to point out that Michael Dukakis never sent a letter to Willie Horton celebrating his furlough.

Why do the leaders of the religious right keep sidling away from a Baptist minister whose greatest political sin seems to have been showing compassion to a prisoner who appeared to deserve it? Why can’t they rally around the candidate who pushed for more government spending to promote poor children’s health and education, and reminded his conservative critics that when they talk about being pro-life, “life doesn’t begin at conception and end at birth?”

I think we have answered the question.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"The Standard Washington Way of Doing Business"

The NYT reports today about contributions to Senate Intellegence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) from the executives at the two biggest telephone companies, AT&T and Verizon. Rockefeller's Intellegence Committee is supporting legislation to grant legal immunity to the companies regarding the company's participation in the NSA wire-tapping, eavesdropping program, which it turns out, was illegal under the nation's FISA law. AT&T and Verizon, unsurprisingly, strongly support the legislation. In the eyes of some observers, the contributions, a sudden increase from past contributions from the company's executives to the Senator, are indicative of some kind of pay-for-play.

But no, we're assured, this isn't really the case at all.

“The idea that John Rockefeller could be bought is kind of ridiculous,” said Matt Bennett, vice president for Third Way, a moderate Democratic policy group that has supported immunity for the phone carriers.

“That these companies are going to focus their lobbying efforts where their business interests are is no revelation,” Mr. Bennett said. “That’s the standard Washington way of doing business. But you’re not going to buy a Rockefeller.”

Somebody smarter than me is going to have explain to me how this statement is consistent and logical.

On the one hand we're told that it's quite natural for companies to "focus their lobbying efforts where their business interests are"---and by "lobbying" I assume this would include making cash payments to the politicos connected to the company's "business interests". But on the other hand we're told that in now way is such lobbying or such payments in any way indicative of a politician's being bought. Then what are the companies giving money for?

I guess it's just all too difficult for me to understand, this "standard Washington way of doing business."

Monday, October 22, 2007

I Have Too Much Health Care

I confess I am guilty of violating the new rule about health insurance coverage. Simply put, I have too much health care.

I went to have a physical exam today (I'm 41). According to the statement I received at the end of my visit, the charge for the exam was $385. That, plus a barrage of blood tests recommended by my doctor brought my total doctor visit bill to over $1,000. Of course, like the true welfare dependent I am, I did not fork over that much money. I only paid $15, my co-pay set by Blue Cross and Blue Shield and my employer.

I realize now I should have spent time going through the entire Washington, D.C. and Maryland phone books for doctors, asking each about their charges, instead of relying on the professional referral of someone else. I also should have delayed my bloodwork until I was certain that it would be analyzed by the lab offering the lowest price.

I sincerely regret my actions, but the devil--I mean, my insurance company, made me do it.

%*@# private health insurance companies! We need "market reform".

I see Matt Yglesias is guilty of the same offense.

Isn't "Market Reform" an Oxymoron?

Matt Yglesias visits Mitt Romney's website:

I was interested to learn more about Romney's plans for health care reform. So I clicked over to the Romney health care issues page where I learned that "The health of our nation can be improved by extending health insurance to all Americans, not through a government program or new taxes, but through market reforms." And that's it. Absolutely no further explanation or elaboration.

Aren't markets supposed to be, you know, kind of self-generating? Supply and demand, all that stuff? Why should government "reform" the market if markets are inherently good, efficient and unneedful of government interference?

Even More Belly-Aching from the "Values Voter", Part II

Indeed, for three days, it was a huddle of people with "shared values." The 2,000-plus participants banded together, bracing themselves for the constant attacks they expect on their beliefs as Christians. They are fighting on multiple fronts -- fighting the government, fighting pop culture and fighting universities.

"I think people of conservative beliefs, people who take their faith beliefs very seriously, find themselves very isolated," said Alan Sears, CEO and president of the Alliance Defense Fund, the Christian-based legal group.

The first bolded segment highlights the culture of paranoia and victimology that permeates the fundamentalist community.

The second bolded segment highlights the fundamentalists' belief about themselves, which is that they claim to take their "faith beliefs" very seriously, and that as a consequence, they are a poorly understood lot. But do they in fact take their faith beliefs all that seriously? Do they really believe in and practice all the things written in their holy books? And if their beliefs are a matter of faith, and not evidence, is there a reason why people should take them seriously?

More Belly-Aching From the "Values Voters"

From today's Wash Post Style section:

In a session addressing the plight of Christian rights on campus, David French, senior attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, told those assembled: "You will find more political diversity in a suburban mega-church than you will find in an elite university faculty. Now, that has consequences. One of those consequences is professors do not like Christians."

You mean, like the political diversity at the "values voters summit"?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

George Will Practices a Little Slight of Hand

In today's Wash Post, George Will sticks in a paragraph about the dubiousness of the SCHIP extension:

SCHIP is described as serving "poor children" or children of "the working poor." Everyone agrees that it is for "low-income" people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?

Wow. That sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? If the median household income is $48k why should we be subsidizing health care for people making $62k?

Ah, but notice Will plays a little mixitup with state and national income amounts. He first says that states "could" extend eligibility to households earning $62k. Then he points out that the national median household income is lower than this 62k giveaway, being only 48k, again, nationwide.

Now, it stands to figure, doesn't it, that if the national median household income is 48k, that some states probably average higher than that, right? So, if a state is going to raise its income eligibility amount, it will probably be in these higher income states, right?

Fortunately, Robert Pear, writing in today's NYT gives us a little more info:

In general, children with family incomes below the poverty level ($20,650 for a family of four) are eligible for Medicaid. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program is meant for families with too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance.

OK. So, we find here that the goal of SCHIP is to subsidize health insurance coverage for families with income above the poverty level, which for a family of four is about $21k. So, automatically, we can assume that qualifying income for SCHIP is going to be in excess of $21k to be compatible with the program's goals and intent.

But let's return to Pear's article:

States establish income limits for the child health program. A recent survey by the Congressional Research Service found that 32 states had set limits at twice the poverty level or less, while 17 states had limits from 220 percent to 300 percent of the poverty level. Only one state, New Jersey, has a higher limit. It offers coverage to children with family incomes up to 350 percent of the poverty level, or $72,275 for a family of four.

In New York, which covers children up to 250 percent of the poverty level, the Legislature this year passed a bill that would have raised the limit to 400 percent of the poverty level, or $82,600 for a family of four. The Bush administration rejected the proposal, saying it would have allowed the substitution of public coverage for private insurance.

States that cover middle-income children often charge premiums and co-payments on a sliding scale, so the coverage is not free.

So, 32 states fund SCHIP at 200% of poverty or less. This in effect means that the income cutoff for families in a majority of states is about $42k, $6k less than Will's national median household income.

Meanwhile, the state with the highest income cutoff, New Jersey, had a median household income of $62k in 2004, which ranked it #1 among the 50 states in that income category. And the state of NJ's median household income of $62k was $14k higher than Will's national median.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Friday, October 12, 2007

E.J. Dionne Speaks, You Listen

Democratic candidates for President, Democratic Senate (Schumer) and House Campaign Committee Chairs (Chris Van Hollen), please pay attention.

From today's Washington Post Op-Ed page:

Conservatives claim to be in favor of stable families, small businesses, hard work, private schools, investment and homeownership. So why in the world are so many on the right attacking the family of Graeme Frost?

Frost is the 12-year-old from Baltimore who delivered the Democrats' reply to a radio address by President Bush in September. The seventh-grader pleaded -- in vain, it turned out -- that the president not veto Congress's $35 billion expansion of the children's health care program known as SCHIP. A car crash in December 2004 left two of Halsey and Bonnie Frost's children comatose, Graeme with a brain stem injury and Gemma, his sister, with a cranial fracture.

The kids were treated, thanks to SCHIP. The Frosts spoke out so the public would know that real people lie behind the acronym.

Their reward was to be trashed on right-wing
blogs and talk radio as if they were multimillionaires ripping off the system. The assault on the Frosts apparently began on the Free Republic Web site and quickly spread to National Review Online, Power Line and Michelle Malkin's blog, as well as Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

And of what were the Frosts guilty? Well, they own their own home, which they bought for $55,000 in 1990 and which is now worth about $260,000; they invested in a commercial property, valued at $160,000; Halsey Frost, a self-employed woodworker, once owned a small business that was dissolved in 1999; and Graeme attends a private school on scholarship. I rely here on facts reported this week in the Baltimore Sun and the New York Times, both of which set straight the more outlandish claims made by the Frosts' attackers.

The right is unapologetic. "The Democrats chose to outsource their airtime to a Seventh Grader," wrote National Review's Mark Steyn. "If a political party is desperate enough to send a boy to do a man's job, then the boy is fair game."

Okay, the Democrats are "fair game," but a 12-year-old? No wonder nobody talks about compassionate conservatism anymore.


...[R]ather than just condemn the right-wingers as meanies, let's take their claims seriously. Doing so makes clear that they are engaged in a perverse and incoherent form of class warfare.

The left is accused of all manner of sins related to covetousness and envy whenever it raises questions about who benefits from Bush's tax cuts and mentions the yachts such folks might buy or the mansions they might own. But here is a family with modest possessions doing everything conservatives tell people they should do, and the right trashes them for getting help to buy health insurance for their children.

Most conservatives favor government-supported vouchers that would help Graeme attend his private school, but here they turn around and criticize him for . . . attending a private school. Federal money for private schools but not for health insurance? What's the logic here?

Conservatives endlessly praise risk-taking by entrepreneurs and would give big tax cuts to those who are most successful. But if a small-business person is struggling, he shouldn't even think about applying for SCHIP.

Conservatives who want to repeal the estate tax on large fortunes have cited stories -- most of them don't check out -- about farmers having to sell their farms to pay inheritance taxes. But the implication of these attacks on the Frosts is that they are expected to sell their investment property to pay for health care. Why?

Oh, yes, and conservatives tell us how much they love homeownership, and then assail the Frosts for having the nerve to own a home. I suppose they should have to sell that, too.

The real issue here is whether uninsured families with earnings similar to the Frosts' need government help to buy health coverage. With the average family policy in employer-provided plans now costing more than $12,000 annually -- the price is usually higher for families trying to buy it on their own -- the answer is plainly yes. All the conservative attacks on a boy from Baltimore who dared to speak out will not make this issue go away.


The conservative logic, or lack thereof, regarding SCHIP funding is conspicously empty-headed, mean-spirited, and shot full of inconsistent holes. As if Democrats weren't holding enough cards as the 2008 campaign approaches, the Republican administration and its congressional rubber-stampers seem intent on providing some more.

Send the over-paid political consultants home and ask Dionne if it would be OK to use his words verbatim in your TV and radio ads, and in your mailings.