The Jaker

Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Gov. Warner Goes Up In My Book
Citing the destruction of DNA evidence by a court clerk, VA-Gov Mark Warner commuted a death sentence yesterday, the day before the expected 1,000th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976.

Warner said:
"The Commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly."

What could possibly make more sense? Of course we should be 100% sure before we execute someone. The fact that many other executions happen amidst uncertainty is an awful manifestation of some people's greedy and regressive desire for revenge.

Congratulations, Governor Warner, for making the right decision.
posted by CB @ 10:16 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Is Bono the man of the year?
TIME's person of the year issue will come out soon. Leading candidates include "Mother Nature", First Responders, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Karl Rove, Patrick Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame. I think they'll probably go with something along the lines of the Mother Nature theme - the tsunami (technically last year, but since the last issue), Katrina/Rita, oil, etc.

But Bono's on the list too. He's got a massive worldwide tour combined with extensive public activism (Live 8, DATA, The One Campaign, meetings with President Bush, etc.).

It's only a matter of time as to when Bono gets recognition like this (and the Nobel Peace Prize sometime in the next 15 years). Sooner rather than later would mean that the noble causes he's fronting are gaining vitally needed traction and public backing. So consider me in favor.

The NYTimes on U2's good business sense
posted by CB @ 6:34 PM   0 comments
New Press Secretary?
Scott McClelland seems to have vanished. So who will be the new press secretary? Is it possible that they'll actually choose someone from outside of Texas?
posted by CB @ 11:14 AM   0 comments
Monday, November 28, 2005
Anyone else see a pattern?
Another Republican Congressman going to jail, this time for taking bribes!

There are so few Republican politicians that I respect anymore.
posted by CB @ 7:05 PM   0 comments
Why I'll Never Vote for John McCain
... in a few words - it's because he's a Republican.

And as a Republican, he has to go and do things like help raise money for Sen. Rick Santorum.

That's the same Santorum who connected Boston 'liberalism' with a penchant for pedophilia and sexual abuse.

The same Santorum who, in his new book, argues that women should stay at home, and are 'selfish' if they work.

The Santorum who doesn't believe in birth control.

The Santorum that was among only a few senators that supported the Bush position on 100% of the votes in 2004.

The Santorum that has lobbied hard for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

If Sen. McCain ever wants the vote of someone like me, he needs to renounce and leave the Republican party. Stop supporting policiticans unethically dragging the country to the right. Be in name and affiliation the independent you already are.
posted by CB @ 11:11 AM   2 comments
Friday, November 25, 2005
2008 Presidential Odds Update
Democrats:
- VA-Gov Mark Warner is clearly the "it" guy in the race at the moment. Predictably, the Kaine victory gave him a boost, and he rode the wave into New Hampshire last weekend, receiving positive reviews. It's still a little on the surface, after all this guy's total political record is one term as governor. But his business background does remind me of someone from Texas, except for the fact that Warner was far more successful. He's had good odds from the beginning. I think 7:1 is about appropriate at the moment.
- John Edwards made news last week by saying "I was wrong" to vote for the Iraq war resolution. Clearly he's trying to establish his position on Iraq well ahead of the 2007/2008 maelstrom. He's positioning himself to the left of Hillary, hopefully capturing the anti-war progressive vote that went so heavily to Dean in 2004. Edwards is also probably trying to outflank Russ Feingold, who will be trying to capture that same anti-Hillary group. So I think this is smart of JE, but I'm not going to change his odds for now. He's where he should be.
- Some good press on Bill Richardson, who has the qualifications, but not yet the national following, to be a serious contender in a non-Hillary-cakewalk race. However, he also just admitted that his official bio for the last 25 years misleadingly said he was drafted by a major league baseball team, which wasn't true. Richardson is, I think, correctly positioned behind Warner and Bayh as the 3rd 'newcomer' to the presidential race. But could I envision a scenario where things go his way? Absolutely.
- CT Senator Chris Dodd enters the race at 30:1.
posted by CB @ 10:03 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
This is why blogs are great
It's the connections, the interlinking, the ability to see the whole conversation. The fact that the Washington Post links to me when I discuss their article. Nowadays, you never have to settle for one person's point of view.
posted by CB @ 12:17 PM   1 comments
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Bomb Al-Jazeera? Not even this administration is that dumb
I think this memo, alledgedly reporting that Tony Blair had to talk GWB out of bombing Al-Jazeera, is bullshit. I think Bush is about as inept as it gets, but I don't think there's a chance in hell that more than 1 person in the White House or Pentagon would give actual consideration to bombing anything in Qatar, which is an incredibly valuable ally to us in the mideast.

If real life was like "The West Wing", this story would have been concocted by some smart political operative in the White House to scare Al-Jazeera into being less accomodating to Al Qaeda, perhaps not giving them air time whenever they wanted it. That I'd put a small chance on. But a real idea? I believe (hope) that Bush is not that stupid.
posted by CB @ 5:46 PM   0 comments
Bush's mark on the world
Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:
George Bush will inevitably get out of the mess he has made -- he leaves office in three years and two months, not that anyone's counting. But the rest of us will be left with his handiwork: crushing national debt, rising economic inequality, a poisoned political atmosphere and, oh, yes, the war in Iraq. We're the ones trapped in the dark with no exit sign in sight.
posted by CB @ 2:54 PM   0 comments
Monday, November 21, 2005
Republicans today refuse to govern from the center
In the NYT Magazine, two professors adeptly address the state of politics of the moment, with a look toward 2006. They remind us that the electoral map inherently favors Republicans (or whoever happens to be in favor with people from small-population states):
In the Senate, Republicans have a tremendous built-in edge because small states, which lean Republican, are so overrepresented. As a result, Democrats can win a majority of votes nationwide and still not gain control. In the last three Senate elections, as the political journalist Hendrik Hertzberg has pointed out, Democrats have actually received 2.4 million more votes than Republicans, yet the G.O.P. has won 11 more seats. The Senate's 55 Republicans represent 131 million people (assuming each senator represents half a state's population); its 44 Democrats represent 161 million.

Congressional districts are also currently drawn so that, by and large, Democratic districts are concentrated (think NYC), whereas Republican districts are more equally split but lean Democratic (think most districts in Texas).
By the same token, the Republicans could retain control of the House next year even if the majority of voters cast their ballots for Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, the G.O.P. has padded its lead by aggressively redrawing the Congressional map. Between 2000 and 2004, redistricting created roughly a dozen new Republican-leaning districts nationwide.

The article also notes that Republicans are increasingly partisan in their governance of the country.
Congressional committee chairmen are now appointed largely on the basis of their fealty to the Republican leadership and their ability to raise funds for G.O.P. candidates. When bills go to a conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate, they are rewritten to please conservatives and then thrown back to the floors of the House and Senate, where they can't be amended. Interest groups are told that loyalty to the G.O.P. is the price of access. One lobbyist reportedly complained: "I always thought my job is to look out for my clients. Suddenly, I'm working for the Republican Party."
posted by CB @ 2:25 PM   2 comments
New blog, different perspective
For a take on political issues from someone smarter, and more Republican (the combination is merely coincidental and in no way correlated) than me, check out bryceinthemiddle.blogspot.com. There's also a permanent link to Bryce's blog at the bottom of the sidebar at the right.

I'm sure the debate between Bryce and I on just how bad the current administration is (quick summary: Bryce says they're pretty incompetent but democracy in the middle east is a good long-term cause; i say they're so arrogant and stubborn that their methods and conduct endangers us for generations, above and beyond the admitted benefit that mideast democracy will bring) will only escalate from here on.

Welcome Bryce.
posted by CB @ 12:20 PM   1 comments
Friday, November 18, 2005
Vatican says Intelligent Design should not be taught in science class
Thank God.
And so ends one of the more pitiful arguments of the last hundred years.
posted by CB @ 1:27 PM   0 comments
Are Republicans born evil, or do they acquire it somehow?
The House voted (narrowly) yesterday to strip $50bn out of the 2006-2010 budget, including $11bn from Medicaid - the program that provides health insurance to the POOR and DISABLED.

Why?
Because, of course, there's a huge budget deficit that we need to close!

And why is there a huge budget deficit?
Because George Bush thinks graduated tax rates aren't fair, and wanted to give a big tax reduction to the very wealthy, who - good lord - pay soooo much!

I say thanks Mr. Bush. I work at a hedge fund, where we manage money for, among others, super-rich people. And our hedge fund (all hedge funds) has seen very large amounts of money come in during the last 3-4 years. The industry has pratically doubled, to $1 trillion! Hooray for us.

A housing bubble? Of course... it's more important for the super-wealthy to be able to buy 2nd, 3rd, and 4th homes than for disabled kids to have healthcare!

It's heartless. Truly heartless. Imagine if someone went on tv and said "This just isn't fair. We need the poor people to sacrifice more so the rich can have more luxury!".
posted by CB @ 12:22 PM   0 comments
GOP admits it exploits abortion issue for political gain
Rep. Tom Davis (R-GA), formerly head of the Repulican Congressional Committee, admitted that some pro-life Republicans actually prefer that Roe v. Wade stays in the lawbooks, because it gives them a political hotbutton to push. He's worried that if it is overturned, Republican representatives would be voted out.
''It's nice to make a stand" against abortion, he said, when ''it's not a real bullet, it's more theoretical."
posted by CB @ 12:08 PM   0 comments
Essay from an Iraqi Woman
In this excellent essay, an Iraqi woman argues that the social divide being overlooked in Iraq (while everyone talks about Sunni vs. Shia vs. Kurd), is the widening gap between rich and poor.

She argues that what poor Iraqis really want are jobs and economic security, which Saddam did not provide them but they hope democracy does.

Unfortunately for her and her country, George Bush is basically the last guy I would ask to solve an economic inequality gap. He believes in tax cuts for billionaires. And in Iraq, he believes in paying hundreds of billions in reconstruction funds to American contractors employing American workers, some of whom are getting very rich in the process, while Iraqis starving for work are left unemployed.
posted by CB @ 10:43 AM   0 comments
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Life is more fun when you challenge yourself. So, readers, are you up for it?
Today is the annual Great American Smoke-Out, the best day of the year to quit smoking.

3 good reasons to quit:
- a smoker will likely die of cancer or heart disease caused by smoking. fine, you say, it's your choice, your life. but your children and your family don't get to choose, and they will be greatly affected by your health. on average, smoking reduces your lifespan by 10 years. in those 10 years your kids might graduate from college, get married, have kids of their own.
- it's expensive. a pack a day at today's prices is over $2000 a year.
- you'll feel like a fucking rock star, for accomplishing something so challenging.


How to quit:
- pick a date
- make a list of reasons why you want to quit
- tell your friends you're quitting, and make them pressure you to follow through
- on your date, stop.
- plan out and give yourself a reward for the 1st day, 2nd day, 3rd day, 1st week, 2nd week, 1st month, 2nd month, 6th month, etc.
posted by CB @ 6:14 PM   0 comments
Personal Finance Recommendation: Opt Out of Prescreened Credit Cards
Sorry for the lack of posts today. Here's one great thing you can do, if those credit card offers in the mail annoy you: opt out.

Here's the website: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/
posted by CB @ 5:40 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
That creep Bob Woodward
I'm just beginning to wrap my brain around yesterday's news that Bob Woodward was the first person to whom an administration official told of Valerie Plame.

Woodward has been commenting publicly all over the place about this investigation, being very critical, calling Fitzgerald a "junkyard dog prosecutor", and saying how it's all no big deal.

All the while, he's been keeping the secret that he's actually the most important person in the investigation, and he has some secret source that nobody knows about (Cheney perhaps?).

This is highly, highly unethical. Trying to laugh something off that you're actually intimately involved in. And if this reaches up as high as Cheney, and Woodward knows it, then wow.
posted by CB @ 1:25 PM   1 comments
Calling Bullshit on Supply-Side Economics
I think it's time for reasonable Republicans to admit that George W. Bush is the worst president in history when it comes to dealing with economic matters.

He has lowered taxes to the lowest level as a share of national income since 1959 - 16.3% - predominantly by enabling billionaires to invest a few hundred million more hedge funds (wow, some economic stimulus). Meanwhile, he has presided over 2 expensive wars (while asking no financial sacrifice for the nation because he knows he can't make a compelling case), and enormous (yet horribly misguided) increases in discretionary spending.

He's taken a $236 billion surplus, which probably would have merely flatlined around 2001 because of the normal economic cycle and the terrorist attacks, and produced deficits in excess of $500 billion. He is quite literally steadily selling America to Asian investors.

It's time we admit again, as we did in the late 90s, that supply-side economics may have made sense when tax rates were 70%, but are not even close to coming into play in the modern U.S. The Republican governor of Nevada has realized it: "People say, 'Well, growth ought to pay for growth,' but I'm here to tell you, it doesn't."

So let's end this period of madness, erase the Bush billionaire tax cuts, end the discussion about the estate tax, leave the capital gains tax alone, address corporate and small business tax incentives where applicable, and go back to the strong economy of 7 years ago.


posted by CB @ 10:24 AM   1 comments
Monday, November 14, 2005
Guilt trip: Do your part
The DNC is lagging the RNC in fundraising, as is typical.

Democracy Bonds are a great way to set up a monthly donation to the DNC. If just 2% of the 50 million people that voted for John Kerry agreed to donate $10 per month, that's $120 million, or 3x what the DNC has raised year-to-date.

So step up, and tell your friends. Plus you get a nice certificate for your fridge.
posted by CB @ 2:30 PM   0 comments
Interesting 2008 Poll
Many of you have probably seen this WSJ poll that recorded favorable AND unfavorable ratings on potential 2008 presidential candidates.

The favorables are as expected - Hillary way out in front of Edwards, Gore, and Kerry, and a battle between Giuliani and McCain.

But the favorables are what I found most interesting - particularly that slightly more people (17%) said they would NOT vote for Gore, than said the same for Kerry (14%). I'm surprised at that anti-Gore sentiment, and especially surprised that Kerry's was not much much higher. Perhaps the small difference is immaterial, and those names just got more responses because they're the most well-kwown.

I continue to count myself on the Gore 2008 bandwagon, if such a wagon has been assembled yet. It might be more like a tandem bike.
posted by CB @ 10:00 AM   0 comments
Friday, November 11, 2005
Friday Presidential Odds Update
Haven't done one of these in a couple of weeks.

Dems:
- Edwards said this week that his vote in support of the Iraq war was "a mistake". He's clearly trying to get out ahead of this issue so as not to be accused of changing his mind closer to the election. Probably a wise strategy. It contrasts significantly with Hillary Clinton, who seems to have decided that she needs to be somewhat hawkish militarily since she's got that second X chromosome to contend with. I really like what Edwards is doing with his time since the campaign. He likely will be the '08 candidate with the most clear theme - that Democrats need to be the party that closes the income and class gaps in America and solves the poverty problem. Whether this resonates well with the party faithful will depend on the politics of the moment. Edwards benefits from a race about domestic issues. If the Iraq war is still the #1 issue in late 2007 / early 2008, people like Clinton, Warner, Gore, and Clark benefit, and the "fresh-faced" boys - Edwards, Bayh - tumble.
- Mark Warner's profile gets raised by his right-hand-man Kaine's victory in VA. And Warner's headed up to New Hampshire soon. I'm jumping him over Wes Clark and Evan Bayh into 3rd position. Warner goes to 7:1, Bayh to 8:1, Clark down to 10:1.
- I'm curious to get people's opinions... out of the top 5 - Clinton, Edwards, Warner, Bayh, Gore - who do you like?

Republicans:
- George Allen takes a slight hit with Virginia turning blue. Dropping him from 5:1 to 7:1.
- I'm bumping McCain up a bit from 9:2 to 4:1. McCain has bit out in front of the detainee torture issue lately, which is a good place to be for him. It enables him to appeal a little to the religious tenet of mercy and compassion.
posted by CB @ 10:42 AM   0 comments
Krauthammer wants a gas tax
Charles Krauthammer (Charles Krauthammer!) agrees with me on a gas tax. He advocates setting a $3 floor on gas prices and calling the difference between the real price and $3 the new federal gas tax, which then is used to reduce social security, income, and even corporate taxes in exactly the same amount.

Very similar to the NYTimes's idea I discussed last week. It has to be a revenue-neutral tax because the gas tax itself would be regressive and hit lower-income people harder. As long as it's neutral to them it won't hurt, but will incentivize them to think of ways to reduce their gasoline usage by carpooling more, buying cleaner vehicles, etc.

CK also address ANWR, which the Senate voted to open up last week, but the House stripped out of their version of the same budget bill. So that one will be decided in conference. Kraut obviously wants to open it up. As I wrote back in March, I'm on the fence on ANWR. The West Wing debate was right - it's huge, and no one goes there, and the environmental impact (if done correctly - big if) should be fairly minimal.

We have to solve this oil dependency problem, and we need people to keep proposing innovative ideas.
posted by CB @ 9:57 AM   0 comments
I'm absolutely in favor of congestion pricing in NYC
The NYTimes writes about a potential Bloomberg administration plan to introduce congestion pricing into the heavily-trafficked areas of NYC, similar to something London has introduced (which I think I discussed on this blog awhile ago, but can't find).

It would cost about $7 to drive in midtown, thereby hopefully reducing congestion and pollution in tandem. Hybrids would be exempt. Not sure yet how they'd deal with taxis.

It's been very successful in London:
In London, where congestion pricing began in February 2003 after a year of planning, traffic has been reduced by a third and some bus lines are moving twice as fast. Officials are so satisfied that they intend to nearly double the size of the congestion-pricing zone in 2007. One thing seems certain: New York would not charge nearly as much as the $14 it takes to drive into London's financial district during the day.
posted by CB @ 9:41 AM   0 comments
Thursday, November 10, 2005
My political compass
According to www.politicalcompass.org, I'm a a slightly libertarian liberal .

Economic Left/Right: -4.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.56

Same quadrant as Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. Opposite quadrant of George Bush and Margaret Thatcher. I'll take it.
posted by CB @ 5:06 PM   0 comments
Paul Krugman agrees on healthcare
via Brad deLong

The funny thing is that the solution - national health insurance, available to everyone - is obvious. But to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride - the unwarranted belief that America has nothing to learn from other countries - and prejudice - the equally unwarranted belief, driven by ideology, that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance.
...
The economic and moral case for health care reform in America, reform that would make us less different from other advanced countries, is overwhelming. One of these days we'll realize that our semiprivatized system isn't just unfair, it's far less efficient than a straightforward system of guaranteed health insurance.
posted by CB @ 4:42 PM   0 comments
Ugh, lobbying is so sleazy
This Abramoff scandal just keeps getting worse. Offering to set up a meeting between Bush and the president of an African nation for $9 million?.

I hope this blows up the lobbying industry altogether.
posted by CB @ 11:37 AM   1 comments
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
How to fix France, and what's the right economic model?
I agree with the emerging sentiment that the problem in France is not one of racism, though clearly that exists, but of economics. My friend Bryce (B - you need a blog) is right that France's strict employment policies screw up companies' ability to adapt and innovate, creating a stagnant economy that grows minimally and dramatically underemploys its (well-educated) resources.

But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water and say that every step towards entitlement or protectionism is misguided (not saying you said that B). France, in my opinion goes too far... we've all learned by now that capitalism drives innovation which drives progress, and that all of this can be stifled by policies that are too restrictive. But I also strongly believe that U.S. conservatives who regale us with the wonders of the free market take that too far as well. The free market is what caused generations of elderly to live in poverty before Social Security. There will always be smarter people who are able, if allowed, to take complete advantage of their intellectual inferiors. At some point we have to stop the gap from widening.

The sweet spot, I believe, between free market capitalism and socialist idealism, is the guarantee of basic human rights (the simple version): a certain level of livable subsistence, and basic healthcare. On the first point France probably goes too far and we definitely don't go far enough. But on the second point, the U.S. is lagging what I consider acceptable. Which is why I hope universal healthcare is a big part of the Democratic platform when it's rolled out early next year.
posted by CB @ 4:36 PM   1 comments
Creative Idea: An Inequality Tax
Just read about a very innovative idea for something I've never thought of before, but like: a global inequality tax.

Here's the article. [This website, Project Syndicate, is basically a collection of the writings of the world's smartest people. Highly recommend bookmarking or bloglines'ing it].

The basic idea is to combat growing worldwide economic inequality (think corporate CEOs getting richer as poor Africans continue to die of hunger and basic disease) through a simple international redistributive tax.

This is why international action to address both global poverty and global inequality is needed. Global redistribution through taxes that would be levied by an international body may seem far-fetched today, but the logic of development that we are witnessing – particularly the move away from nation-states as the locus of sovereignty – suggests that it may eventually come to pass.

It is indeed far-fetched, and would take a collection of very innovative and daring leaders to accomplish. But isn't it a great idea? Especially like the part about giving the money to NGOs rather than governments.
posted by CB @ 3:39 PM   0 comments
The stupid media
EJ Dionne puts into words something I've been really annoyed at the last few years:

Journalists, of course, are the last people who have any right to poke fun at this Democratic endeavor. Indulging the desire to appear nonpartisan, most news stories regularly balance reports about actual Republican disasters and cratering poll numbers with assertions that voters have no idea what Democrats stand for.

The media is so scared of calling someone on it when they do something stupid or unethical. It's time to drop the commitment to neutrality. Where are the hard hitting journalists who we can trust? 20 years ago someone like Russert would have been engaging in real debate with his guests, not just throwing their opponents' quotes at them and asking them to respond.
posted by CB @ 10:20 AM   1 comments
Looking forward to '06
Hopefully Democrats can continue to capitalize on the inefficacy of Republicans and sweep back into power a year from now. Last night in Virginia was a good start.
posted by CB @ 10:18 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Be Proud to Be Progressive
http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10438
posted by CB @ 6:45 PM   0 comments
Why I Love Hillary Clinton: She's So Smart
From the Washington Post:

When asked by an NPR reporter last week if she regretted her vote on Iraq, Clinton, considered by some to be the early favorite for the Democratic nomination responded, "You know, I really can't talk about this on the fly. It's too important."


It's possible that was an excuse not to address to sticky issue. But it's also just really smart. A politician, who has a chance to trot out a standard talking point, passes it up because some issues require substance rather than a soundbite.
posted by CB @ 3:50 PM   0 comments
For a Preview of '06, watch Virginia tonight
If Kaine (D) wins, it signals that the Dems have the momentum going into the '06 campaign year. It also gives Gov. Mark Warner a boost for 2008.

If Kilgore (R) wins, it means we've all gotten a little ahead of ourselves imagining a big Democratic resurgence next year, and that the country's disappointment with Bush basically ends at the White House gate.

We need this one.
posted by CB @ 11:50 AM   0 comments
What I learned from the West Wing debate, Part 1 - Healthcare costs
For those who didn't see it (not watching West Wing this year - what's wrong with you?), Sunday's West Wing episode was a live debate between Jimmy Smits, playing Democratic nominee Matt Santos, and Alan Alda, playing Republican Arnold Vinick. In a jab at the formality of these debates (the timing, the flashing lights), the candidates agreed to toss out the rules and just have an open, free-wheeling debate, which would be great in real life but will likely never happen in my lifetime.

Anyway, the reason West Wing is so great this year is because it is incredibly pertinent. And the live episode, especially, seemed like it was absolutely on topic with the issues of the day - oil dependence, gas prices, immigration, etc. - with one expection... there was no discussion of Iraq. (In West Wing, for whatever reason, the U.S. only has foreign disputes with fictional countries).

So here's the first thing I learned from the debate. In discussing the lack of healthcare coverage, Democrat Santos discussed his "dream plan" to offer Medicare to everyone of all ages. Not force them to join it, but offer it. Why? Because its administrative costs are just 2% compared with 15%+ in private healthcare plans.

Is this really true? Is Medicare really so much more efficient than private healthcare? I looked it up, and the answer is YES, but not quite as much as Santos claimed.

The 2% number is correct, but it's low because of the way it's measured. It's calculated as ADMIN COSTS / SPENDING. Because Medicare is a program for old people, spending is obviously high. So the denominator is much bigger than it would be if there were healthier working age people in the program.

Fair enough. The better way to calculate would be administrative costs per enrollee. In this case, Medicare is about half as costly to administer as private insurance, rather than 1/7th. Still, in my opinion, a significant difference.

So isn't Matt Santos's idea worth discussing? It wouldn't create a single-payer system, because people would have the choice. And wouldn't the 45 million uninsured appreciate Medicare as opposed to nothing?

As Bill Gates and Bono and Bill Clinton say, we have to start treating healthcare as a fundamental human right.
posted by CB @ 9:43 AM   1 comments
Monday, November 07, 2005
Dems should look to '74, not '94
Mark Schmitt writes in American Prospect that Democrats should too much try to duplicate Newt Gingrich's 1994 revolution in 2006. Mainly because in '94 there were 53 districts that voted Republican for President in '92 but had a Democratic congressman. Gingrich was able to nationalize the local elections and toss out most of those Democrats.

In '06, however, there are only 18 congressional districts that voted for Kerry in '04 but have a Republican congressman.

So, Schmitt argues, Dems should look to '74, when 75 new Democratic reps swept into Washington, based on excellent recruiting and Tip O'Neal's storied local politics.
posted by CB @ 5:33 PM   0 comments
Harvard Prof. Laurence Tribe on Alito
Interesting questions about Alito's interpretation of modern society and the law's role therein.

Alito's Jurisprudence

By Laurence H. Tribe November 7, 2005
Boston Globe Op-Ed

You can't help doing a double-take when you read Judge Samuel Alito's opinion holding Congress powerless to compel states to provide family medical leave to their employees. It was a position the Supreme Court rejected in a nearly identical case when it held three years later that the 14th Amendment confers such power by authorizing Congress to enforce each state's duty to accord "equal protection of the laws."

The evidence and legal arguments hadn't changed when Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the 6-3 majority, saw what Congress had seen: that women and men are unequally protected in a world still shaped by the "pervasive sex-role stereotype that caring for family members is women's work." The court accordingly held Congress empowered to "dismantle persisting gender-based barriers to . . . women in the workplace." Why, then, did the deliberately deferential Alito, after reading the same text, history, precedents, and factual data, see no gender discrimination for Congress to dismantle?

This is a judge alert to the religious discrimination against Muslims and Lakota Indians lurking within facially neutral rules about wearing beards and raising bears. He is no Anatole France, praising the majestic equality of the law as it forbids rich and poor alike to beg in the streets and sleep under the bridges of Paris. The point isn't to fault this distinguished jurist for lacking the clairvoyance to predict what the Rehnquist court would shortly hold. But did one really need a crystal ball to detect the "self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination" that relegated women to roles as "primary family caregiver," fostering "employers' stereotypical views about women's commitment to work and their value as employees?"

Or consider Alito's opinion upholding Pennsylvania's ban on abortions by women too fearful to tell their husbands what they are contemplating doing. The Supreme Court reversed, using the case to reaffirm Roe v. Wade's core holding in an opinion by Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter. Recounting the appalling incidence of spousal abuse that the notification requirement aggravated, that opinion exposed the illogic of regarding the resulting burden as somehow diminished by all the unmarried women to whom the ban simply didn't apply.

My concern here isn't that Alito miscalculated the trajectory of the Supreme Court's evolving "undue burden" standard for abortion restrictions, or even that he may inadvertently have revealed a readiness to overrule or severely limit Roe if given the opportunity -- something I suspect senators will spend much time pressing him, no doubt unsuccessfully, to confess or to deny.

I do wonder, though, about the window through which Alito was gazing at the social world in which the controversy arose. Was he perhaps viewing the "burden" on married women in this situation as simply their due, as something that goes with the territory when a woman weds and thus, almost by definition, as no "undue" burden? That would accord with Alito's opinions finding it only natural to permit a husband, but not a fiancee, to contest a woman's deportation to a jurisdiction threatening coerced abortion of the couple's unborn child. And didn't the distinctive burdens women face in juggling work and family likewise recede for the judge into something like a natural background he deemed Congress powerless to treat as legal inequality?

Alito seems as decent and fair-minded as he is bright, and I don't doubt his sincerity in separating the results he might like to see from those he concludes the law requires. I simply make a plea to quit pretending that law, life, and an individual's unarticulated assumptions about both can be entirely separated when assessing what someone's addition to the Supreme Court would mean for all of us well into the 21st century.

Today's controversies over liberty, equality, personal privacy, and government power have implicated practices from body cavity searches to infrared surveillance of home life to spousal or parental involvement in abortion. Tomorrow's may involve questions about cloning body parts, implanting once-frozen embryos, deploying genetic screening or brain scans, and heaven knows what else. Slogans about just following "settled law" as though it were a computer application, sticking to the text's "original meaning" as if that were a matter of scientific fact, never "legislating from the bench" as if judges ever think they're doing that, remaining within an imagined "mainstream," and by all means respecting precedent -- particularly so-called "super-precedent" -- offer precious little insight into how a justice might actually approach these brave new worlds.

If we care, we'd better stop the charade of pressing the nominee to tell us where he or she "really" stands on buzzwords like privacy or states' rights and start probing for clues to the nominee's basic ways of understanding society and law's place within it. Only then will the confirmation process be worthy of the Constitution it guards.
posted by CB @ 11:47 AM   0 comments
Friday, November 04, 2005
Seriously, how low can he go?
Bush's new poll numbers are not good. 60% disapprove. And 58% question Bush's integrity.
posted by CB @ 11:12 AM   0 comments
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Alito less nutty than thought?
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article citing a number of judges who served with Alito who say he probably would NOT overturn Roe, due to his tremendous respect for precedent.

The picture that's emerging is interesting - Alito as a traditional, less-scary conservative rather than a right-wing idealogue... that the comparisons to Scalia are simplistic. But perhaps we're being hoodwinked by the right?

Also, these polls comparing inital support for Alito and Roberts are interesting.
posted by CB @ 9:05 AM   1 comments
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
I agree J.C.
"I was part of that wild and crazy Class of '94 that shook the political landscape by taking over the House after more than 50 years of unfettered Democrat control. We came to Washington full of ideals and conviction. But sadly, what they say about absolute power is coming to reality in the 2005 GOP Washington. Republicans in just 10 years have developed the arrogance it took the Democrats 30 years to develop." [emphasis mine]

-- Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK), writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
posted by CB @ 4:14 PM   1 comments
Senate Closed Session
Harry Reid motioned for the senate to go into closed session today to discuss the White House's misinformation campaign in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Republicans are calling it a "political stunt". Hmm... let's see... when was the last time the Senate went into closed session? Ah yes, there it is... SIX TIMES for the impeachment of President Clinton.
posted by CB @ 3:53 PM   0 comments
Increase the gas tax
Wholeheartedly agree with this editorial in the NYTimes last week recommending raising the gas tax.

Double benefit: increase revenue to the government (closer to a balanced budget), and decrease consumption of gas, which has enormous environmental and geopolitical benefits.

Problem: Gas tax is regressive, hitting poor people more.

Solution: Offset that tax increase with corresponding tax credits for low-income households. So poor people would end up paying more for gas but less in all other taxes, whereas the middle class and wealthy would be incentivized to drive less (or hybrids). No big budget solution, but the geopolitical benefits make it worth it.
posted by CB @ 11:26 AM   2 comments


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