Overwhelming support for health-care reform at Rep. Pete Stark’s town hall meeting

My wife and I tried attending Rep. Pete Stark’s town hall meeting on health care, but the room had filled to capacity long before we arrived. The crowd was *overwhelmingly* in favor of health care reform and our representative’s support for it. Of the well several hundred people that couldn’t get in, I saw exactly two signs opposing reform (far fewer than were pushing for more reform, e.g. promoting a single-payer plan). The mood was friendly and non-confrontational, and I had lots of good conversations and discussions with my fellow citizens out on the lawn in spite of not getting into the meeting itself.

Here are some of my photos from the event, and the rally was also diary’d over at the Daily Kos.

My email to Sen. Feinstein on healthcare public option

My email to Senator Feinstein, asking her to support a public option for healthcare. (Links added for this post.)

Senator Feinstein,

I was dismayed to hear your name being lumped together with Republicans and a handful of Democrats who are trying to scuttle any health care bill that includes a viable public option. As you are no doubt aware, the recent high price tags cited by the CBO do not take into account any price savings that a public option would generate by negotiating lower drug prices, doctor fees, and hospital costs, and forcing private insurers to be more competitive. As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich recently put it, “projecting the future costs of universal health care without including the public option is like predicting the number of people who will get sunburns this summer if nobody is allowed to buy sun lotion.” I also believe, as do many experts, that a strong public option, unhampered by restrictions inserted at the behest of the insurance industry, is the surest way to bring down the spiraling costs that are eating up the budget of every family, every business and every state in The Union.

I understand how comments can be misinterpreted, and how often nuanced positions can be blown into a for-or-against bullet point, and so I hope you can set the record straight on your position by answering a simple question: Do you support immediate implementation of a public health-care option, undiluted by being broken into co-operatives and unfettered by restrictions as to its ability to negotiate for lower prices from drug companies and health-care providers? If not, what are your reasons for withholding your support?

Thank you, and I look forward to your response.

Dr. Bradley Rhodes
Alameda, CA 94501

Update: TPM just received a clarification from Feinstein’s office on her position.

Gitmo shutdown

What with all the apoplexy about keeping Gitmo detainees in prison on US soil, I have to wonder… which sounds like a more secure place to house suspected terrorists?

  1. A US supermax prison
  2. A prison in, say, France or Jordan, outside of our jurisdiction or control
  3. Ninety miles off the Florida coast, in a country with whom we have no formal diplomatic relations, which as recently as 1980 emptied their jails of thousands of criminals and encouraged them to smuggle themselves into the US

About that cliff…

President Obama’s comments yesterday:

We can’t embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face; that ignores critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, or the soaring cost of health care, or falling schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees. I don’t care whether you’re driving a hybrid or an SUV — if you’re headed for a cliff, you’ve got to change direction.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what that cliff looks like. (From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, via swampland.)


Meanwhile, Republicans are doing their damnedest to scuttle the bill entirely, or at least to convince everyone that what this economy needs is even more tax cuts! Because, you know, they’ve worked so well so far.

I’ve heard speculation that the only thing the remaining Republicans fear more than a complete economic meltdown is the possibility of Obama getting credit for saving us from one, and they’re willing to screw the entire country to avoid that fate. Me, I’m guessing Republican leaders have secretly cornered the market on generators, kerosene and ammunition, and plan to make a killing once everything collapses.

Update 2/10/2008: Justin Fox and William Polley have put up some more complete versions of the graph.

Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear

In the past week, we have heard Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) call for an investigation of whether members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.” As a first-term representative she can perhaps be dismissed as fringe, but we’re hearing similar language from Sarah Palin on the campaign trail, and some are beginning to see this as a pattern on the part of the McCain campaign.

Fifty-eight years ago, Senator Margaret Chase Smith — the first woman to be elected to the US Senate — had the courage to speak out against fellow Republican Joe McCarthy and his unconscionable debasement of the US Senate “to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.”

“The nation sorely needs a Republican victory,” she said in her Declaration of Conscious, “but I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.” As a first-term Senator, speaking out against not only a member of her own party but one of the Senate’s most powerful and vindictive members was hardly a career-advancing move, costing her a key subcommittee appointment and almost costing her her reelection.

It would be another four years before the Senate would finally censure Senator McCarthy and bring his witch hunt to an end, four years in which countless careers were destroyed, our leaders were distracted from addressing more pressing issues, and paranoia and division gripped our nation. It would be many more years before the damage done during that period would be repaired. History now remembers Senator Smith as being the first to speak out against this nightmare, before it became safe or popular to do so.

In the coming months and years we will be asking our elected representatives to lead us out of a global financial crisis, climate change, two wars and a severely tarnished reputation abroad. To address these problems we will need to draw on the strengths and ideas from all the diverse backgrounds, faiths and ideologies our great nation has to offer. We can not afford to waste time with hatred and division in our government or in the population at large.

Torturous questions

Republican candidates at last Tuesday’s debate were asked about a now tired hypothetical:

The questions in this round will be premised on a fictional, but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it. Here is the premise: Three shopping centers near major U.S. cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured off the Florida coast and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they are being questioned. U.S. intelligence believes that another larger attack is planned and could come at any time.

First question to you, Senator McCain. How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantanamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?

As an editorial in the Washington Post points out, only John McCain got the answer right: when you torture your prisoners you actually make things worse, both in terms of world opinion and in wasting time on the unreliable information it produces. The trouble is, Hume’s hypothetical is actually two questions: a surface question about torture and an emotional question about what the candidate would be willing to sacrifice in the name of security. Personally I’d like to see the second question made more explicit. For example, how about asking one of these:

  • “Would you be willing to saw off your left leg with no anesthetic to stop a terrorist attack?”
  • “If you could go back in time and murder the 5-year-old Osama bin Laden with your bare hands, would you do it?”
  • “Would you be willing to repeal the First Amendment if it would stop another 9/11-sized attack? What about the Second Amendment? Would you raise taxes? Would you give up your immortal soul? How about your chances for re-election?”

Or maybe we should make the whole question less hypothetical. How about this?

“Gentlemen, on your left is Jerry (dressed in an Osama bin Laden mask), who is holding device that in one minute will send a million volts through the chairs of 10 random people sitting in our audience. To your right you see a switch that will disable the device, but will also drop poor Mrs. Grinwald here into this vat of hungry sharks. The decision is yours, but please be prepared to explain your actions.

Our TV audience will then vote for their favorite response via SMS, and the top 5 candidates will go on to the next round of questions.”

We can’t lose

President Bush on Border Security, 11/28/05:

And one of the best examples of success is the Arizona Border Control Initiative, which the government launched in 2004. In the first year of this initiative — now, listen to this, listen how hard these people are working here — agents in Arizona apprehended nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants, a 42-percent increase over the previous year.

President Bush on Border Security, 4/9/07:

In the months before Operation Jump Start, an average of more than 400 people a day were apprehended trying to cross here. The number has dropped to fewer than 140 a day. In other words, one way that the Border Patrol can tell whether or not we’re making progress is the number of apprehensions. When you’re apprehending fewer people, it means fewer are trying to come across…. We’re seeing similar results all across the southern border. The number of people apprehended for illegally crossing our southern border is down by nearly 30 percent this year. We’re making progress. And thanks for your hard work. It’s hard work, but necessary work.

(Via Media Matters)

Double or nothing?

Ouch. A reader of the Talking Points Memo blog comments about the Pentagon’s “Double Down” strategy of one last big push in Iraq:

Since the Pentagon has decided to discuss its new strategy in gambling parlance, it should at least use the proper terminology. Today’s LA Times article says that a Pentagon official has referred to the option of sending more troops in to Iraq as a “double down” strategy. The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let’s call it what it is: double or nothing. This is is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives, and such a strategy inevitably leads to another appropriate gambling term. Gambler’s ruin: winding up completely broke.

It’s scary how many of our political errors can be described in terms of psychological disorders…