Archive for September, 2009

Wilder is being shortsighted about guns

Doug Wilder’s fit of pique helps illustrate why Democrats can’t consolidate power, even when conditions favor them. They don’t understand the concept of unity (something the Republicans understand, even to their detriment).

Even though Democrat Creigh Deeds has campaigned for months for an endorsement from the former Virginia governor  — and even though President Obama personally intervened and asked Wilder to endorse Deeds — Wilder refuses, saying he won’t endorse anyone. Why? He thinks Deeds is too far to the right on guns. Deeds has endorsed repeal of a Virginia law restricting gun purchases to one per month.

“The present law [in Virginia] permits anyone of sufficient age, who is not a felon, to be able to buy one gun a month; twelve a year, twenty four a year for couples, etc. Mr. Deeds thinks that’s not enough and signed a pledge to repeal that law. This action would allow the truck loads of guns to come back in exchange for drugs from those Northeastern states where …

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Final thoughts on ACORN

The best two takes I’ve seen on ACORN are from liberal blogger Kevin Drum, who writes that the lawsuit is dumb, and from conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who interviewed a former ACORN board member who was ousted. Parker writes:

No one was more delighted by the recent ACORN pimp ‘n’ prostitute hidden-camera sting than Marcel Reid, the former ACORN board member who was booted in summer 2008 when she tried to examine the organization’s books.
“If we’d known all it took was a half-naked 20-year-old, we’d have done this a year and a half ago,” Reid said from the rented desk in a church that she calls her office.

The entire column is worth a read.

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The Russians may help on Iran

It’s much too early to suggest genuine progress on dealing with Iran, but there is a glimmer of hope from President Obama’s arm-twisting at the U.N. yesterday. For the first time, Russia has suggested it may be open to imposing tougher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear violations.
The New York Times reports, “I told His Excellency Mr. President that we believe we need to help Iran to take a right decision,” Mr. Medvedev said, adding that “sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.” Previously, Russia has balked at new sanctions against Iran.
Medvedev’s hint of help reinforces the wisdom of Obama’s decision to reverse President Bush’s plan to stage missile defenses in Eastern Europe, a plan which had deeply angered the Russians. (While the Obama administration claims it didn’t make the decision to get Russia’s help on Iran, there’s clearly a connection.) After all, Russia is no longer the enemy. Iran is a much bigger …

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A bipartisan lunacy test

Here’s a little take-home test: Do you belong to either the right-wing or the left-wing fringe? The paranoid right-wing fringe believes (among other crazy things) that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. The equally loony left-wing fringe believes that President Bush knew that terrorists would attack on 9/11 and did nothing to stop them. According to a recent poll, there is a larger contingent of loonies in the GOP than in the Democratic Party.

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The facts about medical malpractice

For decades, a sharp ideological divide has existed around the issue of medical malpractice, with doctors insisting that phony claims drive up the cost of health care, and trial lawyers insisting that patients deserve compensation when they are harmed by bad docs. In today’s New York Times, columnist David Leonhardt offers an excellent exploration of the subject, with ammunition for both sides.

But the facts may not be what you think. Though the idea of runaway juries presenting plaintiffs with excessive awards is embedded in the convention wisdom, such awards are very rare, Leonhardt points out.

After reviewing thousands of patient records, medical researchers have estimated that only 2 to 3 percent of cases of medical negligence lead to a malpractice claim. For every notorious error — the teenager who died in North Carolina after being given the wrong blood type, the 39-year-old Massachusetts mother killed by a chemotherapy overdose, the newborn twins (children of the …

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GOP and the 80 percent solution

For weeks now, leading Republicans have insisted that they support “80 percent” of the substance of the dominant health care reform bills. So why haven’t they tried to negotiate over that 80 percent? Why not take the 80 percent substance, put it into a separate bill and pass it with bipartisan support?
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor bought into the 80-percent argument at a forum hosted by the Richmond Times Dispatch, a Virginia newspaper, earlier this week:

“I do think you can fix some of the 20 percent,” he said after the event, even daring to forecast a health-care deal by the end of the year. “I think, yes, something will emerge,” he said.

But, despite all the talk of 80 percent agreement, Republicans refuse to do anything but balk at health care reform. For all his hard work and compromises to appease his GOP colleagues, Sen. Max Baucus, leader of the so-called Gang of Six, has received no cooperation from Republicans, as The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted this …

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No compassion for sick illegal immigrants

Working with the president, Democrats in Congress are doing everything they can to make sure no illegal immigrant gains any benefit from health insurance reform. Given the politics, you can hardly blame them. Joe Wilson isn’t the only conservative agitated over the prospect that some undocumented worker somewhere in South Carolina or Iowa or California might get cheap health insurance with a taxpayer subsidy.

Still, it seems a poor reflection on one of the richest countries in the world that we are so stingy, so callous and so xenophobic. At least we’ve not reached the point of turning away cases of immediate need — victims of car accidents or heart attacks or others who need emergency care. The law still requires emergency rooms to treat such patients without regard for their immigration status. (That wouldn’t change with health care reform.)

But, as a conundrum in Atlanta demonstrates, we may be on the verge of refusing care to chronically ill immigrants who would die …

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Obama decides war mission, not generals

As President Obama continues G-20 meetings today, he has a full plate on the foreign policy front. He has to talk about global efforts to combat climate change, even as his own energy legislation is running into roadblocks in Congress. He has a “tripartite” meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to jump-start peace talks.
And he’s doing all that with a contentious debate over Afghanistan howling in the background. Among the Beltway chattering classes, the topic du jour is this: Is there a rift growing between the president and the generals? Who leaked McChrystal’s downbeat assessment of Afghanistan to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward? Was the leak an effort to pressure the president to send more troops?

On Monday, the Post reported:

But Obama’s deliberative pace — he has held only one meeting of his top national security advisers to discuss McChrystal’s report so far — is a source of growing consternation within …

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Tom Delay’s dancing debut

is tonight. His Web site, Dancing with Delay, helpfully includes information on how to vote. So be sure to watch! Let’s see if The Hammer is light on his feet.

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Tax, user fee, whatever, it’s costly

After Obama’s testy exchange with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, a lively kerfuffle has broken out over who was right: Is the individual mandate requiring everyone to buy health insurance a tax hike or not?

Stephanopoulos came armed with a definition from Webster’s, while Obama poohed-poohed the introduction of an outside source. (I love it when eggheads tussle, don’t you?)

Today, Politico has posted a story claiming Obama was wrong, noting that the Baucus bill itself refers to an excise tax. But the bill is talking about the penalty for failure to purchase insurance, not the cost of the premiums.

So, the president may be technically accurate. Nevertheless, one of the problems with the Baucus bill is that some middle-class families may still end up paying a rather large share of their incomes for health insurance.

Of course, as Obama pointed out, many Americans are going to pay more for insurance, anyway. In Michigan, according to the Detroit News, Blue Cross/Blue Shield has …

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