Archive for March, 2010

In terms of policy, politics, health reform an impressive feat

As of yesterday, the term “pre-existing condition” has been stripped of its capacity to frighten. The same is true of the word “rescission,” the insurance industry practice of canceling coverage for customers who had the audacity to become ill and need assistance. Both have been rendered all but meaningless.

In the wake of yesterday’s vote, emergency rooms should begin to evolve back toward providers of emergency care and away from serving as outrageously expensive primary care clinics for the millions of uninsured. The uninsured themselves should shrink to a fraction of current levels. And Americans who have clung to jobs with health-care benefits attached will now be more likely to strike out on their own, knowing that they will be able to get insurance at an affordable rate.

And believe it or not, all this and more will happen without an onslaught of government tyranny, without the wholesale abandonment of medicine by physicians, without the ruination of the United States …

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Congress in session; historic vote should come by evening

The House has come into session, setting the stage later today for a historic finish to an equally historic legislative battle. Congressional Democrats appear confident that they have — or will have — the votes to win the day.

In the next few hours, and in the aftermath of passage, we’ll hear a lot of rhetoric and exaggeration about the bill’s benefits and risks. While it will not solve all of our health care problems, it also won’t “ruin our country,” as House Minority Leader John Boehner puts it. Nor does it represent “the chains of slavery and tyranny,” as U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Texas alleged on the House floor a few minutes ago.

It’s a health care bill, for goodness sake.

It’s important that we try to keep things in perspective. President Obama and the Democratic majority were elected on the promise of enacting health-care reform, and they are carrying out their promise using the tools that the system has long provided them. There is nothing tyrannical about elected …

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GOP congressmen: ‘Everyone would agree Iraq was a mistake’

Seven years ago today, the United States and its allies launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom” “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people,” as President Bush described it.

We now know that there were no WMDs, and that Hussein’s “support for terrorism” was largely a figment of imagination concocted by the Bush administration to justify an invasion that the American people might otherwise not have supported. So the war achieved only the third of Bush’s goals, handing the Iraqi people a freedom that it is now up to them to sustain.

Last week, at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, three Republican congressmen were interviewed by Grover Norquist. Maybe it was the friendly, nonconfrontational setting, but for whatever reason the congressmen were remarkably frank about the events of seven years ago and how they and their colleagues now view the war.

According to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R-Ca.) …

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More cowbell? I got your cowbell right here, buddy!

We’ve been through a cold, soggy winter, at least by Atlanta standards, but better days are ahead. In fact, while tomorrow marks the vernal equinox, the official beginning of spring, I have conferred with the Blog God and received permission to declare today, Friday the 19th of March, as the official First Day of Spring.

I mean, did you go outside at all today? Glorious!

In fact, the weather put me in a mood to gggrrrrooooooooovvvvvveeee…. So here’s Hugh Maskela, with the original instrumental version of “Grazin’ in the Grass,” a title that captures the song’s atmosphere beautifully.

More cowbell!!!

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Once battlefield switches to bank reform, GOP in trouble

Congressional Republicans had two goals in mind when they decided to string out the health-care fight as long as possible: They wanted the public to become sick and tired of the process, and they hoped the Democrats would eventually give up and walk away. While they’ve been successful to a degree, ultimate victory will depend on what happens over the next few days.

However, the strategy also produced a third important benefit for the GOP: It has diverted public attention from topics in which the GOP faces a significant political disadvantage.

One way or the other, that’s about to change.

Take, for example, the issue of Wall Street and the banks, which represent Ground Zero in the collapse of the American economy.

For the past few months, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have been crafting legislation to tighten banking oversight. Among other proposals, they want to put the financial burden on the banking industry, not on taxpayers, for bailing out …

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Tax system could become less fair to average Georgian

Three years ago, then-House Speaker Glenn Richardson announced a plan to dramatically restructure state and local tax systems by shifting much of the burden from property and income taxes onto sales taxes.

Dubbed “The GREAT Plan” by the never-modest Richardson, the proposal showed no sign of forethought, study or careful consideration. It was a hastily thrown-together effort intended mainly to raise Richardson’s conservative profile, and eventually it fell into the oblivion it deserved.

It was a path that Richardson himself later followed as well.

Since then, however, the need for a rethinking of the state’s tax system has become even more glaring. For example, hundreds of special tax breaks and deals have been written into the code over the years, unfairly exempting some from a tax burden that ought to be shared more broadly.

So this week, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston announced a different and clearly more serious approach to the challenge.

Legislation …

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CBO numbers a boost for health-reform passage

News coming out of the Congressional Budget Office should add momentum to the Democrats’ effort to pass health-reform legislation, at least in the House. Democratic leadership has been tweaking the bill’s language to get the financial numbers right, and it appears to have succeeded.

From The Hill:

Health reform legislation headed for a House vote will cost $940 billion over the next decade, according to the CBO.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) told lawmakers that the health bill would cut the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, and $1.2 trillion in the second decade of the plan’s implementation.

The bill is more expensive than the healthcare measures passed by both the House and the Senate last year, though the CBO said that the current bill would make larger reductions in the deficit….

The release of the CBO score sets into motion a 72-hour endgame on healthcare that could mean a vote in the House on the package as early as Sunday morning.

The …

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‘It’s pretty clear … we really do have them on the run’

From Reuters:

Pakistan, March 16 — A U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles into Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on Tuesday, killing 10 militants, the latest such strike on a major al Qaeda sanctuary, officials and residents said.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — A strike by an unmanned drone last week killed a senior commander of Al Qaeda who had played a significant role in planning the killing of Central Intelligence Agency operatives in late December at a base in Afghanistan, according to American officials…

According to a United States counterterrorism official, the Qaeda operative killed last week was Hussein al-Yemeni. The drone missile struck in Miram Shah in North Waziristan, a part of Pakistan where Al Qaeda is considered well dug in.

From The Washington Post:

Aggressive attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region have driven Osama bin Laden and his top deputies deeper into hiding and disrupted their ability to plan sophisticated operations, CIA …

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Health care debate brings out the best in America … or not

Demonstrators on both sides of the health care debate gathered Tuesday outside the district office of U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat from Ohio. The video below was shot by the Columbus Dispatch. Kilroy initially voted in favor of the bill, but has not yet taken a position regarding the Senate version.

Pay particular attention to the part beginning at .53 minutes. The sign held by the older man on the ground reads “Got Parkinson’s? I do and you might. Thanks for your help.”

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Poll: By 2-1, U.S. voters oppose West Bank settlements

Rasmussen has been in the field the last few days, polling 1,000 U.S. voters about their attitudes toward Israel, its settlements in the West Bank and its relationship with the United States.

According to the poll, 49 percent of Americans believe that “Israel (should) be required to stop building new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory,” while only 22 percent believe it should not. That represents a strong endorsement of the position taken by the Obama administration.

An even-more overwhelming percentage of Americans — 75 percent — believe that “Palestinian leaders (should) be required to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” as part of a peace agreement.

But here are the most troubling numbers from Israel’s perspective:

In the poll taken March 15-16, 58 percent of Americans said they consider Israel an ally of the United States, while 32 percent consider it somewhere between an ally and enemy.

In a poll taken by Rasmussen in August, 70 percent said …

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