Archive for August, 2012

SEALs’ good name hijacked for political hackwork

Our fellow Americans at Fox News and at conservative political blogs around the country continue to be enthralled by a political group that calls itself OPSEC — short for operational security — and that is fronted by ex-Navy SEALs, among others.

OPSEC’s main message is two-fold: President Obama has taken much too much political credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, and has endangered troops and intelligence-gathering by talking too freely about how it was done. In expressing those concerns, the group claims to be absolutely nonpartisan.

“This issue is more than just politics,” as OPSEC founder and ex-SEAL Scott Taylor says. “Folks from this group, including me, have buried enough of our buddies.”

“Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden. America did,” another ex-SEAL, Ben Smith says in a highly sophisticated 22-minute video released by OPSEC. “We have become a political weapon. We are not.”

But you are wrong, Mr. Smith. That is precisely what you have become — a …

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The American mainstream bypassing the GOP

The Republican Party has invested years of effort in trying to depict Barack Hussein Obama as unAmerican and far outside the mainstream. And while the notion lies at the very dark heart of the birther movement peddled by clowns such Donald Trump and Orly Taitz, it has been pushed hard by top party leaders as well.

When Newt Gingrich accuses Obama of “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” when John Sununu wishes Obama “would learn to be American,” and when Mitt Romney himself complains that Obama’s “course is extraordinarily foreign,” they’re all attempting to define Obama out of the American mainstream. The arguments stands at the core of their anti-Obama strategy.

The videotape of the Texas judge warning that if re-elected, Obama would lead a military takeover by the United Nations makes it clear that the notion has taken hold among those who are themselves on the fringes of sanity, but we already knew that. The question is, how deeply has that meme penetrated among ordinary …

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OK, here’s a tax-hike defense you don’t see everyday

In the universe of possible justifications for tax hikes, here’s one that few people would ever have imagined. It comes to us from Tom Head, a longtime county judge in Lubbock, Texas, who is explaining why a proposed tax increase is necessary to hire additional county sheriff deputies:

Judge Head said he and the county must be prepared for many contingencies, one that he particularly fears, is if President Obama is re-elected.

“He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the UN, and what is going to happen when that happens?,” Head asked.

“I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.

“Now what’s going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He’s going to send in U.N. troops. I don’t want ‘em in Lubbock County. OK. So I’m going to stand in front of their armored …

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Romney’s Medicare ‘reform’ plan … such as it is

In his recent whiteboard presentation on Medicare, Mitt Romney made two basic claims that ought to be explored more fully. As you can see above, they are:

1.) President Obama proposes to cut $716 billion from Medicare for current seniors, while Romney proposes to cut nothing.

2.) President Obama’s approach would leave the Medicare trust fund bankrupt in 12 years, while the Romney approach would make the trust fund solvent and preserve the program for upcoming generations.

Let’s take a look at those assertions, in order:

1.) The $716 billion in reduced Medicare spending that Romney would “restore” would not go to Medicare beneficiaries, as he implies. The money also would not be used to extend the fiscal soundness of the Medicare trust fund. Much of it would go instead to higher Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers. In other words, Romney’s move would be good for stock prices, dividends and CEO salaries of drug companies, …

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The quiet implications of Paul Ryan’s Medicaid plan

Three hard realities about the health-care debate in which we are now engaged:

Reality One: The cost of caring for millions of elderly Americans in nursing homes — an estimated 60 percent of those housed in such facilities — are covered through Medicaid.

Reality Two: The budget proposed by Paul Ryan and passed in the House in 2011 would slash Medicaid funding by $800 billion over the next 10 years. Medicaid spending would be cut by 35 percent over currently projected levels by 2022, and by 49 percent by 2030.

Reality Three: Although a lot of us may not want to think about it, by 2022 and certainly by 2030, many of today’s baby boomers will be prime candidates for nursing home care.

So … what’s going to happen when those three realities collide?

If you slash Medicaid by almost 50 percent, as Ryan proposes, who is going to pay the bill for the increasing number of people who will need nursing home care? After all, most senior citizens — and most families of senior citizens — …

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Clayton voters make stupendously bad choice

It is hard to express just how stupid a decision this is.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has reclaimed the office he lost four years ago despite 37 pending felony charges that accuse him of using his government office and his 2008 campaign to enrich himself.

With only one precinct uncounted, Hill was ahead. But the charges he’s facing make it uncertain whether he will take office in January because the governor could suspend him until he goes to trial.

But incumbent Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, the man defeated by Hill, gives it a good college try:

“Don’t be sorry for me. Be sorry for Clayton County. I’ll be fine but there are a whole lot of people’s lives that will be affected by this and maybe they have to see this for themselves. It’s something I’ve heard a million times; only in Clayton County. It is what it is.”

On one hand, I think Gov. Nathan Deal ought to use his power to bar Hill from taking office until the 37 counts against him are resolved. The man has …

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In GOP, abortion politics moves ever further right

Note: This post contains some material published earlier on this blog. It is posted here as the electronic version of today’s AJC column.

On their July primary ballot, Georgia Republican voters were confronted with a question chock full of political implications. It read:

“Do you support an amendment to the Georgia state constitution so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the earliest biological beginning until natural death?”

At first glance, it poses two questions: Do you believe that human life begins at the moment of conception — “the earliest biological beginnings” — and do you believe that definition ought to be enshrined in the state constitution? The question was advisory only, but Georgia Right to Life and other pro-life advocates want to put the same question in binding form to voters in the 2014 general election.

Results of the primary gave GRTL just the political leverage it was seeking, with Republican voters backing …

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One drug — Makena — offers window into madness of health-care politics

If you want to understand why restraining the growth of medical costs is so difficult — and why the politics of it are so sticky — the story of a relatively new brand-name drug called Makena is a great place to start.

Marketed by K-V Pharmaceuticals, Makena helps to prevent premature births in at-risk pregnancies, allowing the fetus time to grow and develop and avoid many of the health complications from being born too early. But at somewhere between $300 and $690 a shot, and with 20 shots needed over the course of a full pregnancy, Makena is far from cheap. (K-V Pharmaceuticals originally tried to charge $1,500 a shot for the drug, but backed down after public outrage.)

There’s no legitimate reason that Makena should be so costly. In fact, the drug is virtually identical to a well-known compound of drugs that has long been available through many pharmacies at just $20 a shot. That compound, 17P, has been used safely and effectively for years to ward off premature birth, just …

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Robotics revolution slashing need for human labor

In a story with potentially profound implications,
The New York Times
writes about two Philips Electronics factories, one on the coast of China that employs hundreds of low-wage workers, and another in the Netherlands that employs several dozen. They both produce the same product, but thanks to increasing high-tech robotics, the Netherlands plant does so more efficiently. As the story notes, the robots “do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.”

“This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers….

Many industry executives and technology experts say Philips’s approach is gaining ground on Apple’s. …

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Todd Akin, rape, and the politics of abortion

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
– U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, GOP nominee for U.S. Senate

Right now, Todd Akin is not particularly popular among his fellow Republicans, many of whom are rushing to condemn him and even urging him to abandon his race for the U.S. Senate. That harsh criticism is motivated in part because of honest disagreement with what he said, and in part because he has opened up an area of discussion that the Republican Party wants to avoid at all costs.

Let’s deal first with Akins’ false claim that the female body has some self-protection mechanism that allows it to fend off fertilization in cases of “legitimate rape” (see note below)*. …

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