Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Upcoming Big Pharma Ads: Will Harry and Louise Change Their Minds?

Actually, my title doesn't have it right. The famous Harry and Louise ads that scuttled the Clinton health reform plan in 1994 were produced by the insurance companies instead of the drugmakers.

But that was still the impression I had when I read about Big Pharma's plans for a $150 million ad campaign on behalf of Obama's health reforms.
The drug industry has authorized its lobbyists to spend as much as $150 million on television commercials supporting President Obama’s health care overhaul, beginning over the August Congressional recess, people briefed on the plans said Saturday.

And it turns out that Harry and Louise did change their minds. The actors for the original ads have appeared in several pro-reform ads over the last few years.

Good for them.

The Best Republican Argument Against Health Reform

I'm not sure why the Republicans are comparing health reform to Hitler, Stalin, and Joseph Mengele, or why they're talking about euthanasia and "death panels."

What the should be talking about is themselves.

By far the strongest argument against Obama's health reform plan is that the Republicans might win another presidential election someday. If somebody like Mitt Romney or Bobby Jindal wins the presidency, that means there will be more determined lawbreakers like Dick Cheney and David Arrington and more incompetents like Mike Brown of Katrina fame or Doug Feith ("the dumbest fucking guy on the planet" according to Gen. Tommy Franks). There will be more Grade B GOP activists choking off research that offends the religious right.

And that's nearly not as bad as Sarah Palin becoming president. Then, we'd be getting her classmates from Wasilla or James Dobson coming out of retirement to run the health care apparatus.

If the Republicans want to scare people about health care, the best thing they could do would be to put Sarah Palin's face on a poster with "Do you want this woman in charge of your health care?"

That would certainly make me think twice.

Finally, a Republican president means that the people running Government health insurance will be people opposed to government health insurance. It will mean that the government will start looking for a variety of ways to raise prices and deny coverage in order to drive people back to private health insurance.

In other words, a Republican president means that the Government will become just like the private health insurance companies--

Only Much Worse.

And that's the best argument the Republicans could make against health reform.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Starbucks: The Anti-Fast Food?

According to MSN Business, Starbucks likes to think of itself as the anti-fast food.
Starbucks (SBUX, news, msgs) built its business as the anti-fast-food joint. Now, the recession and growing competition are forcing the coffeehouse giant to see the virtues of behaving more like its streamlined competitors.

I've always thought differently and remember my nephew on the West Coast telling me that all the fast food places had been moved out of downtown Seattle.

But I've never been sure what makes Starbucks different from McDonalds or Taco Bell other than they're selling more upscale kinds of products.

Obama's 200 Day Triumph

The Obama administration has been in office for 200 days and Obama is carrying through on his campaign promises concerning energy legislation and health care. RNC chair Michael Steele is surprised and disturbed that Obama is not governing like a Republican president.
Obama's first 200 days in office should be seen for exactly what they are: a clear indication of where he intends to direct America during his presidency. It is a direction that rams massive spending bills through Congress in the name of economic stimulus and job creation, it is a direction that masks a costly job-killing national energy tax in environmentalism, and it is a direction that looks to put federal bureaucracy between patients and their doctors all in the guise of reducing costs and expanding coverage. America simply can't afford the president's experiments.

Of course, if Obama wanted to act like a real Republican leader, all he would have to do is resign on a whim, seduce his best friend's wife, or spend quality time with a mistress in South America.

Otherwise, he'll just have to struggle through.

A Query

Does anybody have an idea of the best way to get a lawyer to call back. If so, let me know.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Grievance Work Day Today

I spent most of today working on my grievance concerning the "letter of warning" sent to me by Dean Rudy in relation to my July 7 post on my office.

It was too much fun.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tea Bagging the Townhalls--The Near Fringe Emerges as a Force

Conservative activists have been disrupting townhall meetings held by Democratic politicians like Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Carl Levin of Michigan, and others.
At the Austin event Aug. 1 with Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett (pictured
here, see video), the usual suspects showed up shouting "Just Say No" and waving signs that included the usual symbols of communism and fascism worked into statements against "socialized" health care, in addition to an image of Doggett as Satan. The protestors' continued shouting throughout the event was clearly an effort to disrupt it and to prevent any other voices being heard. The same was the case at an Aug. 2 event in Philadelphia with Republican-turned-Democratic Senator Arlen Specter and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (see video). Here, wingnuts with bumber stickers on their heads shouted down speakers to the clear annoyance of others around them trying to listen. One woman held up a copy of the New American Bible and said, "This is the only truth," as though that were somehow an argument against health care reform.

My own initial opinion is that the disruptions will rebound somewhat against conservatives and work to the advantage of President Obama in his efforts to pass health care reform.

However, the full significance of the disruptions goes beyond health care. What's happened is that the "near fringe" of teabaggers, Ayn Randers, libertarians, neo-secessionists, and racists has figured out a way to be a real force in national politics.

Ultimately, that makes the disruptions more important than the townhalls.

Monday, August 03, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Right-Wing

Somebody in LA is putting up posters of Barack Obama in both "white-face" and "black-face with the same kind of red lipstick look as Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Of course, the picture portrays Obama in terms of blackface minstrelsy. Minstrelsy was an entertainment form in which white performers corked up in blackface to imitate stereotypes of African-Americans as lazy, buffoonish, and deeply appreciative of slavery. In representing Obama this way, the anonymous sources of this poster are saying that Obama and, by extension, all African-Americans, are slaves by nature and that Obama's occupation of the White House is something that goes against a beneficial natural order.
But that's not all.
The picture also reveals the racist intent of the right-wing's constant accusations of Obama being a "socialist." That's because the picture uses the word "socialism" both above and below the red square framing Obama's minstrelsy face. By associating the word "socialism" with this heavily racialized image of Obama, the people behind the poster are revealing that the "socialist" label was always a substitute for the "n-word."
Given that I hadn't really thought of that, I owe these people a favor.

Beyond Repulsive

John Waters has a HuffPost article on the background for his friendship with Leslie Van Houten, one of the women who carried out the Tate/LaBianco murders for Charles Manson.

I liked Cry Baby a lot, but "beyond repulsive" is the best phrase I can imagine for the sense of commonality Waters sees with the Manson gang.

But I imagine I'll read the next installment as well.

Torture Victim Cedric Benson Lands on His Feet

Today's Lexington Herald-Leader has a good article by sportswriter John Clay about Cedric Benson of the Cincinnati Bengals. Originally a high draft pick out of Texas, Benson was still with the Chicago Bears when he was arrested ostensibly for public drunkenness on a Texas lake. Here's the football part of the story. Benson was cut by the Bears out of a job at the beginning of training camp and out of the league most of last year before signing with the Bengals and finishing strong.

So Benson sat. Training camps opened last season and Benson sat. Finally, a Texas grand jury failed to hand up an indictment for the boat incident, clearing Benson's return to the NFL, and Bengals owner and president Mike Brown did what Mike Brown does — he decided to give Benson another chance.

Only this one showed signs of working. Benson signed a one-year, $520,000 contract with the Bengals on Sept. 30. Featured back Chris Perry had been a huge disappointment.

An opening existed. Benson took advantage.

He topped the 100-yard mark in three of 12 games. As the year progressed, Benson resurrected his career and the Cincinnati running game. By week 16, against Cleveland, he rushed for 171 yards in a 14-0 Cincinnati victory.

But Benson's redemption is more profound than Clay let's on. It turns out that the original offence for which Benson was ultimately not indicted was "boating while black." More accurately, it was "being a millionaire black football player with a big boat the cops didn't like." Benson was hosting about 15 of his friends on an large recreational boat he owned when the police came on board to investigate public drunkenness. Evidently, it was the sixth time that police had boarded Benson's boat that summer. Here's Benson's account of the ensuing events as reported by "AFP:"

There was no resistance on my part," Benson said. "Was I drunk? No. . . They gave me a field sobriety test, told me to say my ABCs and told me to count from 1 to 4 up and down. I'm thinking I passed all the tests, did everything right . . . Then the officer told me we needed to go to land to take more tests. I politely asked him why we needed to go to land to take more tests when I took every test. Then he sprayed me with mace . . . I'm not handcuffed. I'm not under arrest. I'm not threatening him. I'm not pushing him. I'm not touching him. And he sprays me right in my eye . . . Nobody saw what he did to me. I started screaming for my mother to come. That's when they put me under arrest. And the officer threw a life jacket over my head.

Once we got to land, the Travis County police grabbed me and kicked my feet from under me. So I landed on my back while I was handcuffed. They held me down and held the water hose over my face. I couldn't breathe. I'm choking. I'm begging the cops, 'Please stop. Please stop.' Then they picked me up and dragged me backward toward their car. And I'm still being polite, asking them, 'Sir could you please allow me to walk like a man to your cop car?' They just kept dragging me on."

In other words, Cedric Benson got the exact treatment that Justin Barrett thought Henry Louis Gates should have gotten. Under the mistaken assumption that he had rights as a citizen, Benson asked a police officer a question and the police officer responded by spraying him with mace. Actually, the Gates analogy is not quite accurate. Barrett thought Gates should have been hit with "pepper spray" rather than mace. Still, given that Benson was not posing any kind of threat, spraying him with mace was still a form of torture.

Once the police got Benson back on land, other police officers added what Dick Vitale would call "a little French pastry" and got into some proper waterboarding torture by holding a hose to a face.

Poor deluded Cedric Benson.

He still wanted to be treated "like a man" even though the whole exercise looks like it was intended to strip him of any sense of manhood and citizenship he might have had.

The whole affair looked like an exercise in police criminality to me when I blogged about it last summer. It still looks like police criminality now.

After the arrest and attendant publicity, the Bears added further injury to Benson by cutting him, thus putting Benson's professional football career in jeopardy as well.

But then, a Texas grand jury failed to indict him and Benson got his chance to refer to the NFL with the Bengals.

Given the reputation of grand juries for being willing to indict a ham sandwich on a prosecutor's recommendation, the Texas grand jury must have thought that Benson's arrest was egregiously lacked justification to not indict.

But at this point, the story changes from the abuse and degradation of Cedric Benson by the police to Benson's redemption as a football player. It took a great deal of character and maturity for Benson to return from that kind of torture trauma at all. However, by all accounts, Benson was actually a better football player for the Bengals than he had originally been for the Chicago Bears.

He deserves a great deal of credit.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Northern Idaho: The Anti-Diversity Paradise?

There's an interesting article on the efforts of people in the Northern Idaho panhandle to get beyond the stigma of the area's association with Richard Butler and his Aryan Nation compound.
The good news is that Butler is dead (from natural causes in 2004), the Aryan Nation is gone, and the area around Coeur d'Alene is growing as a result of a healthy tourist trade.
But Coeur d'Alene still seems to be a bigot's paradise:

Right-wing political attitudes are common. It's not unusual to see people sporting Confederate flags, anti-government slogans or even a swastika tattoo.

Many of the newcomers hail from California, including a large cadre of retired law enforcement officers, of whom O.J. Simpson trial figure Mark Fuhrman is the best known.

"LA cops move up here to get away from diversity," said Rachel Dolezal, director of education for the Human Rights Education Institute in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Given that the racial attitudes of police officers are somewhat in the news as a result of the Henry Louis Gates case, the comment on LA cops is interesting. Several years ago, one of my students who had lived in LA told me that cops tried to recruit him for the police force as soon as they heard he was from Kentucky. That was because the LA cops figured that guys from Kentucky would have the "right" hostility toward minorities.

Can't be too righteous about the Confederate flags though. There's a lot of them around here.

The One and Only Ric Caric?

According to, I'm the only Ric Caric in the United States. That's hard to believe. I have a sister with the very unusual name of Ryl and she was still able to find one other Ryl.

GE More the Culprit on Olbermann/O'Reilly

Matt Yglesias is on point in viewing General Electric as the main party benefitting from the Olbermann/O'Reilly gag order.

John McCain Knows Blue Dogs

Obviously, John McCain's been reading this blog lately lately because he has about the same low opinion of the Blue Dog Democrats as Red State Impressions. Here's a CNN account of McCain's appearance on CNN's State of the Union.

The “Blue Dogs,” a group of moderate to conservative House Democrats who have worked to limit the price tag of health care reform legislation, are taking a hit from a prominent Republican who is suggesting that the group will ultimately prove ineffectual.

“The Blue Dogs, they always bark and they never bite,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said on an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “They almost always – in fact, always, roll over and then play dead.”

And he would know all about moderate impotence because McCain himself was the consummate, barking, moderate media hound before he decided to start pandering to the right-wing base during the 2008 GOP primaries.

Of course, there's still a decent chance that health reform could go down in flames.

But I'm starting to be more optimistic.

Black Anger Should Be Everybody's Anger

In a NY Times column entitled "Anger Has Its Place," Bob Herbert connects the Henry Louis Gates case to the larger police treatment of African-Americans and Hispanics. The Gates case is only a particularly prominent example of the arbitrary police stops, arrests and disproportionate imprisonment that African-Americans face in cities like New York, Boston, and Cambridge, Mass.

Not former bastions of segregation like Montgomery, Alabama, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Breau Bridge, Louisiana--New York and Boston.
New York City cops make upwards of a half-million stops of private citizens each year, questioning and frequently frisking these men, women and children. The overwhelming majority of those stopped are black or Latino, and the overwhelming majority are innocent of any wrongdoing. A true “teachable moment” would focus a spotlight on such outrages and the urgent need to stop them.

I wrote a number of columns about the arrests of more than 30 black and Hispanic youngsters — male and female — who were doing nothing more than walking peacefully down a quiet street in Brooklyn in broad daylight in the spring of 2007. The kids had to hire lawyers and fight the case for nearly two frustrating years before the charges were dropped and a settlement for their outlandish arrests worked out.
Herbert emphasizes that the only check on the outrages involved in the police treatment of minorities is the anger of minority groups.
Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them. We’re never going to have a serious national conversation about race. So that leaves it up to ordinary black Americans to rant and to rave, to demonstrate and to lobby, to march and confront and to sue and generally do whatever is necessary to stop a continuing and deeply racist criminal justice outrage.
That's unfortunately true, but black anger should really be everybody's anger.