When you want the bottom line on health care reform, to whom do you turn? If you're anything like me, you make a beeline for the website of Concerned Women for America to hear world renowned public policy expert Janice Shaw Crouse discuss…what's that? Her claim to fame is a book called The Strength of a Godly Woman and having taught a summer school course at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas? I know that is supposed to make me less apt to consider her an expert on health care, but I'm an open minded person who prefers to read her ideas and let the argument speak for itself – especially when the speaker has been feted numerous times by organizations such as the Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Center for Decency. You know, someone who really knows the ins and outs of health care, Congress, and public policy in general. As usual, Intellectual Chernobyl is on the ball, bringing us "What You Get With Free Health Care." I'll tell you what you get with Janice Shaw Crouse columns – you get enough awesome to kill an adult brontosaurus. Be careful…

Most of the arguments supporting the health care reform bill just passed by the Democrats in Congress were myths. These myths were exposed as early as 2008 in a book by Sally C. Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.

Sally Pipes? THE Sally Pipes? Of THE Pacific Research Institute? Well holy shit. Let me offer a partial list of people and organizations who are more credible on health care related issues:

American Medical Association
Kaiser Family Foundation
The Brookings Institute
Catholic Charities
American Hospital Association
American Miniature Mule and Donkey Association
Cloud Appreciation Society
The starting lineup of the 1994 Hartford Whalers
The Marshall Tucker Band
That Japanese guy who eats all the hot dogs
Jim Varney
Former KC Royals slugger Steve "Bye Bye" Balboni
Shining Path
Todd Bridges
Carlos the Jackal
AeroForceOne – the Official Aerosmith Fan Club
John Hinckley
The average wino or local Council of Winos

Her funny little book skewers everything we’ve heard via the ObamaCare demagoguery. Others, since then, have been equally devastating to the arguments used to ram through ObamaCare.

"I'd cite some examples or perhaps offer links, but I am intellectually dishonest and not sure how to hyperlink something."

In fact, the so-called miracles sold by today’s health care hucksters are about as real as those sold by the shysters of old.

And who doesn't remember the shysters of old? I sure do. There was Hymie, Knuckles, Snacks O'Brady, Toothpick, Frankie the Wop, Legs, Reacharound… Man, those were shysters. That was back when shystering meant something. Today with free agency and the YouTubes, kids just get into shystering for the money and exposure. Pickles McGillicuddy is rolling over in his pressed-board coffin. He was a gamer. He knew what it meant to shyster.

However, most Americans see through the political spin, and they are not buying the snake oil. Vision is much clearer outside the Beltway.

Outside the Beltway? Why, that's where Real Americans live!

Further, as John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things.” This week, four different polls (Quinnnipiac, Bloomberg, CNN and CBS) show the same result: less than 40 percent of Americans approve of the health care bill that the President just signed.

Hmm. Might want to update that, shooter.

Numerous states are concerned about the way ObamaCare infringes on individual rights.

Yeah, those lawsuits are definitely going to work. I hear the Montana Freemen also have grave concerns about their individual rights being curtailed. If someone expresses an opinion, it automatically becomes valid.

In addition, there are significant constitutional questions about requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Many state attorneys general are noting that ObamaCare is the first time Americans would be forced to buy a good or service.

Wait, the title of the piece includes the phrase "Free Health Care." Did you write that before or after you started complaining about how everyone has to buy it? Also, there is little precedent for Congressional authority to make these kinds of individual economic decisions. Medicare, Social Security, taxes, etc…all voluntary.

All of that didn’t matter to those determined to see their utopian ideology enacted into legislation. Congressional Democrats, disregarding the will of the people and dressing their action in high-sounding rhetoric, rammed through Congress their unpopular and disastrous plan for “transforming” America into a Cuban, British, Canadian or French image.

Ooh! I know this one! "What are four countries with a higher life expectancy than the United States, Alex?"

One of the prime arguments used to sell ObamaCare was that it would reverse the financial crisis and save the country a gazillion dollars — with benefits beginning in its first year. Sadly, somebody’s arm got twisted to produce Congressional Budget Office (CBO) figures — nicely timed for the House vote — to supposedly back up the Democrats’ arguments.

This stands in stark contrast to their earlier estimates of the cost of the Iraq War and the economic growth that would follow the Bush tax cuts. Jesus Christ were those accurate. So accurate that they are currently being used to calibrate the Large Hadron Collider.

Nobody seemed to understand that the CBO figures were just estimates.

Wait, you mean they can't see ten years into the future? My faith in the prescience of the Congressional Budget Office is forever damaged.

They add, “Given the central role of medical technology in cost growth, reducing or slowing spending over the long term would probably require decreasing the pace of adopting new treatments and procedures or limiting the breadth of their application.” How’s that for dispelling the claims that quality will remain high, rationing won’t happen, and technology will continue to expand while costs go down?

Well, it doesn't have anything to do with the first two red herrings. As for the third, I'm not sure if there's any fat that can be cut from the current research & development landscape. I mean, with the continuous need for newer and better big dick pills, hair growth treatments, varicose vein removal techniques, and drugs to treat the scourge of insufficient eyelashes, innovation can barely keep up with our problems as is.

(boring, repetitive paragraph excised for space)

Everybody wants affordable, accessible, and high-quality health care; there are proposals on the table for changes that would make significant improvements in those aspects of U.S. health care.

Oh man. This is going to be awesome. I wonder what such proposals would entail? Single payer? Tighter regulations?

Those proposals would unleash free market competition, improve quality, and lower costs for health care in the same way that it has done for other national industries and businesses.

Deregulation improves all industries, like airlines, banks, cable television…the prices went down, and holy balls did the quality improve!

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that American health care is very efficient, with only six percent of the premiums going to administrative costs and fully 86 percent covering the actual costs of care.

Wow! A full 86% of our premiums go to the bloated costs of care. At least among people who have insurance. But the system is still pretty damn efficient for the rest of us. There is no doubt that the health care industry is extremely efficient in processing the uninsured.

But cost control is not the purpose of ObamaCare.

What was your first clue? Mine was when they said that the purpose was to insure everyone, with the cost reductions purely secondary.

ObamaCare is all about redistributing wealth and putting a vast segment of the economy under bureaucratic control.

Some estimates of health care spending run as high as 20 percent of the U.S. economy by 2016.

Well if someone made these estimates, surely they're credible! I estimate that health care spending will be -5% of the economy by 2016. I estimate that Janice Shaw Crouse's body is 46% partially hydrogenated corn oil. I estimate that 12% of the people who started reading her column attempted suicide before reaching the end.

Under ObamaCare, Uncle Sam becomes Santa Claus. But sooner or later, the bills come in and all those “gifts” turn out to be pretty expensive after all.

Wow, that's some metaphor you've got there. When Barack Obama becomes the Chupacabra, those goats aren't going to look so happy after all!

Right now, the U.S. has the “world’s best cancer survival rates” — Sally Pipes reported

Michael Richards
Omar Bongo
Norman Schwarzkopf
The surviving members of the Warren Commission
The Harlem Globetrotters
Dog the Bounty Hunter
Captain Phil Harris (R.I.P.)
Art Bell
Bizarre from D-12
Alger Hiss
The Kraken
Ron Popeil
The original cast of Small Wonder

that Americans “have a better survival rate for 13 of the 16 most common cancers” — a fact most appreciated by those victims and their families who benefit from the expensive drugs that result from years-long research and clinical trials.

Since there's clearly no way for drug companies to make money under the new system I guess they'll stop doing clinical trials. But cancer survival rates are nice. How about we compare those to rates of developing cancer in the first goddamn place. Uh oh. America's health care system ain't quite #1 there.

Most Americans are personally satisfied with their own private health insurance coverage

Yes, most Americans who have private health insurance coverage are "personally satisfied" with it relative to the alternative of not having health insurance. Brilliant. Tell us more, Professor Kickass.

and appreciate the medical advances that save lives and provide miracle cures.

Is this based on any kind of data or is JSC just making things up here? This does not look like any poll question I've ever seen. "Do you appreciate medical advances that save lives?" "Do you support miracle cures?" "Do you like happiness?"

Others, too, depend upon American health care. Tens of thousands of foreigners come to the United States for treatments not available or rationed in their home countries.

Take that, Burkina Faso! In your face, Guatemala! Suck on this, Vietnam! Our health care system is better than yours! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Most Americans are also aware and appreciate the fact that government-funded programs already provide for those Americans who are truly poor.


Hospitals are not allowed to refuse treatment to those without insurance.

Yes, this is a good example of a government-funded program to provide for the truly poor. Except they receive an enormous bill and collection agencies will hound them until they die in an effort to liquidate their assets to settle the debt. And it's not like the rest of us pay for every service rendered to an uninsured person. No, that money comes from Santa.

Medicare, Medicaid, and other special programs for children, veterans, and specific population groups provide care for those with special needs.

"These things that conservatives have spent decades trying to dismantle do much to provide for the young, the old, and the indigent. But now we are huge proponents of these things that we suddenly realize are quite popular. Yes, Mitch McConnell tried several times to pass the Fuck All the Old People, Kids, and Indigent bill. We regret that unfortunate incident and look forward to many years of scaring old people about Democrats taking away their Medicare."

Nobody claims that these government-run programs provide the quality of care that those with private insurance enjoy. In fact, the false promise of something for nothing — the utopian scheme of everybody having top-quality health care coverage and it not costing anybody any more than they are currently paying — is the biggest myth of all.

I'm confused. Are we all being Forced to buy insurance or is health care now free? JSC is recklessly flopping back and forth between the two. It is as though the area between these two very different concepts is lined with a dessert buffet.

Sally Pipes quoted P.J. O’Rourke, “If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it’s free.”

Wow, three Sally Pipes references in one column. This brings the total number of references in print to Sally Pipes and her think-tank that she runs out of the utility closet of a Sizzler in Barstow, CA to…three. But we all learned a valuable lesson here: the government is wrong to force you to buy something, because once everyone is forced to buy something then it will be free. And then we're really fucked.

Well said, Janice. Well said.


The effects of things like unemployment or foreclosure on mental and physical health are substantial and well-documented. It will take years to unravel the spikes in depression, alcoholism, divorce, and all of the maladies concomitant to a personal financial meltdown. I'm sure you know people who have lost jobs and homes and I'm equally sure that some of them aren't taking it terribly well. It isn't difficult to understand why that happens.

So this is hard on everyone, but it has to be particularly hard on the upper-middle class. It sucks for anyone to lose a job and a house, but how can the self-styled masters of the universe cope when the things that define them are taken away? Without the enormous house, leased Lexuses, and Assistant Regional Vice-President of Corporate Excellence title to make them feel important, the psychological shock must be crushing. It is not a demographic that invites a lot of sympathy; that said, the fall into unemployment and financial want is a lot steeper for them. Those of us who don't really have shit to begin with are better equipped for (and more used to) living on not much. The more comfortable, however, are used to it. Their identities are tied to Stuff and without Stuff they are like rudderless ships. It's not surprising that they need to find ways to remind themselves that they are better than everyone else.

That's where The Ladders comes in. Perhaps you've seen their incessant TV advertisements.

"Only $100k jobs. For only $100k people!"

Hear that, unemployed yuppies? You're still Special. You are far better than those other unemployed people and you needn't mingle with them. Unemployment now has a first-class cabin, complete with a blue curtain to clearly distinguish you from the unwashed hordes back in coach.

The amusing thing (As if there is only one.) is that these people are all believers in the free market to some extent, many of them quite strongly so. And a "$100k person" would seem to be one who is determined by the free market to be worth $100k in salary. Since that is not the case for very many of the site's 2 million members – I'd bet a lot of them are making zero at the moment and will end up accepting jobs paying far less than six figures if they're lucky enough to find one – it's clear that the label serves mainly to pat the site's members on the rump and reassure them that they are Special. The free market god is an unforgiving one, though, and the site feels like the last gasp of people who realize that The Almighty is slowly "correcting" their standard of living.


I know how many of you have been checking this site 10, 20, perhaps even 100 times daily just waiting for the beginning of the 2010 Senate series. Wait no more.

Monday! Monday! Monday!
One day only! (only…only…)
GIN and TACOS (tacos…tacos…) will begin:

(unnaturally deep voice) balls to the wall coverage (end deep voice)

Of the 2010 races in the United States Senate! Senate! Senate!
At the Madison County Fairgrounds

That's right. My analysis: let me show you it.

The past 12 months have been a useful lesson in the breakneck speed with which the winds change in American politics. Throughout 2009 we saw Barack Obama go from the penthouse to the shithouse. Congressional Democrats went from cakewalking through the 2006 and 2008 elections to losing a Senate seat in Massachusetts of all places. Suddenly the media and the Beltway were grandly predicting entirely improbable midterm gains for the GOP – ten Senate seats, eighty-plus in the House. The streets would run red with the blood of all who dared oppose them.

Well, that was January. Two months later the predictions have come back down to Earth. The midterm loss is a very real phenomenon in American politics, holding true in all but two elections in our 220 years of history (1998 and 2002). On top of the historical inevitability of Democratic losses this year, the Senate and House majorities have gotten about as large as one could reasonably expect in modern politics. Once you get to 59 or 60 in the Senate, the odds of further gains approach the size of Jim Inhofe's IQ. So no one, extremists or the uninformed aside, would call Vegas and bet money on anything but Republican gains this year. That's a given.

That said, Michael Steele might want to hold off on the ticker tape parade.

Conservative commentators have gleefully monitored the President's falling approval rating and that of the current Congressional leadership while conveniently overlooking the following:

They should be careful pointing out how little the public likes Harry Reid. I mean, they're not exactly erecting statues of and sacrificing the fatted calf for Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. The second cautionary tale, and one that the non-Fox media are starting to pick up on, is that the Teabaggers simply aren't that large of a group. No matter how hard talk radio hosts try to convince themselves and the rest of us that it is some giant revolutionary movement sweeping the country, it's becoming painfully clear that it is a small group funded by the usual suspects and composed mostly of certified nutbars – the ranting coworker or psychotic uncle we all go out of our way to avoid. The Great White Hope is more likely to fizzle out (How'd their primary candidates do so far?) than to become more influential as the election progresses.

So the big picture is pretty unexciting: a gain of 3 or 4 seats in the Senate for the GOP, with considerable margin for error given how much the political tides can turn in the next seven months. There are a great many races that appear to be toss-ups at the moment, as one would expect in March, and the summer months largely will determine which way they break. It'll be a nice year for the GOP, but if they're anticipating a repeat of 1994 they're going to be disappointed.

Let's take a brief look at the uncompetitive races. Right now I have 18 in this category; the won't be worth our attention unless something exceptional happens. It happens, but it doesn't happen often. Jim Webb didn't have a chance against George "Macaca" Allen a few years ago, but that race became competitive out of nowhere about a month before the election.

Two races in this group have some potential to move. In Wisconsin, Feingold will have a tough race on his hands if former Governor and Bush Cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson decides to run. He has been on the fence for months and frankly I don't think he'll do it. He's about to turn 69 and despite his popularity in Wisconsin, he wouldn't even be a favorite against Feingold. Could he win? Sure. But the money would still be on Russ. The second race is the Gillibrand special election in New York. She's not much of a candidate – sort of a mushy Clintonite centrist – but I've grown sick of listening to the GOP talk about their grand, brilliant plans to win one of the NY Senate seats. They've been hatching one scheme and one unbeatable miracle candidate after another for the last decade. The outcome is always the same. They're throwing George Pataki's name around (as they always do) and it remains to be seen if he'd be as good as his party thinks he would be. Right now I'm guessing he declines (again) and Gillibrand walks over whichever Republican Congressman throws his name on the ballot.

To be continued and updated as necessary. Welcome back.


The quote "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." has been attributed to numerous sources over the years. I don't know who said it but it sums up comedy quite accurately. Especially stand-up comedy.

I have performed in front of large groups of people in several different contexts throughout my life – teaching (which is remarkably like doing stand-up) a few hundred disinterested undergraduates, playing in bands, and comedy – and there is nothing quite as intimidating as the latter. When you fail, you fail hard and, more importantly, you fail alone. In a band, if the audience is not into it (which was not uncommon in my experience) you turn up the volume, look down at your instrument, and keep going. Or you focus on your bandmates and just have a good time together. With comedy if you suck, you have to stand there and bask in how much you suck. You see the disinterested looks and hear the brutal silence. Then you start second-guessing yourself, trying too hard, and collapsing within yourself like a dying star, crushed by the sheer magnitude of your own suck. And people are staring at you, excepting the ones too mortified to watch you experience ego death on stage. The experience offers some of the highest highs and lowest lows without much middle ground.

My friend DJ (of the fantastic IfIHadAHiFi, and yes, that's a palindrome) writes for several alternative media outlets around Milwaukee and he recently struck gold with "The Ballad of Johnny D," recounting the spectacular failure of a novice comedian. It is your highly recommended reading for the day. Johnny's ineptness is nothing short of amazing, yet you can't help sympathizing with him (or empathizing, if appropriate). I imagine the people in the room with him simultaneously could not wait for him to shut up and really hoped that he would rattle off one half-decent joke to salvage some dignity from the evening.

DJ usually kills it, but this one was both funny (and not for the reasons Johnny D would have preferred) and poignant. I mean, we have all been in an audience to see something this bad or worse. And we usually think about ourselves – "This is horrible and I am suffering" – rather than the person whose self-esteem is dying before our eyes. It's doubtlessly an unpleasant experience for all involved, but the only way to avoid it is to stay home. Bombing, and bombing hard, is the inevitable consequence of putting yourself out there. Johnny D sucked, but he might learn something from it and improve. Given the high likelihood that he will not, I still salute him for having the nuts to give it a go. Most people avoid bombing by refusing to expose themselves to the possibility.


Remember how we flirted with Peak Wingnut in the week after Obama's victory? The comments of the conservative faithful were indeed hilarious and unhinged in the wake of The Antichrist's ascension, but it was tempered by the ample time they had to prepare. For the last three or four weeks of the election, all but the most delusional shut-ins took one look at McCain-Palin '08 and knew that we were staring at a corpse. Right wing grief and agony played out gradually over a long, schadenfreude-filled month.

Not so with health care reform. All and sundry were confidently, perhaps even mockingly, announcing its death for six months (Think Progress has a nice compilation and timeline). Nothing was left but to begin the victory parade. That the right was blindsided is evident in the post-vote rush to ascribe the bill's passage to dirty, extra-constitutional legislative chicanery. It is a paranoid, lard-assed American version of the 1920s Dolchstosslegende in the Weimar Republic.

Since I am not one to let such rare treats pass by unnoticed, it seems appropriate to recap the highlights of the week in hyperbolic, impotent, pant-shitting histrionics from the conservative version of reality. The moment the vote was cast it was clear that there would be stupid; it was my goal to capture as much of it as possible. I needed a bigger net. But here is what I did manage to corral, in no particular order.

1. Neal "My brain don't work real good" Boortz wins the Excellence in Short-Term Memory Award for this priceless duo.

March 22: REPEAL? NOT IN YOUR LIFETIME. I'm sure we're going to hear some people suggesting that if we put the Republicans in charge they'll simply repeal ObamaCare. Sorry, I don't see that happening. Remember, even if the Republicans did somehow manage to take back the House and the Senate, it certainly wouldn't be with a veto-proof majority … and don't forget who's sitting in the White House perfectly ready to veto any repeal attempt.

March 24: NOW THE REPUBLICANS HAVE THEIR PLATFORM. Forget a resurrection of the 1994 Contract With America. Forget the latest "Contract From America" version. The Republicans need only make one promise for the 2010 elections … Repeal ObamaCare.

It must be nice to have an audience too busy hand-loading ammo and registering as sex offenders to notice things like this.

2. The Impotent Rage Meets Temper Tantrum Award goes to this anonymous ass clown over at RedState.

I pay the taxes. I obey the rules. I pull the wagon that they ride. They need me to continue to do so. They need you to continue to do so. They need us all. Remember – we pull, they ride. No more…From this day forward, I will engage in little acts of civil disobedience. Every single day. Barack won’t have ol’ Jack to count on any more, because tyranny is not what I signed up for. And they need me. They need us.


3. Boortz again: "Today will do more damage than 9/11." It would appear that the "talkmaster" is actually the master of understatement.

4. McTardle spent the last six months passing herself off as a person who knew America's health care system from a hole in the ground. In the aftermath she easily wins the Overwrought Misuse of Shit Half-Remembered from History 102.

Regardless of what you think about health care, tomorrow we wake up in a different political world…Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?

"Ed, I have some questions about the Federalist Papers, especially Madison's impassioned defense in #10 of the Constitution's ability to prevent majority tyranny. Who should I consult?"

"I say unto thee as I would with my dying breath: Megan… McArdle…"

5. Veronique de Rugy takes the Finding a Way to Complain about Single-Payer in the Absence of Single-Payer Award with this ironclad exercise in logic.

As if that's not bad enough, much worse can happen. As we know, unintended consequences are real, and they always lead to a worse situation that any of us expected.

Before we go further, I'd like you all to stare at that for a minute. I want to rub Veronique's nose in it while emphatically stating NO! much as one would housetrain a puppy.

The unintended consequence is the following: How long will it take for people, individuals and businesses, to realize that they are better off not getting health care and paying the penalty? They can just get insurance once they need it, since people who are sick can no longer be denied health-care coverage. If that happens, we can expect insurance companies to go under very quickly. Basically, many healthy people won't get insurance because the penalty is cheaper than the insurance. However, once they get really sick they will seek coverage and won't be denied. Insurance companies will find themselves with a gigantic pool of sick people. In this worst-case scenario, the government will use the opportunity…to take over the insurance business.

And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

6. Tony Blankley wins the Impossible to Read This Without Using One's Right Hand to Pantomime Masturbation Award for this desperate effort to sound smart.

If they can stand up to the coming propaganda, America may be free, and the life of the wider free world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if the voters succumb to those seven months of blandishments and deceptions, then free America — including all that we have known and cared for — will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Yes Tony, this is exactly what Churchill had in mind. Exactly. Well played.

7. Ben Shapiro was not seriously challenged for two separate awards: the Straw Man and the Mostly Closely Resembles the Final Livejournal Post of a School Spree Shooter.

There's a reason that Obama, Biden, Pelosi and Reid don't use Simpson as one of their typical sob stories: Simpson weighs 604 pounds, and she's trying to work her way up to 1,000 pounds so that she can make the Guinness Book of World Records…Now we are paying for her. All of us. We're paying for her because insurance companies in America are no longer allowed to charge her higher premiums due to her pre-existing medical condition (i.e. being a load).

Ben has never spoken to a woman without first giving his credit card number or being pepper sprayed afterward.

8. The Really Good Idea Bound to Attract Considerable Public Support Award goes to Louie Gohmert, who proposes to solve the "problem" of Congress passing legislation by repealing the 17th Amendment.

9. The Look How Hard This Obviously Mentally Challenged Man is Trying! Award goes to Charlie Daniels, with honorable mention to his commenters.

You will see health care paying for the abortion of innocent babies. I know, I know, Obama signed an executive order saying this won't happen under this bill, but you just wait and see. I believe that a huge amount of doctors will simply stop practicing and that many young people who had planned to go into medicine will simply opt for another profession. And think about this people, if the Democrats can pass health care, what else are they willing to push down our throats? The sorry answer is, as long as they are a majority, anything they want to; amnesty for illegal aliens is just around the corner.

Slippery is the best kind of slope.

10. The Quickest Resort to Violent Rhetoric Award goes to…come on, who else but Glenn Beck?

11. Finally, the Golden Pantshitter Trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Pant-Shitting goes to Rush Limbaugh, not only for chickening out on his promise to leave the country if the bill passed but also for his bombastic, drug-addled, not-even-visible-from-Reality rant about the end of America as "we" (i.e., Teabaggers) know it.

The next big push will be amnesty for … millions of illegal immigrants who are here…Obama's gonna need their votes in 2012. The Democrats are going to need their votes in every election from now on – if we have elections, and I'm not joking…The Constitution has just been ripped to shreds, so why is anything safe?

Like Obama isn't the greatest financial boon to wingnut AM radio blowhards since the Waco Siege. Rush should be kissing his ass. Come to think of it, Rush can kiss my ass too. That worked out well.

These are just a few of the highlights. Feel free to add your own – emails from psychotic uncles, Facebook/Twitter posts from the special wingnuts in your life, comments from co-workers, editorials, etc. – in the comments. Regardless, I think it is abundantly clear that this was a week of childish, incoherent, pant-shitting rage of historic proportions. I am proud to live in such a time.


Grab some popcorn, kids! It's time for one of my favorite windows into America's soul: a celebrity pro athlete rape case! There's no circus like a media circus, and two time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is in the center ring juggling flaming bowling pins in front of a dancing bear. Such excitement. Such suspense.

Will there be victim-blaming? Will the prosecutor puss out and refuse to file charges? Will irrelevant details of the accuser's private life be open for public debate? Will we get an explanation for why the media are so obsessed with the consensual sex life of Tiger Woods (hint: BLAAAAAAAAAAAACK!) but comparatively disinterested in the Big Ben case?

If you missed it – and there's an excellent chance that you have, unlike the tale of Mr. Woods – Big Ben is accused of sexual assault on a 20 year old college student in a bar in Milledgeville, GA. Some facts we know. The QB's bodyguards were asked to scan the bar to invite women back into the "VIP" section. I assume this meant scanning for intelligent-looking people so they could discuss Proust. One female (not the accuser) reported that the accused made a crude sexual advance when she asked for an autograph. Sounds fair; I also charge oral sex for my autograph! Witnesses, and perhaps also the unreleased security camera footage, claim that bodyguards blocked the door to the bathroom in which the assault allegedly occurred. Good to know that those bodyguards understand how to look after their client's interests. Lastly, according to Ben's version of events, they engaged in some sexual contact short of intercourse (perhaps "heavy petting") and the accuser "fell and hit her head." Note that neither he nor anyone in his party offered any assistance to the woman after her potential closed head trauma.

He has hired a battalion-sized team of lawyers and private investigators who are investigating the matter more vigorously than the police at this point. They have yet to question him and dropped a request for a DNA sample. Fullest extent of the law indeed. Since I'm sure the attorneys, investigators, and police will have plenty of questions about the accuser, I think in the interest of fairness we should treat both parties in this dispute equally. I have a pair of questions for Big Ben. You know, standard American rape case questions, albeit not ones commonly directed at the accused.

First, this is the second rape allegation against the QB in less than a year. Doesn't this suggest a pattern of questionable conduct on his part? Let's start digging through his personal history.

Second, wasn't he kinda asking for it? I mean, he's a 28 year old man hanging out and getting wasted with college girls. Then takes one of them into a bathroom with no witnesses. All of this while he is under a pending civil suit for rape in another state. Let's suspend logic for a minute and accept the standard American male sports guy's explanation for these incidents: the girl is some gold-digging slut looking to falsely accuse rich men and get paid off. If that was the case, why in God's name would he allow himself to be "victimized" by getting drunk with immature college kids and then being alone with one of them? Talk about asking for it. He was begging. This is not how you should dress if you don't want to be accused of rape:

Not pictured: class, judgment

(note: This is an photograph from an unrelated incident, but doesn't it speak to his character deficiencies? Doesn't it?)

Seriously, someone who subscribes to the idea that wealthy male celebrities walk around wearing a bullseye should not be partying with the girls from the local Delta Zeta. That is, unless he wants to be victimized.

Maybe I am being more cynical than necessary. He may be investigated thoroughly and perhaps even prosecuted. Not all of the news has been good for Ben so far – just listen to teammate and fellow bar attendee Willie Colón stand behind his friend (His attorney said Mr. Colón has "no knowledge of the incident and his name should not be brought up about this incident again.") Or maybe he really is innocent and the victim of malicious accusations. Which of those we think is most likely says a lot about us as individuals and as a society.


I've had the privilege of learning about politics from some pretty amazing people throughout my academic career, including a Nobel Prize winner, a man who redefined the way we understand ideology and public opinion, and an intellectual successor to Murray Edelman. Despite all that I think I have learned more about politics from my dad.

The HCR legislation passed this weekend is, in any reasonable analysis, watered down. Weak. A shadow of a real reform bill. For this reason I was staunchly opposed to it for months. I argued that passing no bill would be a better outcome than passing reform in name only. What we got is marginally better than that. But it is a good thing that it passed. It took me a while to understand why. More accurately, I needed to have it explained to me.

This bill is a beachhead – a way for the idea of universal health care to establish a foothold in this country. It packaged a number of the most lukewarm, least controversial ideas in health care reform and was enacted over strenuous opposition, opposition based mostly on ignorance (or misinformation). It is not a good bill, but it is the first step in a long process. And no matter what the wingnuts say this week, it isn't going anywhere. As one of the dumbest up-and-coming conservative superstars said:

I never thought I would say this, but Patrick Ruffini is exactly right. "They" are well and truly fucked. This thing is not going anywhere.

First of all, it would require a Republican president. That won't happen for at least 3 years, possibly 7. By that time the changes will be well entrenched both bureaucratically and politically. The wheels of government move slowly but they are difficult to stop once they start rolling.

Second and more importantly, David Frum is right. (What is wrong with me today?) A campaign to repeal these reforms would amount to the longest suicide note in the history of American politics. Here are just a few examples of changes made that future Congresses will not touch with ten-foot poles.

  • Dependent children can be covered by parental policies up to age 27
  • People can no longer be dropped for pre-existing conditions
  • The Medicare D gap ("donut hole") is closed with subsidies
  • Tax breaks to cover 50% of costs for small businesses to offer coverage to employees
  • Lifetime and annual caps are banned
  • No-copay preventive care and annual screenings
  • What kind of delusional sociopath is going to base a campaign around repealing that? Don't get me wrong, the GOP's commitment to nihilism is strong enough that they'll make the argument anyway. But politically that will go over about as well as the flat tax, flag burning, or mandatory HIV infection for children under six. If they want to campaign to kick Junior off your insurance, jack up the price of Granny's pills, and give insurers the right to drop people for pre-existing conditions, I am happy to see them do it. "We demand to pay copays!" is a mighty strange campaign slogan to say the least.

    So is Frum right? Is this Waterloo for the GOP? If they were smart it wouldn't be. There's plenty for which they can claim credit. They kept many things they disliked out of the legislation. But the fact remains that they failed to stop it. This is the first real victory for Obama and it's hard to avoid the fact that he looks like a more competent President today than he has at any point in the last six months. Most people understand politics like a football game – who won, who lost, and the final score. And the bottom line is that after six months of histrionics, threats, and blood-curdling rage from the Teabag crowd and talk radio, in the end they couldn't go a goddamn thing to stop it. They altered the final product but could do little more than throw tantrums like children on Sunday as the final vote was tallied.

    I'd love to say I figured that out on my own, but sometimes we all need a good talking-to from someone older and wiser.


    It tickled me pink to see Nate Silver make a Marjorie Margolies-Mesvinsky reference last week, since the anecdote of her one-term Congressional career is one I love telling. In class, in private, to my rats, anywhere and everywhere.

    In 1992 "3M" (as fellow legislators called her to avoid excessive entanglement with her awkward name) won a total fluke victory over GOP incumbent Jon Fox in PA-13. Republicans had held the seat since Woodrow Wilson was President – 1916. Marjorie won narrowly and was not expected to last long, especially given that Clinton would not be on the ballot to help in 1994. In 1993 Clinton needed one more "yes" vote for his first budget proposal, one that was met with unanimous and strenuous opposition from Republicans. Marjorie signed her own political death certificate by agreeing to vote for it after days of full court press by the White House. As she recorded her vote in the House, Republicans stood and sang "Bye Bye, Marjorie!" She was defeated in 1994 and left public life.

    Obama, of course, spent most of the weekend lobbying nervous House Democrats to vote for health care reform. He might have had an easier time with it had he read up on 3M and made a simple, forceful argument: a lot of you are going to lose in 2010. Irrespective of the HCR vote. 2008 was an anomalously strong year for the Democrats in Congress and let's be frank – a lot of these wins in conservative, historically Republican districts were complete flukes. It was a combination of luck, circumstances, and frustration with the ineptness of the GOP. But the Democrats, from the grassroots up to the White House, are acting as though these seats can be defended. Most of them can't.

    Walt Minnick (Idaho 1) is a freshman and a firm No on HCR. He serves the most Republican district in the nation to be represented by a Democrat. He won by 0.6% of the vote in 2008 with Obama on the ballot bringing out more Democrats. I'd say Mr. Minnick has about a snowball's chance in hell of winning in 2010. Everything about him screams "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." A strong president would call him into the Oval Office, make small talk for a few minutes, and say, "Look, Walt. You're probably not going to be around for much longer. Why not do one really good thing before you go? One thing you'll be proud of, a historic piece of legislation you'll be able to say you made possible?"

    The idea of voting one's conscience is very heavily discounted in political science. The evidence simply does not support it, instead pointing to constituent preferences and the party leadership as the effective constraints on Congressional voting behavior. However, this bill is big enough, and there are enough Democrats who are lucky just to be there, to justify appeals to conscience by the President. It only needs to work with a few people on a close vote. And deep in their hearts I believe a lot of these vulnerable House Democrats know their time is short. They know it as surely as they know that HCR, once passed, will join Social Security and Medicare as the third rail of American politics. After all, the unpopularity of the legislation obscures the fact that everything in the bill is in fact quite popular.

    Two other things related to the vote:

    1. NOW et al are flipping out about the executive order "Stupak compromise" on Federally-funded abortions. I think it's symbolic and essentially irrelevant. It reinforces the status quo of the Hyde Amendment and there was not one word in the bill suggesting that Federal money was going to be used to provide abortions anyway. Basically, if it made Bart Stupak and a couple other pro-life Democrats happy to have the President pass an EO saying "This bill which provides no Federal funds for abortions will not provide Federal funds for abortions" then so be it.

    2. It was good to see the opposition from the left collapse – Kucinich and the like. I agree with them in that I think the bill is a massive handout to insurance companies and it pales in comparison to a single-payer system or a public insurance option. I am also old enough to realize that right now, with this President and this political landscape, this is about as good as it's going to get. When you need a new car and you realize you can't afford the Ferrari you really want, do you buy a car you can afford or say "Screw it, I'll just walk"? No, you take what you can get right now, let the policy establish a foothold, and add to it in increments over time. More on that tomorrow.

    (postscript: Margolies-Mezvinsky's son Marc is now engaged to Chelsea Clinton. So whoever flips to vote with Obama on this one might end up with one of the Obama girls as a daughter-in-law)


    When I began teaching I noticed that the endless stream of textbook promotional materials always referenced "Texas Editions." Seriously, everything came in standard or Texas versions. I had not the slightest idea what this meant. I assumed that Texas Edition meant it was the re-written with fewer polysyllabic words and more pictures. Perhaps they would replace the chapter on political parties with a picture of Ronald Reagan and partial transcriptions of the Chuck Norris film Missing in Action. I am somewhat ashamed to admit this, but it is true.

    In reality, of course, they're regular textbooks with an extra chapter to cover a bunch of Texas state government stuff mandated by the state legislature. Texas textbooks are about to get even dumber, but don't be too concerned about the Texas Board of Curriculum's unique version of reality. Texas will continue to get special textbooks and the rest of us will get books that have, like, history and stuff in them.

    This is just the latest incarnation of an old American tradition of naming big, stupid things after Texas. People in Texas are proud of how big and stupid they are, which makes it even funnier for the rest of us. With their extra-giant Texas trucks and Texas Whoppers and planet-sized Jumbotrons and crippling obesity epidemic, Texas is like the dopey fat kid in every low brow 80s comedy.

    Share with me your favorite experiences having to do with Texas or Texans. Let's leave the last President out of this in an effort to be something other than depressed. The only funny story I have involves being in El Paso. And in El Paso, the joke is on everyone.