Friday, June 29, 2012

Should progressives really be celebrating the survival of the Affordable Care Act?

Updated Below

Seeing the survival the healthcare bill hailed as a progressive victory is interesting. Progressives are celebrating the fact that we're now forced to be the customers of these "evil and greedy" insurance companies. During the Clinton administration, when he was pushing for a true public option, the conservative alternative was essentially President Obama's plan: a national health insurance mandate. This is yet another example how successful the G.O.P. has been at shifting American politics, as a whole, to the right. This is entirely due to the fact that liberal/progressive voters will vote for Democrats no matter how bad they betray their base. In the legislative battle over this law, not only did President Obama lie to the public about fighting for the public option, Congressional Democrats decided not to attempt to get it, when it was within reach. The Democrats killed the public option.
Rachel Maddow covered this in depth right before the bill was passed. See this segment:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also check out Glenn Greenwald's post about how President Obama secretly negotiated away the public option before lying to the public about trying to keep it in the bill:
the White House had negotiated away the public option very early in the process (July, 2009), even though Obama and the administration spent months after that assuring their supporters that they were doing everything they could do have a public option in the bill
Read the rest here: Truth about the public option momentarily emerges, quickly scampers back into hiding

Update 7/7/2012:
This should have been included in the original post. President Obama hired a healthcare industry lobbyist, Liz Fowler, to help draft and later implement his healthcare reform bill:

[Implementation] of the massive healthcare bill just enacted by the Congress will be overseen by a former high-level executive of the nation’s largest private health insurer.

As Marcy Wheeler writes: ”It’s a nice trick: send your VP to write a law mandating that the middle class buy shitty products like yours, then watch that VP move into the executive branch to ‘oversee’ the implementation of the law.” Indeed, Fowler played a crucial role in shaping the healthcare bill to ensure there was no public option and to compel every single American to purchase the products of the private healthcare industry (including those of her former employer).

As Politico put it last year: ”If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate healthcare negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer.” It was Fowler who was literally writing the healthcare bills for Baucus which, at least at the time, progressives found so objectionable.

Fowler is the very embodiment of the sleazy Revolving Door and lobbyist-dominated politics which candidate Barack Obama endlessly vowed to subvert
Check out the rest of the post here: The revolving door spins faster on healthcare reform

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why does Talk Left take Zimmerman at his word?

**Update 6/25/2013**
I just realized I linked to the wrong Talk Left Post. I accidentally linked to Zimmerman: The Discovery and the Witnesses, when I had meant to link to George Zimmerman: The Most Likely Scenario. This is corrected in the post below.

A few weeks ago, defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt of the liberal legal blog, TalkLeft, presented what she thought was "the most likely scenario" in the Trayvon Martin killing:

George Zimmerman: The Most Likely Scenario

For the most part, it's a great, informative post. But in the midsts of her analysis, she makes a few assumptions about the case that aren't supported by the evidence, and appear pretty biased against Trayvon Martin. Merritt:

GZ did not have TM in sight when the dispatcher told him they didn't need him to follow TM. He responded OK. He didn't follow him after that. He didn't know where Trayvon was. He continued walking towards the front of the Retreat View Circle, where the first house is 2861, home to W-13 and W-12. He then turned around to walk back to his car. He just passed the T and the pet waste can when Travyon came up on his left. After a few brief vocal exchanges, which even according to Dee Dee were initiated by Trayvon, GZ got punched and fell down. This may have been at the T or in the grass right off the T, in the backyard of W-11 and W-20. After getting his nose broken is most likely when the sounds turned into cries and wails for help -- by George Zimmerman.

Merritt's assuming Martin was the one who confronted Zimmerman at point T on the map. Why? No witnesses saw this, and it seems to contradict Martin’s girlfriend’s testimony. She was on the phone with Martin immediately before the fight, was told by Martin that Zimmerman had spotted him, and that he was going to "walk fast", rather than run away.

It also contradicts the dynamics of the situation as we understand it, from the 911 calls. Zimmerman was following Martin in his truck as Martin was walking down the street. Martin ran away from Zimmerman, who got out of his car and ran after Martin. While he's running after Martin, he mutters, “these punks always get away”. (This statement, by the way, is going to be used by the prosecution to demonstrate a depraved state of mind, which is necessary for the murder charge). Why is Merritt so quick to believe Martin, who was running away from Zimmerman, decided to double back and jump Zimmerman?

Merritt believes the fight started at point T on the map, and ended up at point X (see the map at the top of this post). That’s about what, 40 feet? How, exactly, did that distance get covered? Here's Zimmerman's account of the situation:

Zimmerman told police that the struggle began when Martin "jumped out from the bushes" and punched him in the face, knocking him down.

"I started screaming for help. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe," he said.

"He grabbed my head and started hitting it into the sidewalk," he said. "When he started doing that, I slid into the grass to try to get out from under him. ... I'm still yelling for help."

Martin, he said, put his hand over Zimmerman's mouth and nose and told him, "You're going to die tonight."

"When I slid, my jacket and my shirt came up. ... I felt his hand go down my side, and I thought he was going for my firearm, so I grabbed it immediately, and as he banged my head again, I just pulled out my firearm and shot him."

Zimmerman says that he was sucker punched and knocked down at point T, was completely unable to get out from under Martin, and ended up shooting Martin shortly thereafter. If we believe Zimmerman's testimony, Martin's body should have been discovered at point T, not 40 feet away at point X. The evidence simply doesn't match his story. It's worth noting that one of the homicide investigators, that questioned Zimmerman, informed him that he had received an anonymous phone call, "from somebody who gave a different version of events ... more along the lines that you tried to detain him," and recounted an argument prior to the shooting.

The alternative situation, as described by Martin’s girlfriend, better fits the facts. Trayvon was hiding out, and then was spotted by Zimmerman on his way back to his truck. Martin’s girlfriend begs him to run, but he says he’s just going to “walk fast” (which only makes sense if he’s walking fast away from Zimmerman). Zimmerman runs after Martin and confronts him at X, where the shooting occurs.

In this situation:

- The original dynamics stay the same. Zimmerman is pursuing Martin through out.

- We don’t have to account for how the shooting took place some 40 feet away from where Merritt assumes the altercation started.

- There’s no contradiction here between Martin’s girlfriend’s testimony and anything reported by the witnesses Merritt considers "useful".

Later in the her post, Merritt makes a pretty astounding statement:

The state is unlikely to prevail in arguing Zimmerman was the aggressor because to be the aggressor, Zimmerman had to contemporaneously provoke the force Martin used against him.Zimmerman's profiling of Martin and call to the non-emergency number were not contemporaneous with Martin's attack. Even if the state could convince a judge or jury that Zimmerman was following Martin, rather than walking back to his car, rendering his pursuit a contemporaneous act, it is not an act that provokes Martin's use of force against him. Demanding someone account for their presence does not provoke the use of force.

Merritt would have us believe that, at worst, Zimmerman merely followed Martin and asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood. Is that really all Zimmerman did?

According to the 911 tapes, Zimmerman was slowly following Martin in his vehicle, at night, and neglected to identify himself when Martin approached to check him out. When Martin runs away, Zimmerman runs after him through the dark neighborhood. Given the facts I discussed above, it also appears Zimmerman approached Martin when he spotted him again, after Martin had been hiding from him.

If I believed I was being stalked by a stranger, ran away, and saw my assumed stalker chase me through a dark neighborhood, it would be completely reasonable for me to assume my pursuer intends to harm me. Zimmerman's actions were clearly aggressive, and Trayvon Martin had every reason to believe he was in imminent danger of bodily harm, especially if he spotted Zimmerman's gun.


I have no idea why Merritt made the assumptions she did. My best guess is, because of her background as a defense attorney, she’s looking at the case as if she were the one representing Zimmerman, and that’s what’s coloring her analysis. Perhaps she wrote up something that she would have presented to the court in Zimmerman's defense, rather than an objective analysis of the facts.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why is Nader blamed for Bush's presidency?

Another Presidential election is headed our way, and anyone advocating for people to vote third-party over Obama is likely to hear something like the following:

What did voting for Nader in 2000 gain our nation? We got eight years of one of the worst presidents in history and rather than basking in the glow of progress and abundance our leaders are still occupying themselves with cleaning up the mess.

People have awfully selective memories. After all, it was the Democrats that

- overwhelmingly voted for the Iraq war

- overwhelmingly voted for the Patriot Act

- refused to rebuke the President for deceiving the public into supporting the war

- refused to so much as censure the President for blatantly breaking the law (illegally wiretapping)

During Bush's second term in office, the Democrats won control of both houses of Congress. One would assume that would have halted Bush's abuses, yet it was the Democratically controlled congress that:

- continued to fund the war through an abused process stuffed with pork-spending

- condemned (censured) for criticizing deceptive comments issued by General Petraeus

- refused to hold the President accountable for intentionally deceiving the public into supporting its war initiatives

- gave the Executive Branch de-facto authority to spy on any American citizen it wishes to spy on

If we're going to blame anyone other the Bush administration for the worst of his abuses, we should be blaming the Democrats. Why the Democrats voted the way they did is an interesting discussion in and of itself, and has much to do with why I'm so adament that people refrain from voting for Obama in the upcoming election. More on that to come.