2009 - %3, December

Vote Andy Martin, Gossip Queen

| Wed Dec. 30, 2009 3:45 PM EST

Shameless slander-monger Andy Martin is having a gay old time carrying out a smear campaign against Mark Kirk, his opponent in the race to fill Sen. Roland Burris's (D-Ill.) open seat. In a new radio spot this week, Martin publicly announced that, according to several well-known Republican party members, Kirk is a (gasp!) homosexual.

From the gossips queen’s radio romp:

"Today, I am fighting for the facts about Mark Kirk. Illinois Republican leader Jack Roeser says there is a 'solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual.' Roeser suggests that Kirk is part of a Republican Party homosexual club. Lake County Illinois Republican leader Ray True says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals. Mark Kirk should tell Republican voters the truth."

Putting aside for a moment how fun it sounds to be part of a "Republican Party homosexual club," and the fact that being surrounded by homosexuals even qualifies as a "smear" (sounds like a typical Saturday night to me), Martin’s pouty truth-seeking could spell trouble under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. An op-ed by Morgan Hurley at San Diego Gay and Lesbian News points out that Kirk is "one of only two active drilling US Navy Reservists in Congress today," and that a potential "outing," whether or not he really even is a homosexual, could get complicated:

It clearly is not just a typical, strategic, political affront by Martin towards Kirk in the run for a US Senate seat. No way. Because with the added media attention it has already garnered, it could also easily bring to bear the professional scrutiny of one of the highest ranking military members ever, under Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT).

Another good reason to throw that backwards policy in the garbage where it belongs. Is Martin just jealous that Kirk looks good with a puppy in his arms? Quite possibly. In case you’ve forgotten about the historical adventures of this catty rumor peddler, Martin also filed the very first lawsuit regarding Obama’s birth certificate, and was criticized by the press for originating rumors that Obama was secretly a Muslim.

Here's hoping this underhanded campaign tactic blows up in Martin's face. If anybody needs me, I'll be playing checkers and reading Elle Decor at my local Republican Party Homosexual Club.

Follow Evan James on Twitter.

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Need to Read: December 30, 2009

| Wed Dec. 30, 2009 2:51 PM EST

What you need to read as we enter the new year:

The End of Health Insurance

| Wed Dec. 30, 2009 1:39 PM EST

"Community rating" is wonkspeak for a requirement that health insurers cover everyone at the same price, regardless of preexisting conditions or health status. James Surowiecki says it makes private health insurance unnecessary:

Congress’s support for community rating and universal access doesn’t fit well with its insistence that health-care reform must rely on private insurance companies. After all, measuring risk, and setting prices accordingly, is the raison d’être of a health-insurance company....Congress is effectively making private insurers unnecessary, yet continuing to insist that we can’t do without them.

The truth is that we could do just fine without them: an insurance system with community rating and universal access has no need of private insurers.

I agree, and it's one of the reasons that, warts and all, I support the current healthcare reform legislation so strongly. My take is that community rating at the national level can eventually lead to only two outcomes: (a) the end of private health insurance completely1 or (b) the transformation of private insurers into regulated public utilities. Roughly speaking, Option A is what you see in Canada or Sweden, Option B is what you see in Germany and the Netherlands. I'd prefer the former, but the regulated utility model works OK too, and it's hard to see how you avoid one or the other in the long run.

It would be nice to have a public option in the current legislation since it would probably speed up the process I'm talking about. But Surowiecki is right: community rating plus universal access makes private insurers obsolete. Soon they'll be doing nothing but basic administrative work, and within a few years this will become too obvious to ignore. At that point, Congress will either enact a public option that eventually grows large enough to put private insurance out of business, or else regulation of the private industry will grow to the point where it becomes a nonissue. It's too bad we'll have to wait so long for this to happen, but today's healthcare legislation puts it on the road to inevitability.

1That is, its end as a primary health insurer. Private insurers will likely stay around to provide supplementary or specialized coverage.

Are Gay Conservatives Welcome at CPAC?

| Wed Dec. 30, 2009 1:24 PM EST

In February, conservatives from around the country will gather in Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a major pow wow for aspiring candidates and activists alike. Anyone looking to run for the GOP presidential nomination for 2012 will likely be there to greet the faithful. But socially conservative Christians, including Jerry Falwell Jr. and the American Family Association, are threatening to boycott the influential event this year. Why? Because the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, has allowed a gay group to co-sponsor the event. GOProud members, like the usual CPAC attendees, are committed to free markets, individual freedoms, and limited government. The group was formed by gay conservatives who found the Log Cabin Republicans too liberal for their tastes. But in mid-December, Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber started spreading the alarm about GOProud's participation in CPAC. He wrote in an email:

“I was disturbed to learn that CPAC is allowing the ‘Republican’ homosexual activist group GOProud to sponsor a booth at the 2010 conference. Among other things, GOProud advocates in favor of both ‘gay marriage’ and ‘civil unions,’ against pro-marriage constitutional amendments ; is pushing for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and advocates in favor of federal ‘partnership benefits’ for homosexuals. This group is pushing a radical leftist agenda that is an affront to the GOP platform, conservatism and, most importantly, the Word of God.”

Liberty Counsel and others have given CPAC organizers an ultimatum, threatening to urge all social conservatives to withdraw from the event if GOProud isn't booted. To its credit, CPAC seems to be standing firm. Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud's executive director, says that while the program has yet to be set, his group has all the privileges of any other co-sponsor at this point, and he directed me to a statement from CPAC director Lisa De Pasquale, who said in response to the boycott threats, "CPAC is a coalition of nearly 100 conservative groups, some of which may disagree with one another on a handful of issues.  But, at the end of the day, we all agree on core conservative principles.... After talking with their leadership and reviewing their website, I am satisfied that they do not represent a “radical leftist agenda,” as some have stated, and should not be rejected as a CPAC cosponsor." 

CPAC's response sets up an interesting dynamic: Will conservative Christians follow through on their threat and give up their kingmaking role at CPAC and influence on the 2012 presidential election just because they don't want to be in the room with a few gay guys? My guess is that they will suck it up and still show up in force in February.

 

Midterms are Coming

| Wed Dec. 30, 2009 12:15 PM EST

On Monday I twittered:

Why haven't we heard yet from Dick Cheney re: NW 253 bombing? Really feel like we could use his perspective.

Ha ha. Just kidding, of course. But I guess Cheney took me seriously. Here he is yesterday:

As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war.

What a loathsome human being. As for the more general calculated Republican freakout over this, credit where it's due to Politico for pointing it out. The GOP is really mining new lows these days.

More here. Or a million other places as well. It's nothing new that Republicans are doing everything they can to exploit terrorism for political advantage, but they sure are stepping up the crassness level these days.

We're Still At War: Photo of the Day for December 30, 2009

Wed Dec. 30, 2009 8:00 AM EST

Retired Sgt. Maj. Ray Moran talks to a potential recruit from his office at Fort Meade, Md. Moran, a civilian recruiter for the Army Reserve, stands in front of photos from the "battalion" that he has recruited over the decades. (US Army photo by Jonathan E. Agee.)

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MoJo or Latte? You Decide.

| Wed Dec. 30, 2009 6:33 AM EST

We'll keep this short. It takes a lot of things to do investigative journalism, but none of them are worth a damn without you, our readers. Your support is our biggest source of revenue—we're like public radio that way, only we can't hold your programming hostage until you pitch in. And yet many of you do pitch in, giving $5, $10, whatever you can. You understand that at a time when our political system seems dominated by behind-the-scenes dealmaking, we need independent reporting to keep democracy alive. And you understand that such muckraking never has paid for itself, and certainly doesn't now at a time of media and economic crisis. You, and a lot of frugal budgeting, kept us going through a year when other publications fired reporters left and right, or just shut down altogether. But the year is not over yet, and we haven't been able to quite close the shortfall left by the implosion of advertising and other commercial revenue. Your help will allow us to keep going in 2010—and we promise we'll put it to good use, especially in keeping tabs on those who got all of us into this mess to start with. It's easy—you can give any amount that works for you, in seconds, via credit card or PayPal. Thank you. 

And if you're not yet convinced that you, our readers, are amazing, consider this letter we got a few days ago. 

I'm sorry that I am only managing to donate $5, at this time. My Husband and I work for Ford, we build the Mustang.  We just returned from a 3 week layoff, it was to readjust inventory.  In 2 weeks we will be laid off again, in fact 14 weeks are scheduled for 2010. I wish Americans would buy American.  We're damn good workers, Our Car is quality built...our sweat and lives go into every vehicle.

I LOVE Your articles. I love that I can hear a truth. I owe You something, even if it's only $5....still, please forgive me that I'm not allowed to send more. I will when I can.  

Music: Heart of My Own (Basia Bulat)

| Tue Dec. 29, 2009 8:30 PM EST

January/February 2010 Issue

No, that's not Tracy Chapman, though Basia Bulat's seductive sophomore album displays a similar graceful intensity. This crafty Canadian folkie turns seemingly simple songs into engrossing accounts of desire and regret. "Don't you need me any more?" she asks in "Once More, for the Dollhouse," a spare banjo seconding her stark plaint, while on "Sugar and Spice" she announces, "I've done myself in." Elsewhere, "If It Rains" combines a sleepy groove and gospel-style backing singers to echo sultry '60s soul. Always tasteful yet never bland, Heart of My Own is a soulful antidote to the lovesick blues.

Music: Staggering (Boy Genius)

| Tue Dec. 29, 2009 8:13 PM EST

January/February 2010 Issue

With their jangly guitars, headlong rhythms, and callow lyrics, Boy Genius would be an indie-band self-parody if they weren't so darn likable. Produced by power-pop institution Mitch Easter—a veteran of sessions with R.E.M. and the dB's—the Brooklyn foursome's second outing advances the enticing proposition that a toe-tapping ditty can illuminate love's complexities. Front man Jason Korenkiewicz croons, "I am so mixed up by every move you make" in "Scatterbrain"; on the title track he murmurs, "She is staggering; can't look away." Ultimate hipster move: The album is available only on vinyl, but comes with a link for a digital download.

Music: End Times (Eels)

| Tue Dec. 29, 2009 7:52 PM EST

January/February 2010 Issue

Barely six months after his last album, Eels auteur Mark Oliver Everett returns with a forlorn song cycle tracking the demise of a romance. Though he's been chronicling his psychic pain since the early '90s, Everett's haunted ballads and howling rockers haven't lost one iota of their tortured immediacy, thanks to a voice that recalls the world-weariness of an old-time bluesman. End Times recounts every chapter of the story—happy moments ("The Beginning"), conflict ("A Line in the Dirt"), angry separation ("Unhinged"), and acceptance ("On My Feet")—transforming bitterness into catharsis through mordant wit that takes the edge off all that misery.