From Joe the Plumber's recent interview with WorldNetDaily:

Asked if he has plans to run for public office, he replied, "I hope not. You know, I talked to God about that and he was like, 'No.'"

This breaks God's long streak of telling people they should run for Congress. Thankfully for God, Joe is willing to let God change God's mind:

But Wurzelbacher said he will keep that door open if God ever calls him to be that leader.

(Via ThinkProgress)

 

Fighting over Sarah

Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving.  Todd Purdum's profile in this month's Vanity Fair was a fairly ordinary takedown with only a little in the way of new revelations, but even so it's managed to spark a breathtaking amount of vitriol among Republican operatives.  Jonathan Martin reports on what happened after Bill Kristol accused McCain aide Steve Schmidt of speculating during the campaign that Palin's strange behavior was due to post-partum depression:

Asked about the accusation, Schmidt fired back in an e-mail: “I'm sure John McCain would be president today if only Bill Kristol had been in charge of the campaign.”

“After all, his management of [former Vice President] Dan Quayle’s public image as his chief of staff is still something that takes your breath away,” Schmidt continued. “His attack on me is categorically false.”

Asked directly in a telephone interview if he brought up the prospect of Palin suffering from post-partum depression, Schmidt said: “His allegation that I was defaming Palin by alleging post-partum depression at the campaign headquarters is categorically untrue. In fact, I think it rises to the level of a slander because it’s about the worst thing you can say about somebody who does what I do for a living.”

But Kristol’s charge was seconded by Randy Scheunemann, a longtime foreign policy adviser to McCain who is also close to the Standard editor and was thought to be a Palin ally within the campaign. “Steve Schmidt has a congenital aversion to the truth,” Scheunemann said.

....Responding to Schmidt’s counterattack, Kristol directly fingered Schmidt: “It’s simply a fact that when the going got tough, Steve Schmidt trashed Sarah Palin, both within the campaign and (on background) to journalists. This was after Steve took credit for the Palin pick when, at first, he thought it made him look good. John McCain deserved better.”

At this, Schmidt unloaded in a lengthy telephone interview, suggesting that Kristol was carrying out a personal vendetta based out of anger over the attempt to fire Scheunemann in the final days of the campaign.

There's only one proper response to this: Palin/Sanford 2012!  Drill baby drill!

Getting exercised over the mind-numbing stupidity exhibited each day on the cable news networks is easily avoided. Just turn them off. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do something... anything else. But occasionally they're worth watching (in very small doses), if only for their grim comedic value. Tuesday's Glenn Beck show on Fox News is a case in point. The conservative blowhard spoke with Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, about Obama's proposed plan to send 1,500 National Guardsman to the US-Mexico border to combat drug smuggling. But the conversation quickly went off course, ultimately ranging from Scheuer's views on gun control (Democrats "want guns only in the hands of the government") to his aggrieved sense of populism. Scheuer, a highly educated guy himself and one who made a career in the elite echelon of the country's intelligence service, derided how the federal government is run by elitists who care nothing for the common man. "Now the minority--those folks who go to Harvard and Yale and the prestigious universities who think they know everything and who want the government to control everything--are in power. The majority of Americans... are generally neglected in terms of security by the minority that runs this government." Music to the ears of Scheuer's Fox audience.

But Scheuer didn't stop there. When Beck brought up Obama's strategy against Al Qaeda, the former CIA man launched into a diatribe you'd expect from Jon Voight's crazy-patriot character on 24, not from America's former chief Bin Laden hunter. The transcript speaks for itself:

Now that Al Franken will soon be seated, the Democrats finally have their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Or do they? Steve Benen says "talk of the Democrats' 'magic number' is misplaced," and points to Joshua Green's argument that, with Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy both in ill-health, the actual logistics of getting sixty Democrats to the Senate floor to cast a vote are still pretty tough (although one imagines that Kennedy might simply will himself there to cast a vote on health care, the cause for which he's worked most of his life). Benen also reminds us that "the 60-seat Democratic caucus includes Ben Nelson. And Joe Lieberman. And Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln and their merry band of Blue Dogs," making passing actual liberal legislation difficult.

Also riffing off the problems with getting progressive legislation through Congress, Ezra Klein says that real reform may be simply impossible:

The implicit assumption of these arguments about strategy is that there is, somewhere out there, a workable strategy. That there is some way to navigate our political system such that you enact wise legislation solving pressing problems. But that's an increasingly uncertain assumption, I think.

That may be true. But Democrats should know that it's unlikely that voters—or, for the matter, the mainstream media—will accept any of those excuses. Yes, these things are hard. Barack Obama said so himself, many times, on the campaign trail. But Democrats and liberals are in the most powerful position they've been in at least 30 years, and probably since the Great Society. Senators, including Nelson & Co, are real people with real decision-making abilities. Either they'll fix health care, address the energy crisis, and get the economy moving, or they won't. But pretending that you're going to be able to deflect the blame for not addressing the country's problems when you control both houses of Congress and the White House is folly. It may not be fair, but people expect results. Yes, 60 isn't a magic number. Yes, there are Ben Nelson-types in the caucus. Yes, the entire political system is messed up. Deal with it.

U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Barnett (right) from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, United States Army Europe leads his team up a ridge line during a dismounted patrol near Forward Operation Base Lane, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 26, 2009. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini, U.S. Army. (Released)

Happy July! Can't wait for the 4th so those darn kids will stop setting of fireworks underneath my window. Grrr. Get off my stoop! Anyway, here are the Blue Marblish stories from our other blogs you might have missed. Enjoy.

Medical Myth: Knuckle-cracking is fine, but sugar makes parents hyper-vigilant.

Coaling Down: Coal-state Dems voted against the climate bill, but not as many as you'd think.

Lobbyist Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: Kazakh government is paying Hill firm in attempt to repudiate their Borat image as anti-Semitic, prostitute-loving, horse-urine drinkers.

 

 

 

There was a coup in Honduras this weekend (the first successful one in Latin America since the end of the Cold War), but if you didn't know about it, you wouldn't be alone. Even if you heard the news, you might not know much else about the ex-banana republic located between Guatemala and Nicaragua. The small Central American nation of Honduras has produced none of the famous musicians or controversial populist demagogues that pique our interest, although deposed president Manuel Zelaya is a close friend of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. But now that President Obama has roundly condemned the coup and pundits are calling it a litmus test fo democracy in the region, there's a few things you might want to know. 

*According  to extensive research, academia, news reports, Honduras hasn't visibly changed much since the days of Yanqui Imperialism. Just to be sure, I called my twin sister, who traveled the whole country by bus while working for Save the Children and said that Dole still has a significant presence, as do Mormon missionaries for whom Honduras is now a number one destination. 

 

The Supreme Court finished its 2008 term on Monday with a flurry of decisions that continue to highlight the Court's rigid ideological rift. Below, five rulings that could have a lasting negative impact on prisoners rights, the environment, and employee discrimination practices:

The Upshot: In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Javaid Iqbal, one of the hundreds of Muslims rounded up after 9/11 and allegedly subjected to harsh treatment, could not challenge his detention in Court because he could not prove he was mistreated. In effect, the ruling increased the pleading requirements for prisoners, which could make it more difficult for prisoners to bring civil rights complaints to court.

See no evil: In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that a prison supervisor is not required to challenge discriminatory practices based on the "mere knowledge of his subordinate's discriminatory" actions.

The Upshot: In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that death row inmate William Osborne could not challenge his conviction with DNA technology invented after he was jailed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said he was disappointed that the "narrow Supreme Court ruling denied access to post-conviction DNA testing for a defendant who wanted to prove his innocence."

Prove no evil: In his dissent, Justice Stevens criticized Roberts' ruling: "for reasons the State has been unable or unwilling to articulate, it refuses to allow Osborne to test the evidence at his own expense and to thereby ascertain the truth once and for all."

A commentary by two doctors in the current Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that it's time to differentiate between healthcare and health harm. Although the data are imprecise, the authors suggest the benefits delivered by US healthcare may not outweigh the aggregate harm imparted.

In other words, you can never have too much health. Yet your health can be harmed by the overuse of medicine or by the costs of funding healthcare.

How does that work? First there's direct harm from healthcare, including adverse physical and emotional effects from all the usual stuff associated with everything from excessive use to misdiagnoses to conflicting treatments.

Second, the authors suggest, there's indirect harm. This comes from the fact that healthcare costs increasingly divert resources from education, jobs, and environmental quality—all important determinants of your health.

Healthcare's objective should be to improve health, they say. Yet its primary emphasis has been on producing services. And fee-for-service payments tend to encourage the use of more treatments, new technologies, and extra testing. These additional services and their costs can actually harm health.

The fix? To begin with, study health harm to improve healthcare. Specifically, we need to understand the tradeoffs involved in healthcare interventions and expenditures in order to guide healthcare reform efforts. While more people need access to healthcare, that's not enough. Healthcare reform needs to improve how medicine is practiced: centering it on patients, organizing it around primary care, and curbing health harm, including excessive healthcare use and spending.

How about this Rx: Fewer drugs, cleaner water, better air, healthful food, more exercise, education, jobs… 
 

Chart of the Day

Today's economic green shoot is the latest Case-Shiller report, which shows that although house prices are still declining, they're declining at a slower rate than before.  Hooray!

But Henry Blodget is right about this:

We're still talking about an astonishing rate of collapse....So the folks who use this slight moderation in the rate of decline to spin tales of a "bottom" or, worse, a "recovery" are smoking something.  Prices have at least another 10%-15% to fall, and they'll likely be falling for at least another year or two.

To show this graphically, I've helpfully extended the S&P chart Blodget includes in his post.  It's this simple: as long as the line is below zero, house prices are dropping.  And if price declines slow down at about the same rate they accelerated, it means we won't get back to zero until sometime in 2011.  Put even more simply: the price decline between 2007-2009 — which started slowly and then picked up steam — will probably be mirrored by the price decline between 2009-2011 — which started with a head of steam and will end up dropping ever more slowly until it finally flattens out.  And that price drop was about 25%.

So if anything, Blodget might be too optimistic.  We might still have 25% to go.