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Reason #2,359 to Support Universal Health Care

| Mon Jan. 14, 2008 10:51 AM EST

American businesses seem to have a never-ending supply of creative ways for dropping people off their health care plans. The latest: employee insurance audits. Big companies have started demanding that employees prove that their dependents are really dependents and eligible for the company health care coverage. Naturally, consulting firms have sprung up to assist with the purges, demanding tax returns, marriage licenses and other personal documents from lowly service workers in the hopes of catching some cheaters, or at least people without good filing systems.

Newhouse News reporter Katherine Reynolds Lewis notes that the Ford Motor Company used audits to drop 80,000 people off its health care plan. Such numbers have apparently inspired a rush to audit. GM is currently auditing its entire 1 million strong workforce. A GM spokesperson told Lewis that the audits were worth the expense: "For every one that we drop, it's about a $1,000 savings," she said. If only the American auto industry managed to devote such innovation to producing cars! At some point, though, the auto makers and other big companies ought to just ask the government to take health care off their hands. At the rate they're going, it won't be long before none of their employees have health insurance anyway. They might as well just make it official and do something constructive about it.

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Clinton Smears Obama on Iraq - Again

| Mon Jan. 14, 2008 9:54 AM EST

Senator Hillary Clinton appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday, for the entire show, and asserted once again that Senator Barack Obama's rhetoric does not match the reality of his record. Referring to voters, she remarked, "I want them to have accurate information about our respective records." Yet moments later, Clinton, ostensibly providing voters with information about Obama's record, falsely characterized what Obama had once said about Saddam Hussein--to make it seem that prior to the war Obama was weak on Saddam.

During the show, Tim Russert brought up Clinton's vote in October 2002 for the legislation authorizing George W. Bush to take military action against Iraq, and he quoted a speech Obama gave at that time:

I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors....I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

Russert then asked Clinton, "Who had the better judgment at that time?" Meaning you or him.

Clinton insisted that her support for the war resolution had been merely a vote to pressure the Iraqi dictator to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq. She quickly moved on to attack Obama:

And in Senator Obama's recent book, he clearly says he thought that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, and that he still coveted nuclear weapons. His judgment was that, at the time in 2002, we didn't need to make any efforts. My belief was we did need to pin Saddam down, put inspectors in.

You can read it in his own book, Clinton was saying: Obama didn't want to do anything to stop Saddam, even though he feared that Saddam did possess chemical and biological weapons.

That was one helluva charge. Obama was willing to sit back and let a WMD-toting dictator go along on his merry own way (while Clinton was doing what she could to pin down that snake). Could this be true? Had Obama been a do-nothing appeaser of Saddam in 2002? (Forget for a moment that it turned out Saddam had zilch in the WMD department at the time.) I emailed Howard Wolfson, the communications director for the Clinton campaign, and asked for a citation to back up this incendiary allegation. He quickly replied, directing me to page 294 of Obama's Audacity of Hope.

Clinton "So Proud" of Obama

| Sun Jan. 13, 2008 9:28 PM EST

Funny how things turn out. When you're campaigning in front of the heavily black Democratic electorate in South Carolina, you can only bag on the black candidate in the race for so long until people get ticked off. So, you have to change your message. And you have to change your message so quickly, even the mainstream media throws in a sly criticism. From ABC News:

After an hour-long television interview critiquing Sen. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton went to an African American church, where the only words she had for her democratic rival -- were of praise....
"We never thought we would see the day when an African-American and a woman were competing for the presidency," Clinton said. "I am so proud of my party, I am so proud of my country, and I am so proud of Sen. Barack Obama."

I know it has been a Clinton-heavy day of blogging. Apologies for that. In non-campaign news, a high-level foreign policy official in the Bush Administration finally called waterboarding torture. That's important stuff and probably warrants it's own blog post, not the last line of a horserace post...

New Clinton Surrogate Raises Obama's Drug Use

| Sun Jan. 13, 2008 8:15 PM EST

clinton_obama_profile.jpg The Clinton folks aren't letting anyone forget about Barack Obama's drug use. Just one month after New Hampshire campaign co-chair Billy Shaheen (now resigned) raised the possibility of Obama selling drugs as a teenager, Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson said at a Hillary Clinton rally:

"And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in the book –­ when they have been involved."

The probability of Johnson freelancing on this is incredibly low. The Clinton campaign has a track record of using surrogates to do its dirty work. A Hill staffer who is supporting Clinton but is unaffiliated with the campaign told me he loved the Clinton campaign's hardball tactics. "The Clintons are so gangster," he said. "I love it!"

I'll just say this. When I found out Obama admitted to using marijuana and cocaine in his early writings, I gave him credit. Most politicians would try to bury stuff like that. Obama put it on the table, even though he must have known it would eventually be used against him. I assumed it would be used against him by Republicans; perhaps that was naive. The Obama campaign has chosen not to bring up some of the nastier parts of the Clintons' past (he has gone only so far as to say that America doesn't need to refight the "fights of the '90s"), and that's obviously part of his take-the-high-road approach. But I'm growning skeptical of that plan's chances of success. Even if Obama is committed to hitting back hard when attacked, he will still be on the defensive for the entire campaign.

As I've said before, you don't win by playing nice. But if Obama plays nasty, he'll undercut his brand. It's tough out there for a positive campaigner.

Clinton Supporters Sue to Suppress Turnout in Nevada

| Sun Jan. 13, 2008 3:50 PM EST

What's some voter disenfranchisement on the way to a primary victory?

Nevada's state teachers union and six Las Vegas area residents filed a lawsuit late Friday that could make it harder for many members of the state's huge hotel workers union to vote in the hotly contested Jan. 19 Democratic caucus in Nevada.
The 13-page lawsuit in federal district court here comes two days after the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Nevada endorsed Senator Barack Obama, a blow to Mrs. Clinton...
The lawsuit argues that the Nevada Democratic Party's decision, decided late last year, to create at-large precincts inside nine Las Vegas resorts on caucus day violates the state's election laws and creates a system in which voters at the at-large precincts can elect more delegates than voters at other precincts...
The at-large precincts are being established because thousands of hotel workers cannot leave work to participate in the midday caucuses in their home precincts. The Nevada State Education Association has said it would not endorse any Democrat, but some of its top officials have endorsed Mrs. Clinton. The association's deputy executive director, Debbie Cahill, for instance, was a founding member of Senator Clinton's Nevada Women's Leadership Council.

I know a number of Democrats who don't mind Hillary Clinton or her policies, but hate the way she and her campaign play the game of politics. Filing a lawsuit (through surrogates, of course) to hinder the turnout of a union that has endorsed her opponent is a great example. Of course, I suspect that those same Democrats won't mind if HRC or any other Democratic candidate plays this sort of hardball with the Republican candidate in the general...

Bush Working to Insure Permanent Presence in Iraq

| Sat Jan. 12, 2008 7:25 PM EST

We've been in Korea for fifty years. And under an agreement that President Bush is hammering out with the Iraqis, we'll be in Iraq for the same period, or more. According to Newsweek:

...Bush said that negotiations were about to begin on a long-term strategic partnership with the Iraqi government modeled on the accords the United States has with Kuwait and many other countries. Crocker, who flew in from Baghdad with Petraeus to meet with the president, elaborated: "We're putting our team together now, making preparations in Washington," he told reporters. "The Iraqis are doing the same. And in the few weeks ahead, we would expect to get together to start this negotiating process."
[snip]
Most significant of all, the new partnership deal with Iraq... will become a sworn obligation for the next president. It will become just another piece of the complex global security framework involving a hundred or so countries with which Washington now has bilateral defense or security cooperation agreements. Last month, Sen. Hillary Clinton urged Bush not to commit to any such agreement without congressional approval. The president said nothing about that on Saturday, but Lute said last fall that the Iraqi agreement would not likely rise to the level of a formal treaty requiring Senate ratification. Even so, it would be difficult if not impossible for future presidents to unilaterally breach such a pact.

This means the withdrawal plans the Democrats are currently running on are likely meaningless. We're going to be in Iraq more or less permanently.

And McCain rejoices.

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Friday's Sly Music News Day

| Fri Jan. 11, 2008 4:35 PM EST

mojo-photo-news0111.jpg

  • Okay, I knew that pneumonia story was suspicious. It turns out Eminem wasn't just in the hospital for a cough. The rapper has apparently ballooned into a "fat Elvis," this according to his mom, who's quoted in a gossip blog saying the 5 foot 7 rapper now weighs over 200 pounds and was hospitalized for possible heart problems as well as the pneumonia. Apparently the rapper is "depressed." But it feels so empty without you!

  • Following in the wake of Radiohead's post-EMI success, both Coldplay and Robbie Williams are reportedly considering leaving the label as well. Well if you have a "pay what you want" internet site, please do it in dollars so I don't screw it up again. Oh wait, I don't buy music from either of you.
  • Soulja Boy has set a digital sales record. His irrepressible hit "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)," whose eponymous subtitle confuses and infuriates me, has become the first track to sell 3 million downloads. The music videos have been viewed over 50 million times on YouTube. Soulja Boy responded to the news by saying, "Yuuuuaaaa!!" Seriously.
  • This year's Coachella music festival near Palm Springs is set for the weekend of April 25-27, and now Idolator has what they call the "first fake line-up" for this year's festival, although Stereogum posted one back in November. Nothing, however, beats the one you can see after the jump:
  • Toyota Tops Consumer Reports' Greenest Cars

    | Fri Jan. 11, 2008 3:50 PM EST

    prius.jpgAlthough "eco-friendliness" ranks well behind "safety" and "value" among qualities consumers consider when buying cars, Consumer Reports did due diligence finding out which brands of cars are perceived as the most green. To be clear, they only tested for brand's perception as an eco-friendly car-maker, not how friendly the actual car is to Mother Earth.

    It's probably no surprise that Toyota ranks the highest, with its seemingly ubiquitous Prius. Nearly half of the consumers surveyed say they associate Toyota with being green, twice as many as selected the runner-up brand, Honda. Ford (Escape Hybrid), Chevrolet (Tahoe Hybrid), and GMC (Yukon Hybrid) came in at third, fourth, and fifth places, respectively.

    Although being "green" came in fifth among qualities consumers say they look for, it's encouraging that eco-friendliness was ranked higher than "design/style" and "technology/innovation." To me, that signifies that Americans may be more willing to put the environment above looks and style or unnecessary doo-dads when purchasing their next automobile. Of course, if we had better public transportation systems, we might not need all those cars on the road at all. But hey, a gal can dream.

    The True Victims of Abortion: Men

    | Fri Jan. 11, 2008 2:07 PM EST

    Now that I'm raising a son, I take time every few months to worry about him getting someone pregnant accidentally. I'm more worried about him being a selfish dog with women, but pregnancy's right up there. (I'm less worried about my daughter; if she's like me, and like most affluent women, I'll never know what she's up to sexually hard as I'll try to delude myself to the contrary). I'm going to try hard to teach them both to wait til they're ready and then protect themselves, and their partners, to the max. But shit happens, right?

    Big a deal as an unplanned pregnancy is for women, I know it's no walk in the park for men, especially if the relationship was casual. I have little sympathy for men who play no, little, or an antagonistic role in birth control - you're on your own. Abort, pay child support or maybe raise a kid; you made that bed. But if you did your part and still end up waiting to hear what the woman's decided to do - major drama. But some things cross a line. Now we have men of long-ago aborted kids claiming center stage in the abortion debate. No big deal then, big deal now.

    From the LA Times:

    Baier, 36, still longs for the child who might have been, with an intensity that bewilders him: "How can I miss something I never even held?"
    These days, he channels the grief into activism in a burgeoning movement of "post-abortive men." Abortion is usually portrayed as a woman's issue: her body, her choice, her relief or her regret. This new movement -- both political and deeply personal in nature -- contends that the pronoun is all wrong.
    "We had abortions," said Mark B. Morrow, a Christian counselor. "I've had abortions."

    And now you'd like a do-over? Goes without saying that this is religion-based (the traumatized men are instructed to visualize their aborted babies playing in a sun dappled meadow at Jesus's feet) but most of all it's political. And insofar as it's politcal it's cynical manipulation. Imagine some guy you had a misguided one nighter with two decades ago tracking you down to make you relive your abortion. I wonder if any of these guys realize that the abortions aren't as painful as the memory of having been involved with them? This 'activist' sums it up:

    If he could go back in time, he would try to save the babies.
    But would his long-ago girlfriends agree? Or might they also consider the abortions a choice that set them on a better path?
    Aubert looks startled. "I never really thought about it for the woman," he says slowly.

    Emphasis added, as if I needed to. I don't even want to know what "trying to save the babies" might entail, given these guys' sense of entitlement and self-pitying bullshit. If ever there was a time for aliens to come and show us the alternate reality where Aubert and Baier are in court fighting not to pay child support or ignoring their pre-marriage kids, this is it. There should be a summit between these guys and the ones who think they shouldn't have to pay child support if they have no say in abortions. I guess it all depends where you are in the cycle.Sorry folks. Just too convenient, just like the women who abort, get their lives together, then want us to help them feel sorry for their abortions. Be a woman. Be a man. Make your choices and live with the consequences.

    Election Mischief: Democrats for Romney in Michigan

    | Fri Jan. 11, 2008 1:42 PM EST

    demformitt.jpg Kos is advocating a little election mischief in Michigan. The Democratic side of the January 15 Michigan primary is meaningless because the DNC stripped Michigan of all its delegates to the national convention when it moved its primary ahead of Feb. 5 without permission. Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich are on the ballot there, but no one else is.

    Happily, Democrats have lots of other options, because under Michigan state law, they can vote in the Republican race. So what is a good Michigan Democrat to do?

    Kos says vote for Romney because a Romney victory would mean that Huckabee, McCain, and Romney will all have won one primary—no frontrunner means more turmoil, more negative ads, and more in-party fighting for the GOP. Keeping Romney, in particular, in the race makes sense because Romney goes negative the most often and has no qualms about tearing up his competitors.

    Except there's a problem: if no frontrunner emerges from the GOP's early primary calendar, Rudy Giuliani has a much stronger chance in Florida and the February 5 super primary. And do Democrats want to accidentally help elect Rudy Giuliani? When Giuliani puts everybody in camps and bombs the entire Middle East, they're going to feel terrible.

    So what else can they do? Vote for Huckabee, a not-ready-for-primetime evolution-denier that holds fewer foreign policy credentials than the greenest Democrat? That's an okay idea. Vote for Fred Thompson, just so the old man can make a decent showing before he drops out? Or vote for Ron Paul, who is right roughly half the time and is a delightful player on the national stage?

    Before considering McCain, recognize that independents who don't have the Democratic field available to them will probably flock to the Arizona Senator. He likely won't need any help.

    So the choice is yours, Michigan Democrats. If you actually want to take the time to go to the polls to vote in a meaningless election, you have a number of awful but bizarrely wonderful options available to you.