- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Robalini on the Gay Rights Movement
I am a strong supporter of gay rights, but frankly, their recent legal obsessions leave me a little confused. You'd think from the media coverage the only things gay people want to do is risk their necks in deadly pointless wars and get married. More power to you, but these are two things I've wisely avoided in my lifetime. I say if you have the "Get Out of Jail" card, you should keep your big mouth shut...
Suit on Health Care Bill Appears Likely to Advance
September 14, 2010
PENSACOLA, Fla. A federal judge indicated on Tuesday that he would give a green light to a lawsuit filed by elected officials from 20 states who are challenging the constitutionality of the new health care law and its requirement that most individuals obtain medical insurance.
Although he did not issue a formal ruling, Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court said at the close of a two-hour hearing that he leaned toward denying the federal government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, on at least one count. That would end the jockeying over whether states have legal standing to challenge the law, and move the case to a full debate over its fundamental constitutional question: Is the federal government's power so broad that Congress can require citizens to purchase a commercial product like health insurance?
Judge Vinson did not detail which claims he might sustain and which he might dismiss as improper. But he said he would issue an opinion no later than Oct. 14, and scheduled arguments on the merits of the case for Dec. 16.
The Pensacola case would be the second of more than 15 lawsuits filed against the health law to advance to this stage. Last month, a federal judge in Richmond, Va., rejected a Justice Department request to dismiss a similar lawsuit filed by Virginia's attorney general. That case is scheduled for oral argument on Oct. 18.
Experts on both sides expect the challenges to eventually present the Supreme Court with a landmark opportunity. "Our whole system of federalism rests on the decisions of this case," said Florida's attorney general, Bill McCollum, a Republican who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit here.
Although the Florida case is proceeding slightly behind its Virginia counterpart, it has been closely watched as a possible first among equals in the appellate process because of the political weight carried by the plaintiffs. They include 16 attorneys general, all but one a Republican, and four Republican governors.
Two individuals and the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small companies, were added to the lawsuit to fend off the federal government's contention that states do not have standing to sue because they have not been injured by the new health law.
Given that all but one of the state plaintiffs are Republicans, the lawsuit is seen as one prong of a partisan strategy to eviscerate the law in the courts, at the ballot box and on Capitol Hill.
By filing the lawsuit in Pensacola, Mr. McCollum ensured that the case would be heard by a Republican appointee to the District Court, and then by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, a generally conservative bench that handles cases from Florida. Judge Vinson, a senior judge who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, is a former naval aviator and a member of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as the president of the American Camellia Society.
His comments from the bench on Tuesday suggested initial skepticism of the federal government's claim that an individual's decision to not purchase insurance constitutes commercial "activity" that can be regulated by Congress.
"You're trying to turn the word upside down and say activity is really equivalent to inactivity," Judge Vinson at one point challenged Ian H. Gershengorn, a deputy assistant United States attorney general.
Each of the legal challenges to the health care law is somewhat different, and judges around the country have ruled differently on whether plaintiffs have legal standing to sue. Judges recently tossed out lawsuits filed by individuals and interest groups in California and Maryland, but those filed by state officials have survived.
Mr. McCollum, who recently lost Florida's Republican primary for governor, watched the hearing in the courtroom along with Attorneys General Troy King of Alabama and Mark L. Shurtleff of Utah.
The Florida lawsuit attacks the sweeping health care law on a number of fronts. Most prominently, it charges that the insurance requirement, which does not take effect until 2014, exceeds the traditional reach of the Commerce Clause in Article I of the Constitution. The Supreme Court in its most recent opinion on the matter said the clause allows Congress to "regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce."
David B. Rivkin Jr., a Washington lawyer hired to represent the plaintiffs, argued that if the government could regulate individual decisions to not purchase health insurance there could be no meaningful limits on federal power. "Congress can regulate commerce," he said. "But Congress cannot create it."
Mr. Gershengorn countered that decisions to not buy insurance, taken in the aggregate, have a direct effect on commerce because uninsured people still consume health care, and often cannot pay. That uncompensated care, he said, is subsidized by others and drives up costs for hospitals, governments and privately insured individuals.
"The appearance of inactivity here is just an illusion," Mr. Gershengorn said. What Congress is regulating, he said, is how and when people will pay for the medical services they will inevitably consume. "This is not telling people you have to buy a product," he said. "It's saying this is how you have to pay for your health care."
The states also argue that the new law, by vastly expanding the shared state and federal Medicaid program, amounts to a coercive commandeering of state resources. The federal government initially will pay for the entire eligibility expansion, but states will start paying a share in 2016 that eventually rises to 10 percent.
The Justice Department responds that the Medicaid program, which provides health insurance to those with low incomes, is voluntary, and that states may withdraw if they wish. But Blaine H. Winship, an assistant Florida attorney general, said that presented states with a Hobson's choice that ignored the safety-net role played by Medicaid for more than four decades.
"I think it's disingenuous," he told Judge Vinson. "The idea that we could walk away from Medicaid is just essentially nonsensical."
The judge seemed to empathize. "This really puts all 50 states on the short end of the stick," he said. "States are in a Catch-22 situation."
A version of this article appeared in print on September 15, 2010, on page A20 of the New York edition.
Christine O'Donnell Election Button
If a War on Terror or a War on Drugs is long, pointless and expensive, imagine a War on Masturbation...
Button courtesy of Richard Metzger and DangerousMinds.net
Christine O'Donnell In Oct. 1999: `I Dabbled Into Witchcraft'
Before she stole the hearts of tea party activists, Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell was best known for her regular and bizarre punditry on 22 different episodes of Politically Incorrect. The host of that show, Bill Maher, now has an HBO show called Real Time.
Last night, Real Time aired its first show of the current season. Maher began by mocking O'Donnell, calling her "an unemployed, anti-masturbation activist and a close friend of mine." "I created her," Maher told the audience, turning to the camera and stating, "You owe me Christine O'Donnell." Maher said that he has great fondness for O'Donnell, adding, "She does not have a mean bone in her body, or any other bone in her body."
Later in the show, Maher played a previously-unaired Oct. 29, 1999 clip of O'Donnell on Politically Incorrect, in which O'Donnell said she once "practiced witchcraft":
O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft I never joined a coven. But I did, I did. I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. [...]
One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn't know it. I mean, there's little blood there and stuff like that. We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.
Maher joked that he's going to show a fresh clip of O'Donnell every week on his show until O'Donnell agrees to appear again on his show. "I'm just saying, Christine, it's like a hostage crisis," he said, "every week you don't show up, I'm going to throw another body out."
Peace Activist Cindy Sheehan: "I am A 9/11 Truther"
Anti-war campaigner goes on record with assertion that attacks were an inside job
Tuesday, Sept 14th, 2010
Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist who lost her son to the ongoing war in Iraq, delivered an impassioned and emotional speech during which she specifically addressed concerns over the 9/11 attacks and stated that she believes they were orchestrated by elements of the U.S. government for political gain.
Sheehan was speaking at the All Souls Church on the upper East Side of Manhattan, on the eve of the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
Addressing a large crowd, Sheehan announced "I am a 9/11 truther."
Following thunderous and sustained applause she continued, "I do think it was an inside job. We just don't know I don't know how far inside it went. But, you know, I'm sure Dick Cheney had something to do with it."
Sheehan's son Casey was killed in battle in 2004. Since that time Cindy has worked tirelessly to campaign for an end to the US led wars.
Perhaps most prominently, Sheehan camped close to George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford Texas in 2005, attracting much media attention when the president failed to address one question from the grieving mother.
Sheehan also spoke of the need to look beyond the left/right political paradigm, noting that "So many people have sold their souls to this empire. Whether it's someone from the Republicans or the Democrats, or the military industrial complex it's all the same."
"They all have the same goals, they all get paid by the same people, and I like to call the Democrats and the Republicans The War Party." She continued.
"Since Obama has been president, everything that he and his justice department did was to protect the criminals of the Bush regime. They protect each other because they all want to do the same thing, they all want to have the same power." Sheehan implored.
She also spoke of the loss of domestic civil liberties and the systematic erosion of the Bill of Rights in the wake of 9/11 and the endless "war on terror".
"Just because I'm traveling doesn't give you the right to take away my Bill of Rights." Sheehan urged, as she spoke of her experiences of flying to and from events around the country. "Every time they ask me to go through one of the body scanners I say no, do what you have to do but I am not going through that."
She asked those in attendance to give some regard on the anniversary of 9/11 to the plight of the Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani people, noting "I havn't heard anybody speak for these people We're the occupiers it's up to us to do something about it".
Sheehan has previously voiced support for the 9/11 Truth movement, noting on the Alex Jones show in 2007 that the collapse of the twin towers looked like a controlled demolition and that there should be a new investigation into the terrorist attacks.
Sheehan questioned why U.S. air defenses were distracted by drills and exercises scheduled for the morning of 9/11 and why standard operating procedure for intercepting errant aircraft was not followed for the first and only time in history.
"When you lose control of an airplane, you intercept it with a military jet and that should only take seconds from what I understand it's not even an order to do that it's mandatory," said Sheehan at the time.
Chile's Ghosts: The Tyranny of Forgetting
Monday, 13 September 2010
Late in the afternoon on September 4th, 1970 a crowd gathered in central Santiago, Chile to celebrate the election of socialist president Salvador Allende. Among the participants in the celebration were the leftist folk singer Victor Jara and his wife Joan.
In her book, Victor: An Unfinished Song, Joan Jara recounts this scene "full of happiness, hugs and tears." People pushed through the crowd, eager to congratulate Allende. When Joan neared the president-elect she remembers embracing him in a cathartic, bear-like hug. Allende said to her, "Hug me harder, compañera! This is not a time for timidity!"
The hope of that day ended in bloodshed just three years later. On September 11th, 1973 Allende was overthrown in a US-backed coup. The military dictator Augusto Pinochet took power, and led the country in a reign of terror which left thousands dead, tortured and traumatized. Among the coup's victims were Victor Jara and Allende.
As part of the crackdown, armed forces searched the home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda told the soldiers, "Look aroundthere's only one thing of danger for you herepoetry." He died days later of heart failure, on September 23rd.
Though the dictator and many of his accomplices have escaped justice Pinochet died in 2006 at age 91 the horrors of Pinochet's reign are widely documented. The book Clandestine in Chile: The Adventure of Miguel Littín by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, tells the story of Littín's 1985 return to Chile after living in exile since the coup. The story was told from Littín's perspective.
Hunkered down in the Basque city of San Sebastián, the leftist laments cutting off his beard in preparation for his return to Chile under a new identity. "The first thing to go was my beard. This was not just a simple matter of shaving. The beard had created a personality for me that I now had to shed." To cushion the shock, he took the beard off gradually.
Reflecting on Chile under Pinochet, Littín remembers the tireless struggle of coal miner Sebastián Acevedo, who fought to end the torture of his twenty-two-year-old son and twenty-year-old daughter. The desperate Acevedo ultimately warned public officials, journalists and religious leaders, "If you don't do something to stop the torture of my children, I will soak myself with gasoline and set myself on fire in the atrium of the [Concepción] cathedral." Acevedo followed through with the threat, and became a haunting symbol of the fight against the dictatorship.
Non-violent demonstrations against Pinochet's crimes followed the death of Acevedo. Littín described the confrontation. "The police attacked the group [of protesters] with water canons while more than two hundred of them, soaked to the skin, stood impassively against a wall, singing hymns of love."
Before he left the country in 1973, soldier's burned Littín's books in a bonfire constructed in the garden of his home. Over a decade later, in 1986, Pinochet was still burning books. The dictator himself ordered 15,000 copies of Clandestine in Chile to be destroyed.
On September 11, 2010, over six thousand people gathered to mark the anniversary of the coup. Participants converged in homage to the victims of the dictatorship, as well as to demand justice and respect for human rights under the current Sebastián Piñera administration. Chile's right wing President Piñera, one of the wealthiest people in the country, did not participate in the acts that commemorated the start of the dictatorship.
"We are living under a right wing regime which participated in the dictatorship and even today is justifying the [dictatorship's] human rights violations," Mireya García, the vice president of the Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared, told Telesur.
Some members of Piñera's administration also worked in the Pinochet dictatorship and have not been brought to justice for their crimes. Speaking of the 37th anniversary of the September 11th coup, Piñera said that Chileans should move beyond the conflicts of the past. "We should not remain trapped in the same fights and divisions."
Allende warned against the tyranny of forgetting. In his final radio broadcast to the Chilean people, the president condemned the coup plotters, "I say to them that I am certain that the seeds which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever. They have force and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested by neither crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history."
Benjamin Dangl is the author of the forthcoming book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press, October 2010) and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events and UpsideDownWorld.org, covering activism and politics in Latin America. Email Bendangl@....
Obama Mocks Public Option Supporters
Friday September 17, 2010
Obama took the opportunity to mock supporters of the public option last night at a DNC event in Greenwich, Connecticut (per Mike Allen):
OBAMA: Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed then, well, I don't know about this particularly derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.
Yeah, we know who we are. We're the people who supported Bill Halter's primary challenge of Blanche Lincoln, the woman Obama campaigned for. Who only included that derivatives rule in the financial reform bill because she was afraid of losing to Halter.
We're the people who fought for a year and a half to pass Audit the Fed, which Obama, the Fed, the Treasury and the banks all lobbied against and worked hard to weaken. It passed the Senate 94-0, and Chris Hayes called it "the single greatest act of bipartisanship since Obama took office" on MSNBC. It was part of the financial reg bill, which is the "only popular Democratic act" since the 2008 election, per Gallup.
Obama himself used to be one of us, when he said that "the choice of a public insurance option" was one of his "three bedrock requirements for real health care reform" when he wanted people to sign up for OFA:
We're the people whose votes Obama was trying to secure on the campaign trail when he:
outlined his health care plan in a 2007 campaign speech, saying "Essentially . . we're going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don't have health insurance. It will be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services."
promised in 2008 on his campaign's website that "any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan." 
signed on to the HCAN principles on October 6, 2008, which includes "a public insurance plan without a private insurer middleman that guarantees affordable coverage."
told the Washington Post that his health care plan "creates a new public health plan for those currently without coverage."
So Obama promises people a public plan, they go out and campaign for him in record numbers, and then when the Senate decides to drop the public option from the health care bill, he says "I didn't campaign on the public option."
Glenn Greenwald, from February 2010:
As I wrote back in August, the evidence was clear that while the President was publicly claiming that he supported the public option, the White House, in private, was doing everything possible to ensure its exclusion from the final bill (in order not to alienate the health insurance industry by providing competition for it). Yesterday, Obama while having his aides signal that they would use reconciliation if necessary finally unveiled his first-ever health care plan as President, and guess what it did not include? The public option, which he spent all year insisting that he favored oh-so-much but sadly could not get enacted: Gosh, I really want the public option, but we just don't have 60 votes for it; what can I do?. As I documented in my contribution to the NYT forum yesterday, now that there's a 50-vote mechanism to pass it, his own proposed bill suddenly excludes it.
Russ Feingold says that the reason there was no public option in the final bill was because of "lack of support from the administration."
Joe Lieberman, whose vote was used as an excuse for ditching the public option when it was assumed that the health care bill would need 60 votes to get through the Senate, said that he he "didn't really have direct input from the White House" on the public option and was never specifically asked to support it.
When the Senate decided to go the reconciliation route and only needed 50 votes to pass the bill, and nobody needed Lieberman's vote any more, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs threw cold water on any attempt to do so, saying it wasn't a "consensus idea."
So it's awfully glib for Obama to now belittle the people who worked hard to get him elected for always seeing the glass "half empty" if they're disappointed about the public option. Then again, he apparently doesn't even remember the promises he made to them.
Maybe they're not being negative, maybe they're just smart enough to know when they've been conned.
One thing is for sure. Obama never would have expressed this kind of contempt for the base prior to his own election. He and the DNC are playing Russian roulette with the rest of the party, belittling the very people who show up and vote and do all the campaign grunt work in every race in the country. And for what? It all appears to be little more than an egotistical, thin-skinned taunt aimed at those they feel aren't giving them the accolades the Democrats think they deserve.
Nobody in the history of electoral politics, and I mean nobody, believes that telling people to "get over it" will get them to the polls. (Well, nobody but Spiro Agnew.) And you can bet your bottom dollar that come 2012, when Obama's own electoral future is on the line, that won't be his message.