Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, October 8th, 2007.


Rabble Rouser

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blogging, conservatism, Health Care

After a target of one of Michelle Malkin’s hate campaigns committed suicide you’d think Little Lulu would show a little restraint.

But no; Malkin and others on the Right have formed a full-scale howling mob to attack the family of 12-year-old Graeme Frost. Righties have been calling the Frosts, harassing them with personal questions. Malkin personally drove by the Frosts’ home so that she could describe it to her readers, and she went to a commercial property they own and interviewed one of the tenants.

Why? Because Graeme appeared in a commercial in support of the S-CHIP program.

Faiz writes at Think Progress:

The right-wing immediately condemned Democrats for daring to put a human face on the SCHIP program at a time when Bush was proposing a “diminishment of the number of children covered.” Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) — who has posed with children to advance his own political agenda — claimed Graeme was being used “as a human shield.”

Conservatives have more recently turned their targets on young Graeme Frost himself. A poster at the Free Republic propagated information alleging that Frost was actually a rich kid being pampered by the government. Among other bits of information, the post by the Freeper “icwhatudo” asserts that Graeme and his sister Gemma attend wealthy schools that cost “nearly $40,000 per year for tuition” and live in a well-off home.

The smear attack against Graeme has taken firm hold in the right-wing blogosphere. The National Review, Michelle Malkin, Wizbang, Powerline, and the Weekly Standard blog have all launched assaults on the Frost family. The story is slowly working its way into traditional media outlets as well.

Here are the facts that the right-wing distorted in order to attack young Graeme:

1) Graeme has a scholarship to a private school. The school costs $15K a year, but the family only pays $500 a year.

2) His sister Gemma attends another private school to help her with the brain injuries that occurred due to her accident. The school costs $23,000 a year, but the state pays the entire cost.

3) They bought their “lavish house” sixteen years ago for $55,000 at a time when the neighborhood was less than safe.

4) Last year, the Frost’s made $45,000 combined. Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined.

5) The state of Maryland has found them eligible to participate in the CHIP program.

Desperate to defend Bush’s decision to cut off millions of children from health care, the right wing has stooped to launching baseless and uninformed attacks against a 12 year old child and his family.

Right wing bloggers have been harassing the Frosts, calling their home numerous times to get information about their private lives. Compassionate conservatism indeed.

To the list of shameless liars attacking the Frost family I would like to add spree at Wake Up America, Jimmie at The Sundries Shack, and Don Surber. I only wish there was some way these tools could get a taste of their own medicine.

John Cole, on Malkin’s stalking campaign:

Maybe she can get some of her flunkies at Hot Air to sit with binoculars and see what they have for dinner. Better not be government cheese, or the SHIT is going to hit the fan.

The Malkin wing of the current Republican party makes me fucking sick. …

…This is about the base instincts of the modern right, and the attempts to intimidate and smear and label it as “investigating.” I don’t have a problem with opposing SCHIP, I don’t have a problem with opposing legislation by anecdote (which is why I, unlike Michelle, hated the Schiavo legislation). I do have a problem with publishing a desperate family’s financial information, scouring pictures of their kitchen to determine the value of their appliances, and stalking their abode. Even if they were used at a press conference by Democrats.

What Michelle has done here is creepy and weird and wrong.

Whiskey Fire:

Her defense for her behavior, and for that of Greater Wingnuttia:

    Asking questions and subjecting political anecdotes to scrutiny are what journalists should be doing.

But all this shit started with obviously stupid and dishonest “questions” that weren’t questions at all, but vile innuendo. The reason actual journalists didn’t ask these “questions” is that there was never any reason to ask them except to engage in this innuendo. “Mr. & Ms. Frost, you appear to be spending $40,000 a year on your $45,000 income in order to send your kids to a swanky private school. Could you explain to our readers how you are perpetrating tax fraud and lying to the government to qualify for financial benefits?” A reporter who asked a “question” like that ought to expect a punch in the snout, frankly.

Nothing in this family’s story is remotely implausible, and anyone who pretends otherwise is making up crap because they don’t like a healthcare program that benefits the middle class. Period.

Malkin and the mouth breathers who follow her think they can force their way on America by mob rule and intimidation. Let’s prove ’em wrong. Support S-CHIP.

Update: Digby offers mild objections.

This is so loathesome I am literally sick to my stomach. These kids were hurt in a car accident. Their parents could not afford health insurance — and sure as hell couldn’t get it now with a severely handicapped daughter. And these shrieking wingnut jackasses are harassing their family for publicly supporting the program that allowed the kids to get health care. A program, by the way, which a large number of these Republicans support as well.

They went after Michael J. Fox. They went after a wounded Iraq war veteran. Now they are going after handicapped kids. There is obviously no limit to how low these people will go.

They’d better pray that they stay rich and healthy and live forever because if there is a hell these people are going to be on the express train to the 9th circle the minute they shuffle off their useless mortal coils.

Scum.

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Changing His Tune

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Iraq War

Josh Marshall calls this the first live-on-cable castration.

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Support SCHIP

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Health Care

John Amato explains how. See also Christy and Digby.

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Legacies

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Asia, Bush Administration

Yesterday in the Washington Post, Bill Kristol expressed frustration that the U.S. didn’t do more to help Burma.

What about using our national power to help the Burmese people against their tyrannical rulers? Burma’s regime lost what little legitimacy it had with its bloody crackdown. Parts of the ruling elite must be nervous. Couldn’t we give at least some of Burma’s generals and soldiers reason to doubt the wisdom of slaughtering political opponents? Couldn’t we turn our intelligence-gathering capabilities on Burma to monitor, document and publicize what is happening? Couldn’t we tell the generals who are ordering and the soldiers who are carrying out this crackdown that they are being watched, that their names are being recorded — and that the day will come when there will be plenty of evidence to hold them personally accountable for their deeds?

I believe that day comes for us all, Bill, but let me address your questions anyway.

As I explained last week, a critical fact about Burma is that it shares a 2,000 kilometer border with China. Burma also supplies natural gas and other vital resources to China. Therefore, any messing around with Burma by a western power is likely to be of keen interest to China.

And there are two key facts to keep in mind about China:

1. China has the largest standing army in the world.

2. China is holding a big honking chunk of U.S. debt.

Niall Ferguson, of all people, has noticed this second fact, and it bothers him. He writes in today’s Los Angeles Times:

France, Britain, America: They each have had their era of hegemony. Now, however, they all belong to the club of developed debtors, with combined current account deficits of $970 billion last year. Other members of this club are Australia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain. Apart from Iceland, it reads like a list of ex-empires, with the former members of the British Empire (energy-rich Canada excepted) in the lead.

Collectively, the developed debtors had to borrow about $1.3 trillion last year. On the other side of this great global equation is the club of emerging exporters. According to the International Monetary Fund, more than 40% of the developed debtors’ funding requirement last year was met by China, Russia and the Middle East.

The problem for the deficit countries is essentially that their people think the world owes them a living. Their politicians pander to this assumption by making a series of more or less incompatible promises: that expenditure on healthcare and education will always go up; that direct taxation will never go up; and that the assets against which voters borrow will never go down. The only way to fulfill these promises is to pump out ever more printed paper: bank notes, bills, bonds, stocks and the rest. The emerging exporters buy these. The net result must be a creeping transfer of financial ownership from West to East.

This process is about to enter a new phase as China establishes its own sovereign wealth fund to join those operated by the likes of Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Singapore. According to Morgan Stanley, these funds manage about $2.6 trillion. In 15 years, their assets could reach $27 trillion, giving them control of nearly 10% of total global financial assets.

Bottom line, the more in debt we become to China, Russia, and the Middle East, the less power we have to influence anything they do. Ferguson thinks this is bad. Frankly, so do I. So let’s talk about why this is happening.

Furguson writes, The problem for the deficit countries is essentially that their people think the world owes them a living. Their politicians pander to this assumption by making a series of more or less incompatible promises: that expenditure on healthcare and education will always go up; that direct taxation will never go up; and that the assets against which voters borrow will never go down. Oh, those greedy people who want education and health care!

Ferguson didn’t mention the tab we’re running on the war in Iraq, currently estimated at $600 billion and climbing. The Congressional Budget Office says Bush’s long-term plans in Iraq will cost trillions. Even better, appropriations for the war in Iraq are supplemental rather than regular, which means that our military costs in Iraq are off-budget. That makes it easier for the Bush Administration to lie to the American people about the effect of the war on our national debt.

And for the most part it’s not American citizens who dissolve into twitches of apoplexy at the mention of raising taxes. It’s the Bush Administration. And why is that, you ask? Paul Krugman dropped a hint in his column today:

Here’s how Irving Kristol, then the editor of The Public Interest, explained his embrace of supply-side economics in the 1970s: He had a “rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems” because “the task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority — so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

So Bill Kristol’s daddy, Irving, helped to sell voodoo economics to a gullible public in order to buy power — a conservative majority; a Republican majority. And now after 30 years of right-wing propaganda it has become political suicide — conventional wisdom says — for any politician to even think about raising taxes. So, we raise debt. Meanwhile, our military and intelligence resources are being depleted in Iraq, so that we are hurting to cover our real national security needs, never mind mess around with Burma.

And now Bill Kristol — a major supporter of the Iraq War, as is Niall Ferguson — wonders why the Bush Administration has no way to apply pressure to help Burma. Maybe he should ask his daddy.

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Killer Law

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abortion, Latin America

Last November, Nicaragua became the third country in the world, after Chile and El Salvador, to criminalize all abortions. There are no exceptions; not for rape, not for incest, not for threats to the life of the mother.

So far, this law has resulted in the deaths of at least 82 women. Rory Carroll reports for The Guardian:

Abortion has long been illegal in Nicaragua but there had been exceptions for “therapeutic” reasons if three doctors agreed there was a risk to the woman’s life. Those exceptions were no longer necessary, said the Nicaraguan Pro-Life Association, because medical advances obviated the need to terminate pregnancies. “The conditions that justified therapeutic abortion now have medical solutions,” says a spokesman. Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the ban but added that women should not suffer or die as a result. “In this regard, it is essential to increase the assistance of the state and of society itself to women who have serious problems during pregnancy.”

The “assistance” the state offers is to let women die. The article focuses on a young woman named María de Jesús González who was denied medical help for an ectopic pregnancy. These occur when the fertlized egg implants somewhere other than in the uturus, usually the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies occur from 1 in every 40 to 1 in every 100 pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies have no chance of ending in a live birth. Eventually the growing fetus will cause an internal rupture in the mother, leading to bleeding, shock, and death. The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.

González was told at the hospital that any doctor who terminated her pregnancy would face two to three years in jail and she, for consenting, would face one to two years. … What González did next was – when you understand what life in Nicaragua is like these days – utterly rational. She walked out of the hospital, past the obstetrics and gynaecological ward, past the clinics and pharmacies lining the avenues, packed her bag, kissed her aunts goodbye, and caught a bus back to her village. She summoned two neighbouring women – traditional healers – and requested that they terminate the pregnancy in her shack. Without anaesthetic or proper instruments it was more akin to mutilation than surgery, but González insisted. The haemhorraging was intense, and the agony can only be imagined. It was in vain. Maria died. “We heard there was a lot of blood, a lot of pain,” says Esperanza Zeledon, 52, one of the Managua aunts.

According to the Nicaraguan health ministry it would have been legal for the doctors to remove the embryo growing in González.

But such is the climate of fear and confusion that the protocols are widely ignored and misunderstood. The doctors who turned González away from the hospital in Managua thought it was illegal, as did medical staff the Guardian interviewed in Ocotal, González’s home town.

“The ban has people frightened. You could lose everything – that’s the first thing on your mind,” says Dr Arguello, a leading critic of the ban. So far there have been no prosecutions but many doctors are unwilling to take the risk on behalf of women who are often poor, uneducated and from a lower social class.

No one knows how many other women have died.

The Pope seemed to acknowledge an increased risk to women’s health but Nicaragua’s government has made no formal study of the law’s impact. Women’s rights organisations say their 82 documented deaths are the tip of the iceberg. The Pan-American Health Organisation estimates one woman per day suffers from an ectopic pregnancy, and that every two days a woman suffers a miscarriage from a molar pregnancy. That adds up to hundreds of obstetric emergencies per year.

Human Rights Watch, in a recent report titled Over Their Dead Bodies, cited one woman who urgently needed medical help, but was left untreated at a public hospital for two days because the foetus was still alive and so a therapeutic abortion would be illegal. Eventually she expelled the foetus on her own. “By then she was already in septic shock and died five days later,” said the doctor.

The Catholic News Agency reports that last month Pope Benedict XVI praised Nicaragua for its policies “respecting” human life.

During his remarks the Pope praised Nicaragua for “the position it takes on social questions in the international arena, especially as regards the theme of life, and in the face of no small amount of domestic and international pressure.”

The Holy Father said it was very “positive that last year the national assembly approved the revocation of therapeutic abortion,” and he affirmed the “need to increase the aid that state and society provide to women who have serious problems during pregnancy.”

American “pro life” organizations like Concerned Women for America also support the Nicaraguan abortion ban.

Shortly after the law was passed in November 2006, N.C. Aizenman wrote for the Washington Post:

Jazmina Bojorge arrived at Managua’s Fernando Vélez Paiz Hospital on a Tuesday evening, nearly five months pregnant and racked with fever and abdominal pain. By the following Thursday morning, both the pretty 18-year-old and the female fetus in her womb were dead.

The mystery of what happened during the intervening 36 hours might not ordinarily have catapulted Bojorge into the headlines of a nation with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Western Hemisphere.

But a week before her death on Nov. 2, Nicaragua’s legislature had voted to ban all abortions, eliminating long-standing exceptions for rape, malformation of the fetus and risk to the life or health of the mother. Now, outraged opponents of the legislation have declared Bojorge its first victim.

“It’s clear that fear of punishment kept the doctors from doing what they needed to do to save her — which was to abort the pregnancy immediately,” said Juanita Jiménez of the Women’s Autonomous Movement, an advocacy group that is leading the campaign to reverse the ban. “This is exactly what we warned would happen if this law was passed. We’ve been taken back to the Middle Ages.”

So-called “right to life” advocates in the U.S. will tell you categorically that “There is no such thing as an abortion to save the life of the mother.” “Life of the mother” is not a valid exception, they say.

Of course, if ever their own sorry carcasses were about to be opened up by a couple of “traditional healers” without anesthesia in a last-ditch effort to avoid death by internal rupture and hemorrhage they might feel a bit differently.

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