Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, March 14th, 2010.

Furlong’s Off-the-Books Spy Operation

War on Terror

The New York Times just posted a story about a Defense Department official running an off-the-books spy operation with private contractors. It’s late and my brain has shut down, but this seems significant.

“While no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up, it’s generally a bad idea to have freelancers running around a war zone pretending to be James Bond,” one American government official said. But it is still murky whether Mr. Furlong had approval from top commanders or whether he might have been running a rogue operation.

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Merlin Olsen 1940-2010

entertainment and popular culture

I just learned that former Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Merlin Olsen died on March 11 of cancer. Those of you who don’t follow football might remember Olsen better as Jonathan Garvey on Little House on the Prairie. And those of us who couldn’t stand Little House on the Prairie might remember him best from FTD commercials. Still, he always seemed like a very decent man, and I’m surprised his death didn’t make more of a splash in the news.

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HCR Good for America, Smart for Democrats

Obama Administration

In the Washington Post, Joel Benenson explains why polls showing opposition to health care reform are misleading and why passage of HCR is not a political risk for Democrats.

First, the split between approval and disapproval of the current health care reform bill is pretty close to even. The most recent poll at, conducted March 2-8 by AP-GfK Roper, shows “approve” slightly ahead, 49 percent to 46 percent.

Further, Benenson says a couple of polls that asked follow-up questions found that a substantial minority — more than one-third in a recent Ipsos poll — of the “opposers” were against the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, not because it goes too far. It’s safe to say that the percentage of Americans who oppose the bill because they think it is too radically “liberal” is a minority. A large minority, but a minority nonetheless.

It’s also the case that a large number of opponents don’t know what’s in the bill, and when they are told about individual components of the bill, such as not permitting insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, they tend to support those individual components.

Finally, the Big Truth is that while a majority of Americans don’t want “government-run health care,” the bleeping bill doesn’t establish any bleeping “government-run health care.” Except for Medicare and Medicaid, which already exist, everyone’s health care will still be insured by private insurance companies. Damn. But there’s no reason not to keep pushing for the public option in a separate bill.

Once HCR passes, for the overwhelming majority of Americans who already have insurance nothing is going to change. Their premiums won’t be suddenly jacked up, and they will have the same access to the same doctors in the same offices and hospitals.

I take it some of the tea baggers imagine doctors will be forced to work out of barbed-wire enclosed gulags, and that it will require a signed permission form from the Ministry of Rationed Health to see one. But when that doesn’t happen, and when tanks don’t appear in the streets and Grandma is not hauled off to the Soylent Green factory, a lot of the hysteria will fade away. Not all of it, but a lot of it.

I can even imagine the day when some of the same Republican gasbags who are fanning the hysteria flames to stop the bill from passing will take credit for it.

The biggest problem is that since many of the provisions won’t go into effect for two to four years, that will give the gasbags two to four more years to demagogue. We may have to fight to keep some or all of it from being repealed before it’s all even implemented.

But I agree with RJ Eskow — passing the bill is not just the right thing to do, but it will also help Dems politically. Pollsters and pundits who say otherwise are just pulling the old “briar patch” scam.

BTW — this week’s Big Liar Catapult the Propaganda Award is split between Jammie Wearing Fool and the Ace of Spades, who say it’s a lie that the HCR bill doesn’t fund abortions because “P. 2017 of HCR Bill Specifically Mentions Funding Abortions.” They don’t tell us what it says about abortion on page 2017, but it “specifically mentions” funding abortions. Therefore, Dems lie about the funding thing.

And I thought righties were claiming no one had read the bill. But there’s nothing about abortion on page 2017 of the Senate bill (HR 3590) that passed in December, which is supposed to represent the mostly final version. It doesn’t say anything about abortion on page 2017 of the now obsolete House bill (HR 3200) either.

Both bills specifically do mention abortion here and there, just not on page 2017. The Senate bill has a section that begins on page 2077 (did the Fool and the Ace get the number wrong?) that specifically mentions abortion, and it specifically says there will be no change in federal law regarding abortion. Timothy Noah explains why the Senate bill doesn’t fund abortions.

But I love the way the Fool and the Ace both “proved” Democrats lie about abortion funding in the bill by saying the bill “specifically mentions” abortion, never mind what “specifically” the bill actually says, and they can’t even get the page number right.

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