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Jun. 16 2010 — 3:09 pm | 245 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Reaction to Mitch Daniels’ ‘truce’ comment an indicator of troubles on the right

Mitch Daniels after an award ceremony

Ind. Governor Mitch Daniels. Image via Wikipedia

It’s nothing new to note that there is division among Republicans these days — between cooler heads whose focus is primarily fiscal, and extreme social conservatives, whose obsession with guns, gays and abortion has eclipsed their need for reasoned policy, whose ideas have found apotheosis in charismatic illiterates like Sarah Palin.

Nowhere is that division more clearly illustrated than right here in Indiana over recent comments made by Governor Mitch Daniels. At issue: a single word among 8,300 in an extensive article about the governor by Andrew Ferguson for the Weekly Standard, published Monday:

[Daniels] says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ-centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” [...] His social-conservative credentials are solid.

But about that truce .  .  .

“He might be one guy who could get away with it,” said Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, who’s known Daniels since the 1980s. “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk.”

Despite Daniels’ social conservative bona fides, the word “truce” was like blood in the water for some. Former Arkansas Governor and Fox News host-come-lately, Mike Huckabee, was among the first to jump in, accusing Daniels of using the “issue of life and traditional marriage” as “bargaining chips.”

That’s not necessarily surprising, or all that meaningful: Daniels could prove a formidable opponent for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 should he decide to run; so for Huckabee, this is politics as usual. But other social conservatives weren’t long in taking Huckabee’s bait — cementing the controversy while proving themselves gullible and near-sighted. James Antle, at The American Spectator, argued Daniels was “contemplat(ing) … unconditional surrender.” The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has likewise said the”‘truce’ was nothing more than surrender.”

If Huckabee’s criticism feels slightly disingenuous, it probably is. His is a timeless and tiresome tactic: One suspects he’s deliberately missing the real point to manufacture a phony point of contention where, really, there probably isn’t one.

It’s more telling that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the new Tea Party-backed darling of the breathless far right, has waded into this one as well.

Read more…



May. 20 2010 — 1:11 pm | 143 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Credit where it’s due: Mike Pence walks the walk

Congressman Mike Pence, outspoken Republican critic of health care reform, and media darling-come-lately for the tea partying right, has talked a lot of talk.

To his credit, he seems also to be walking the conservative walk.

As reported today by conservative Washington Post blogger David Weigel, Pence apparently approached Rep. Mark Souder about rumors of Souder’s now widely known infidelities, after having been asked about them by a journalist last Wednesday, May 12.

Instead of a wink-and-a-nudge, Pence followed up with Souder directly, encouraged him to resign, then promptly reported him to the House Ethics Committee just in case:

“In response to a general media inquiry, Mr. Pence confronted Mr. Souder on Thursday. Mr. Souder confessed to an affair, but did not mention that it was with a part-time staff member. It was not until Sunday evening that Mr. Souder called Mr. Pence to inform him that the affair was with a part-time staff member. Mr. Pence encouraged Mr. Souder to resign immediately and notified ethics on Monday.”

So Pence reported the scandal as soon as he got the full details; Souder resigned the next day.

Give credit where it’s due: Even if I don’t agree with most of Pence’s policy positions — on issues like health care reform, for example — I respect his actions. It’s nice to see a politician act according to his principles.

Conservatives like Pence — like most conservatives — have valid ideas. And the foundation of a strong democracy is the compromise that arises from opposition. For my part, I’m much more interested in engaging someone who speaks and acts from conviction, not from cold, political cynicism.

Would that we saw a little more of this from other Republicans today, so many of whom are too terrified of Limbaugh-led, tea party backlash to participate constructively in the people’s governance.



Apr. 28 2010 — 2:00 pm | 98 views | 1 recommendations | 1 comment

Quiet, huge moral victory for fairer health care: WellPoint rolls over

Great news in the world of health care today,  as reported by Reuters:

WellPoint Inc. said that as of May 1 it would expedite health care reforms and stop dropping health care coverage for customers after they get sick, responding to pressure from Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration.

The health insurer announced its decision Tuesday after Democrats from three U.S. House committees earlier in the day wrote to seven health insurance executives urging them to immediately stop the practice, known as rescission. A separate letter from 57 Democrats was directed at WellPoint alone.

via WellPoint says will stop dropping patients after May 1 | Business Insurance.

As you’ll recall from last week, a Reuters investigation revealed that WellPoint, the country’s largest insurer based on enrollment, was dropping women who contracted breast cancer. WellPoint, which is based in my hometown of Indianapolis, had received millions in tax credits and forgivable loans by the state in order to expand its local operations.

That amounts to our having indirectly paid for such outrageous malfeasance, and I have argued that nothing short of a criminal investigation by Greg Zoeller, the state’s attorney general, should be acceptable.

Zoeller was at the ready when more than a dozen states attorneys general banded together to sue the federal government for what they claim is an unconstitutional basis of Obama’s health care reform package.

But brace yourself: Zoeller and his Republican cohorts on the state and federal level had nothing to do with pushing for the change. According to the Reuters report, it was all U.S. House Democrats.

Hats off to Reuters for literally saving lives — by forcing the hand of the powerful to protect the relatively powerless. And hats off to Democrats for putting pressure in the right places.

Republicans, this isn’t a political issue. This concerns the health and lives of responsible, premium-paying Americans, who relied — as they were told they could by you and countless lobbyists — on our private health insurance system. If you want more credibility in debates like these, you’ll learn to at least jump in where the lines between good and evil are drawn in fat, red ink.



Apr. 23 2010 — 1:01 pm | 73 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

WellPoint drops breast cancer patients: and you’re paying for it

Looking for someone to recommend a mammogram a...

Image by Tim Waclawski via Flickr

Remember those phony attack ads by the “Independent Women’s Forum” that told women they could wait months for breast cancer treatment if health care reform was passed?

Seems that WellPoint, America’s largest insurer, has already been making sure that women go untreated under the same system the IWF was fighting to preserve.

According to a scathing investigative report by Reuters, the Indianapolis-based insurer has been dropping women from their health plans when they contract breast cancer:

Before they fell ill, none had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake.

They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.

Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. [...] Insurance companies have used the practice, known as “rescission,” for years. [...] But WellPoint also has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies, federal investigators told Reuters.

Exclusive: WellPoint routinely targets breast cancer patients | Reuters.

Still feel like arguing for the status quo, tea-baggers? Still wanna overturn Obamacare, Mr. Governor? Mr. Attorney General?

The real kick in the pants, of course, is that you’ve been paying for WellPoint’s egregious malfeasance all the while.

Last month, I took a look at Wellpoint because of its anti-reform lobbying efforts. To wit, the company reportedly spent $1.2 million on lobbying the federal government in the fourth quarter of 2009 alone — pretty much the high point (or low-point, looked at differently) of the health care reform debate.

Perfectly fine for a company to lobby in its own best interests, right? Not when you’re using my tax dollars it isn’t: In 2006, WellPoint received a $3 million tax credit from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), a government agency, and was promised $5 million in forgivable loans, as a reward for expanding its Indianapolis operations.

What that meant was that if you lived in Indiana, your tax dollars, regardless of how you felt about health care reform, were indirectly funding the already well-moneyed campaign against it.

And guess what? The same math applies here.

Read More…



Apr. 14 2010 — 1:46 pm | 418 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

The best political attack ad I completely disagree with

It’s just a fact: creative, arty types tend to be more liberal than conservative. And I always figured that went a long way toward explaining why so many conservative attack ads are so ridiculously bad.

Need we look any further than the attack ad mounted earlier this year by California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina — the so-called “demon sheep” ad?

But I’ll hand it to Indiana’s conservatives for this clever ad attacking Democrat Brad Ellsworth, who’s running for Evan Bayh’s seat in the US Senate. Taking that fantastic Google Superbowl Ad as its starting point, the folks over at FrugalHoosiers put together this video short:

I happen to like Ellsworth, because I think he’s the kind of Democrat Hoosiers can love. He’s moderate enough to create appeal among Indiana’s fiscal conservatives (he’s skeptical of cap-and-trade, for example). And he has a deep law-and-order background that plays well with Midwestern audiences, having served for 24 years in the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s office, where he spent several years as the elected Sheriff.

But it’s a clever ad. And, honestly, what I most admire about it, is that it doesn’t go further than it has to. No mushroom clouds, no swastikas, no demon sheep. In other words, no status quo.

That said, it’s also slightly disorienting. The conservative idea of “clever” usually sounds more like “drill, baby, drill,” tired jokes about Chappaquiddick or rote regurgitation of hillbilly catch phrases like “you can keep the change.”

Suddenly, subtlety. What’s going on here?


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    Born and raised in Indianapolis, I've spent my adult life trying to understand where I came from by living in other places. I worked for the International Herald Tribune, in Paris, The New York Times and the Queens Chronicle, in New York, and I studied in Dublin. As a freelancer, I've written about books, cars and travel for those and other publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times and Publishers Weekly. I've reported from Dubai, Bahrain, the Philippines and Kentucky. Since October, I've lived in Los Angeles, with several month-long stints in Indianapolis mixed in for good measure. Somewhere along the road I got the Indiana state flag tattooed on my left arm.

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    Human Trafficking in Dubai

    The first installment of a piece I worked on for several years was just published in Guernica magazine. It relates Dubai’s current economic collapse to the fundamental instability of an economy that was based heavily on worker exploitation. Check it out, here.