William Jefferson Found Guilty on 11 Counts

William Jefferson was found guilty on eleven of sixteen counts. Ironically, the money found in the freezer which helped propel this case to national attention, did not lead to a guilty verdict. The New Orleans Metro Real-Time  News reports:

Former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was found guilty of 11 of 16 corruption charges today by a federal jury…

In the 16-count indictment, Jefferson was charged with soliciting bribes and other crimes for a series of schemes in which he helped American businesses broker deals in West African in exchange for payments or financial considerations to companies controlled by members of his family, including his brother Mose, his wife, Andrea, their five daughters and a son-in-law…

The verdict comes four years after the Aug. 3, 2005 raids of Jefferson’s homes in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., in which the FBI found $90,000 in cash hidden in the freezer of his D.C. home, money the government said Jefferson was going to deliver as a bribe to Atiku Abubakar, then vice president of Nigeria, to gain his help with a telecommunications deal in Nigeria being pursued by Lori Mody, a Northern Virginia businesswoman.

The money was the lion’s share of $100,000 in FBI cash that the congressman was videotaped receiving packed in a briefcase days earlier in a suburban Virginia parking lot from Mody, who, beginning in March of 2005, had become a cooperating witness for the FBI, secretly taping her conversations with Jefferson.

The jury did not find him guilty on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which was the count linked to the money in the freezer.

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Salon’s Guide To Refuting The Birthers

As I discussed yesterday, the degree to which the conservative movement has become a delusional cult can be seen by the manner in which they fall for conspiracy theories claiming that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. Noting that, “A recent poll showed that 11 percent of Americans — including 28 percent of Republicans — don’t believe President Obama was born in the U.S.,” Alex Koppelman has compiled Salon’s handy-dandy guide to refuting the Birthers. The article debunks the following myths being spread by the Birthers. (Some of them have a kernel of truth, but only enough truth to allow the Birthers to believe they have evidence for claims which do not hold up to any degree of rational evaluation).

  • Myth 1: Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
  • Myth 2: Obama can’t be president because his father was a British citizen
  • Myth 3: A Kenyan birth certificate for Obama, showing he was born in Mombasa, has been discovered
  • Myth 4: Obama’s grandmother said he was born in Kenya
  • Myth 5: Hawaii allows parents to get birth certificates for their foreign-born children
  • Myth 6: Obama traveled to Pakistan using an Indonesian passport
  • Myth 7: Obama hasn’t released his birth certificate
  • Myth 8: If Obama would just release his birth certificate, he could end all this

You can check out the original argument for the details but if you are talking to a Birther don’t waste your time. The facts will make absolutely no difference with them.

Interpreting Popularity Polls

Finally getting back home after a couple of weeks and getting a chance to scan through my RSS feeds and check out the news in more detail there is a clear trend (besides all the Republican misinformation on health care reform). There are way too many polls as to Obama’s popularity. Months before the election I frequently warned about paying to much attention to polls, warning that at that point they did not mean very much. The same can be said as to Obama’s popularity at this point. It is likely to go up and down quite a bit before any elections.

Responding to a story in The Washington Post relating the Virginia election to Obama’s support, Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling noticed a significant trend with regards to current polls. In general those who voted for Obama continue to support him and, now that his honeymoon is ending, those who voted against him tend not to support him:

It was the first time we’ve cross tested his approval ratings against respondents’ self reported 2008 vote and we found that only 5% of people who voted for him disapprove of the job he’s doing, equal to the 5% who didn’t vote for him that do approve of the job he’s doing.

The WaPo wrote a highly anecdotal story today suggesting Obama’s losing support among those who voted for him but our scientific data shows there’s really not much of that happening…

We’re going to start doing the Obama approval by 2008 vote crosstabbing in all of our polls to see if this trend continues, but it looks to me like Obama’s popular with those who voted for him and not with those who didn’t. I’m not sure that really suggests a weak position for him- it certainly didn’t seem weak when that level of support translated to 365 electoral votes!

Some people who didn’t vote for Obama may have expressed approval for him in the early days of his term because they felt like they needed to give a new President a chance, but the reality is that Obama is setting out to do what he said he was going to do when he got elected, so if you didn’t like what you heard last fall you inevitably were going to end up not liking what you heard when he started governing. The higher levels of approval he initially showed, particularly from Republicans, were inevitable going to fall.

If Obama really starts bleeding 2008 supporters he’ll be in trouble but I don’t really sense that to be the case right now.

Poll Shows Split on Health Care Reform

Despite a vast amount of misinformation being spread by the right wing noise machine, support for health care reform continues to narrowly exceed opposition according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll:

Fifty percent of those questioned in CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday morning say they support the president’s plans, with 45 percent opposed.

The results indicate a generational divide.

“Obama’s plan is most popular among younger Americans and least popular among senior citizens,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “A majority of Americans over the age of 50 oppose Obama’s plan; a majority of those under 50 support it.”

The greater support among younger Americans is interesting in light of the frequent conservative claims that many of the uninsured are young, healthy people who chose not to obtain health insurance. The reality is that many young people are uninsured not because they do not want to be insured but because they cannot afford insurance coverage when not offered by their employer.

Unfortunately there are many older Americans who are easily fooled by the right wing scare tactics. I often see patients who speak in fear of Obama bringing government-run health care. When I point out that they are on Medicare, which is more government-controlled than the private  insurance plans which would come out of health care reform, they generally have no complaints about their “government-run” health care. Medicare is actually the equivalent of a single-payer system which replaces private insurance but leaves the private practice of health care intact, generally interfering with doctor/patient decisions less than private insurance plans do.

It is also unfortunate that many people who are privately insured to not understand why health care reform is necessary. The poll found that “Less than a quarter of Americans with private health insurance think that Obama’s proposals would help them personally.” They do not realize the degree to which they are at risk of losing their insurance coverage should they develop a serious medical problem, or if they should lose their job.

When asked whether it is  “necessary to make major structural changes in the nation’s health care system in order to make sure that all Americans have health insurance,” 77 percent did believe it is necessary.