Tea Party: Religious Right In Disguise

The Christian Science Monitor exposes what we already knew–the Tea Party is just the newest name for the far right base of the Republican Party, and this means that it is just the religious right in disguise.

In Oklahoma and South Dakota, tea party lawmakers have proposed strict antiabortion bills. Montana has challenged gay rights, and Indiana recently passed a bill that would outlaw same-sex unions. At the national level, congressional Republicans fought to the 11th hour on April 8 to cut federal funding for abortion provider Planned Parenthood and to ban foreign aid to countries that would use funding for family planning services.

In Texas, the first few weeks of the legislative session this year were spent passing measures like a controversial bill requiring women to have a sonogram before undergoing an abortion. The bill’s author, Republican Sen. Dan Patrick, chairs the Legislature’s tea party caucus.

“Social issues are coming up because they’re easier to pass,” says Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. “And there are huge [Republican] margins in the Texas House, so if there was ever a time to pass this kind of legislation, it’s now.”

Clearly, the tea party’s small-government mantra resonates with conservatives – including those who do not share libertarian views on social issues. A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed more than 40 percent of tea party supporters identify as Christian conservative, and nearly 60 percent said abortion should be illegal.

But in Texas, the tea party is indistinguishable from the religious right, in many respects. During last November’s race for speaker of the state House, tea party groups targeted incumbent Speaker Joe Straus, a Jewish Republican, saying they wanted to replace him with what one legislator called a “true Christian” leader.

This focus on social issues is alienating the tea party’s libertarian supporters, some of whom predicted the religious right would try to co-opt the movement. “I want to build on our success, not ruin the coalition by bringing ‘God’s will’ into it,” Maine Tea Party Patriots’ coordinator Andrew Ian Dodge, a leading libertarian voice, told Newsweek last year.

It is a concern for the tea party. According to a recent Monitor/TIPP poll, 26 percent of respondents said their opinions of the tea party had worsened since November. Some 11 percent said their opinions had improved, and 57 percent reported no change.

DCCC Ad On GOP Vote To Eliminate Medicare Was Accurate, But Poorly Made


Earlier in the week I posted the commercial in the above video from the DCCC on Facebook and the consensus was that 1) it is a good thing that Democrats are making use of the Republican vote to eliminate Medicare and 2) this particular commercial is not very good. I expressed displeasure that the Democrats might actually manage to fail to benefit from the Republican vote due to their inability to coherently promote their views.

The ad is now receiving more controversy as PolitiFact made some major blunders in their review of the ad. The problem is that the fact checkers are journalists who attempt to determine the truth but cannot be experts on all matters. Health care law is complicated, and I have found similar lack of understanding on their part in the past (as in the discussion to this post).   PolitiFact is wrong when they say that the Republican proposal was not a vote to end Medicare. They might replace it with something they call Medicare but giving vouchers to buy private insurance is totally different than the Medicare plan, and does not provide seniors or the disabled with the same type of health care benefits.

It might be better for future ads to add the qualifier of ending Medicare as we know it to avoid similar criticism from reporters who do not understand the difference, but it is still correct to say the Republican proposal would end Medicare. If a city voted to eliminate their fire department and give  every citizen a bucket and hose every year and call this the fire department, it would still be accurate to say that the city did vote to eliminate their fire department.

PolitiFact  agrees with the main point of the ad that the change will ask “future Medicare beneficiaries to pay more for insurance.” Further in their analysis they write that “future beneficiaries would pay more for current levels of coverage, and that some will decide to go without any insurance.” These are key facts which support the argument which the DCCC attempted to make in their commercial.

PoltiFact makes another error in their analysis in saying,  “In reality, people 55 and older won’t see changes under the Ryan plan.” This does not contradict the  commercial as the ad is referring to changes to occur in the future . Nowhere doe sit say it is referring to current seniors.  In addition, it is also probable that those 55 and older will see changes as people younger than 55 are not likely to support continued support for the Medicare program if they are never able to benefit from it. People over 55 have good reason to oppose the GOP proposal.

There are other errors in their analysis, with one of the worst being, “The Republicans voted on a budget resolution that states policy preferences, but the vote did not actually change Medicare, much less end it.” The ad does not claim that the vote changed anything. It refers to what the Republicans support, and it is certainly fair game to hold the Republicans accountable for what they voted for. Jonathan Chait has a good summary of these and other errors made by PolitiFact.

The problem with the ad is not that it is untrue but that it doesn’t do a good enough job of  pointing out that the Republicans did vote to end Medicare. This fact should not be limited to text on screen which people may or may not read. This is an important message which should be included in the audio portion of the ad. It is likely that this  message will be lost among the scenes of seniors mowing the lawn and dancing, with viewers missing the actual message. Any ad should prominently tell viewers that the Republicans did vote to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher program, and then proceed to explain how this will lead to higher costs, reduced health care, and possibly the inability to find insurance at all. After all, many  insurance companies are already beginning to abandon the Medicare Advantage market now that the government subsidies they receive for insuring this high risk group are being reduced.


Quote of the Day

“Michele Bachmann said Planned Parenthood is the Lenscrafters of Big Abortion.’ Which is a realy double-whammy because the conservatives hate Planned Parenthood and they hate Lenscrafters, because Lenscrafters makes glasses, and that could lead to reading.” –Bill Maher

Opposition To The Senate Version Of The Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board

As I have also noted here previously, The New York Times reports on some Democrats joining Republicans in opposing  Independent Payment Advisory Board which would be able to require cuts in Medicare. The way the IPAB is structured it will be difficult for Congress or the White House to overrule their demands.  I have seen differences in opinion as to the degree to which Congress might be able to circumvent reductions in care with measures such as restoring unpopular cuts through independent legislation.

The commentary on this is generally split by the usual left versus right divide. Many liberal blogs point out the hypocrisy of Republicans who complain about government spending while opposing measures which will help to reduce spending. Republican claims that the IPAB would be a “death panel” are absurd. There is no question Republicans are being hypocritical and frequently outright deceitful in almost everything they say about the Affordable Care Act. Despite this they are right in opposing the IPAB in the form present in the original Senate bill. (They are wrong in opposing any type of advisory board). Many Democrats also prefer a version closer to what was origianlly passed by the House.

We do need to try to separate politics from Medicare policy to allow for sensible cuts, but the IPAB as now planned goes too far in being structured towards cutting costs as opposed to balancing quality and cost.

There are many tough decisions to be made with regards to Medicare. Cutting costs must be considered, but with an aging population and costly but worthwhile advances in medical technology we must balance cutting costs with what we want out of the health care system.  At times the best decision might be to maintain current levels of spending, or perhaps even to spend more as opposed to cutting costs. A board designed primarily to cut costs will not necessarily make the decisions we desire.

Many of the liberals supporting the IPAB do not even understand what the legislation calls for. For example, Think Progress defends the IPAB by saying:

…I would argue that it’s far better to have representatives of the various stakeholders in health care — drug companies, hospitals, doctors, patients — (all of whom are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate) making these decisions in a transparent, public, and accountable manner and then submitting their plan to Congress for a vote…

The problem is that there is no simple up or down vote by Congress. In order to override the recommendations a three-fifths vote would be required, which is rarely possible to achieve. The IPAB is structured to reduce spending at levels which very well might exceed that desired by most Americans and members of Congress.

We should have politically independent groups to make recommendations but the final decision on such matters should be made by elective representatives who are responsible to the voters. Besides, do we really want to risk the outcome if Republicans retake control of the government and pack the IPAB with the type of people who think Medicare should be replaced by a voucher plan?

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Quote of the Day

“President Obama is celebrating Passover with a Passover Seder. After hearing this, Sarah Palin said, ‘Ah, so he is a Muslim.'” –Conan O’Brien

So Long, Sarah Jane–Elisabeth Sladen Dies Of Cancer

Time Lords might live forever but their companions eventually die. The news came earlier today from the BBC:  “It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC’s The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning. She was 63.”

Sladen, pictured above before taking on the Daleks in 1974, played Sarah Jane Smith, companion to the third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, and the fourth, played by the legendary Tom Baker. Despite strong competition from more recent actresses such as Billie Piper and Karen Gillan, Elisabeth Sladen is widely considered to be the best actress to  have played the Doctor’s companion.

Sladen was first seen as Sarah Jane Smith in this scene in 1973:

She remained on the show for three of the best years in its history, ultimately leaving the Doctor (who had regenerated since she first met him). Here is Sarah Jane’s last scene  with Tom Baker before leaving as a regular on the show:


While sadly Elisabeth Sladen will not be here for Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary in 2013, she did return to appear on the twentieth anniversary show in 1983, The Five Doctors.  She also appeared in a 1993 Children in Need special and in a 1995 independent film.

Sarah Jane returned to Doctor Who in  the 2006 episode, School Reunion. David Tennant greeted her with the simple but memorable,” Hello Sarah Jane.” Here is a report from Doctor Who Confidential which includes clips from the episode:

Elisabeth Sladen appeared opposite David Tennant in three more episodes. She had a major part in the two-part season finale for the fourth season, The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. She also appeared briefly in David Tennant’s final episode, The End of Time. Sladen  stared in a recent spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures where she also had the opportunity to appear with the current Doctor, Matt Smith. This makes seven Doctors who have had at least one appearance with Sarah Jane. Four seasons of The Sarah Jane Adventures have aired and a fifth was in production. There is no word yet as to what will happen with the fifth series.

Digital Spy has some reactions to Sladen’s death:

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who executive producer::
“There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma – but I can’t think of one other who’s done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. “But that’s Sarah Jane,” he said, confused “In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?” It’s not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that 50 years from now.”

John Barrowman, actor:
“Elisabeth Sladen Matriarch of Dr Who – I loved my time on the Tardis with her. I am proud to have worked with such an icon of the sci fi world. Your Dr Who family are very sad and will miss you and your beautiful smile. RTD (Russell T. Davies) called me this morning when I woke up. She lived in my flat in Cardiff when she was filming SJA. She was a delight. Can’t tell you how sad I am. I wanted to let you know I got the news as a lot of you were concerned. I’m off to chill, I hope you understand. Will tweet this weekend in PS. jb.”

Mark Gatiss, writer:
“‘A tear, Sarah Jane?’ Farewell to the wonderful, irreplaceable Lis Sladen. The best.”

Nicola Bryant, Doctor Who companion Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown:
“I’m so sorry to have to say I’ve just had a call to say Liz Sladen has died. It’s too much to take in, but it’s true. How tragically young.”

Neil Gaiman, writer:
“Lots of reports that Lis Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith, has passed away. It looks like the Lis Sladen news is official. Big sadness. Rest in Peace.”

Alexander Armstrong, actor and comedian, voice of ‘Mr Smith’:
“Just heard news of Elisabeth Sladen’s death. A wonderful actress – devastating news for all Doctor Who and Sarah Jane fans. Sad for Mr Smith too.”

Noel Clarke, actor:
“Not the best news to come home to, But I hope that Elisabeth will RIP. As someone who knew her, I always found her lovely. she’ll be missed. #SARAHJANESMITHLIVES because Elisabeth Sladen made her Great. -Liz, you were awesome and will be missed. (no more to be said tonight) NC.”

Paul Cornell, writer:
“Very sorry to hear about Elisabeth Sladen, a great actor, special to everyone of my generation and a whole new one.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman, actress:
“Oh no! Just on Twitter and saw sad news about Liz Sladen. I knew she was ill, but what happened. Rip Sarah Jane. You were THE assistant. #dw”

Stephen Fry, actor/writer:
“What terribly sad news about Elisabeth Sladen – her Sarah Jane was part of my childhood. Deepest sympathy to her family.”

Jonathan Ross, broadcaster:
“RIP Elisabeth Sladen aka Sarah Jane . Sad news.”

Finn Jones, actor (Santiago Jones in Sarah Jane Adventures):
“Saddened to hear Elisabeth Sladen has passed away. A truly beautiful, talented and wonderful woman – a pleasure and honor to work with.”

Quote of the Day

“President Obama wants to raise taxes on the country’s richest people. And you thought Donald Trump hated him before.” –Jay Leno

Conservative Publication Claims Obama Supporters Don’t Pay Taxes

Most absurd thing I’ve read so far today:

“The Obama coalition is made up of rich liberals who don’t pay taxes and the poor who also don’t pay taxes.”– Tony Lee, in email from Human Events

As is so often the case in reading such nonsense from right wing sources, I can’t decide if they are so out of touch with reality that they believe this, or if they are knowingly making this up.

Update: Best response so far on Facebook: “I paid a helluva lot more than GE”

Update II: Ross Douthat is also confused about taxes.  Steve Benen and Scott Lemieux set him straight.

Quote of the Day: Klingon Religious Views

Worf makes as a lot of sense here.


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