The big political news today, of course, is the overturning of the individual-mandate portion of the health-care bill, which means today will be another one of those days for me, when up is down and down is sideways and who the hell are these people, anyway?

The “victory for liberty” the GOP is celebrating today is the death of an idea born in Republican Hospital, attended by…well, I think Steve Benen gets to the point well enough:

The record here may be inconvenient for the right, but it’s also unambiguous: the mandate Republicans currently hate was their idea. It was championed by the Heritage Foundation. It was part of Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign platform*. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush kept it going in the 1980s.

For years, it was touted by the likes of John McCain, Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, Chuck Grassley, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Judd Gregg, and many others all notable GOP officials.

My personal favorite is Grassley, who proclaimed on Fox News last year, during the fight over Obama’s plan, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate.” (A year later, Grassley signed onto a legal brief insisting that the mandate is unconstitutional.)

Yes, the “liberty” the opponents of health-care reform are celebrating is what, exactly? The freedom to not have health insurance? Woot! How many of the aforementioned go bareback, for that old-time freedom-y feeling enjoyed by our forefathers? Oh, none of them? But of course. They work for the government, which has traditionally provided excellent bennies.

As at my last address, I live in a community surrounded by Republicans. They tip more to the moderate/sane wing of the party than in Fort Wayne, but election after election, the vote tallies show it plainly: This is GOP country. Which is why I was chuckling over a story for my hyperlocal that I edited last night, about my own city’s enforcement of a ban on neon signage. The council passed it two years ago with a sunset period, which is coming to an end, which means businesses like this must part with their little piece of Vegas in the front window:

I chuckle because I was always told — continue to be told — that Republicans believe in less government, in personal liberty, and in the near-unquestioned belief that business knows best. And yet, throughout the Pointes, you can be bored into unconsciousness at council meetings while the members wrestle over matters like this, over zoning regulations for fencing and signs and cracks in the driveway. And for good reason — I was stunned to see a local sneering on Facebook that a T-Mobile storefront in a particular shopping district was indisputable evidence of a dangerous comedown. People worry aloud that sidewalk tables at a restaurant might attract the wrong element.

The rallying cry, the unifying force, is property values!, which is even more of a bedrock value than liberty and limited government. You don’t hear that so much outside of city councils, however.

What’s the old joke? Republican boys marry Republican girls, but they want to fool around with a few Democrats first? Republican voters support Republican candidates, but they want a few Democrats on their local zoning boards. Even a few homosexual gentlemen, with their famous good taste.

Six degrees this morning. I just took out the trash. Brr. So how’s about some bloggage?

Do you have the Big Picture blog bookmarked? You should, although I don’t. That way I forget about it until they put up another buttload of pictures that reminds us that even in the age of ubiquitous video and a camera in every cell phone, there’s something about a single, well-composed, professionally taken photograph that’s worth the proverbial thousand words. Behold, 37 Christmas photos that say more about the holiday than 37,000 words.

(Which seems a perfect time to mention that Hank Stuever’s great book about the holiday, Tinsel, is out in a paperback edition, with a much better cover at half the price, available now in the Kickback Lounge.) “Best book about Christmas, ever!” — MMJeff (I made up that quote, by the way. But I know he thinks very highly of it.)

For you military people, an excellent essay on today’s fighting force by a young Marine, on Thomas Ricks’ first-rate military-affairs blog. He gets right to the point:

As an OIF vet and Jarhead, and above all someone trying to find a healthy balance as a civilian once more, I’ve watched the military from within and without and the truest observation I can make is that we fight with a conscripted force in all but name.

The Huffington Post says it will post a profit this year. Of course it won’t pay its contributors, silly — then it wouldn’t be profitable.

And with that, better go some work of my own. Have a good one, all.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events |

82 responses to “Freedom.”

  1. coozledad said on December 14, 2010 at 9:48 am

    One of the commenters at Roy’s nailed it. To be a good Republican, you must begin each day as though the previous day never happened. You’ve got to ignore history, and sometimes the nose on your own goddamned face. Especially to be perennially reborn in that clear white light of blamelessness for all the trouble you’ve created.
    One of my relatives has the right idea. The only fucking way to get healthcare in this country is to half-ass rob a bank so they stick your ass in jail. He was always a law and order racialist type, and a Republican, so I’ll assume he knew the likelihood of getting a leg up.
    It would be sad, if it weren’t so miserably fucking funny.

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  2. Deborah said on December 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Nancy, thanks for linking to those 37 photos. It put me in a happy holiday mood on a frigid Tuesday morning. I had a bad morning before I saw the photos. I looked in my purse to check the time on my iPhone when I was on the bus and realized I had picked up my husband’s phone. Mine was in my coat pocket and his was in my purse. So I had to scramble around and get Little Bird to take a cab downtown and pick up his phone and return it to him. It’s the phone he uses for work so it was crucial to get it back to him pronto. I knew that was going to happen some day. I even have a case on mine so it looks and feels different from his. I guess I was so caught up in wrapping myself in plenty of layers this morning with a -7 windchill that I unthinkingly grabbed his phone.

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  3. alex said on December 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

    People worry aloud that sidewalk tables at a restaurant might attract the wrong element.

    And it does. Panhandlers show up and smell so unappetizing that you’ll gladly pay them to go away.

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  4. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Cooz, you fucking commie, you.

    Our Republican overlords know better than we do that the magical, mystical marketplace will solve all of our health care problems while generating a nice profit. If the socialistmarxistfascistdemoncrats would just back off, it would simply take care of itself, while producing fresh millions for the plutocrats the GOP services like a cabana boy at a MILF convention.

    I honestly believe we are just a few years away from being allowed to sell bodily organs. It fits with the whole “free enterprise” bullshit the GOP throws around and would make all those layabouts on welfare and unemployment insurance get off their fat asses. Republicans stand bravely against stem cell research –can’t sacrifice those zygotes– but if an impoverished man or woman wants to pony up a kidney to some rich fucker, it’s a simple act of capitalism.

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  5. 4dbirds said on December 14, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Jeff B. Ted Turner recently said that he supports one child policies and that poor people should be ‘allowed’ to sell their reproductive rights.

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  6. LAMary said on December 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Those photos are terrific. Thanks for those.

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  7. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Yeeesh. Ol’ Ted is as nutty as ever. I liked him better when he was just a brash, rich guy competing in yacht races and giving press conferences when he was so drunk he slid under the table. Those were the days.

    A lot more information is starting to come out about the wingnut judge in Virginia who ruled the Obamacare plan is unconstitutional. He’s a W. appointee –of course– but he’s also a part-owner in a health care company of some sort, so he is clearly smack in the middle of an enormous conflict of interest. I almost have to tip my hat to him: He’s been bought and paid for by the right and he’s fulfilling his obligations, no matter the stench he creates.

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  8. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I thought it was interesting how few of the major outlets pointed out that it was just the individual mandate that was struck down. I think Brian Williams took the time to refer to it twice as “so-called Obamacare” without elaborating on two things – that it was just the individual mandate that was struck down and that the judge rather pointedly refused to strike down the whole package.
    Also, no one outside of MSNBC was lefty enough to mention that the judge was owner of some firm that had clients working to kill health care reform, but even I know that that would be asking too much.
    edit: Jeff, you beat me to it on the ownership thing, but what do you think about giving the judge some credit for refusing to kill the whole deal?

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  9. jcburns said on December 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

    You must be tired, Nance… “The big political news today, of course, is the overturning of the individual-mandate portion of the health-care bill.” That kinda makes it sound like the law of the land has changed, done deal, return to your homes. But if we’re scoring at home (and here’s a convenient scorecard), we see that this is just one opinion handed down in one district in an issue that will surely make it to the Supremes. The WashPost also offers Health-reform advocates have little to fear from judge’s ruling and Legal expert: Ruling on health reform is “very defective” and “will be overturned” as a couple of takes on why this one ruling isn’t even in the tri-state area of ‘game over.’

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  10. LAMary said on December 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

    What passes for entertainment:

    Howard Dean was on the Today show saying that what was struck down was in the law only to make the insurance companies happy and that it’s no big deal.

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  11. nancy said on December 14, 2010 at 11:43 am

    That was hilarious, Mary.

    J.C., I’m not so sure on overturning by the Supremes. Remember, this is the Roberts court now.

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  12. jcburns said on December 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Yeah, but Scalia has an iPad now, so the secret Apple brain-altering chemicals (embedded onto the ‘oleophobic glass surface’) will have plenty of time to work their magic before the case(s) even come to arguments.

    Or at least that’s what my iPad tells me.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    The huge conflict of interest is clearly the 800 pound elephant in the room. But then, here in Indiana we are about to seat a Secretary of State who committed voter fraud. Charlie White kept using his former wife’s address even after he moved out of the district. He voted and served on the Fishers Town Council, and only changed his registration after being outed. Duties of the Secretary of State include investigating voter fraud, but the Republican controlled Recount Commission has ruled him as an eligible candidate despite the clear evidence to the contrary. Had they ruled him ineligible, Democrat Vop Osili would have been seated. If he is convicted of voter fraud in the criminal case still proceeding, Repub governor not-my-man-Mitch will appoint his successor.

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  14. Suzanne said on December 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I used to be a card carrying died-in-the-wool Republican. Then I lost my job when our dear Gov. here in Indiana took away the state funding for my employer and gave it to the same outfit in Indy, thus saving the taxpayer zilchm but putting a dozen or so of us out of work. Now, I lean much farther left. Much farther. Odd, isn’t it, how the right wing never wants to turn over firefighting or crime fighting to the free market? Oh, that’s right, because their house might burn down. I nearly disrupted Thanksgiving dinner by going head to head with my sister-in-law’s hubby over healthcare. Just let the market sort things out, he claimed, over and over, but really had no answer when I asked him about the deaths that would occur while that was happening. I believe, though, that his assuption is that those people are lazy, undesireables anyway, so no loss there.
    It is great to live in a state where the person in charge of elections committed election fraud. Think I could say I forgot to pay my taxes just like he forgot where he was or was not living?

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  15. coozledad said on December 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Chuck Grassley is a ringer for my wife’s grandfather, except his eyes are slightly more piglike. He’s dead now, so I don’t have to attend any family gatherings and watch him spit food across the table and say shit like “I hear them Cubians eats cats!” or “Carter give Panama our canal and now that Clinton’s gone give Hong Kong back to the Japs!” or tell long, aimless stories about a guy he knew they called Booger Ed.
    I have to confess that when I got the news he’d passed I felt like breaking into song.

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  16. Bruce Fields said on December 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Just to state the obvious: the individual mandate is an essential part of the deal.

    If you eliminate exceptions for preexisting conditions, then anyone can skip getting insurance while they’re healthy. And then it’s not “insurance” at all, as the cost lands completely on already-sick people.

    (Yes, I’d have been happier with a public system, but at a high level it’s the same deal: you get free or cheap health care in return for being required to pay into the system through your taxes.)

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  17. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I’m not sure the ruling is that big of a deal, but for a different reason. The promise was made by several elected officials and candidates for office: we’ll repeal HCR; if we can’t do that, we’ll defund it. Nothing substantial in this bill is taking effect before 2014, so no one will be seeing much more than minor benefits in the near future, so we have another election cycle to scare people into voting in more of the above.
    The Supreme Court could end up being the least of our worries regarding protecting HCR.

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  18. beb said on December 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I’m with Nancy about the fate of healthcare in the Supreme Court. Roberts, Alito Scalia and Thomas will definitely vote it down. All it takes is one other judge to decide that mandating health is different from mandating car insurance and the plan goes out the window.

    I loved the 37 picutes Nancy linked to, especially the one of the Red Square in Moscow. It looked like a gingerbread village. Also the one from Columbia of the girl playing in the water spray lit by Christmas lights.

    cooledad nails it, or rather the commenter at Roy’s that to be a good Republican one must have no memory of the past, and no shame.

    I’m a little confused about the GP signage issue. The council voted two years ago to ban them, the ban expires this year ad now stores have to remove their neon signs? Neon signs are cool. For many years I would pass a bar named “Whitey’s” on the way to work. The sign was cool because the “W” was shaped to look like a woman’s rearend. But this was in Detroit and when the owner finally sold out “Whitey’s” disappeared.

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  19. Bitter Scribe said on December 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    No mandate means no way to require insurance companies to take all comers. That’ll gut the law.

    Oh well, it’ll be amusing to see the wingnuts who have been bitching for decades about “judicial activism” by “unelected judges” do their contortions.

    As for the essay by the Marine you linked to, it was interesting, but I think he’s way off base in saying a draft would put the brakes on stupid wars. IMO, it would enable them, by supplying an endless pool of cannon fodder.

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  20. Dexter said on December 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I was viewing the 37 photographs and Christmas songs started playing in my head.
    Very nice. My blogging pal Sean posted this one yesterday, Christmas time in Missouri, holding, what?—he thinks it may have been a Dick and Jane reader.

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  21. moe99 said on December 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    a draft would mean that draftees would come from all segments of society including the richest sectors, which is what put the brakes on the Vietnam war finally. I tend to believe that history would repeat itself here.

    And Jon Stewart pulls the mask off the sanctimony of the Republicant’s (his word). As Ashley Morris would say, “fuck them fucking fuckmooks.”–k-congress

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  22. prospero said on December 14, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    American Way. Judges bought and sold. How did this asshole not recuse himself immediately? I mean, is he a moron? A bald-faced crook? It’s like the shitheel Don Blankenship bought for $3mil in WV. It really seems as if there’s criminal behavior involved here

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  23. Dexter said on December 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    moe, the only thing that finally stopped the Vietnam war was that Congress FINALLY cut funding, something recent Congresses just will not do.
    The draft did nab some rich kids, but not many; it was definitely targeting working class and poor men.
    A modern draft would be interesting. Would deferments not exist? Would women be drafted in today’s world?
    Would giant protests evolve and then dominate city streets for three days?
    Who knows? With today’s economic draft, I guess the military will be OK.
    My grandson joined and is scheduled to depart for Ft. Leonard Wood, in The Ozarks, in late April. Last night on NBC Nightly News , a story was aired from Fort Leonard Wood about Army nutrition. Gone is chocolate, hello orange slices and bananas. So long pushups, hello yoga classes. No mention of the horse meat they fed us (OK…it was just one time anyway), but at least they still feed trainees bacon. The reporter said they “now serve only baked bacon…”.
    Yeah. They have always served “baked bacon”! I used to load up 30 trays of raw bacon slices and put it in a giant oven on low for four hours when I had KP (kitchen police). It retained almost all the fat that way…little run-off of grease. So much for healthy bacon.
    I was most impressed by two things, one was the wardrobe…decent pullover caps and great-looking field jackets and decent footwear for exercising and marching, and great looking boots. And…women train side by side men, and eat at the same tables as men. Just for basic training, I wonder when that started?

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  24. prospero said on December 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    The mandate, by the way, is clearly NOT unconstitutional. This character is full of bull.

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  25. Jolene said on December 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I liked the Christmas pics too. Hard to pick a favorite, but I especially liked the skiing Santas.

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  26. nancy said on December 14, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Mine was Santa and the TSA, FTW.

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  27. Dexter said on December 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Tie. Spassky Tower. Speedo Run.

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  28. Dexter said on December 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    and a new enemy: fat.

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  29. Joe Kobiela said on December 14, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I enjoyed the picture of the speedo run in Boston, wonder if # 2 daughter saw that last weekend while she was visiting. Suzan @14 sure you can, ask Democrate Charlie
    Pilot Joe

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  30. Mark P. said on December 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I am generally opposed to a draft, but I would take a perverse pleasure in seeing some of the young chickenhawks actually have to put their chubby, cherub-like cheeks on the line for what they say they believe in. I imagine a lot of them would join a National Guard unit their daddy owned where they could wear a military costume (as Ronnie said) and miss all the drills.

    Just looked at the pictures. There was a time I could have run in cold weather wearing a Speedo, but there was never a time I would have looked good (or not been embarrassed).

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  31. Deborah said on December 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I was perusing the net during lunch hour and happened on some great snark. Like the names you guys here use for $P, here’s a good one for Boehner – Weeper of the House.

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  32. nancy said on December 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    You know those stupid AAA advisories to pack your car with provisions in winter driving? Flares, food, extra blankets? Well, we finally have a place where they’re needed.

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  33. Dexter said on December 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Mr. “A. Scout Sniper” in the Ricks post writes some thought-provokers, for sure.
    He really gets it, draftees do not make bad soldiers, and they don’t hang around demanding medical care and long-term housing and dental plans for their burgeoning families.
    All we have to do is read the news to know that military recruiting changes, lowers and raises standards as the need occurs, but this guy lived with the problems for months at a time, and I believe his opinions are to be taken seriously.

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  34. Dexter said on December 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    damn. ontario . worst nightmare of the day. but i would have my always-present quart of drinking water and my large baggie of G.O.R.P., so I might survive a day or so. if i drive out of town very far, i gotsta have my G.O.R.P. and water.

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  35. mark said on December 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    So if various Republicans “championed” the individual mandate, it follows that the mandate is constitutional? Hypocrisy is fun to point out, but it doesn’t actually answer the hypocrite’s argument.

    The health care “problem” was largely that too many people had too little access to health care. There are any number of ways of addressing that problem, including expansion of the many programs already in place, paying for it with increases to our progressive (and constitutional) income tax structure. Requiring people who do not need it to purchase health insurance, in order to give private insurers a base of very profitable customers to offset losses that will be experienced from insuring the less healthy under the new law, is a radical departure from prior federal funding mechanisms.

    The disdain for neon signs among Gross Pointe politicos is an argument for Federalism, not against it. The most intrusive powers are given to the most local units of government, subject to the limits of the individual rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Were it otherwise, Grosse Pointers might find their sensibilities offended by the neon standards of New Orleans or New Orleanders might be saddled with the prudish signage standards of grosse Pointe. A federal standard would undoubtedly fail to satisfy the aesthetic concerns of Grosse Pointe or the tourism tastes of New Orleans. On many issues we truly can vote with our feet.

    The Republicans that you all hate so much have been in power in Washington for about half of the last 30 years. Don’t you fear at all the kind of “individual mandates” they might impose in order to improve your health? I do, particularly with the Christian right.

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  36. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Just curious, mark, and no disrespect meant:
    Which of the ‘number of ways’ do you recommend? Expansion of programs and increases in taxes are both non-starters; in fact it appears that the goal is to reduce or eliminate all those programs that encourage all this shiftlessness we’re seeing these days.
    Remember, a woman who stood up at a town hall last year and shared her story about her cancer was told to go to a ‘charity hospital’ as though they were on every corner and fully funded by the good Christians who seem to overwhelmingly back the repeal of HCR. My own congressman, Jim Sensenbrenner, put an op-ed in local papers just before HCR was passed, voicing his objection to the way “these people” would clog the system and take advantage of it. I was still in the stage where I thought that letters did any good and wrote him and reminded him that many of ‘these people’ were his constituents who had lost jobs and subsequently health care.
    The Republicans have been in power for half of the time you mention but they’ve taken or been given power for more time than they’ve actually possessed. Why do you think those of us on the left side are tearing our hair out?

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  37. LAMary said on December 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Here in the land of many quakes we are encouraged to carry water and walking shoes in our cars. Freeways have been known to disappear when the ground starts shaking.

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  38. mark said on December 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm


    No disrespect taken. To address everything immediately does take more revenue- people need something that isn’t presently available and has to be purchased. There are lots of other things I would cut that would free up money, but Congress seems incapable of cutting anything. If you are correct about the will to increase taxes, I don’t know that there is an immediate “global” solution.

    For the longer run-

    1. Expand supply by increasing medical and nursing school slots and financial aid, adding PAs, maybe a second tier of “doctors” with less selective training and more non-critical functions. Airlines do this with pilots, letting lesser lights safely handle commuter flights and requiring more to pilot a jumbo jet.

    2. Encourage more cost-effective consumption. Education, get the drug ads off TV, raise deductibles for those that can afford it, health savings accounts, etc., limit the deductibility of “cadillac” employer plans.

    3. Means test Medicare and quit playing reverse Robin Hood giving benefits to those who are wealthy. Perhaps base deductibles on a percentage of income, so a guy making $400K a year has to pay the first $35K out of pocket. Perhaps reimburse for end of life care up to a percentage of estate left.

    4. Quit taking increases in the percentage of GDP spent on medical care as automatic proof of a problem. Where else should a wealthy society devote extra resources? The percentage of GDP spent on rap music and video games has also increased- many fold- but it doesn’t mean there is a crisis, just that we are wealthy enough to indulge bad taste.

    5. Expand COBRA rights and subsidize the premiums in appropriate cases.

    6. Rethink the Drug approval and licensing process, perhaps streamlining in exchange for limited generic rights at an earlier time.

    7. Figure out how to address obesity without simply abusing the obese. Obesity and the longevity increases that are being achieved with better care seem to me to be the biggest drivers of future expense. I would be open to a tax on sugars and perhaps certain flours, maybe other things to discourage the dessert after every meal approach.

    That’s kind of cryptic, but I don’t think hating sick people is a requirement for questioning the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the new law. Or fearing where others might take the concept in the name of health care cost containment.

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  39. Mark P. said on December 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    One of my coworkers argued that the US already provides health care for everyone. She said that it was perfectly reasonable to expect someone without health insurance to lose everything they have so that they would be eligible for Medicaid. Of course she has company-subsidize insurance through her government contractor employer, as well as through her husband’s government contractor employer.

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  40. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    So if various Republicans “championed” the individual mandate, it follows that the mandate is constitutional?

    No. The point has nothing to do with the nation’s sturdy Constitutional foundation, and everything to do with the Republicans’ unfounded, helter-skelter political opportunism.

    As for the Constitution, I have a serious question for the crackers* who constantly bray that we are “betraying” the Constitution, or that the government has to “get back to following” the Constitution. And the question is – why do they think we have nine Justices on the Supreme Court? If all these questions are so damned simple – why not cut the budget and reduce the Supreme Court to just one person? After all, what’s to disagree about? Or, if we’re permitted a silly question, why not do away with Congress and the presidency altogether? One Grand Imam who unerring tells us what the Constitution allows will allow us to reduce the entire Congress and Executive branch to minimum wage (which is probably unconstitutional) flunkies, and let the states do it all, right?

    Encourage more cost-effective consumption. Education, get the drug ads off TV,

    Bzzzzzt!!! well, the Republicants will never agree to that!

    *note: I know of no such ‘crackers’ here in nn.c-land. Just sayin’

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  41. mark said on December 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Yes, Brian, the Constitution is a complex document that requires study and interpretation and reasonable people can and have disagreed about it’s meaning and requirements. Strange, then, the universal disapproval of the decision here without any mention of it, just name-calling directed at the judge and those who agree with his decision. If the questions aren’t “so damn simple”, why does it follow that you have to be evil to get the wrong answer or a “cracker” to have an opinion different than your own?

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  42. Mark P. said on December 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    According to Business Insider, Hudson has a “longtime investment in conservative communications firm Campaign Solutions, which did work for prominent Republican critics of the health-care bill.” He is reported to have earned between $5,000 and $15,000 in dividends from the firm, and “Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican who brought the federal lawsuit charging that the health-care bill was unconstitutional, paid out nearly $9,000 for the firm’s services.”

    Why didn’t he recuse himself? (That is a rhetorical question.)

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  43. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    1. No need for a new tier of docs, PAs and nurse practitioners fill that niche pretty nicely now. A big issue right now is the lack of family practitioner MDs, because they don’t make as much as specialists due to what might be described as their ‘less selective training’. I think (don’t recall correctly) there was an effort to move payments around to pay them more, but since it came at the expense of payments of specialists, it had the effect of pitting professionals against each other. Incidentally, a lot of the nurse or LPN work is now tiered toward less expensive technicians and assistants, still trained but not as knowledgeable and of course paid less.
    2. Health insurance plans under the new program will be required to use a percentage of their dollars for actual patient care. I don’t think that applies to drug companies, who have more money in their budgets for advertising than for R&D. I would add to this comment that drug companies who use government funding for the majority of R&D and then charge astronomical fees for the resulting products using the reasoning that it costs so much to develop should be called on it, loudly, by the politicians who approve the funding.
    3. Um, no. If we have a political party currently out of power stating that they will hold up every piece of legislation (including funding medical care for 9/11 first responders) until their pet project, renewing tax breaks for a small but wealthy portion of the population, is approved, we are not likely to see anything that causes economic inconvenience for this group.
    4. The same could be said for education. The standard argument is that it costs too much and doesn’t benefit enough people. And both issues are at crisis-level in the US, and both are going to quickly bite us in the butt in ways we never thought of.
    5. Subsidize premiums? No, people who can’t pay premiums (or buy groceries or keep up with the mortgage) do not deserve a handout. Remember that. This is the current line being pushed by people at the top and those who want to be there. Mitt Romney now wants people to buy their own unemployment insurance, you know, to motivate them to find work, because they’re not looking hard enough.
    6. Only if those who push this stand up and take the heat when something awful happens, instead of blaming it on Obama.
    7. Michelle Obama is getting a lot of flak for doing just that. She’s interfering with Americans’ rights to make their own choices, etc. etc. That attempt a few months back to tax soft drinks was spun in the ads as an attack on hardworking Americans’ grocery budgets.

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  44. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Aw heck, let’s have some fun – does anyone know if the words “moose” or “squirrel” are in the lyrics for ‘Blueberry Hill’?

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  45. 4dbirds said on December 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Sue, may I add for your number 6 and 7 that objecting to government interference for what you eat only applies to those not receiving any kind of assistance. If one does receive assistance, they are not deserving of salty or sugary foods and must eat healthy, tasteless gruel until they are off the dole.

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  46. Jolene said on December 14, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    4. Quit taking increases in the percentage of GDP spent on medical care as automatic proof of a problem. Where else should a wealthy society devote extra resources? The percentage of GDP spent on rap music and video games has also increased- many fold- but it doesn’t mean there is a crisis, just that we are wealthy enough to indulge bad taste.

    By itself, mark, high levels of spending on healthcare are not a problem, but spending that is much higher than that of countries that provide coverage to a higher proportion of their population and obtain better health outcomes is a problem, and that is the world we are living in. Most healthcare analysts argue that the primary driver of the differential is the fee-for-service payment system, which provides perverse incentives to physicians and healthcare organizations.

    You are certainly right that the way we live affects the demand for health services, and we should address those challenges, but consider that it has taken 50 years and millions, probably billions, of public health dollars to drive the percentage of smokers in the U.S. population from 40% down to 20%.

    As I understand it, the school nutrition legislation that Sue refers to deals with increasing access to meals at school, improving the quality of school feeding programs, and regulating what can be sold in school vending machines. For that, the online Obama haters (and $P) are screaming about the government attempting to tell parents what they can feed their kids.

    Today, the WH published a photo of Michelle Obama celebrating passage of the legislation with WH colleagues on Facebook. You just can’t imagine the sewage that in the comments following the photo.

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  47. coozledad said on December 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Sue: He was showcasing just a few of the torture techniques he learned with the KGB, right?
    That is one heartless SOB.

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  48. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Cooz, funny how everyone thinks he’s Just So Cute.

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  49. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    the Constitution is a complex document that requires study and interpretation and reasonable people can and have disagreed about its meaning and requirements. Strange, then, the universal disapproval of the decision here without any mention of it, just name-calling directed at the judge and those who agree with his decision.

    Actually, I have nothing to say about the judge, other than that if he hadn’t ruled the way he did, surely another one somewhere would have. (and we won’t digress about how cases like this are shopped around for a favorable ruling, or how the law was upheld in other Federal courts, before this one struck it down)

    But I absolutely WILL argue with head-bobbing crackers who hear the RESULT that they want (not so much anti-Healthcare, I bet, as much as a defeat for President Obama), and who have never read much about the Commerce Clause, nor pondered the philosophical difference (if any) between a tax and a user fee (for example).

    If the questions aren’t “so damn simple”, why does it follow that you have to be evil to get the wrong answer or a “cracker” to have an opinion different than your own?

    Again, I never called the judge evil. Indeed, I commented on the wisdom of depending on the collective judgement of a panel of honest brokers, as opposed to only a single honest broker. And, I think it is a very serious charge to say that some act of Congress is unconstitutional. I think a cracker is a person who never hesitates to say any number of profoundly serious things, upon which she has never really expended serious consideration.

    And I will go so far as to say, yet again, that people who revere “the founders of our nation”, and then look back to the 1700’s (instead of, for one example, the 1860’s) don’t really understand their own nation. In an ideal (if not real) sense, our nation’s “founding” has never really ended. The process has always been imperfect and incomplete, and can be arbitrarily dated from 1776, or 1787, or 1865, or when women were enfranchised, or when the civil rights of black Americans finally began to be enforced in the mid-twentieth century, etc. Our history isn’t stick-figure, and our nation is always incomplete, and our Founding ideals are not unalterably etched in marble, but indeed they always change. That is what I (inarticulately!) am getting at, when I dismiss crackers.

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  50. Mark P. said on December 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Jolene, I was going to mention the healthcare outcome versus cost comparison, in which the US does not fare well. We spend more per person on healthcare but end up with a worse outcome (in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality) than those terrible socialist countries like Australia, Canada, the UK, and Japan (plus others). Our “best healthcare in the world” is the best for those who benefit from it (drug companies, some hospitals, physicians), and those who benefit indirectly (politicians). But it’s not the best in terms of cost, outcome and availability.

    mark: “Where else should a wealthy society devote extra resources?”

    What extra resources are you talking about? Money spent by individuals on frivolous things are not available for healthcare; they are bought with disposable income by people who already have health care. Unless you mean we should take some of that income away in the form of higher taxes for higher income. If that’s what you mean, then I’m all for it.

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  51. coozledad said on December 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    When I looked down into his soul, I saw Gilbert O’Sullivan!

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  52. moe99 said on December 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    There are a number of legal problems in Judge Hudson’s decision invalidating part of the health care act as well. TPM has a good precis:

    And a friend of mine, who is a law school professor wrote this:

    I think [Judge] Hudson is wrong for reasons that go beyond his treatment of the N&P power, but I also acknowledge that the constitution eventually means whatever five justices say it means.

    I think he is wrong because Wickard v. Filburn decided that the government can compel participation in a market by forbidding you from feeding your cattle with grains you have grown for their consumption: “The effect of the statute before us is to restrict the amount which may be produced for market and the extent, as well, to which one may forestall resort to the market by producing to meet his own needs” (emphasis added).

    Raich more recently held Congress had the power to regulate home production of marijuana for home consumption, with no showing that anything — not the seeds, not the dirt, not the pot, not the water — came from outside CA.

    Beyond Wickard and Raich, the claim that the uninsured are not in the market is sheer fiction dressed up as formalism. As soon as they incur any serious illness or injury, they will show up in the emergency room or the Medicaid office and expect the rest of us to pay for their health care. People who can but choose not to buy health insurance are betting (with absolute confidence) that if anything bad does happen to them, government or government-mandated charity care will pick up the tab. The government does not have to keep taking that one-sided bet. Heads you win, tails we lose. It really does seem preposterous to claim that Congress lacks power to address such an obvious free-rider problem, in the context of an industry that is pervasively regulated, covers a large fraction of the economy, and buys and sells goods and services and financial obligations in interstate commerce every day.

    Perhaps Congress can also do this under the spending power. Once a society becomes sufficiently civilized that it pays for health care for those in need (which may be the real political debate here), it can enact rules to prevent that generosity from being abused.

    The enforcement mechanism can be characterized as a tax; that would also settle the question. Hudson (and Vinson in FL) seem to think that Congress has to call something a tax before it can be a tax, which is an odd way for one coordinate branch to treat another coordinate branch’s enumerated powers, and to Romeo v. Juliet: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    It should be an easy case based on the last seventy years of commerce clause, necessary and proper clause, tax and spending clause cases. But as I said, getting to five is what counts.

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  53. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    “And for my next number… ‘Claire’!”
    (which doesn’t include the words moose or squirrel, either.)

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  54. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I particularly enjoy the admiration on the faces of the movie stars as they stand around clapping on the non-rock beats (the 1 & 3), even Kevin Costner, who as a rocker himself should know that the emphasis should be on beats 2 & 4.

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  55. nancy said on December 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    The blonde background singer is a perfect specimen of the truly Caucasian gene pool. Hitler had it all wrong. Them’s some Slavic cheekbones, too.

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  56. Jolene said on December 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Do aging American celebs routinely travel the world to decorate charitable events? I wonder if Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Sharon Stone, and Kevin Costner are otherwise involved w/ this charity.

    Last week, I noticed Denzel Washington and Anne Hathaway in the audience at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. What’s up with that?

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  57. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Well, I gave up on the Putin clip after about 60 unexciting seconds (if that is what folks are talking about), but this article made me laugh:

    The lead:

    Call it the digital age’s John Henry showdown. But this time, it’s “Jeopardy!,” not a train tunnel, and an IBM computer instead of a steam shovel.The iconic game show announced Tuesday that it will pit Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, its all-time most successful contestants, against “Watson,” an IBM computing system, in a series of battles next year.

    Anyway, it should be entertaining

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  58. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    And here is a story that I’m pretty damned sure that Mitch Harper won’t feature on his Fort Wayne Observed site:

    the key sentences:

    Northeast Indiana’s new Congressman Marlin Stutzman mistakenly skipped a key vote in the U.S. House last week. The Republican said his Blackberry was turned off and he missed voting on the “Dream Act,” which would give young illegal immigrants a path to legal status.

    His Blackberry was truned off? His Blackberry? Aren’t those sons of bitches unConstitutional?

    PS – Maybe he deserves 1 point for honesty. Afterall, if he was going to make up an excuse, surely he could invent a better one than that.

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  59. prospero said on December 14, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Individual mandate? All these Republicans seemed to think it was not just Constitutional, but the responsible conservative thing to do. Twenty years ago, that is. Just shut the hell up about “liberty” Whorin/ Hatch.

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  60. LAMary said on December 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    What is it about Sharon Stone that makes me cringe. Whether it’s in a role or just being herself, she always seems full of shit to me. Maybe it’s just me.
    All the US celebs in that clip have been out of work for a while. Kevin Costner? Goldie Hawn? And Ms. Stone showed up on Law and Order:SUV chewing the scenery and seeming to be full of shit.

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  61. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Re: “Tinsel” and “Best book about Christmas, ever!” — MMJeff

    Very close to my opinion, but I’d vote for the Gospel According to Luke in first place, with Hank’s book a close second. Buy it, y’all!

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  62. paddyo' said on December 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Hmm, Brian:
    Re: the Jeopardy!-playing computer . . . I wonder how “Watson” has mastered the art of pressing its hand-held buzzer to be first to answer a question — especially without opposable thumbs?
    Isn’t THAT a big part of competing (and winning) the game? The speed with which a contestant can “punch in,” thus locking out the opponents so he/she/it can answer a question?

    And please, if you know, be sure to answer in the form of a question.

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  63. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Brian, it has been suggested that Stutzman conveniently turned off his Blackberry because he didn’t want he vote to be used against him later. Presumably if it had been close his aides knew where to find him. Let’s see if he tries it again.

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  64. ac jones said on December 14, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Why oh why are the new healthcare benefits so great if the exemptions granted are so targeted to friends of the administration or to other powerful capitalist interests?

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  65. LAMary said on December 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    What is the buzzer is important but so is how you bet in final Jeopardy?

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  66. Sue said on December 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Get Darrell Hammond to show up as Sean Connery and I’ll watch.

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  67. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Who decides when an answer is ready for the question? What is the time limit, between ringing in, and having to provide the answer? Why would the computer not instantly ring in on every answer, and then work on the question while the human schlubs are still reading it? How on earth can this be anything but a riot?

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  68. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Julie – I would like to think that Stutzman’s heart is in the right place, and that the “Blackberry off on purpose” theory is correct – even despite that one would really hope that a spanking new member of Congress would actually, actively CAST his or her first vote, rather than slink in.

    I guess we’ll see where his heart is, soon enough

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  69. Bitter Scribe said on December 14, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    And Ms. Stone showed up on Law and Order:SUV chewing the scenery and seeming to be full of shit.

    SVU hasn’t had a lot of luck with DAs lately. One was so bad that she didn’t even last an entire show–her character got fired about halfway through. I half-believed they had changed the script during shooting to get rid of her, she was that bad.

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  70. LAMary said on December 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    You can’t buzz in until Alex is done reading the question. There are also lights which are on while Alex is reading and go off when he’s done, allowing you to buzz in.
    I came in second and won a microwave, Lee Press On Nails, a case of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, and some Hormel Chili. I lost on final Jeopardy. The answer was Honda and I said Toyota. Richard Perez Pena, whom I think works for the NYT, beat me. This was in the late eighties.

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  71. alex said on December 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    If the questions aren’t “so damn simple”, why does it follow that you have to be evil to get the wrong answer or a “cracker” to have an opinion different than your own?

    If the ‘blog is leftish leaning, why does it follow that the participants are knee-jerk commies when they call a spade a spade, crackers crackers and trolls trolls, troll?

    Stutzman was probably busy on his Blackberry telling Juan and Jose to work off the clock so as not to make his paperwork look bad for the next farm subsidy application.

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  72. Deborah said on December 14, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Why am I not surprised that LA Mary was on Jeopardy?

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  73. brian stouder said on December 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Alex, word!

    And Deborah, word, too!

    So now, somebody really, really good could probably find a Jeopardy archive somewhere, and we could see our very own LAMary in action

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  74. Anon said on December 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I just read the Marine’s post. His observation about the politics of the military are consistent with what I see and hear as a civilian Army contractor, especially among officers. We are creating a class of militaristic right wingers who hold civilians in contempt, and especially their commander in chief. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s a danger in this country is dreaming.

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  75. DellaDash said on December 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Isn’t Hank Stuever the one who got bigfooted by Oprah a few threads ago? Since I’m strictly penny pinching this season, I’ve got ‘Tinsel’ on hold at my branch library. It looks enticing enough to lure me away from the fiction I’m always feasting on.

    Speaking of which, I always enjoy your Viet Nam POV, Dexter. Have you read ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien? It was worth a foray into the ‘sterone zone. Looks like I’m going to have to gird my loins and venture into ‘Matterhorn’ (by Karl Marlantes) now, too.

    The only contribution I have right now to the very interesting HCR debate going on here today, is that there’s no doubt I’m going to march my uncovered-not-even-a-speedo ass right down to the nearest Emergency Room if I get sick enough.

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  76. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 1:13 am

    DellaDash: Damn straight. Tim O’Brien wrote that powerful novel a long time ago and I bought it as soon as it came to a Fort Wayne bookstore .
    The image I retain is of the platoon marching and it’s raining heavily, and the sergeant decides to spend the night in a field outside the ville. The locals run through the rain waving and almost crying, telling them to move, go away, don’t stay there!.
    It turns out they were encamped in the field where the villagers carried their human waste, a dump. They were spending the night in a field that rivalled Tim Robbins’s sewer pipe in Shawshank Redemption.

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  77. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 1:22 am

    cheekbones of beauty, but whoa!–what a brain.

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  78. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 1:31 am

    …and then we have nicole mitchell of the weather channel to compete in the cheekbones contest.

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  79. moe99 said on December 15, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Tim O’Brien is a graduate of my alma mater–Macalester College. He is a real treasure.

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  80. DellaDash said on December 15, 2010 at 9:27 am

    The platoon camped for a night in a sewer swamp is the passage I carry with me, too. Your recap is a treat.

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