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After Fox News reported that hundreds of people had received unsolicited emails from the White House, the administration said it would change how people sign up for their email list and blamed third party groups for signing people up without their permission.

Fox News reporter Major Garrett went after Press Secretary Robert Gibbs last week, demanding to know how people -- who said they'd never signed up for the email list -- received an email from senior adviser David Axelrod. Garrett implied that the administration may have used political email lists from Organizing for America (but later backtracked). Commenters to Garrett's blog, as well as Fox News analysts, theorized that the White House may have been collecting the addresses of anyone who visited the site, with one even suggesting the government could gain access to people's personal computers if they visited any .gov web site.

But it seems that anyone who sent an email via's "contact us" page was signing up to receive emails, according to Fox. Many of Garrett's sources who said they'd received unwanted emails had emailed the White House recently, and probably didn't realize they were signing on to a list.

The White House has added a check box to the contact us page so commenters can opt out of receiving future emails, Fox reports. They've also added a captcha, which verifies that users are real people by having them type in a random word. Fox says these measures appeared yesterday; we're checking in with the White House to verify.

But not everyone had emailed the White House. In a statement, deputy press secretary Nick Shapiro said "advocacy organizations" may have used people's email addresses without their permission.

"We are implementing measures to make subscribing to emails clearer, including preventing advocacy organizations from signing people up to our lists without their permission when they deliver petition signatures and other messages on individual's behalf," he said.

Shapiro was very clear that the administration doesn't buy email lists or obtain addresses from anywhere except the White House web site.

Fox News has stayed on the story, airing segments as many as three times an hour.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, has said she could support a public option built on a level playing field with private insurers. But now she's saying she might also just vote against the entire package.

"I wouldn't preclude myself from that, no," she told the New York Times, "I know I'll be held accountable for that vote."

It's difficult to imagine her outright opposing a health care bill along the lines of what's expected to come out of the Senate--the remarks are most likely a nod to the possibility that the House of Representatives could win out in conference committee. In the past she's suggested that a robust public option--one which paid Medicare rates, or enjoyed a government subsidy--would be a non starter.

On Friday, I highlighted this article from the Jamestown Sun reporting that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) would vote against a "government-run health care program," and took that term--"government run health care program"--to mean a "public option."

Conrad's office disputes that interpretation, saying that Conrad simply told a crowd in North Dakota he wouldn't let government take over health care. Pressed, Conrad's spokesman said the senator doesn't have an opinion on the public option, because he believes the issue is "moot."

I've reached out to the Sun to see if we can get a rundown of Conrad's exact statements.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) dug in against a public option today, telling MSNBC this morning that "the government is a predator."

"When you have the government running something, the government is not a fair competitor," he said. "The government is a predator, not a competitor."

Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and key Republican negotiator on the health care reform bill, said he wouldn't vote for a plan without widespread Republican support.

"I'm negotiating for Republicans and if I can't negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I'm not a good representative of my party," he said. "It isn't a good deal if i can't sell my product to more Republicans."

"It oughta be done ... in a consensus sort of way, where it passes with an overwhelming vote in the United States Senate," he added.

He also addressed the controversy over his comment that a government plan would "decide when to pull the plug on Grandma."

Grassley said the idea of him validating the "death panel" idea is a "distortion from the far left."

"It's not the issue we need to be talking about," he said.

Grassley added that he's not worried about his legacy.

"Forget about my political career. It could be over tomorrow or it could last another term," he said. "Good policy is good politics."

On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee--said the so-called "gang of six" won't "be held hostage to any specific deadline" for unveiling health care reform legislation.

"What we have agreed to is that we are going to be ready when we're ready. And we are working; we hope to be able to reach conclusion by the middle of September. But we have agreed that if we still don't have all of the answers back from [the Congressional Budget Office] that we will not be bound by any deadline - that the most important thing is to get this right," Conrad said.

The report seems to conflict with earlier public statements from Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)--the committee's chairman--who promised a bill by September 15, raising the ire of committee Republicans.

Talk about a political draft. In an interview with World Net Daily, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was asked whether she would ever run for President -- and she replied that she would do it if God calls her to it:

"If I felt that's what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it," she answered. "When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I've said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That's really my standard.

"If I am called to serve in that realm I would serve," she concluded, "but if I am not called, I wouldn't do it."

It needs to be pointed out that Bachmann in all likelihood is not speaking figuratively here. During her 2006 campaign for the open House seat, Bachmann campaigned in a right-wing mega-church and talked about how God had called her to run:

"And then in the midst of that calling, God then called me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, 'what in the world would that be for?' And my husband said, 'You need to do this,' and I wasn't so sure. And we took three days and we fasted and we prayed, and we said, 'Lord is this what You want? Is this Your will?' And after the -- along about the afternoon of day two, He made that calling sure. And it's been now 22 months that I've been running for United States Congress. Who in their right mind would spent two years to run for a job that lasts for two years? You'd have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ."

In the wake of August recess drama, the House of Representatives will delay a vote on a final health care reform bill until the end of September, according to a report in Politico.

"Leaders now say the House will put off a vote on health reform until the end of September, to provide a cooling-off period from the raucous town meetings, and to give strategists a better sense of where the Senate is headed."

That probably won't sit well with reformers--queasy from the last two weeks of unsettling news--who would like to see the process put back on track as quickly as possible.

It's a new evolution in the continuing saga of Fox's error-ridden chyrons. This time, instead of referring to some scandal-plagued Republican as a Democrat, they referred to Senate hopeful Joe Sestak (D-PA) as "Rep. Joke Sestak"

Take a look for yourself.

In fairness to Fox, the "O" and the "K" keys are pretty close together on the QWERTY keyboard. But given Fox's track record, it's hard not to wonder whether this might've been another Freudian keyboard slip.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)--one of the most influential health care legislators on Capitol Hill--has an explanation for everybody who groaned when he told a crowd of reform skeptics they were right to be concerned that Democratic health care reform would "pull the plug on grandma."

You see, he says, "[t]he issue is whether end-of-life provisions should be part of legislation that's about controlling health care spending, and which also creates a government-run health care program, as the Pelosi bill does."

Ah yes. End-of-life counseling is a good thing--but when it's written in to a bill that creates a public option (which won't cover seniors, who already enjoy Medicare) and is devoted to cost containment...well, people might begin to think that's a recipe for coerced euthanasia. So paying Medicare doctors for providing end of life counseling should be codified in a stand alone bill. Or something.

I'm going way out on a limb here, but maybe deathers think what they think because people like Grassley go out and tell them they're right to be afraid, despite knowing full well that House health care legislation won't "give the government such authority in deciding when and how people die."

You can read his full statement below the fold.

Read More →

Check out this new editorial from National Review, which openly praises the rationing of health care by the private sector -- but worries about the government doing it:

But there are many good reasons to prefer rationing by price to other forms of rationing, which is why we use it for most products and services. Those reasons are not limited to efficiency, though they include it. The rationing involved in a free market is decentralized, creating more room than a bureaucratic system for people to make different trade-offs. Hence most people do not think of it as rationing at all.

It follows that it is a deep mistake to imagine the wonders of greater government involvement absent rationing. Greater government involvement necessarily means that the government will play a larger role in the allocation -- the rationing -- of care.

On the subject of Sarah Palin's fear of government "death panels," the editorial simultaneously says this is a stretch -- but also that we should be worried about the government denying care to the elderly:

To conclude from these possibilities to the accusation that President Obama's favored legislation will lead to "death panels" deciding whose life has sufficient value to be saved -- let alone that Obama desires this outcome -- is to leap across a logical canyon. It may well be that in a society as litigious as ours, government will err on the side of spending more rather than treating less. But that does not mean that there is nothing to worry about. Our response to Sarah Palin's fans and her critics is to paraphrase Peter Viereck: We should be against hysteria -- including hysteria about hysteria.

The state remains a dangerous servant and a terrible master, all the more so when it is also our HMO.