Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reid, Pelosi, and the fight to save health-care reform

The top two Democrats in Congress, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, are apparently working this weekend to try to save health-care reform:

Struggling to salvage health reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have begun considering a list of changes to the Senate bill in hopes of making it acceptable to liberal House members, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The changes could be included in separate legislation that, if passed, would pave the way for House approval of the Senate bill -- a move that would preserve President Barack Obama's vision of a sweeping health reform plan.

But the move comes with political risk, because it would open Democrats up to charges that they pressed ahead with roughly the same health care bill that voters appeared to reject in the Massachusetts Senate race Tuesday. Republican Scott Brown won on a pledge to try to block Obama-style health reform.

The effort also puts Reid and Pelosi on the side of giving a sweeping reform bill one more try, instead of adopting a course being floated by some Democrats in Congress and at the White House of adopting a scaled-back bill including popular reform provisions.

The changes are being worked on this weekend with plans for Pelosi to present them to her caucus next week, according to sources familiar with the situation. But, sources stressed, neither Reid nor Pelosi know if this strategy can win the support of their members, but they are attempting it because it is the quickest path to passage.

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So long, Conan. See you soon.

You know what, this has been a really good last Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Funny, touching, classy -- and a fitting conclusion to Conan's far-too-short run as host.

My late-night preferences are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but as I put it last week, Conan's a very funny, culturally and comedically relevant guy who belongs in the prime of late-night TV, not relegated to a post-Leno afterthought. He was put in an extremely difficult position by a network, NBC, that is an utter disaster, and he's done what he had to do.

And so Jay Leno heads back to The Tonight Show, where his awful, dumbed-down crap will likely pull in solid ratings again and where he'll again pale in embarrassing comparison to the vastly superior David Letterman, who remains the most potent comedic presence on late-night network TV. But Conan belongs in there, too, and I hope he succeeds.

What a captivating late-night saga this has been. (By the way, the San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman, one of the finest TV critics around, has done some fabulous work addressing the whole mess at his blog The Bastard Machine. In addition to the link above, see here, here, and here.)

Good luck, Conan. See you on Fox, or wherever you end up.


Here's the great opening to Conan's very first Tonight Show episode, the running across America sequence, just seven months ago:

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Friday, January 22, 2010

American corporatocracy

I've been meaning to comment on this week's horrendous Surpreme Court decision handing the entire American political process over to corporate special interests, turning the country into even more of a corporatocracy than it is now, but Keith Olbermann just put it so brilliantly Thursday evening.

Watch the video below. Here's a taste:

Right now, you can prostitute all of the politicians some of the time, and prostitute some of the politicians all the time, but you cannot prostitute all the politicians all the time. Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts this will change. Unless this mortal blow is somehow undone, within ten years, every politician in this country will be a prostitute.


Be prepared, then, for the reduction of taxes for the wealth, and for the corporations, and the elimination of the social safety nets for everybody else, because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations.

Be prepared, then, for wars sold as the "new products" which Andy Card once described them as,  year-after-year, as if they were new Fox Reality Shows, because Military Industrial Complex Corporations are still corporations. Be prepared, then, for the ban on same-sex marriage, on abortion, on evolution, on separation of church and state. The most politically agitated group of citizens left are the evangelicals, throw them some red meat to feed their holier-than-thou rationalizations, and they won't care what else you do to this corporate nation.

The Supreme Court essentially ruled that a corporation is a person, that, as Olbermann put it, "corporations had all the rights of people," and that "any restrictions on how these corporate-beings spend their money on political advertising, are unconstitutional."

This is nonsense, a perversion of American democracy, and what is being ushered in is a political nightmare.

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Health-care reform

By Creature

I lean toward passing the Senate bill and let the chips fall where they may. The damage to Democrats has already been done. If reconciliation can be used by the Senate later to fix it then they should be pushed hard to do so. I guess, in the end, I'm more moderate than fire-breathing liberal. There's too much good in the bill to let it die.


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Stop the insanity! (Stop the insane Republican narrative about Obama and Massachusetts.)

Here's another example of the insane narrative emerging from Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday -- from a leading German publication, Der Spiegel:

US President Barack Obama suffered a painful defeat in Massachusetts on Tuesday. With mid-term elections looming, it means that Obama will have to fundamentally re-think his political course. German commentators say it is the end of hope.

US President Barack Obama has had a number of difficult weeks during his first year in the White House.

Please... Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

First, Obama didn't lose, Martha Coakley did. She was a horrible, gaffe-prone candidate who fell into the trap of invincible inevitability. And she lost to a right-wing Republican masquerading as an independent and moderate, a former nude model with an attractive family. When he said in his victory speech that he drives a truck, he was pretty much identifying his sole qualification for getting elected. That and the fact that he recites Republican propaganda without sneering too much. Republicans have tried to turn the "special election" into a national referendum on Obama, and on the Democratic legislative agenda in Congress, but the outcome of the election had more to do with the candidates themselves and with a general anti-incumbent (that is, anti-party-in-power) mood at a time of relatively high unemployment and widespread economic insecurity and fear than with, say, health-care reform, which remains hugely popular in Massachusetts. The state actually has a well-regarded system already in place, "Romneycare," named after former Republican Gov. (and presidential aspirant) Mitt Romney.) Republicans and their media mouthpieces refrain from mentioning this awkward fact when spinning Brown's win to fit their anti-Obama narrative.

(Isn't it amusing how Republicans are focusing on Massachusetts like it's the true national bellweather? It isn't, of course, and Republicans generally think of it as one of the most un-American states in the union. Their use and abuse of it now, as if the people of Massachusetts are all-wise, is dishonest and cynical.)

Second, Obama has actually had a fairly successful first year in office. I won't get into details here, but see my post responding to Jacob Weisberg's piece at Slate on "Obama's Brilliant First Year." Undeniably -- and by the president's own admission -- there have been some mistakes. And there have been some missteps, as well as some policies with which I disagree (the Afghan surge, Bush-like national security secrecy, economic policies, including the Wall Street bailout, devised by Wall Street insiders for the benefit of their pals on Wall Street). I have been sharply critical of the president, as have many others, including many of his supporters, but there is a certain revisionism going on now, and it's pretty much getting the past year wrong. Again, though, this is part of the Republican narrative: Obama has been a failure (except when he's done too much, been too successful, undermined America with his socialist/fascist ideology, etc.).

Enough already.

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Bernanke nomination in doubt

By Creature

I know someone's toying with my emotions here, but dumping Ben Bernanke would be good thing. As I've said in the past, I do give him credit for his creativity in stopping a financial collapse, but he also should have seen that collapse coming. Throw in his hostile testimony toward Social Security and Medicare last month and that should be enough for Democrats to say no to his second term. Not to mention, doing so would show some of that much needed Democratic spine we've all been waiting for.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not brilliant!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Holy Chuck Cooper, Batman, is this guy dribbling without the ball?

A Birther basketball league?

Basketball league for white Americans targets Augusta

A new professional basketball league boasting rosters made up exclusively of white Americans has its eyes set on Augusta, but the team isn't receiving a warm welcome.

"Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league," the statement said.


Don "Moose" Lewis, the commissioner of the AABA, said the reasoning behind the league's roster restrictions is not racism.

"There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like."

Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of "street-ball" played by "people of color." He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas' indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans' dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."

Hey, Don Moose Brains, this movie has already been made!

Like 24-years ago: Hoosiers!

Your deal doesn't sound anything like Hoosiers.

Hoosiers was about redemption and was loosely based on a real event.

Your deal sounds very much like xenophobic racism.

And, regular readers may be wondering, why aren't we rolling out the "Ignorant Dolt" carpet for this?

The reason is, we wouldn't want to sully our dubious Hall of Shame with the likes this cretin.

He goes way, way beyond being an Ignorant Dolt.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Wall Street tumbles

By Creature

I get that they don't welcome regulation, but shouldn't they? A stable, less-risky environment would, in the end, be beneficial. Who wants to trade when, as we saw over the past year, all could be lost in a day due to an over-leveraged bank on the verge of collapse? I don't get it.


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Pass it... to kill it?

By Carl

Lawrence O'Donnell is one of my favorite DC people. Not because he's particularly bright and only partially because he was deeply involved with the production of
The West Wing television series.

He pays attention. That's his strength. You see it when he's interviewing someone, you see it when he's on a panel of bloviators, and
you see it in his blogging.

You see, by paying attention, you pick up on nuances and details that others miss. Like the fact that, well, Mitch McConnell has all but passed healthcare reform for Harry Reid already:

In Washington, where everyone is desperate to know what's happening behind closed doors, all you have to do to keep something secret is do it out in the open, preferably on C-Span. Mitch McConnell did exactly that when he entered a unanimous consent agreement with Harry Reid about how to proceed on the health care bill. McConnell knew that agreement was going to make it impossible for Republicans to amend the bill and would put it on a fast track toward passage.

McConnell accepted an agreement brilliantly designed by Reid that required 60 votes to pass an amendment. McConnell did that without anyone noticing anything odd after a year of saturation coverage of the importance of 60 votes in the Senate. Everyone outside the Senate now thinks it takes 60 votes to do anything. Not amendments. Amendments pass by a simple majority, 51 votes. Amendments are usually debated for a couple of minutes or hours or days, then voted on. Once in a while, a 60-vote cloture motion is needed to end debate on an amendment. What McConnell agreed to was an implicit cloture motion in every vote on every amendment, thereby completely surrendering the minority's real power. In all my years in the Senate, I never saw a leader make such a mistake. If it was a mistake.

[...]President Obama threatening to violate a campaign pledge by taxing workers' health care plans is one thing, but actually doing it is a dream come true for Republicans. They know the health care reform bill has a handful of taxes like that, none of which were mentioned by any Democrat in the last campaign. They can't wait to campaign to repeal those taxes. The internal Republican strategy debate now is should we repeal the whole bill or maybe leave some of the more popular sounding bits alone? But how can they run on any kind of repeal if Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts and steps into the Senate just in time to kill Obamacare?

If that happens, and the Democrats then scale back their dreams on cap and trade and other liberal ideas, then maybe moderate independents -- including some of Scott Brown's voters -- might think Mitch McConnell has all the Republicans he needs to keep the Democrats on the moderate course those voters prefer. So who is Mitch McConnell really rooting for in Massachusetts?

Absent the future tense and uncertainty of a Brown win, as I'm late to the party on this column.

It is an interesting note that O'Donnell makes. Mistakes are rarely made in the Senate and hardly ever made by the party leadership. Clearly, McConnell intended to leave himself the out that O'Donnell mentions, the ability to have a tax to rail against in November.

Just as the abortion issue could have been settled in favor of the Republican/conservative caucus at any point over the past 16 years or so by aggressively pursuing legislation to overturn Roe v. Wade or at least drastically limit it (not just the nibbling around the edges that has been passed), Republicans could simply have repeated the strategy they pursued in defeating healthcare reform in 1994: submit endless amendments that would eventually exhaust the chamber.

Four real amendments were submitted as well as five requests to return the bill to committee. All were voted "down" in the regard that they did not pass a 60 vote test.

Sure, the Republicans put on a show of opposition: calling for a reading of the bill on the Senate floor, forcing Senator Byrd to roll in on a wheelchair to vote in the middle of the night. To call this a full-court press to defeat the most socialist piece of legislation in the history of this country (even Social Security doesn't force everyone to carry it, only people earning wages) is ludicrous.

Now, it's possible that McConnell made a mistake. It's possible that, when Reid and McConnell made this agreement, McConnell had polling that showed Americans were so deeply in support of reform that they'd tear apart anyone who behaved badly, and McConnell decided it wasn't going to be his side.

And it's also possible that monkeys might fly out of my butt tomorrow, because this fear was diametrically opposite to the strategy that was pursued, which was to so water down the legislation...what? You thought Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman acted independently out of good conscience?... that no one would like it much?

The election of Brown certainly defeats that possibility... unless of course a rookie senator can be persuaded to tow the line.


(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Geithner gripes

By Creature

If Obama needed an excuse to dump Geithner, this should do it. Mind you, I'm not holding my breath.

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1994, the coming sequel?

By J. Kingston Pierce

Any Republican’ts who weren’t already popping champagne corks over former underwear model Scott Brown’s success at capturing the late Edward Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat earlier this week now have more reasons to rejoice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this morning that Democrats in the lower chamber lack the votes necessary to pass the Senate’s compromise health-care reform legislation, quashing hopes--high only a month ago--that reforms sought for more than century in the United States might finally be adopted.

“I don’t see the votes for it at this time,” Pelosi told reporters. “The members have been very clear.”

Unbelievably, President Obama--who said only last summer that “he was willing to be a one-term president” if that’s what it takes to get health-care reform passed--essentially conceded the battle on Wednesday, saying, “Here’s one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.”

Are you kidding, Mr. President? Were a Republican’t in this same position, having lost only one seat in the U.S. Senate, do you really think he would throw in the towel? Admittedly, the fight would probably not be over something as important as health-care overhaul legislation, but I’m confident that even a wrongheaded stumblebum like George W. Bush would not be so considerate of the opposition. There’s absolutely no reason for Democrats to lose their backbones, just because they’ve suddenly lost their 60th vote in the Senate. This should be motivation to step up the fight, not step away from it. The American people elected Obama and his fellow Democrats to Capitol Hill majorities last year, because they believed that Dems could deliver on their promise to enact essential health-care reforms. If the promise is abandoned, then the motivation for keeping Democratic control of Congress disappears with it.

Sure, Obama and the Dems in Congress promise to carry on the struggle. But who’s going to believe them, when they are so willing to snatch failure from the jaws of success?

Ted Kennedy must be spinning in his grave. The moral cause to which he devoted so much time and energy during his almost 50 years in the Senate--winning access to high-quality medical care for all Americans--is suddenly endangered by Democrats who are ready to succumb without taking the last vote they need to fulfill at least part of Kennedy’s dream. All House Democrats have to do is endorse the Senate’s health-care reform legislation, then make improvements through the subsequent budget-reconciliation process. The results would likely fall short of what many progressive members want, but there would at least be a platform to build upon in the future. (The importance of that cannot be discounted. Remember, Social Security and Medicare didn’t pass in the forms we know them today; they also had to be modified over time, just as health-care reform would need to be improved with the passage of years.) To walk away from this opportunity, just as there is victory over the horizon for health-care reform, would be political suicide.

If health-care reform is allowed to fail in this way, making Democrats and the president both look weak--victims of a tyrannical minority on Capitol Hill--voters can’t be expected to believe Dems when they say they’ll keep up the fight. Can you really see lawmakers returning to the subject of health-care reform immediately, when they are also expected to cure the nation’s persistent unemployment and reign in banking abuses?

Prominent Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said earlier today that “moving away from health care would be the worst decision. ‘We can’t talk about it for a year and deliver nothing, that would be a disaster. We should pass it and then we have to go sell it. We have to tell people what is in it.”

She’s absolutely right. Democrats on Capitol Hill as well as in the White House have to deliver on their promises, or their promises mean nothing. And even if they can’t ultimately deliver, for one reason or another, they must at least fight the good fight. They cannot roll over and play dead just because Republican’ts in Massachusetts were more energized to turn out and vote for one of their guys than Bay State Democrats were motivated to endorse Brown’s opponent, state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Presidential advisor David Axelrod had it right when he said, after the Massachusetts election: “[W]e should finish health care because the caricature of that bill is there and everyone who voted for it will have to live with that. The way to deal with that is to pass the bill and let people see ... the value of it.”

Ezra Klein says it still better in The Washington Post: “Letting this process die is, of course, the worst of all worlds. Democrats have 59 votes in the Senate and almost 260 votes in the House. They brought their [health-care reform] bill to the one-yard line before Scott Brown forced a fumble. Proving yourself unable to govern in that scenario is proving yourself unable to govern. Moreover, it would be staggeringly cruel to the people that this bill is meant to help, and who need this bill’s help. Covering 30 million and protecting countless millions more is not just a talking point. It’s the reason for this whole enterprise. To abandon those people because Brown won in Massachusetts is simply indecent, and would prove the Democratic Party worse than ineffective. It would prove the party unconcerned.”

No wonder Republican’ts are talking again about being able to recapture control of Congress in 2010. If Democrats give up on health-care reform now, they run the decided risk of delivering to the GOP the same sort of successes this November that they enjoyed in 1994. And Obama loses the faith of so many people who backed him in the presidential election of 2008.

The time has come for the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to put aside its egos and petty policy differences, and for the president to step up and prove himself capable of taking this fight to the finish line. They all have a larger goal: to deliver on health-care reform now, while they have it within their reach. That’s essential to keeping faith with the American public, retaining anywhere near their lawmaking majority come the midterm elections, and stopping Obama’s remark about being a one-term chief executive from coming true.

(Cross-posted from Limbo.)

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The real meaning of the Democrats' loss of their 60th Senate seat


What is the real meaning of the Democrats' loss of their 60th Senate seat this week, with Republican Scott Brown winning the Massachusetts seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy?

It is yet another item in the “charge sheet” against the American way of politics and policy-making. Consider that in the Obama Administration we have a government that, along with its legislative majorities, was endorsed by substantial majorities of the electorate just over a year ago. Yet it now seems likely that its entire agenda has pivoted from marginally probable to be implemented to virtually vetoed. On the outcome of a special election for one seat in one house in one state just one year into its tenure.

It is worth noting that the current government is the first government in the USA to have popular majorities backing both it and its legislative majorities in quite some time (since 1976; no Republican Senate majority in at least five decades has been backed by a popular majority and Clinton never won over 50% of the vote). But that does not matter. One might think that elections should matter -- that is, national elections -- and that governments endorsed by majorities might be generally able to implement their programs. Well, at least that is what one might think if one were a committed small-d democrat. Or a committed progressive.

I wonder when -- if -- progressives will ever come to the recognition that a progressive agenda is simply doomed if we do not break free of the straitjacket of our 18th century political institutions.

It's not the economy. It's not health care. It's not even the global climate. It's political reform, stupid!

More at the "American Political Reform" block at Fruits & Votes, and at my home blog's Mission Statement.

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Love means never making me read that book again

By J. Thomas Duffy

We remember, oh, so well, the mania that erupted when the book, soon followed by one of the sappiest movie ever made, came out, the buzz, the hosannas for the work.

And, if you had sisters, holy cow, it was 24/7, over-the-moon, heart-clutching anguish, bemoaning the wait for their "Oliver" to come driving up in a little MG.

You couldn't escape it.

So, we pose a query to you out there.

Who else has gone so far, with so little?

Erich Segal, 72; authored hugely popular ‘Love Story’

He had originally written “Love Story’’ as a screenplay about the star-crossed love between a working-class Italian girl from Radcliffe and a Harvard boy from an old family. The 1970 film, which starred Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and became a huge hit, was in production before Dr. Segal reworked it as a novel. When “Love Story’’ was released in paperback, it had the largest print order in publishing history at the time, with 4,325,000 copies.

Although Dr. Segal’s work resonated with the public, critics almost uniformly lambasted it. The judges for the National Book Award threatened to resign unless “Love Story’’ was withdrawn from nomination.

“It is a banal book which simply doesn’t qualify as literature,’’ said novelist William Styron, the head judge of the fiction panel.

But thrust into the limelight, Dr. Segal made weekend jaunts to Paris and London, returning to Yale for his classes on classical civilization. Dr. Segal also parlayed his love of running and knowledge of ancient Greece into a job as an ABC TV commentator for the Olympic Games.

If that were today, he'd have had his own reality television show by now.

What love really means is never making me read that book again

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)


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Bush's Supreme Court strikes again

By Creature

Unrestricted corporate spending in campaigns. We are all shareholders now (except without the dividends, the capital gains, and any say about how the United Corporation States of America will be run). This is just great.

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Back to the future

By Capt. Fogg

Only a year into Ronald Reagan's first term, some pundits were calling him a one-term president. Only hours into Bill Clinton's first term many were saying the same thing. Barack Obama hasn't been spared the would-be self fulfilling prophecy either. Republicans and the corporate interests who own them have been focusing on the upcoming elections since November 2008 and now, the Supreme Court has given them what may be just what they need to make their reconquista possible. Indeed the midterm elections may have their outcome affected by new, less restrictive rules regarding campaign spending by corporations.

Our nation's speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights,

wrote Kennedy for the majority, setting aside a century's limited progress in separating the power of money from the power of the vote. By "informative voices" of course, he means The Insurance industry, the Health care industry, The Oil Companies and all who seek to profit by influencing and restricting our choices. That's one small step for KBR, Halliburton, United Health Care, Exxon and Cargill -- and one giant step backwards for you and me.

At a time of national outrage as concerns the true loyalties of our elected representatives, could this affirmation of the power of money over the power of the individual come at a worse time?

Today's ruling, by Big Money's representatives in the court may not change much, considering the ease with which corporations have been able to influence every last detail of our lives as it is, but it's a bad step in a bad direction.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Worst Democrat of the Day: Dianne Feinstein

For pulling an Evan Bayh and learning all the wrong lessons from the Massachusetts special election:

I think we do go slower on health care. People do not understand it. It is so big it is beyond their comprehension. And if you don't understand it when somebody tells you it does this or it does that and it's not true, you tend to believe it, even though it isn't true. It's hard to debunk all of the myths that are out there. In my view when people are earning, when their home is secure, when their children are going to school, and they are relatively satisfied with their life and there's a problem like health care – they want it solved. It doesn't threaten them. The size of this bill threatens them. And that's one of the problems that's got to be straightened out.

This is ridiculous. So let me ridicule it.

Health-care reform should be dropped because it's too complicated and because people are more worried about the economy?

Uh, no.

The specific elements of reform may be complicated, if hardly incomprehensible, but Democrats have done a lousy job explaining them to the American people. Maybe they should try instead of just giving up.

People are certainly worried about the economy, not least about the atrocious job situation, as well as about education, but how is health care, which tens of millions of American do not have in any adequate way, and which is sinking the economy and placing immense financial pressures on so many, not as pressing a problem as education? Yes, people want to go to school, and they want their children to go to school, but what does education mean if you're not healthy enough to take advantage of it?

To me, Feinstein just doesn't seem to grasp the primacy of health care, and health itself, when it comes to the happiness and well-being of the American people. Indeed, she treats it like an afterthought, as if it's just a sort of technical problem that can be put off until people are otherwise "satisfied." But how are people supposed to be satisfied if they don't have health insurance, if they don't have access to adequate care, if they're being denied treatment by their insurance companies, if the cost of health care is bankrupting them. Feinstein seems to be wildly out of touch with reality, and with the vast majority of the American people -- and her comments are appallingly condescending. She, after all, doesn't have to worry about anything, does she? She has a job, she has a lot of money, she has a nice home, surely, and she has access to the best health care all her money can buy.

It's disgusting, really, especially coming from a Democrat.

Besides, lest we forget, both the House and Senate have already passed reform legislation. Now it's a matter of getting a bill to Obama, preferably the Senate bill approved as is by the House.

Maybe, in the meantime, Feinstein can pull herself away from her privileged life and help explain what reform is all about and how Americans will ultimately benefit from it.

Health care isn't an afterthought, isn't peripheral to people's well-being and happiness. It's central, and utterly essential, like being employed and having food on the table and a roof over one's head. Feinstein doesn't get that, apparently, but maybe she could get out there and talk to real people about what's going on in their lives. And then maybe she would see that health-care reform should be addressed now, in conjunction with efforts to create jobs and fix the economy, not at some distant point in the future when people are "satisfied" enough to handle it.

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The unbearable luxury of Truth

By Capt. Fogg

"...and how much more falsity is still necessary to me that I may therewith always reassure myself regarding the luxury of my truth."

- Friedrich Nietzsche -

Quick, hurry, watch this video right away before "they" pull it. Watch it before "they zap it off the internet" because it's a video of Obama admitting that he grew up with Muslims and is "one of them." Watch carefully and you can see where it was edited. It's the third one in my inbox this week, and the week's not over. Videos about impaling Christian babies on the "Scimitar of Muslim justice." Obama in a Ukrainian porn video -- hurry, before it gets pulled as part of his obvious Marxist agenda! Even a dog knows better than to swallow anything from Obama, but we swallow the slander with infinite glee. In YouTube we trust and ain't it fun to hate Obama?

How many thousands of years ago was it that merely saying President Bush was embarrassing was enough to ruin your career and get you excoriated on Fox News, and reading the names of the fallen in Iraq was an outrageous attempt to criticize the president that bordered on treason? Go back and look -- quickly -- before history is rewritten.

UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer by market capitalization, posted earnings of $944 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from $726 million in 2008, it was announced this morning. That's a 30% increase -- what recession?

Last week I got a bill for over $700 for some routine blood work. Good thing I can afford Blue Cross at $1500 a month with a $2500 deductible, but still, I pay in far more than I get out of it seeing as that's how private insurance works and how they need to make 30 or 40 percent to keep the stockholders fat. Good thing for UnitedHealth if the Sleaze Lords defeat Obama's Marxist agenda!

America hates the president, America hates the courts, hates the Congress, hates the Government. America doesn't trust science, doesn't trust educated people, doesn't trust liberals. Americans believe they're smart, that their opinions are valid -- their superstitions, their fears, their prejudices and that they're being oppressed by everyone but those who get rich from their suffering. America trusts anonymous e-mails, Rush Limbaugh and YouTube. Americans love comfort, security and luxury, especially if they have more of it than their neighbors. Of course, paying for it with cash is Communism, but what's a little falsity? It's free and abundant -- and it's fun!

(Cross posted from Human Voices.)

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What Democrats need to do about health-care reform

I don't have much to add to J. Kingston Pierce's excellent post, "Pass health-care reform NOW!" -- but I will add this:

Paul Krugman is right:

Health care reform -- which is crucial for millions of Americans -- hangs in the balance. Progressives are desperately in need of leadership; more specifically, House Democrats need to be told to pass the Senate bill, which isn't what they wanted but is vastly better than nothing.

It isn't perfect, but it's better, much better, than nothing. The problem, as Krugman notes, is the "gaping hole in White House leadership."

President Obama is still talking up bipartisanship. Has he learned nothing, from his first year in office, and from yesterday's election in Massachusetts? No, no, he knows what's going on. But why does he insist on caving in to Republican demands? I understand that he isn't exactly the progressive saviour many of his more delusional supporters thought he would be, but surely he can fight back, surely he can stand up to Republican opposition and obstructionism.

But why isn't he?

Ezra Klein: "My preference is that House Democrats pass the Senate bill and then run their fixes through the reconciliation process." Or "Democrats could scrap the legislation and start over in the reconciliation process."

That alternative option is intriguing but risky. I think it's best to get it done as soon as possible, and that means going with the flawed Senate bill and then improving it later.

Jon Cohn has penned a "Dear Nervous and Frustrated House Democrat" letter:

You're depressed: Brown inherits the seat that once belonged to Ted Kennedy, who had made health care reform a lifelong crusade.

You're angry, either for taking politically difficult votes or compromising your ideals in order to move the process along.

And, let's face it, you’re scared. If a Democrat can lose in Massachusetts, any Democrat can lose anywhere. That includes you.

Now you have a choice.

The temptation will be to drop health care, change the subject, and hope for the best. After all, the voters clearly don't like what they're hearing and seeing out of Washington. And health care is all they've been hearing and seeing for the last few months. The polls suggest more people oppose the plan than support it. And the right wing is having a field day with it.

But is it the product the voters don't like -- or the process? Truth be told, most people don't even understand the basics of what this bill would do.


Remember, Republicans will blame you for this bill anyway. Unless you're among the few Democrats who opposed it on the first go-round, you've already voted for health care reform. And you can bet the Republicans will let voters know that come November. You’ll be the representative who voted for that awful liberal boondoggle that, thankfully, the Senate blocked at the final stages of deliberation. Or maybe you want to explain to constituents why you were for health care reform before you were against it.

On the other hand, if you find a way to pass legislation, then you have something to show for your efforts -- an accomplishment you can tout, legitimately, as making people's lives better.


[Y]ou can pass health care reform very quickly if you want. All you have to do is vote for the Senate bill, as written. Yes, I'm aware of its flaws. But it's also far better than nothing. (Heck, if you're a centrist, you may think the Senate bill is even better than the original House one.)

Once the main bill is passed, you can always revisit it -- perhaps right away, by passing a "patch" through the reconciliation process. If you're clever -- and you are -- you'll extract some sort of promise from the president and Senate leadership to make sure the patch gets enacted.

There you go. (Make sure to read the whole thing. It's really well done.)

Reconciliation should be on the table, but Brown's election, giving the Republicans 41 seats in the Senate, still a decisive minority, shouldn't change anything.

Admittedly, it will be quite difficult for Pelosi to keep her caucus together in the House, with some Democrats already saying they won't vote for the Senate bill, but why not try? After all, both the House and Senate have already passed reform legislation, and a serious effort to persuade more progressive House Democrats of the necessity of passing the Senate bill as is (as opposed to getting nothing done at all) could work. There is fear, understandably so, and that fear, along with panic, seems to be driving Democrats in different directions, and driving them crazy, threatening to tear them apart, but perhaps they'll end up coming to grips with the reality of the current political situation and what is in their own best interests.

But this means not just Pelosi and her lieutenants twisting arms, it means Obama taking an active role in getting this done. That means White House leadership. And that means filling up that gaping hole.

Cohn again: "[I]f health care reform is to be salvaged -- and, I'll be honest, I'm not terribly optimistic right now -- it will take something more. It's going to take the president showing the resolve and leadership that got him elected."

I want to believe, I really do, but I just can't, not with what I've seen from him so far.

With his leadership or not -- and we may learn something at the upcoming State of the Union -- there is still an opening for Democrats to pass historic health-care reform and to open the door for improvements down the road. Brown's election didn't change that.

Now it's time to get it done.

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The end of too-big-to-fail?

By Creature

I'll believe it when I see it, but the mere fact that Paul Volcker's name is in the same sentence as Obama's is a good start. Taking on the banks is good policy and good politics. More like this, please.

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Headline of the Day (Scott Brown edition)

From The Village Voice's Runnin' Scared blog: 

Listening to Republicans and their GOP-narrative-spewing media mouthpieces, whether at Fox News or elsewhere, you'd think that really was the new reality in Washington.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quote of the Day 2

Scott Brown on waterboarding:

I believe that it's not torture. America does not torture. We used aggressive enhanced interrogation techniques.

Well done, Massachusetts. Well done.

(This is from a couple of weeks ago. It shows just how incompetent the Coakley campaign was that it could never connect Brown, a wolf in sheep's clothing, to the right-wing Republican agenda that he supports, more or less, but kept well-hidden behind a pretty face and a self-styled facade of independence and moderation. Brown was able to get away with it while Coakley was recoiling from gaffe after embarrassing gaffe.)

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Unsubscribing hope

By Creature

I finally unsubscribed from Obama's Organizing for America's email list tonight with this message: "Too much capitulation to Republicans. Show some fight and I'll be back."

I realize it means nothing, but it felt good.


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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"I think we ought to withdraw the current Senate bill and instead just pass a bipartisan resolution that Americans should strive to be healthier!" -- El Cid, reacting to the president's continued bi-partisan delusion.

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Pass health-care reform NOW!

By J. Kingston Pierce

Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen has an excellent post up today, pointing out how essential it is for Democrats in Congress to pass health-care reform legislation immediately, even if it means that House Dems
must accept the Senate’s weaker compromise bill and then make improvements through the upcoming budget reconciliation process. Writes Benen:

Congressional Democrats have already voted for the controversial health care reform bill. Do they seriously believe the electorate will be impressed if they spend a year doing the hard work of tackling this seemingly-impossible challenge, pass the landmark legislation, and then let it die? They think that’s the smart political move that increases their chance of winning re-election?

Failure begets failure. Choosing to walk away would be electoral suicide--the attacks from the right will only be more intense for Dems who voted for reform before deciding to throw in the towel.

The reform initiative has obviously suffered in the face of an intense misinformation campaign. But Dems stand a far better chance of persevering if they at least take their case to the public, and explain the strengths of the proposal. There is literally no upside to the majority party asking voters for support after failing to do what they said they would do. Democrats were elected to finally pass health care reform; there will be no reward for turning success into a fiasco.

As Paul Begala said last night, “If it’s the end of health care, it’s the end of the Democratic majority.” Josh Marshall added, “The Dems have no choice but to finish the job. No choice.”

The whole piece can be found

I wholeheartedly agree with Benen’s point. After a century of trying to pass health-care reform legislation, Democrats in Congress are on the brink of success. This is a historic moment. Now is not the time to slam on the breaks and try to negotiate with Republican’ts, who are determined to destroy President Obama and his fellow Dems, and regain the power they had under George W. Bush to ignore the health care needs of Americans and further bankrupt the federal government they so despise. They’ve already proved this year that they have no interest in compromising--even if it means people go without steady employment and affordable health-care coverage.

The message of yesterday’s election in Massachusetts was not that Democrats have gone too far, and that they need to be more conservative in their governance; it’s that they’ve accomplished too little during the last year. Democratic voters are disappointed by the lack of change. They are looking for more bold action, not impossible compromises that leave them out in the cold--again.

Were Republican’ts in the position Democrats face now,
they’d be barreling ahead with their plans, not second-guessing themselves. Obama and Democrats in Congress must move forward, not retreat, for retreat at this point can bring nothing but worse results in this year’s midterm elections.

Learning the Wrong Lessons from Massachusetts,” by Joan Walsh (Salon).

(Cross-posted from Limbo.)

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Spay and neuter your porn stars

I have mixed feelings about PETA. On the one hand, I tend to agree with them on issues like fur (which is, in my view, indefensible, unless you live where there are no alternatives, or unless you just can't live without it, in which case it's not fashion fur but necessity fur -- big difference). On the other hand, I do consume some animal products, and I find some of their advocacy both overly aggressive and misguided.

(Though it's odd that PETA's website currently features an anti-fur campaign with notorious gun-toter Gilbert Arenas -- who is, I think, being unfairly scapegoated by the NBA. Good for Arenas, but the optics aren't exactly great at the moment.)

And their in-your-face, sometimes over-the-top ad campaigns? Well, I generally don't mind them. Take Alicia Silverstone's famous naked vegetarian PSA, for example. Very effective. And it helps that she's very attractive.

What about the new naked Sasha Grey spaying/neutering ad? Has PETA finally "jumped the shark," as Jonathan Chait alleges? Is it exploitation, manipulation? And is there any link between a hot naked porn star and spaying/neutering your pets?

Chait is right that the link is "particularly tenuous," but isn't all advertising, to some extent, exploitation and manipulation? After all, if the intention is to attract attention to a serious issue, I think PETA has succeeded. And I suppose there actually is a link between "too much sex" for humans and too much "sex" for your pets, the latter of which can result in a population explosion. So why not go the porn route? (Although, how is too much sex bad for Sasha Grey? How is too much sex with her bad? I don't get it.)

Maybe it could have been a bit less in-your-face, though I'm not sure what's wrong with having the gorgeous Ms. Grey, Soderbergh actress and adult film starlet (from what I understand -- I wouldn't know, of course) in your face. She looks unbelievably incredible here, does she not? (Much better than usual. You know. She's usually much more, well, bland.)

So it's a stretch, yes... but enjoy.

Oh, and spay and neuter your pets. Please. It's important.

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Martha, my dear

By Carl

It's not the end of the world. Hell, it's not even the
end of Obama's presidency. Politics is, after all, the art of the possible and good politicians like Obama can make lemonade out of pisswater.

So what are the real lessons to be learned from Martha Coakley's defeat at the hands of a naked teabagger?

1) Never ever diss Fenway Park, sports fans, or the Boston Red Sox if you want to win a statewide office in Massachusetts. Martha, my dear, when people are hurting, sports comes to the rescue. For most men I know, a sport if not multiple sports is a religion. Treat it that way. That means, yes, standing outside Fenway Park on New Year's Day, shaking the hands of every single Bruins fan you can grab hold of, and talking to them, answering and more important, asking them questions. You will never win in Massachusetts as a Democrat if you can't carry all of Boston, not just the quiet neighborhoods where you can throw cocktail parties and make fun of blue collar workers. Remember the flak Obama took in Pennsylvania for comments recorded in California? It nearly cost him the nomination.

2) Apart from Kennedys, Massachusetts has a shitty Democratic machine. When the chips have been down and we've turned to a Massachusian to lead the way, look at what they've served up: Dukakis, Kerry, now Coakley. And even Mitt Romney, to extend this to a bipartisan level. The MassDems ought to take a good long stone cold sober look at themselves and wonder if maybe they're barking up the wrong tree for campaign funds.

3) Democrats cannot win elections by preaching from on high. See point (1). The party faithful are not a homogenous bunch of sheeple, nearly all white and nearly all Christian, like the Republicans. We aren't as patriarchal and we are not going to be lectured. The only way Democrats win is to engage with the voters, face to face, hand to hand, heart to heart. That last is the most important. Listen, then speak. It's how Obama won, it's how Deval Patrick won, it's how both Clintons won elections. We speak of hope and prosperity, we talk about how Americans are struggling and how they will ldo better under a Democrat because that's what history teaches us. We talk about the values that make America great and how all people need is a fair, level playing field in order to succeed. We don't need to tear down, because we always build up. Hope was a theme of the last two Democratic presidents for a reason, folks!

4) You can't win an election in absentia. I'm not talking about taking a vacation in a truncated election season, altho that couldn't have helped. I'm talking about running a campaign as a surrogate for a beloved politician like Ted Kennedy. There's only one person who could possibly have done that, and Victoria Reggie Kennedy was not in the race. You want to flavor your stump speech with reminders of his tireless work on healthcare and how you want to protect that, that's fine, but don't make it the singleminded focus and the raisn d'etre of your campaign. See point three for what to run on.

What should the Democrats in DC do now?

I'd like to see them take off the gloves. This is the time to recognize that, while Democrats are not sheeple, elected Democrats have to be. Time to bully the Blue Dogs, and kick Lieberman to the curb, use the reconciliation feature of Senate votes and get Obama to release that donor list of his for robocalling on healthcare, on jobs, on deficit reduction. We have less than a year where we can guarantee even an eighteen seat majority in the Senate, so we have a deadline looming on us. We're likely to lose seats as it is, but whether we pass HCR or not, whether we get a jobs program in place or not, we're not going to lose the majority party status. So if we sacrifice one or two Democrats in the cause of advancing the nation, so be it.

Are you listening, Senator Reid?

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind, under
Martha Choakley)

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Keith Olbermann on Limbaugh, Robertson, and Haiti

I should have posted this the other day. It's brilliant.

And it reminds me how much I admire Olbermann. The man tells it like it is with extraordinary eloquence and conviction.

Mr. Robertson, Mr. Limbaugh, your lives are not worth those of the lowest, meanest, poorest of those victims still lying under that rubble in Haiti tonight. You serve no good, you serve no god, you inspire only stupidity and hatred...

(See my own takes on Limbaugh and Robertson. See also related posts by Carl, Capt. Fogg, and J. Thomas Duffy.)

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Inevitability is not a campaign strategy

By Creature

Didn't Hillary's primary run prove this. Hubris, plain and simple.

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Lieberman, self-serving hypocrite extraordinaire, backs away from health-care reform

Joe Lieberman got what he wanted on health-care reform, with Democrats caving to his demands, but now, yesterday, reading the polls in Massachusetts, gearing up for a Brown victory, he backed away from the bill crafted for his approval. And all because there is significant opposition among independents to reform (even though, once people actually understand what's in the bill, they're overwhelmingly for it).

Lieberman's effort to align with "independents" and distance himself from "what's happening in Washington" is highly disingenuous. After all, the Senator ignored the wishes of his constituents -- who had approved a statewide public health insurance system with a public option in 2009 -- and vowed to filibuster any reform bill that included a public plan or a Medicare buy-in for younger Americans. His refusal to compromise with Democrats stripped the Senate bill of its most popular provisions.

There's just no pleasing him, I've written, and he'll always find some excuse to put himself before everything else.

Is it any wonder the people of his own state can't stand him?

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