Thursday, December 31, 2009
She is awesome. That is all.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
In the wake of the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Right has unfortunately gone into full attack mode on President Obama's failure to "keep us safe," which is an implied reference back to former President Bush's ability to "keep us safe." Only one little problem with that...Bush didn't keep us safe. But far be it for insignificant minutia such as truth or facts to keep folks like Rep. Peter King (NY) or former VP Dick Cheney from speaking their mind dagnabit. His Majesty, Mr. Cheney, stated the following:
“Obama seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.”
So to recap, refusing to give terrorist suspects lawyers, civilian trials, Miranda rights, and giving high-profile Presidential responses to terrorist attempts will keep America safe. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Cheney.
Surely, when Mr. Cheney, in all of his infinite wisdom, implemented that exact same formula for success it must have kept America safe right?
Quick question - we all know we have to take off our shoes at the airport but does anybody remember WHY we have to take off our shoes? 5 points if you said Richard Colvin Reid. Who is Richard Colvin Reid? Why he's the infamous "Shoe Bomber" - a member of al Queada who attempted to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 (Paris to Miami) on December 22, 2001 - just 3 months AFTER 9/11. That's right, I said AFTER 9/11. And who's watch did that fall on? That's right, on Mr. Cheney's watch. I'm not even going to focus on Bush 43 at the moment because at least he's sitting down and shutting up which, given Cheney's recalcitrance of late, would not be a bad idea for the rest of you on the Right who sound just like him.
By the way, Richard Colvin Reid was tried, and convicted, in a ...wait for it... Federal Court (aka "Civilian Court") in Boston, complete with lawyers and Miranda rights, and is currently serving a life sentence in a supermax federal prison. But by all means, dear Right, please continue to propagate the infallible Cheney-Doctrine of "keeping us safe." Keep telling us that by shredding our Constitution just a little and encouraging our Commander-in-Chief to go ape-sh!t whenever some nut decides to blow himself up on an air liner that it will all "keep us safe" in the end. On second thought, I've changed my mind, don't do that anymore because it didn't "keep us safe" during Mr. Shoe-Bomber, and it sure as hell didn't "keep us safe" during the biggest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history which, despite all of your attempts to revise history, still happened on Cheney's watch: 9/11.
See the problem with you, Right, is that you've been saying "George Bush/Dick Cheney kept us safe" for so long that you actually believe it. You actually believe that nothing happened on 9/11/01 or 12/22/01 - or rather - you acknowledge that these things did happen but you honestly believe in your mind that they happened before Bush/Cheney took office. No, Right. Enough with the revisionist history. Those things happened, and they happened on Cheney's watch.
Deal with it.
So before you grab up the torches and pitch forks and head up to the Obama White House over the next terrorist attempt, don't be so quick to forget about history.
White House response to Dick Cheney's transcribed Mike Allen "interview" in Politico.com.
The White House Blog
The Same Old Washington Blame Game
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on December 30, 2009 at 03:34 PM EST
There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day. I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.
First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years. It was President Obama who finally implemented a strategy of winding down the war in Iraq, and actually focusing our resources on the war against al Qaeda – more than doubling our troops in Afghanistan, and building partnerships to target al Qaeda’s safe-havens in Yemen and Somalia. And in less than one year, we have already seen many al Qaeda leaders taken out, our alliances strengthened, and the pressure on al Qaeda increased worldwide.
To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.
Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”
There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Last week of the [insert name here for whatever this decade is supposed to be called]'s. In addition to what's going on right now, take a moment to also think about what have been the most memorable moments of this past decade and how it will be defined.
It occurred to me while watching my favorite GOP strategist Kevin Madden talking about Obama's response to the NW 253 attempted terrorist attack, that he unintentionally (perhaps) let it slip a little insight into what the modern GOP is really about.
It's all about PERCEPTION.
The perception of wealth. <--- FORECLOSURE CRISIS. MADOFF. ECONOMIC CRISIS WRIT LARGE.
The perception of security. <--- Except from the weather.
The perception of toughness. <--- Waterboarding is all the rage except torture doesn't actually work.
The perception of patriotism. <--- Covert CIA agents who specialize in monitoring black market nukes are fair game, especially if they are Democrats.
The perception of toughness. <--- Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran. And Bring 'em on.
The perception of intelligence. <--- Sarah Palin.
The perception of recovery. <--- See Hurrican Katrina photo above. THE PERCEPTION OF COMPETENCE INSTEAD OF ACTUAL COMPETENCE.
Feel free to include your own in the comments below.
It really pains me to say this because I actually really like Kevin Madden. I even follow him on twitter and we chat from time to time.
He is probably one of the only Republican strategists I can tolerate listening to on the teevee for more than 5 minutes.
Then he goes and does this...
I think it's a good time to mention that I'm not all that worried about the PERCEPTION of competence as much as I am concerned about ACTUAL COMPETENCE. I think that is an interesting window into how Republican strategists seek to frame the debate vs how President Obama actually prosecutes the so-called War on Terror.
Between Barack Obama and Tiger Woods, it wasn’t such a good December for idolised, lean, brown golfers. Tiger, however, can hide. Barack, alas, cannot. The venom against Obama has been right up there with that directed against, well, Bush, Clinton, Nixon, Johnson ... America is, after all, a tough political arena.
The right treated the Senate passage of health insurance reform — a bill that essentially subsidises private health insurance for the working poor — as if it were the new dawn of bolshevism. Actually, that would be too mild. “Two-thirds of the country don’t want this. And one-third of these jihadists, these healthcare jihadists, do,” opined the Republican commentator Mary Matalin.
The left, however, was no kinder. Many leading liberal lights called for the bill to be killed because it gave too much to insurance and drug companies and failed to provide a publicly funded alternative to private insurance. The columnist Arianna Huffington lamented: “If the miserable Senate healthcare bill becomes the law of the land, it’s only going to encourage the preservation of a hideously broken system.”
My favourite splutter came from the Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, who declared the entire bill an encomium to Obama’s self-centredness. “It is about him: about the legacy he covets as the president who achieved ‘universal’ health insurance,” Samuelson inveighed. Then — hilariously — he added: “To be sure, the [proposals] would provide insurance to 30m or more Americans by 2019.” What did the Romans ever do for us?
The bill is not perfect and will need work in the next few years — on cutting some entitlements and controlling costs in other ways. But the law remains largely what Obama promised in the campaign.
As with most attempts to judge Obama, a little perspective helps. So let’s review, shall we? This is the biggest single piece of social legislation in 40 years. The Congressional Budget Office predicts it will indeed insure 30m people.
And this is only the end of year one. In the stimulus package in the spring, Obama invested an unprecedented amount of federal money in infrastructure, with an unsung focus on non-carbon energy sources. He engineered a vast and nerve-racking banking rescue that is now under-budget by $200 billion because so many banks survived. He organised the restructuring of the US car industry. He appointed Sonia Sotomayor, a Latina Supreme Court justice, solidifying his non-white political base. If market confidence is one reason we appear to have avoided a second Great Depression, then the president deserves a modicum of credit for conjuring it. Growth is edging back into the picture.
No recent president has had such a substantive start since Ronald Reagan. But what Reagan did was to shift the underlying debate in America from what government should do to what it should not. His was a domestic policy of negation and inactivism, and a foreign policy of rearmament and sharp edges. Obama has, in a mirror image of 1981, reoriented America back to a political culture that asks what government will now do: to prevent a banking collapse, to avoid a depression, to insure the working poor, to ameliorate climate change, to tackle long-term debt. The point about health insurance reform, after all, is that it represents a big expansion of government intervention in the lives of the citizenry — and that’s a game-changer from three decades of conservative governance.
Abroad, the shift has been even more marked. From his Cairo speech to his resetting of relations with Russia, an era of polarisation has ceded to one of intense engagement. We have had the supplanting of the G8 by the G20, a dramatic upgrade of public opinion towards America across the globe, an overhaul of the war in Afghanistan, an end to torture as an instrument of US government and the slow unwinding of Guantanamo. On Iran, Obama held out what he called an open hand, managed to dislodge Russia a few inches from its usual anti-sanctions approach, busted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations on the Qom nuclear site, and held tight as the coup regime was assailed from within. If Tehran’s international position has veered between rank belligerence and confused drift, it is because the regime itself is far weaker than it was a year ago, and may not last another year.
The disillusioned are those who weren’t listening in the campaign or not watching closely in the first year. The right has failed to register his steeliness and persistence and the left has preferred to ignore his temperamental and institutional conservatism. Both sides still misread him — hence the spluttering gloom. And there is indeed something dispiriting about the relentless prose of government compared with the poetry of the campaign. But Obama is a curious blend of both: a relentless pragmatist and a soaring rhetorician.
In time, if the economy recovers, if black, young and Hispanic voters see the benefits of their new healthcare security, if troops begin to come home from Iraq in large numbers next summer, if jobs begin to return by the autumn, then the logic of his election will endure. His care to keep the tone civil, to insist on impure change rather than ideological stasis has already turned the Republicans into foam-flecked nostalgics for a simpler, whiter, easier period and has flummoxed those leftliberals who wanted revenge as much as reform. Both are part of an embittered past that Obama wants to leave behind. His clarity on this, and his refusal to take the bait of divisiveness and partisanship, is striking. That takes an enormous amount of self-confidence and self-restraint.
He has failed in one respect: the political culture is still deeply partisan, opportunistic and divided. But this, I believe, is not so much a function of his liberal pragmatism as it is a remnant of an American right in drastic need of new intellectual life and rhetorical restraint. In this respect, Obama has made the right crazier, which may be a necessary prelude to it becoming saner.
It’s worth remembering that America is a vast and cumbersome machine, designed to resist deep change. That this one man has moved the country a few key, structural degrees in one year, and that the direction is as clear and as strategic as that first embraced by Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (in the opposite direction), is under-appreciated. But the shift is real and more dramatic than current events might indicate. I wouldn’t bet on its evanescence quite yet.
About his piece Sullivan says this on his blog:
In some respects, the right, however unhinged, understands the importance of what Obama has accomplished more than the purist, whiny left.
Yes, this first year is marked more by the miracles of what didn't happen - a Second Great Depression, a Second 9/11, an Israeli strike on Iran, a banking collapse, a health insurance reform failure - than what did. And yes, Obama is on notice that, whatever the enormity of the mess he inherited, the opposition has no sense of responsibility for any of it and will blame him for everything and anything. All he has going for him is the American public's ability to see through the dust and fury to the realities beneath.
And Obama is changing those realities. More than most seem to currently grasp. This is liberalism's moment - its most fortuitous since 1964, its chance to prove that government is indeed needed at times, as long as it knows its limits, and the balance of the American polity needs active, intelligent government action now. What Obama is doing is trying to cement this new liberal era in the conservative institutional structure of American government.
Against massive, unrelenting, well-moneyed, ideologically manic opposition - and a fickle, purist, prickly liberal elite in his own party.
Well, no one said it would be easy.
Thoughts? I really think he is spot on.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
From NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
Today, we take a look at what we consider to be the most memorable political lines/statements/quotes of the decade, which shaped or cemented perceptions, were repeated endlessly, and impacted American politics. Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?
1. “I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” Without a doubt, this John Kerry line was perhaps the most memorable one of the entire 2004 presidential election, and the Bush-Cheney team used it portray Kerry as a waffling, indecisive opponent. Kerry said it in March 2004, and he was referring to his vote AGAINST an $87 billion supplemental for Iraq, but FOR another one that would have required a repeal of the Bush tax cuts to pay for it.
2. "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." If "$87 billion" helped defeat John Kerry, then this line -- which John McCain said after the news of the Lehman Brothers collapse -- perhaps was the final nail in the coffin for McCain in the 2008 presidential contest. After McCain uttered those words, the Obama campaign quickly pounced, immediately cutting a TV ad.
3. Bush's "Bring 'em on" and "Dead or alive" (tie). No two phrases greater captured the "Cowboy Diplomacy" of the Bush presidency. In his waning days as president, Bush said he regretted saying them.
4. "I can see Russia from my house." This line wasn't delivered by Sarah Palin or any other politician during the 2008 presidential election. Instead, it came from comedian (and Palin look-alike) Tina Fey, who on "Saturday Night Live" made fun of a Palin comment about Alaska's proximity to Russia. "[Russians are] our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska," Palin told ABC in Sept. 2008. Fey's impressions of Palin on "SNL" cemented a perception that Palin wasn't a serious, qualified VP candidate.
5. "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." This line -- after Hurricane Katrina -- by George W. Bush to embattled FEMA head Michael Brown underscored to critics how poorly the Bush administration (in words and deeds) responded to the hurricane and its aftermath.
6. "Go F%&@ yourself." Dick Cheney reportedly uttered this obscenity to Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy on Capitol Hill after Leahy and Cheney argued about the former vice president's ties to Halliburton.
7. "So it's not surprising then that they get bitter; they cling to guns or religion..." Republicans and the Clinton campaign pounced on these words that Obama said at an April 2008 fundraiser in San Francisco, in explaining why he was losing to Hillary Clinton in states with large rural populations like Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was a line that dogged Obama throughout the rest of the presidential election. Fortunately for Obama, these words weren't caught on videotape, thus minimizing the political damage.
8. Rumsfeld's "known unknowns" and "Army you have" (tie). After not finding WMD, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld waxed philosophical with his "known unknowns" soliloquy: "There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns -- that is to say that there are things we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know. So when we do the best we can, and we pull all this information together, and that's basically what we see, as the situation. That is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns. And it sounds like a riddle. It isn't a riddle. It is a very serious and important matter." And Rumsfeld was criticized for saying, "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."
9. "You lie!" In an unprecedented outburst at a formal presidential address to Congress, GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted this remark to President Obama during his Sept. 2009 speech to Congress on health care. Wilson's line came after Obama noted that illegal aliens wouldn't benefit from the health-care reform legislation Congress was drafting. Independent fact-checkers noted that Wilson was the one who wasn't telling the truth here, not Obama.
10. "Rudy Giuliani, there are only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, verb, and 9/11." There were many memorable lines during the '08 primary debates, but this line -- from Joe Biden -- takes the cake, in our opinion.
Honorable mention: Obama's "You're likable enough, Hillary"… Bill Clinton's "fairy tale"… Hillary Clinton's answer on drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants… Bush's "Axis of evil"… Bush's "Need some wood?"
What's your favorite? Personally, I can see Russia from my house is my fav LOL!
My favorite Boondocks scene which is a take off of Number 8 and of course Pulp Fiction.
These people are amazingly brave. All videos are from the past 48 hours.
His premise is simple: When it comes to how the Health Care bill will be paid for, The Senate Lied.
Or, at the very least, the Senate was less than truthful about who will be taxed. Up until now, we have all be under the impression that the tax would be levied upon the rich. Indeed, the House Version of the Health Care bill plans to tax only those individuals making over $500,000/yr (hardly "middle-class" by anybody's standards) or families making over $1 Million/yr (ditto). The Senate Version of the Health Care bill, however, plans to tax these so-called "Cadillac Health Care Plans" which are plans where individual people pay premiums over $8,500/yr, or where married couples pay premiums over $23,000/yr.
His article goes on to make an observation which, if true, is a bit troubling to say the least:
"Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy."
He goes on to state the following:
"Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans...If even the plan’s proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.We all remember learning in school about the suspension of disbelief. This part of the Senate’s health benefits taxation scheme requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans. Can you believe it?"
Upon hearing this news, many people have been raising questions as to whether this breaks Obama's campaign pledge not to tax people making less than $250,000 a year.
Although I agree with Herbert that the Senate's tax proposal sucks, (the House version is much better) I am not so sure it will have the impact on the middle class that he and others hypothesize that it will. I say this for two reasons: (1) as the bill is written, it does not tax people making less than $250k/yr; and (2) because in order for this tax to reach the middle class as the CBO predicts, they would have to be paying premiums in excess of $8,500/yr (or $23,000/yr for families).
That's a lot of cheddar!
I don't know about you, but I'm looking at my pay stub right now and my medical deduction for my premium is $55, and I have your average run of the mill PPO health care insurance. That means I pay $660 for the year. For me to go from $660 a year to $8,500 a year would take a lot. But the CBO is making a prediction that 31 million American will be at this level or higher within 3 years of the enacting this Health Care bill.
1. Let's assume the CBO and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation are right for a moment - IF they are right, did the Obama Administration screw up on the pledge not to tax those making less than $250,000/yr?
2. Regardless of what the CBO says, is this tax a good idea in the first place?
3. Do you believe Bob Herbert got it right or got it wrong?
Hey Peter why don't we just put them in internment camps that worked great the first time we tried it with the Japanese!
Pat Buchanan needs to Get Off My TeeVee as well! This is my hope in 2010.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Oops. Well isn't this interesting.
Via ABC News:
Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.
American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.
Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.
Both Saudi nationals have since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen, according to U.S. officials and the men's own statements on al Qaeda propaganda tapes.
Both of the former Guantanamo detainees are described as military commanders and appear on a January, 2009 video along with the man described as the top leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Basir Naser al-Wahishi, formerly Osama bin Laden's personal secretary.
In its Monday statement claiming responsibility for the Northwest bombing, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab a "hero" and a "martyr" and lauded him for beating U.S. intelligence.
Does anyone doubt for a second that if that crotch bomb had worked we would've seen Liz Cheney on the teevee talking about how Obama is weak and allowed us to get attacked?!
Who's fault is it that these guys were released?
Sidenote: POTUS is lookin TIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRED.
Twitterland said he was playing tennis with Michelle right before this. He looks like he LOST.
Her latest interview on the Today show again reveals a total obtuseness. Yes, as was obvious from the original clip, it was clear she was referring to what happened after the incident occurred and the system does seem to have worked from then on. But before that? This was a massive failure by DHS, and you will notice she takes not a smidgen of personal responsibility for it.
Does she not realize how sick we are of government officials responding to obvious mistakes, errors and failures by bragging about what they did get right?
She is responsible for homeland security and scores of human beings nearly died because of her failure and survived solely because of luck and courage and the incompetence of the religious extremist.
This attitude was what enraged people about the Bush administration. If Obama wants to show he is not like that, he needs to fire Napolitano now, and explain why there are no excuses in his administration for failing to perform a core government function like ensuring that airline security is as fool-proof as possible. The rest of us have had to go through hell for years in airports only to see this happen.
If she won't resign, fire her.
What do you all think?
On Dec. 8, 1964, Mike Manatos wrote a letter that explains what's wrong with the Senate in 2009. This wasn't, of course, the subject of his letter. Manatos was no futurist; he was Lyndon Johnson's liaison to the Senate, and he was writing to update his bosses on Medicare's chances in the aftermath of the 1964 election. Surveying the incoming crop of senators, Manatos counted a solid majority in favor of the president's effort. "If all our supporters are present and voting we would win by a vote of 55 to 45," he predicted.
That letter would never be written now. In today's Senate, 55 votes isn't enough to "win," or anything close to it; it's enough to get you five votes away from the 60 votes you need to shut down a filibuster. Only then, in most cases, can a law be passed. The modern Senate is a radically different institution than the Senate of the 1960s, and the dysfunction exhibited in its debate over health care -- the absence of bipartisanship, the use of the filibuster to obstruct progress rather than protect debate, the ability of any given senator to hold the bill hostage to his or her demands -- has convinced many, both inside and outside the chamber, that it needs to be fixed.
This might seem an odd moment to argue that the Senate is fundamentally broken and repairs should top our list of priorities. After all, the Senate passed a $900 billion health-care bill Thursday morning. But consider the context: Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican Party earlier this year gave Democrats 60 votes in the Senate -- a larger majority than either party has had since the '70s. Democrats also controlled the House and the presidency, and were working in the aftermath of a financial crisis that occurred on a Republican president's watch. This was a test of whether a party could govern when everything was stacked in its favor.
The answer seems to be, well, not really. The Democrats ended up focusing on health-care reform's low-hanging fruit: the bill the Senate ultimately passed does much more to increase coverage than it does to address the considerably harder problem of cost control, it strengthens the existing private insurance system and it does not include a public insurance option. And Democrats still could not find a single Republican vote, which meant they had to give Nebraska a coupon entitling it to a free Medicaid expansion and hand Joe Lieberman a voucher that's good for anything he wants. If the Senate cannot govern effectively even when history conspires to free its hand, then it cannot govern.
To understand why the modern legislative process is so bad, why every Senator seems able to demand a king's ransom in return for his or her vote and no bill ever seems to be truly bipartisan, you need to understand one basic fact: The government can function if the minority party has either the incentive to make the majority fail or the power to make the majority fail. It cannot function if it has both.
In decades past, the parties did not feel they had both. Cooperation was the Senate's custom, if not its rule. But in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich, then the minority whip of the House, and Bob Dole, then the minority leader of the Senate, realized they did have both. A strategy of relentless obstruction brought then-president Bill Clinton to his knees, as the minority party discovered it had the tools to make the majority party fail.
Unfortunately, both parties have followed Gingrich's playbook ever since. According to UCLA political scientist Barbara Sinclair, about 8 percent of major bills faced a filibuster in the 1960s. This decade, that jumped to 70 percent. The problem with the minority party continually making the majority party fail, of course, is that it means neither party can ever successfully govern the country.
Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democratic Senator from Oregon and former speaker of Oregon's House of Representatives, spoke to this issue in an interview last week. "When you use the word filibuster," he said, "most of us in America envision it as the ability to speak at length and even delay progress by taking hours. I count myself among those Americans." He sighed. "But it's not a filibuster anymore. It's a supermajority requirement. And when that becomes commonly used, it's a recipe for paralysis."
Tom Harkin, the veteran Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate's influential Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was even more dismayed by recent events. His efforts to curb the filibuster began in the 1990s, when he was in the minority. "People say I only worry about this because I'm in the majority," he said Tuesday. "But I come at this with clean hands!" Back then, his partner in the effort to reform the filibuster was Lieberman. "The filibuster," Lieberman said at the time, "has become not only an obstacle to accomplishment here, but also a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today." Lieberman has since stopped worrying and learned to love obstructionism. But Harkin hasn't.
This isn't just a Democratic concern, though Democrats, being in the majority, are the ones raising it now. In 2005, Senate majority leader Bill Frist nearly shut the chamber down over the Democratic habit of filibustering George W. Bush's judicial nominees. "This filibuster is nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority," he said at the time.
Potential solutions abound. Harkin would eliminate the filibuster while still protecting the minority's right to debate. Under his proposal, bills would initially require 60 votes to pass. Three days later, that threshold would fall to 57. Three days after that, 54. And three days after that, 51. Merkley has some other ideas. One is to attract Republicans to the project by phasing the filibuster out six or eight years in the future, when we can't predict which party will initially benefit.
There is real promise in Merkley's approach. The danger of reforming the Senate is that, like health-care reform before it, it comes to seem a partisan issue. It isn't. Members of both parties often take the fact that neither Democrats nor Republicans can govern effectively to mean they benefit from the filibuster half the time. In reality, the country loses the benefits of a working legislature all the time.
But members of both parties have become attached to this idea that they can block objectionable legislation even when they're relatively powerless. This is evidence, perhaps, that both parties are so used to the victories of obstruction that they have forgotten their purpose is to amass victories through governance. Either way, a world in which the majority can pass its agenda is a better one, a place where the majority party is held accountable for its ideas and not for the gridlock and inaction furnished by the Senate's rules.
Law professor Lawrence Lessig often compares the dysfunctions of the Congress to the woes of an alcoholic. An alcoholic, he says, might be facing cirrhosis of the liver, the loss of his family and terrible debt. Amidst all that, the fact that he drinks before bed at night might not seem his worst problem. But it is the first problem, the one that must be solved before he can solve any of the others. America, too, is facing more dramatic problems than the Senate rules: A coming budget crisis, catastrophic climate change and an archaic and inefficient tax system, to name a few. But none will be solved until we fix the dysfunctions of the Senate.
You own it all!
Dana Perino tried a few months back to do the same revision of history:
Seriously, how can they sit and blame Clinton but at the same time say Obama can't bring up that Bush effed errthing up. Get Off My TeeVee!
And if you aren't a political junkie or an active follower of the progressive blogosphere, you may have never heard her name until last week.
She was one of the loudest progressive voices, IN OPPOSITION, to the Health Reform Bill, even going as far as appearing on Fox News to promote the killing of the Senate Bill.
Well, over the weekend a letter began circulating re: Ms. Hamsher's activities over the course of the past few weeks and it has been picked up by a number of progressives who are pretty much telling her to STOP before she becomes the new Ralph Nader.
Read the letter below and let us know what you think. Are they right or is Jane (read her response here)?
It is with deep respect for the passion that you have for the progressive movement that I am writing. I understand the frustration that disappointment can foster and honor your commitment to pushing the progressive agenda.
I do not doubt that you genuinely feel that your very vocal opposition to the Senate health care bill is in the absolute interests of the American populace and progressive politics. I honestly believe that you feel that the administration has let you and other progressives down by not publically pushing harder for elements in the bill that we all hoped would survive the legislative process.
What I doubt is that your actions will ultimately serve the advancement of the progressive agenda that you obviously care so much about. I believe in fact, that quite the opposite will be the result. Pushing for the very best bill that we can get through this congress is laudable, attacking the administration for dealing with the reality that is congress is not.
The 2000 presidential election graphically demonstrates what I mean. Ralph Nader had no chance of winning, and yet he remained in the race. Mr. Nader quite correctly pointed out that in order to keep his agenda in the debate he needed to remain even if it meant Gore would lose votes to a lost cause.
Mr. Nader was absolutely right to stand up for his principals and stay in the election to make sure that his message was getting out. The point is this, if Mr. Nader had dropped out of the race that election would never have been close enough for the Supreme Court to hand to George Bush. Al Gore would have been the 43rd president of the United States and Ralph Nader would have come a lot closer to having the things he cared about realized. Mr. Nader was right, but how far back did he set his own agenda?
At the end of the day it comes down to results you don’t win by being right. It is possible to be completely right and yet damage the cause that you are advocating. As a progressive that is acutely sensitive to the extraordinary damage that was done to this country by the Bush administration I see the need for many democratic terms in which we constantly push the country towards more progressive ideals. Change does not come overnight, we don’t have the luxury of eviscerating our fragile majority for not moving quickly enough. The United States will not survive many more administrations like the last one.
Please consider the progressive agenda as a whole while in the heat of each individual battle, your voice is respected and desperately needed on our side.
Unless you were keeping an eye on the blogs over the holiday weekend, you would have no idea that anything happened in the world besides some moron with a bomb strapped to his crotch.
Check out the latest updates from the protests in Iran, which have been intense in the past week.
What you most certainly missed:
* Opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi was arrested (along with two other opposition leaders) AND his nephew was murdered.
Middle East expert Juan Cole explains why the murder of Ali Moussavi is very important:
Killing a sayyid is a blot on any Iranian government. Doing so on Ashura, the day of morning for the martyred grandson of the Prophet, Imam Husayn, borders on insanity.
* Rumor has it that the Basji are switching sides and joining forces with the protesters instead of beating and arresting them, which is why this picture could be a very symbolic.
* There is a new economic angle that is emerging which could prove significant.
Some clips of the protests (Warning some of the images are graphic):
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
by Langston Hughes
Published In New Masses (Dec. 1930)
From the gun-boats in the river,
Ten-inch shells for Christmas gifts,
And peace on earth forever.
Merry Christmas, India,
To Gandhi in his cell,
From righteous Christian England,
Ring out, bright Christmas bell!
Ring Merry Christmas, Africa,
From Cairo to the Cape!
Ring Hallehuiah! Praise the Lord!
(For murder and for rape.)
Ring Merry Christmas, Haiti!
(And drown the voodoo drums-
We'll rob you to the Christian hymns
Until the next Christ comes.)
Ring Merry Christmas, Cuba!
(While Yankee domination
Keeps a nice fat president
In a little half-starved nation.)
And to you down-and-outers,
("Due to economic laws")
Oh, eat, drink, and be merry
With a bread-line Santa Claus-
While all the world hails Christmas,
While all the church bells sway!
While, better still, the Christian guns
Proclaim this joyous day!
While holy steel that makes us strong
Spits forth a mighty Yuletide song:
SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere!
Let Merry Christmas GAS the air!
"BALLAD OF ROOSEVELT" (1934) Langston Hughes
The pot was empty,
The cupboard was bare.
I said, Papa,
What's the matter here?
I'm waitin' on Roosevelt, son,
Waitin' on Roosevelt, son.
The rent was due,
And the lights was out.
I said, Tell me, Mama,
'What's it all about?
We're waitin' on Roosevelt, son,
Just waitin' on Roosevelt.
Sister got sick
And the doctor wouldn't come
Cause we couldn't pay him
The proper sum
A-waitin' on Roosevelt,
A-waitin' on Roosevelt.
Then one day
They put us out o' the house.
Ma and Pa was
Meek as a mouse
Still waitin' on Roosevelt,
But when they felt those
Cold winds blow
And didn't have no
Place to go
Pa said, I'm tired
O' waitin' on Roosevelt,
Damn tired o' waitin' on Roosevelt.
I can't git a job
And I can't git no grub.
Backbone and navel's
Doin' the belly-rub -
A-waitin' on Roosevelt,
And a lot o' other folks
What's hungry and cold
Done stopped believin'
What they been told
Cause the pot's still empty,
And the cupboard's still bare,
And you can't build a bungalow
Out o' air-
Mr. Roosevelt, listen!
'What's the matter here?
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Why I Still Believe in This Bill
Now that the core demand of progressives has been removed from the Senate health care bill--namely, the public health insurance option--should progressives continue to support the effort?
For me, the question is particularly difficult. I have been the thinker most associated with the public option, which I’ve long argued is essential to ensuring accountability from private insurers and long-term cost control. I was devastated when it was killed at the hands of Senator Joe Lieberman, not least because of what it said about our democracy -- that a policy consistently supported by a strong majority of Americans could be brought down by a recalcitrant Senate minority.
It would therefore be tempting for me to side with Howard Dean and other progressive critics who say that health care reform should now be killed.
It would be tempting, but it would be wrong.
Since the first campaign for publicly guaranteed health insurance in the early twentieth century, opportunities for serious health reform have come only rarely and fleetingly. If this opportunity passes, it will be very long before the chance arrives again. Many Americans will be gravely hurt by the delay. The most progressive president of my generation--the generation that came of age in the anti-government shadow of Ronald Reagan--will be handed a crippling loss. The party he leads will be branded as unable to govern.
The public option was always a means to an end: real competition for insurers, an alternative for consumers to existing private plans that does not deny needed care or shift risks onto the vulnerable, the ability to provide affordable coverage over time. I thought it was the best means within our political grasp. It lay just beyond that grasp. Yet its demise--in this round--does not diminish the immediate necessity of those larger aims. And even without the public option, the bill that Congress passes and the President signs could move us substantially toward those goals.
As weak as it is in numerous areas, the Senate bill contains three vital reforms. First, it creates a new framework, the “exchange,” through which people who lack secure workplace coverage can obtain the same kind of group health insurance that workers in large companies take for granted. Second, it makes available hundreds of billions in federal help to allow people to buy coverage through the exchanges and through an expanded Medicaid program. Third, it places new regulations on private insurers that, if properly enforced, will reduce insurers’ ability to discriminate against the sick and to undermine the health security of Americans.
These are signal achievements, and they all would have been politically unthinkable just a few years ago.
To be sure, the bill also contains a requirement on individuals to have coverage, which has become the main target of criticism from the left. Without the public option, this mandate amounts to forcing people to buy private insurance without creating an affordable public alternative with which insurers must compete.
But the correct response to this critique is to make the requirement less necessary by providing greater assistance with the cost of premiums and by facilitating enrollment in the exchange--in other words, by making coverage more attractive and easier to obtain.
The lack of a public option also makes even more imperative tough requirements on insurers to make them live up to their stated commitment to change their business model and slow the spiraling cost of coverage. The most important way to do this is to move away from the Senate bill’s state exchanges and toward a national exchange such as that contained in the House bill. The federal government needs to be directly involved in implementing and enforcing strong national regulations of insurers and creating the new exchange. Otherwise, the effort for reform might fail at the hands of hostile governors.
The federal government is the only entity big enough and powerful enough to ensure a highly consolidated private insurance industry follows the law. It can and must demand transparency and obedience to the new rules. Insurers must open their books, and subject their rates, administrative costs, and profits to federal review. These new rules must apply to all plans, not just those within the exchange. And states should have authority not only to enforce these rules, but to innovate beyond them as well.
These are not politically unrealistic goals. Most are already embodied in the House bill. In bridging the differences between the two bills, Democratic leaders and the President must insist on a final bill that delivers on these fundamentals.
If it does not deliver--if the new options offered through the exchange do not attract broad enrollment, if insurers continue to undermine health security with impunity--then the worst fears of progressives will come true. Coverage will be too expensive because only those with the highest health costs will sign up. Fewer Americans will obtain insurance than expected. Small employers won’t want to take advantage of their ability to buy insurance through the exchange. And Americans will become increasingly disillusioned with the promise of reform.
Progressives have good reason to be angry. Yet we should harness our anger to fix the bill--now and every year from now. The current bills in Congress do too little to help Americans immediately; their main actions are delayed for years. If and when legislation passes, progressives should demand immediate concrete actions to make the promise of a reform a reality more quickly and more effectively.
So a bill must pass. Yet it must be a better bill that passes. And it must be understood by the President, the Congress and every American as only a step--an important but ultimately incomplete step--toward the vital goal that the campaign for the public option embodied: good affordable health care for every American.
Who's gonna tell him that HE is the last person who should be talkin' about solemn oaths? (Senator John Ensign pictured above admitting an extramarital affair with a staffer).
Hey Senator Ensign, do you mean like marriage?
Yeah I know I've already done a post today in this category but I couldn't help myself.
So is Graham trying to make the argument that there are no poor white people?
He has been on fire this week, yelling at folks and stuff. I say drunk. This clip has the beginning of the clip aka the reason he got all fired up (above) in the first place.
I wish she would pretend she's smart. She is always tryna act like she has unique thoughts when she has none.
That said, Senator Bernie Sanders makes a great case IN SUPPORT of the Senate Bill. He notes it's flaws in detail and still manages to make a great case to support it anyway.
She frequently says stupid things that I disagree with.
Case and point, when asked about what to do about the fact that there is proof that the previous administration committed international war crimes she said, you should just turn away and keep on walking.
Gotta love those Conservative Christian values!
So this week she writes in her column (below) that America has a character problem and she cites American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert as evidence of this.
Here is her column:
The Adam Lambert Problem
The news came in numbers and the numbers were fairly grim, all the grimmer for being unsurprising. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported this week that more than half of Americans, 55%, think America is on the wrong track, with only 33% saying it is going in the right direction. A stunning 66% say they're not confident that their children's lives will be better than their own (27% are).
It is another in a long trail of polls that show a clear if occasionally broken decline in American optimism. The poll was discussed on TV the other day, and everyone said those things everyone says: "People are afraid they'll lose their jobs or their houses." "It's health care. Every uninsured person feels they're one illness away from bankruptcy."
All too true. The economy has always had an impact on the general American mood, and the poll offered data to buttress the reader's assumption that economic concerns are driving pessimism. Fifty-one percent of those interviewed said they disapproved of the president's handling of the economy, versus 42% approving.
But something tells me this isn't all about money. It's possible, and I can't help but think likely, that the poll is also about other things, and maybe even primarily about other things.
Sure, Americans are worried about long-term debt and endless deficits. We're worried about taxes and the burden we're bequeathing to our children, and their children.
But we are concerned about other things, too, and there are often signs in various polls that those things may dwarf economic concerns. Americans are worried about the core and character of the American nation, and about our culture.
It is one thing to grouse that dreadful people who don't care about us control our economy, but another, and in a way more personal, thing to say that people who don't care about us control our culture. In 2009 this was perhaps most vividly expressed in the Adam Lambert Problem. More on that in a moment.
America is good at making practical compromises, and one of the compromises we've made in the area of arts and entertainment is captured in the words, "We don't care what you do in New York." That was said to me years ago by a social conservative who was explaining that he and his friends don't wish to impose their cultural sensibilities on a city that is uninterested in them, and that the city, in turn, shouldn't impose its cultural sensibilities on them. He was speaking metaphorically; "New York" meant "wherever the cultural left happily lives."
For years now, without anyone declaring it or even noticing it, we've had a compromise on television. Do you want, or will you allow into your home, dramas and comedies that, however good or bad, are graphically violent, highly sexualized, or reflective of cultural messages that you believe may be destructive? Fine, get cable. Pay for it. Buy your premium package, it's your money, spend it as you like.
But the big broadcast networks are for everyone. They are free, they are available on every television set in the nation, and we watch them with our children. The whole family's watching. Higher, stricter standards must maintain.
This was behind the resentment at the Adam Lambert incident on ABC in November. The compromise was breached. It was a broadcast network, it was prime time, it was the American Music Awards featuring singers your 11-year-old wants to see, and your 8-year-old. And Mr. Lambert came on and—again, in front of your children, in the living room, in the middle of your peaceful evening—uncorked an act in which he, in the words of various news reports the next day, performed "faux oral sex" featuring "S&M play," "bondage gear," "same-sex makeouts" and "walking a man and woman around the stage on a leash."
People were offended, and they complained. Mr. Lambert seemed surprised and puzzled. With an idiot's logic that was nonetheless logic, he suggested he was the focus of bigotry: They let women act perverse on TV all the time, so why can't a gay man do it? Fifteen hundred callers didn't see it as he did and complained to ABC, which was negligent but in the end responsive: They changed the West Coast feed and apparently kept Mr. Lambert off "Good Morning America."
Mr. Lambert's act left viewers feeling not just offended but assaulted. Again, "we don't care what you do in New York," but don't include us in it, don't bring it into our homes. Our children are here.
I don't mean to make too much of it. In the great scheme of things a creepy musical act doesn't matter much. But increasingly people feel at the mercy of the Adam Lamberts, who of course view themselves, when criticized, as victims of prudery and closed-mindedness. America is not prudish or closed-minded, it is exhausted. It cannot be exaggerated, how much Americans feel besieged by the culture of their own country, and to what lengths they have to go to protect their children from it.
It's things like this, every bit as much as taxes and spending, that leave people feeling jarred and dismayed, and worried about the future of their country.
Truly, 2009 was a bad year for public behavior.
There were this year the party-crashing Salahis and their amoral assumption that their needs—fame and fortune, which are the same as Adam Lambert's—trump everyone else's. You want public order and security? We want a reality show. And there was their honest and very modern shock that people were criticizing them. "It's ruined our lives," Michaele Salahi told NBC's "Today" show in a bid for sympathy. She and her husband in turn were reminiscent of the single woman who likes to have babies, and this year had eight, through in vitro fertilization, and apparently expected to win public praise.
All these things—plus Wall Street and Washington and the general sense that most of our great institutions have forgotten their essential mission—add up and produce a fear that the biggest deterioration in America isn't economic but something else, something more characterological.
I'd like to see a poll on this. Yes or no: Have we become a more vulgar country? Are we coarser than, say, 50 years ago? Do we talk more about sensitivity and treat others less sensitively? Do you think standards of public behavior are rising or falling? Is there something called the American Character, and do you think it has, the past half-century, improved or degenerated? If the latter, what are the implications of this? Do you sense, as you look around you, that each year we have less or more of the glue that holds a great nation together? Is there less courtesy in America now than when you were a child, or more? Bonus question: Is "Excuse me" a request or a command?
So much always roils us in America, and so much always will. But maybe as 2010 begins and the '00s recede, we should think more about the noneconomic issues that leave us uneasy, and that need our attention. Not everything in America comes down to money. Not everything ever did.
Okay so Peggy, WHAT THE EFF ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT HERE EXACTLY?!
Why can't we send you back to 1955, along with Pat Buchanan where the only responsibility black people have in that version of America is to run fast (see in clip below he actually said that on live tv) and the gays were forced to remain in the closet. We really should get back to that!
And another thing Peggy, I actually watched the AMAs (It's apparent from the text of your column that you only heard about the controversy at the water cooler).
Adam's performance was at 11pm EST. He literally was the final performance of the night.
So Peggy, why is your 8 year old still up?!
But I digress...
I really wish we could put all of you old timers on a time machine and send you back to simpler times, like on the TV show Mad Men, where our moral values were to be envied. Oh wait...No that's wrong because everyone on Mad Men is living a LIE!
Someone please tell Peggy that men like Mr. Lambert have always been a part of the American fabric, it's just that in the past, we forced them to pretend to be straight, get married, and have kids like Salvatore Romano (above). Personally, I'm in favor of a more open society and I think that people like Adam Lambert should be free to be who they are without getting called out by the Wall Street Journal Editorial page.
Plus, Adam Lambert makes good music.
PEGGY GO AWAY.