Friday, July 31, 2009

"We're not going to let the country down"

Last Sunday, the Washington Post Magazine featured a long piece following a class of recruits through all 16 weeks of Secret Service training. Among them are an Iraq veteran missing three fingers on his trigger hand and a 4-foot, 11-inch social worker. It's fascinating.

For the members of Special Agent Training Class No. 283, this is finals time. They have been cramming here for months, since days after the election of Barack Obama, hoping to join the men and women charged with protecting the president.

Not all of them will make it.

If they fail, they will leave humiliated. If they pass, they'll become members of an elite, stealthy service during a period of exceptional pressures. At their annual party, Ralph Basham, the former director, greeted his replacement: "I'm the happiest guy in Washington because I'm not the director of the Secret Service anymore."

With the rise of Islamic terrorism, the agency's roster of protectees has grown. With the election of the first African American president, public scrutiny has exploded. Presidents typically receive 3,000 threats a year, says a Secret Service expert. Obama is outpacing the average.

"We understand the historic significance," says the current director, Mark Sullivan. "If we make a mistake, it's going to be devastating for the country. We're not going to let the country down."

Read the whole thing.

Trey, Rand, the Gays and the Pork

On this Fancy Farm Eve, as they start slurping up the bean soup at the Marshall County Bean Soup Supper and Political Speech Practice Round, Media Czech has a provocative post on the disturbing lack of homophobes among republicans running for Jim Bunning's Senate seat next year.

Gay-hating KY Republicans don't have much to cheer in the 2010 Senate primary.

With the tail-between-legs withdrawal of Senator Jim Bunning from the 2010 Senate race, good ole homophobe gay-hating Republicans in Kentucky are faced with a dilemma. The 2 remaining viable candidates, Trey Grayson and Rand Paul, do not have an rich history of protecting America from the scourge of pedophile molesters who want to tear married spouses away from each other with the lure of the dirty gay sex.

Rand Paul has absolutely nothing bad to say about The Gays on his campaign website, and assuming he has the same states' rights libertarian bent of his Papi, he will certainly face the wrath of good Bible-thumping Gay-haters in the 2010 primary.

Trey Grayson also has a bit of a problem with The Gays. Trey tends to be rather two-faced on this issue, as he shows tolerance towards gays in some rooms, then plays up the God, Guns and Gays routine when amongst the crazy base. Grayson will be forced, very soon, to publicly pick a side in this battle: Does he support DOMA and DADT, while opposing the Hate Crimes Bill and domestic partner rights? Or will he seek to separate himself from the Neanderthal base by moving the Republican Party in a direction that won't turn off voters 30-ish to younger who by a wide-margin are in favor of GLBTQ rights? We'll find out soon. If I had to bet, he'll choose the former.

But if he doesn't, the Republican base is going to be angry and totally apathetic about this Senate race. Republicans do not have a prayer in competitive statewide races if they do not rally the Bible-thumping social conservative hate-mongers among their base. They will not contribute, and they certainly will not turn out to vote in numbers great enough to beat Jack Conway in the general election.

This is why I'm betting that Trey Grayson will find the old-time Gay-hating religion very soon. The question in this case would be, do Republicans trust this last-hour conversion? If not, you can expect 2 things: (1) depressed turnout among the conservative base, and (2) a semi-viable social-Neanderthal Republican challenger popping up at the last minute.

Anyway... maybe somebody will ask Trey these questions at Fancy Farm. Yes?

I won't be there this year, but Media Czech will, and you won't have to wait until Sunday for the news - he'll be bringing it to you via Twitter all day tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coolest Medal Of Freedom Recipients Ever

Today President Obama announced 2009's recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the coolest 16-person list ever.

Billie Jean King, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera, Muhammad Yunus, Harvey Milk, Desmond Tutu, and this guy:

Joe Medicine Crow joined the army, becoming a scout in the 103rd Infantry Division (United States). Whenever he went into battle, he wore his war paint beneath his uniform and a sacred eagle feather beneath his helmet. Without realizing it, Medicine Crow completed all four task required to become a war chief. He touched a living enemy soldier (1) and disarmed an enemy (2) when he turned a corner and found himself face to face with a young German soldier:
“The collision knocked the German's weapon to the ground. Mr. Crow lowered his own weapon and the two fought hand-to-hand. In the end Mr. Crow got the best of the German, grabbing him by the neck and choking him. He was going to kill the German soldier on the spot when the man screamed out "momma." Mr. Crow then let him go.”

He also led a successful war party (3) and stole an enemy horse (4), making a midnight raid to steal the horses from a battalion of German officers (as he rode off, he sang a traditional Crow honor song.) He is the last member of the Crow tribe to become a war chief. Of his story, noted documentarian Ken Burns said, "The story of Joseph Medicine Crow is something I've wanted to tell for 20 years." Mr. Crow was interviewed and appeared in the 2007 Ken Burns PBS series The War, describing his World War II service.

He stole horses from the SS. Top that, George Tenet.

The President announced today the 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilan honor. The President praised the recipients for breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens: "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way."

The awards will be presented on August 12.

Read details about all the recipients here.

Salesmanship and the Enemy

Congress is sneaking out of town without taking full votes on health care reform, so it's finally time to stop obsessing over every kabuki move in Capitol Hill committees and take the battle to where it counts: the public.

That would be you and me and everybody else, 75 percent of whom want drastic health care reform that reins in the private insurers, lowers costs and offers a Medicare/VA-like option to everyone.

The wingnuts are crowing that the latest polls show the public disapproves of President Obama's "handling" of health care reform, but that's pretty obviously disapproval of his failure to ram it down the repug/Blue Dog throats, not disapproval of his public option/regulation plan.

What this needs, besides every single one of us calling/emailing/confronting in person at town halls our representatives and senators to let them know what we want and what they have to do, is two forgotten ingredients:

Salesmanship and an Enemy.

Kevin Drum nails sales:

Everyone has been so hung up on congressional process that they seem to have forgotten that Congress responds to the public. If constituents are mad as hell that their healthcare isn't as good as France's, they'll flood congressional offices with phone calls. But if they think America has the best healthcare in the world, while the rest of the world is a socialist dystopia of ramshackle hospitals, yearlong waits for hip replacements, and harried doctors who can't see you for months and treat you like a postal customer when you finally get in — well, who's going to get pissed off about the occasional scuffle with their insurance company?

And if the public isn't worked up, then Congress won't get worked up either.

This has always been about public opinion. Everything is about public opinion. It's about public opinion being strong enough to overcome the resistance of whatever corporate interests are on the other side. For some reason, though, liberals don't seem to get that anymore, and because of that we don't spend enough time on either side of the basic vox populi equation: (a) hammering home why individuals, personally, should be unhappy with the status quo, and (b) promising them, personally, lots of cool new stuff if they buy into change.

You don't have to lie to accomplish this. But you do have to sell, the same way any salesman anywhere sells stuff. That means understanding your audience, figuring out what they're afraid of, promising them something that will make them better off, overcoming their objections, and then convincing them that they have to call now to take advantage of this one-time offer! Every pitchman on late light TV understands this. Why don't we?

Last week, Steve M. explained that what Obama needs is an Enemy.

Barack Obama is struggling on health care because, while he wants Americans geared up for war, he won't try to get them truly angry at an enemy.

If you want people worked up, they need to envision, and despise, a foe. The filthy Huns. The dirty Japs. The Red menace. The Butcher of Baghdad. The Islamofascists. (Or, coming from the other side's propaganda works: the crusader infidel, or, earlier, the capitalist running dogs.)

As rage-inducing enemies go, "the status quo" ain't gonna cut it.

Obama saves a permanent place at the table for everyone he could possibly define as the enemy of progress, so he's got nothing left with which to rally the public. The public needs to be angry about what we have now. The public needs to be angry at someone. And he offers no one.

Or, as aimai says in the comments to my last post:

I can't believe anyone ever let him ramble on about the fiscal issues or the phrase "unsustainable." they are simply experience distant terms. He should have said up front "The american people are being nickeled and dimed to death by the same large corporations and vested interests that have just looted the treasury to the tune of trillions of dollars--and they now want to turn around and tell you that you and your neighbors can't afford to choose to come together and pay for a real, national, health care plan?" I would have wound up with "the american people are too big to be allowed to fail--and I won't allow it."

There's a way to take all that fiscal language and turn it to your advantage but you have to set yourself and your party as the saviors.

Yes -- and you have to remind people who and what they're being saved from. Not "the devil you know." The devil.

That would be the criminal, murdering, obscenely rich health insurance corporations.

So find out where your congress critters are going to be holding town halls in August, show up, corner them on health care reform, and don't let them go until they swear - while being recorded - to vote for only a strong public option and regulation.

If they're hiding, keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Idea for the Perfect New Sport

KeninNY at Down with Tyranny improves on the famous Gloucester Cheese Roll:

To the civilized mind, guys or girls chasing rolling cheese down a hill while wearing a horse head or even ending up carried off the course on a spine-immobilizing stretcher may seem somewhat barbaric, but to the vengeful mind, my mind, I find something better. I find inspiration!

Just as Americans of the early 19th century adapted another British sport, cricket, into the national pastime of baseball, why can’t we adapt the cheese roll? Sure, it’s a fantasy, but isn’t life about making our fantasies come true?

Here’s how it would go:

First, I would find a boulder-strewn, pockmarked hill somewhere just outside of Washington, DC, where, as newly elected Benevolent Dictator, I would stage my new, improved version of this hallowed British tradition. Next, I would place some angled six-foot-long very sharp iron spikes at the bottom of the course. Poison-tipping them would be optional, or only for special national holiday races.

Then I would pass a law that decreed that the only way K Street could possibly pass money into the gaping eager pockets of our bribe sponging U.S senawhores would be through events such as what I am proposing. Instead of a large roll of smelly cheese, as shown in the clip, my little game would feature a large roll of stinking cash, provided by K Street. The Senate would be “invited” to participate. If the greedy, evil, good-for-nothing slimebuckets like Max Baucus and Chuck “Grasshole” Grassley want the cash, they have to dash, downhill. I might even give those two a head start.

The element of extreme risk would be introduced and there would be the side benefit of having the greediest, fastest, connivingest, piggiest members of the Senate standing a jolly good chance of impalement at the fantasy line. Who wouldn’t tune in to ESPN to see if Max Baucus got deservedly kababbed at the finish line? I know I would! The whole thing is evolution at work, the greediest and fastest etc. would risk all in a frenzied hopeless endeavor. They think they can win the prize, but the odds are stacked against them.

I’d even let a few win once in a while, like a casino does just to encourage participation. If the K Street Bribery Squads want to peddle some influence, this will be the only legal way for them to do it. This idea could even be adapted to the handing out of bailout money to banksters! All in favor?

Read the whole thing.

The Liberal Option

Yesterday's compromise with House Blue Dogs that left the public option in the health care reform bill intact showed that liberal pushback against DINOs and Blue Dogs may be starting to have an effect.

Steve Benen had a pretty depressing piece Tuesday explaining why liberals and progressives in Congress have less power than the Blue Dogs, even though the Progressive Caucus is larger than the Blue Dog Caucus.

Progressive members of Congress are already on board with reform. They like the tri-committee proposal in the House, and fully embrace the HELP committee's bill in the Senate. They don't need coaxing or deals or enticements or concessions. They have legislation they like, and there's not much more for them to talk about.
For conservatives, it's obviously an entirely different dynamic. Conservatives don't really want to overhaul the system. Democrats on the right are skeptical of the approach, and Republicans on the right oppose reform in a more fundamental way. If reform has to be "bipartisan," and can't pass the House without Blue Dogs, that necessarily means making the bill worse.

It also means conservatives have the leverage. If they don't get the changes they want, they'll kill reform and do extraordinary damage to the Obama presidency -- an outcome they don't consider especially troublesome. If conservatives do get the changes they want, it's assumed liberals will go along, because some reform will be preferable to the status quo, and they have a vested interest in not undermining the White House.

So, it becomes easier to imagine a scenario in the fall in which center-right lawmakers -- some Democrats, some not; some in the Senate, some not -- hold reform hostage until it looks like the kind of bill they want. The left is told, "Take it or leave it." If liberals say it's a bridge too far, conservatives will say, "We had a bipartisan bill ready to go, but the left killed health care." If liberals swallow hard and accept it, the once-in-a-generation opportunity will have passed, and a weak bill will become law.

In comments, sgwhiteinfla responded:

There is another option which few liberals and progressives are talking about in the blogosphere which to me should be a no brainer.

Put a progressive bill up for a vote.

Game Set Match. The Blue Dogs will never be able to keep their coalition together enough to vote down Health Care reform.

Lets be real about some things here. Blue Dogs normally come from red or purple districts. But they STILL get voted in primarily by Democrats. If they vote against health care reform they can kiss their political careers good bye.

Now a few of them may not care because they will have lucrative jobs lined up with health insurance companies much like Tauzin. However most of them will want to keep their job in the House and will break away and vote yea.

Why Pelosi and Waxman can't see this I simply don't know. Put THEM on the spot. Bring the bill to the floor and have them actually put their name behind a no vote.
Their coalition has already splintered over a public option. The upside is if they bring a progressive bill to the floor and put them on the spot, not only will the bill pass, its also likely to shatter the Blue Dog coalition forever.

This is not over, kids. Congress is on vacation for the next month, which gives us 31 days to lay a hurt on the Blue Dogs but good.

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Somebody's Gonna Break

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Public Option Still Alive in House - Keep Up the Pressure

So, the indefatigable Henry Waxman managed a health care reform compromise that retains the public option, but delays the actual vote until September.

Which means, boys and girls, that it's our turn. Get to work now, and don't stop until both the House and Senate pass real health care reform with a strong public option, strong subsidies for the middle class, and strong regulations on the private health insurers.

Here's an inspiring letter to get you started:

Dear Friend,

If you’re like most Americans, there’s nothing more important to you about health care than peace of mind.

Given the status quo, that’s understandable. The current system often denies insurance due to pre-existing conditions, charges steep out-of-pocket fees – and sometimes isn’t there at all if you become seriously ill.

It’s time to fix our unsustainable insurance system and create a new foundation for health care security. That means guaranteeing your health care security and stability with eight basic consumer protections:

  • No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
  • No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays
  • No cost-sharing for preventive care
  • No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
  • No gender discrimination
  • No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
  • Extended coverage for young adults
  • Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid
Learn more about these consumer protections at

Over the next month there is going to be an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics from those seeking to perpetuate the status quo. But we know the cost of doing nothing is too high. Health care costs will double over the next decade, millions more will become uninsured, and state and local governments will go bankrupt.

It’s time to act and reform health insurance, drive down costs and guarantee the health care security and stability of every American family. You can help by putting these core principles of reform in the hands of your friends, your family, and the rest of your social network.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

The New Southern Strategy

I've never been fond of the "If you are/aren't blank, then you have to be blank" formulation. As in, if you're not for the war in Iraq, then you hate the troops. Probably because even though I was raised in a liberal, reality-based home, my grandparents were the extinct variety of republicans who could hate both FDR and Nixon for entirely rational reasons in both cases.

But as Smirky made crystal clear in so many concrete ways, it's us vs. them, and if you're not one of us, you're one of them.

Them, in this case, being Obama-haters, who are, ipso facto, racists.

No, I'm not talking about those of us on the left throwing brickbats because the president hasn't closed Guantanamo or repealed DADT and DOMA, or put an end to Smirky/Darth secrecy or fulfilled any of his many other campaign promises. I'm not talking about the independents and moderates who aren't happy with the slow pace of health care reform or the jobless recovery or the trillions in tax money Wall Street snorted and then flushed.

I'm talking about the haters: the people who could personally witness President Obama make every one of their dearest wishes and wildest dreams come true before their eyes, and still hate him. Just because of who he is: a nigger who stole the White House.

Eric Kleefield reviewed the evidence yesterday.

Today, Steve M. considers how the GOP could possibly consider such blatant racism to be a winning strategy.

This is clearly the party line right now.

But isn't this a terrible strategy for the GOP? Isn't the population becoming less white? Isn't the white population becoming less racist, as evidenced by the success of a black presidential candidate?

Well, it's possible that the GOP isn't looking and further than the 2010 election. It's going to be a midterm election, and Barack Obama won't be on the ballot. If whites -- especially angry whites -- make up a greater percentage of the 2010 electorate, the Republicans assume they'll win. It's the Pat Buchanan strategy.

But don't voters, even angry white voters, want actual solutions to America's problems, not angry rhetoric? I think Republicans are skeptical of that conventional wisdom. They clearly don't feel the need to present a health-care plan of their own -- why would they think they need to present solutions to any of the nation's other problems? Look: it's a two-party system. If you get enough people angry at Obama and the Democrats, where are they going to go? They don't really have a hell of a lot of choices.

Regarding Hispanics, Republicans clearly feel they can't pursue the Bush-Rove strategy of outreach -- sooner or later it would require them to have a policy on immigration other than "Deport 'em all and seal the borders." And any deviation from that infuriates the base.

And GOP outreach to African-Americans never works (for reasons that seem to baffle Republicans).

So the strategy is: make Obama and the Democrats unpopular, keep the base fired up and donating, and then be the only alternative.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....


Digby remind us that while the outrage of repug-undermined health care reform has everyone's attention, other outrages are flying under the radar.

They whooped and hollered when they heard about it.

Taser International unveiled its first new stun gun since 2003 on Monday, a device that can shock three people without being reloaded.


While the device can be used against three people, it targets the same person more than once. Smith said each barb would deliver a separate shock.

Gosh, that is such a great improvement. Instead of having to reload to shock people multiple times while they are already compliant and in custody, they can do it in rapid succession. After all, it only leaves a couple of tiny marks.

I hear Taser is working on something really innovative: a chip that can be implanted in every citizen which can be activated by remote control to drop you to the ground writing in pain whenever the authorities perceive that you are being uncooperative. Wouldn't that solve all of these problems? And seriously, what would be the principle against against it?

And that's not all - they figured out a way to make it into an even bigger outrage for taxpayers. Read the whole thing.

How Bipartipartsianship is Killing Health Care Reform, Part 2

As our dear friend Blue Girl often says, if you can't use profanity to describe an obscenity, when can you use it?

The great Rude Pundit once again harnesses his genius for sexual metaphor to explain the obscenity that is Congressional Democrats' idea of bipartisanship.

It is the usual way for Democrats, thinking that bipartisanship means giving Republicans what they want. It's as if the Democrats were a family inviting a Republican family over for the Democratic daughter's My Little Pony birthday party, but the Republican family won't come unless the Democratic family changes it to a Bakugan party so the Republican son can feel welcome. Instead of telling the Republican family to go fuck itself, the Democratic family makes sure that every cute plastic pony is facing down some horrible mutating machine. It's okay for bipartisanship to mean that Democrats invite Republicans to play. If they don't wanna, then the hell with 'em.


Who, exactly, are the Blue Dog Democrats (and the Republicans) trying to please here? Fucking Hugh Hewitt and the other conservative drones aren't gonna nuance this shit out. They're not gonna sit there and think, "Well, at least they didn't pass a public plan financed by a tax on rich people" and then accept whatever comes down the pike. If even the mildest health reform passes, the one that says one-legged American orphans with TB must get coverage, Rush Limbaugh will scream like someone at McDonald's told him they couldn't batter his Big Mac and put it in the deep fryer.

In the push to be able to say they got something passed when they had majorities in both Houses of Congress, the Democrats are shifting the organizing principle of the argument from universal coverage to keeping costs for the already-insured down. And you can bet that, even then, the vast, vast majority of Republicans will vote it down because it's not bipartisan enough.

Read the whole thing. Rated X.

RINO Schadenfreude

Back in May, I expressed skepticism about a website claiming that republicans should not trust republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson because he once voted Democratic. I said it was a fake to fool Democrats.

But now the Herald-Leader has picked it up:

Many conservative Republicans concede that Secretary of State Trey Grayson is their party’s likely nominee in Kentucky’s 2010 U.S. Senate race now that incumbent Sen. Jim Bunning has quit the contest, but the thought makes them uneasy.

Some Republicans in the state wonder whether the former Democrat — Grayson voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 — is a true conservative who is tough enough to withstand an intense statewide race that will garner national attention.

“I hope the GOP doesn’t nominate another Arlen Specter as its 2010 nominee?” State Rep. Jamie Comer of Tompkinsville said on his Facebook page Monday night after Bunning decided not to seek a third term and Grayson said he will formally enter the race.


Republican political consultant Ted Jackson of Louisville agreed that Grayson has something to prove to conservative Republicans.

“I like his odds of being the Republican nominee next year but, to my knowledge, Trey has never been in a bare-knuckle campaign,” Jackson said.

“It remains to be seen how he reacts and performs in the heat of battle,” he said. “He doesn’t like conflict like some politicians but I think he will rise to the occasion.”

Jackson said Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville, who some consider the front-runner in next year’s Democratic primary election for the U.S. Senate, may have an upper hand on Grayson in “toughness on the campaign trail.”

“Conway was involved in a tough, mean-spirited race for Congress, which he almost won,” Jackson said, referring to Conway’s 2002 race against Republican Anne Northup in Louisville.

The 2010 Senate race likely will take on a more savage tone, said Scott Jennings, a veteran of several Kentucky political campaigns and a former adviser to President George W. Bush.

As someone who has spent years railing against both DINO candidates - repugs pretending to be Democratic - and voters who register Democratic but vote repug, I am looking forward to watching Kentucky repugs struggling with the same dilemma.

No, Grayson is not going to have any trouble winning the primary. But neither is his 17-year-old vote for Clinton going to attract many Democratic voters.

But if his repug opponents succeed in labeling him as a RINO, it could hurt his fundraising and cause at least a few republican voters to skip the Senate race.

Regardless, Democratic voters should not be fooled: Trey Grayson is even less of a real Democrat than Ben Chandler is.

We're from the GOP, and we're here to help

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taibbi's Right, But Don't Jump Yet

Matt Taibbi's brilliant. I have all his books, purchased new with my own money. I could read his stuff all day long.

But sometimes, I seriously wonder if he's actually trying to make his readers commit suicide.

Before you overreact totoday's piece on the Senate finance committee killing the public option, I promise to show how his cynical take actually reveals an opening for determined activists.

Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Bill Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. I lauded Roddick for playing out the string with heart, and giving a good show. But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.

This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left? Third-party politics?

What's left, Matt, is us. Now we've got an opportunity. Everybody's shown their cards. All that's left is sheer force of will and determination.

Every poll shows that more than 75 percent of Americans want the genuine health care reform that the House, liberal Democrats and President Obama are trying to give them: tight regulation of private health insurers, a strong public option, mandates and incentives to ensure universal coverage, and subsidies for the middle class.

But we have to make our members of Congress feel that majority standing behind them with cast-iron skillets, breathing down their necks, ready to clobber them into painful submission if they don't get this done and done right and done right right now.

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

What Health Care Reform Will Accomplish in Your District

Henry Waxman's diligent staffers have been hard at it, churning out facts and figures on the impact the House's Affordable Health Choice Act - the good one, with a strong public option and other money-saving measures - will have on each and every individual congressional district in the country - all 438 of them.

The Committee has prepared, for each member, a district-level analysis of the impact of the legislation. This analysis includes information on the impact of the legislation on small businesses, seniors in Medicare, health care providers, and the uninsured.

Here's the report for Blue Dog Ben "DINO" Chandler's district in the Heart of the Bluegrass:

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act would provide significant benefits in the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky: up to 14,900 small businesses could receive tax credits to provide coverage to their employees; 7,900 seniors would avoid the donut hole in Medicare Part D; 1,610 families could escape bankruptcy each year due to unaffordable health care costs; health care providers would receive payment for $113 million in uncompensated care each year; and 95,000 uninsured individuals would gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. Congressman Ben Chandler represents the district.

• Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 14,900 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.
• Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 7,900 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.
• Health care and financial security. There were 1,610 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.
• Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $113 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.
• Coverage of the uninsured. There are 117,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 16% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 95,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.
• No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 2,500 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.2% of taxpayers in the district.

Yep, sounds like a socialist hell-hole, alright.

Click here to get the report for your Congressional District and start pounding your representative today.

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Maddeningly Simple, but Apparently Impossible

Baseless Senate Race Speculation

How about a 2010 Senate Race Nightmare Scenario to go with your morning coffee?

No one doubts that Jim Bunning hates Mitch McConnell and the rest of the republican party leadership with a white-hot flame. Back in the spring, he threatened to step down, handing Democratic Governor Steve Beshear the chance to fill the seat with a Democrat.

But that was before Beshear endorsed - albeit as weakly as possible - his lite guv Dan Mongiardo in the Senate race.

And that was before Jack Conway blew the doors off political fundraising in Kentucky with a second-quarter haul of $3.25 million - more than four times what Mongiardo raised.

So here's the nightmare scenario:

Bunning, senile and infuriated, fails to take the changed topography into account and steps down in an attempt to fuck over McConnell by handing Harry Reid a 61st Senator.

But this puts Beshear into an impossible bind. He knows now that Mongiardo is an inexcusably weak candidate, but having endorsed Dr. Dan he can't name somebody else to the seat without looking like an idiot.

So Beshear names Mongiardo to the U.S. Senate, where he attaches himself by the hip to the un-Democratic Blue Dogs and votes against health care reform. A proud-and-out homophobe, Mongiardo also votes against repealing DADT and DOMA.

Next year, republican Trey Grayson slaughters Mongiardo in the general election, keeping the seat safely in McConnell's hands.

There is one way Beshear can avoid that outcome, assuming Bunning does leap off that cliff: he can announce that for the good of the Commonwealth, he can't undermine the integrity of the Democratic primary by appointing someone who is already a candidate. So he appoints someone who is unlikely to run for re-election next year, someone who is a Real Democrat who can be counted on to vote with President Obama, someone to whom neither Mongiardo nor Conway can object.

U.S. Senator Julian Carroll, anyone?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Countdown Alert: Guest Host Howard Dean

Rejoice, Deaniacs! Our very own Howard is going to guest-host Countdown on MSNBC this Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Granted, Howard Dean does not have the world's most melifluous voice, but he doesn't have to do much to improve on Richard "I don't speak American" Wolffe, who guest-hosted Countdown on Friday and if there's any justice buried his TV career for good.

Keith Olbermann kept me going through the Smirky/Darth Interregnum, and I will always worship him for that. If it were up to me, he'd never be allowed to take a vacation or a sick day, especially now that Rachel has her own show and can't guest-host for him.

But if I can't have Keith, I'll take Howard.

Cancel your dinner plans, turn off the phone, shut the kids in the basement with the dog, and for good measure set the DVR. It's a whole, entire hour of Howard - two nights in a row.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Bunning Announces Retirement; Senate Race Now Wide Open

I hate to be the wet blanket here, but Jim Bunning's withdrawal from the 2010 Senate race is not necessarily good news for Democrats.

The republican candidate is no longer a senile, unpopular, broke incumbent hated by his own party leaders, a candidate even Dan Mongiardo could beat.

No, the presumptive republican candidate is now young, smart, popular, rolling-in-dough, loved-by-his-party-leaders Secretary of State Trey Grayson, whom even Jack Conway is going to have trouble beating.

So, Democratic voters, activists, fundraisers and campaigners in Kentucky and nationwide: stop celebrating. Hunker down, dig in and start working. This one's not going to be easy.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Repugs Targeting Chandler on Health Care Reform

Yes, on the RNC's list of Democratic House members to hit with $1 million in attack ads in August is Kentucky's own Blue Dog, Ben "DINO" Chandler.

No, this does not mean Chandler is some big tough dem the repugs are afraid of, and therefore we can relax and take him for granted.

It means that Benny Boy is a fence-sitting repug-fellator the repugs think they can intimidate, and therefore we have to bombard him with demands that he stand tall for a strong public option.

The Republican National Committee will spend nearly $1 million on campaign activities over the next month in an effort to cast doubt on President Obama's proposal to reform health care, a GOP official tells CNN.

The Republican campaign will include television commercials already running in Arkansas, Nevada and North Dakota and new radio ads announced Friday that will air in 33 states.

The RNC did not reveal Friday who the radio ads would target, but CNN has learned the 60 second commercials will run against 60 House Democrats.

The second name on the list? "Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler."

No shame if you mistake that abbreviation for "Republican" instead of "Representative." The very first thing Ben Chandler did after his election to Congress in a special election in February 2004 - before he unpacked, found the men's room, or figured out what the fuck was going on - was join the Blue Dog Caucus.

He wasn't one a them librul commie terist Democrats, oh, no. He and the rest of the Blue Dogs voted for every one of Smirky/Darth's deficit-exploding budgets, every one of the bills to flush hundrds of billions outside the budget down the Iraq clusterfuck contractor toilet, the Military Commissions Act that gutted habeas corpus and gave the president the right to lock up innocent American citizens just because, the FISA reauthorization that legalized unconstitutional wiretapping and idemnified the criminals who committed it, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum.

Any budget-busting, military-destroying, Constitution-shredding, economy-tanking thing that war criminal of an administration - that republican administration - wanted was just hunky-fucking-dory with Benny Boy and his Blue Dog BFFs.

But now, now that we have a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress that want to pass desperately-needed health care reform, reform that more than 70 percent of Americans of all parties want, suddenly the Blue Dogs are clutching their pearls and fainting.

And the repugs are there to catch them and remind them how very, very good it feels to vote with same people they've been voting with all along: republicans.

Don't let them intimidate Ben Chandler or any of the other Blue Dogs on their list.

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Real Democratic Party

I am sometimes admonished for drawing distinctions between Blue Dogs, DINOs and others repugs in dem clothing, and those I salute as Real Democrats: Liberals, Progressives and other members of Paul Wellstone's Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

"You can't say that," the critics whine. "The Democratic Party stands for inclusiveness. We don't reject people because they disagree with us."

OK, first of all, that makes no sense. The whole point of a political party is to bring together people who agree on a particular set of principles.

Second, the post-1972 demise of the Democratic Party can be tied directly to its willingness to draw to its bosom the poisonous asp of republicanism.

Down With Tyranny examines what the Democratic Party stands for.

With Blue Dogs and DLC scumbags endeavoring almost as hard as their Republican allies to maintain the status quo, derail health care reform, turn back the clock on women's choice, deny equality to gay men and women, ignore the dual looming climate change/energy crisis and, most important, keep the corrupt corporate money flowing in their direction, I thought it might be a good time to re-familairize ourselves with something Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a great Democrat, said when I was just a schoolboy, working for him (as an elevator operator in his NYC campaign headquarters):

In this entire century the Democratic Party has never been invested with power on the basis of a program which promised to keep things as they were. We have won when we pledged to meet the new challenges of each succeeding year. We have triumphed not in spite of controversy but because of it; not because we avoided problems but because we faced them. We have won not because we bent and diluted our principles, but because we stood fast to the ideals which represent the most noble and generous portion of the American spirit.

Make no mistake: genuine health care reform with at minimum a strong public option is the live-or-die moment for the Democratic Party. Anyone who opposes it not only hates America and Americans, but hates the Democratic Party and wants the Democratic Party to fail to death.

Read the whole thing.

Harry and Louise 16 Years Later: Still Wrong

"... with a little less politics, we can get it done this time."

Louise, you slut, shut the fuck up.

The fact is, bipartisanship is killing health care reform. Every attempt to attract the votes of repugs - who will never, EVER, vote for health care reform proposed by a Democratic president - and Blue Dogs - who don't give a flying fuck about health care or any other policy and just want to be the center of attention - dilutes, undermines, sabotages, poisons and destroys our last, best chance at saving not just health care but the economy.

If Congress and the White House were actually playing partisan politics, every single Democratic representative who refuses to support President Obama's strong public option would already have a 2010 primary opponent holding a blank check from the DCCC. Every single Democratic senator who refuses to support President Obama's strong public option would be stripped of seniority, committee chairs and every other perk the majority has the power to take away.

Rather than less politics, what we need is for President Obama and the Democratic leadership to throw pure single-payer on the table and dare anybody to vote against it.

That will "get it done this time."

Steve Benen has a great post shredding the latest NYT thumbsucker crying for bipartisanship.

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Good Little Colored Girl

In a post perfectly titled "Sotomayor and the Politics of Public Humiliation," Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell explains why the all-white, all-male repug members of the Senate judiciary committee got to spew racist, sexist insults and hysterical accusations at a nominee for the Supreme Court, while that nominee had to sit there and swallow it all.

One of the most enduring images of the Civil Rights Movement is of Elizabeth Eckford. She is being harassed and taunted by a group of white students, parents, and police on her way to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. On that morning Eckford missed connecting with the eight other African American students of the Little Rock Nine and their NAACP leader, Daisy Bates. Eckford was alone when the angry crowd surrounded and confronted her.

The photo is now iconic. Eckford's dignity, strength, and self-possession are stunning counterpoint to the contorted, hate-filled faces of those following her.

This image of Eckford kept returning to me as I watched the Senate confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor. Although Sotomayor herself deplores metaphor and analogy, Eckford's harassment seemed an apt comparison to the hearings. Although her confirmation was nearly certain, Republican senators were determined to make Sotomayor walk a gauntlet on her way to the Supreme Court.


Like Eckford, Sotomayor has been praised for her dignity, her stillness, and the evenness of her voice as she responded to hostile mischaracterizations. She managed to laugh off sexist jokes. She didn't flinch when she was repeatedly interrupted. Senator Lindsey Graham warned that her confirmation could only be derailed if she had "a complete meltdown." The rules of the game were set: the Senators could mischaracterize her record, accuse her of racial bias, and mispronounce her name but she could not respond in kind. She could not be hurt or offended or angry. She had to remain a pillar of rationality and neutrality and control.

The hearing was a performance of a broader set of social rules that govern race and gender interactions in American politics. Women, and most especially black and brown women, have to prove their fitness for public life by demonstrating the ability to endure harsh brutality without openly fighting back. The ability to bear up under public degradation is a test of worth. America's favorite black woman heroine is Rosa Parks, a woman who is remembered as silently enduring the humiliation of being ejected from a public bus for refusing to comply with segregated seating.


The Republican attacks on Sotomayor were not meant to derail her nomination. They were meant to degrade and humiliate as a warning: if you attempt to assert your equality within a system still dominated by white male racial privilege you may get a place at the table, but not without public punishment.

Read the whole thing.

It's We the People, Not Invisible Sky Wizards

As Rachel Maddow explained on Monday, pace Pat Buchanan, this nation was not built by white people alone.

"It‘s just not factually true to generalize from white experience to explain how America came to be."

But a freakazoid Congressman thinks it's fine to force American taxpayers of every shade of belief and non-belief on the planet to pay to deface the U.S. Capitol with an endorsement of his personal superstition.

Now a group of freethinkers has stepped forward to stop it.

A California Republican congressman wants to do a little writing on the walls of Washington's newest federal building. If Rep. Dan Lungren gets his way, Congress will spend nearly $100,000 to engrave the words "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent spots at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Lungren's proposal drew only a whimper of opposition last week when the House of Representatives voted 410-8 to approve it. Now, however, Lungren finds himself tussling with a national atheists and agnostics group.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc. sued this week to stop the engraving, accusing Lungren of trying to force his religious beliefs on as many as 15 percent of all U.S. adults. That comprises "atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers, none of whom possess a belief in a god," according to the lawsuit.

"It really is a Judeo-Christian endorsement by our government, and so Lungren is wrong," said Dan Barker of Madison, Wis., a co-president of the foundation. "Lungren and others are pro-religious, and they want to actually use the machinery of government to promote their particular private religious views. That is unconstitutional, and that's what we're asking the court to decide."


Barker said that atheists regarded the phrase "In God We Trust" as rude, uncivil and un-American.

"Tens of millions of really good Americans don't believe in God," he said. "In fact, there's many more nonbelievers than there are Jews, and we wouldn't think of offending Jews on our national monuments. . . . Why is it wrong to offend a Jewish minority but it's not wrong to offend those of us who serve in the military and sit on juries but we don't believe in God?"

Read the whole thing.

Support the Freedom from Religion Foundation here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Congress on Vacation? Time for Us to Get to Work!

The prospect of Congress recessing without voting on health care reform is no reason to give up on getting real reform with a strong public option, but neither is it reason to slack off and wait until Congress gets back to work after Labor Day.

Your Senators and Representatives are going to be home for a month, wandering around holding town halls and pretending to care what you think. So let 'em know!

In the meantime, there are still two weeks before the recess, and given the events of the last week, almost anything can happen. So keep the pressure on:

Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

And if you need a corrective to the gloom-and-doom in the liberal blogosphere, Kevin Drum has some encouraging words:

I'm not sure there's much that can be done about this, but there's more than one way to look at it anyway. The first way is the conventional one: Republicans are hoping that the August recess will slow things down. It gives them more time for attack ads, more time to manufacture uncertainty, and more time to drive wedges between unsteady allies on the pro-reform side.

That's all true. But the main thing that happens during the August recess is that everyone in Washington goes home and talks to people in their district. If their constituents are largely opposed to healthcare reform, it hurts the cause. But if they're pissed off about the status quo and want to know why Congress can't get off its butt and do something — well, that can actually speed things up.

Now, that's not normally what happens. And it won't this time either — unless Barack Obama's army of supporters are still ready to go out and answer the call of reform. I've long been skeptical about whether his famous electoral machine would continue to work after the campaign was over, but if there was ever a time to prove me wrong, it's now. If Obama's army is still willing to go out and do battle, they should show up now and start putting the fear of God into their congressmen. If that happens, the August recess will be the best thing that ever happened to healthcare reform.

I wouldn't bet the farm on that happening. But congressmen listen to their constituents when they go home for the holidays, and there's no reason reform advocates can't use that to their advantage. It all depends on whether we're really as motivated and as angry as the opposition. Are we?

Don't assume your representative and senators have already made up their minds or can't be persuaded by sustained public pressure. There's a big difference between voting against a bill with a public option and voting to support a filibuster to prevent that bill from coming to a vote in the Senate, or helping the Blue Dogs sabotage the public option in committee.

This game is nowhere near over, and before it is we'll need everybody to come off the bench.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Cronkite's Epitaph

Walter Cronkite was buried Thursday, in front of a gravestone that unfortunately did not read what should be his epitaph:

I regret that in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn't make them stick. We couldn't find a way to pass them on to another generation.

As Glenn Greenwald writes:

It's impossible even to imagine the likes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and friends interrupting their pompously baritone, melodramatic, self-glorifying exploitation of Cronkite's death to spend a second pondering what he meant by that.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blue Dogs Get Smacked Down

So the spoiled little brats finally threw one temper tantrum too many and got smacked down hard.

Closed-door negotiations over health care reform between House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and conservative Blue Dog Democrats broke down Friday afternoon and appeared dead.

A visibly angry Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dog health care task force chairman, said Waxman reneged on deals the two sides had previously agreed on: an independent Medicare commission and adopting Senate language on a public insurance option. He also said Waxman's threats to bring the bill straight to the floor -- and bypass a markup in Energy and Commerce -- were not helpful.

Well of course not - when hostages manage to escape from vicious kidnappers threatening to kill them, the kidnappers rarely find the escape "helpful."

"We are actually trying to save the bill and we are trying to save our party," Ross said after the meeting ended.

The bill they're trying to save is the Health Insurance Corporation Bailout and PorkFest, and the party they're trying to save is the GOP.

Perhaps the two sides can find some additional areas of agreement in their next meeting? That's unlikely -- Ross said today's discussion "will be the last meeting we have."

I should hope so. When you get a bunch of people together to try to solve a massive problem like the ginormous clusterfuck U.S. health care has become, one of the first things you need to do is send all the recalcitrant naysayers out for coffee - in another city.

House Democratic leaders certainly made an effort to work with the conservative Democrats on some kind of solution.

Which was their big mistake. The Blue Dogs don't want a solution and they never did. They want to stop President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership from achieving the greatest legislative success since the New Deal. Because such a success would eliminate all the Blue Dogs' power.

Blue Dogs, you see, are not Democrats. They are repugs, pretending to be dems in order to play little "centrist" games that so entertain the Beltway Villagers. Blue Dogs are diapered infants who have to be the center of attention. They don't care about party loyalty; they don't care about their constituents, they don't care about policy, they sure as hell don't care about deficits (every single one of them voted orgasmically for Smirky's trillion-dolllar tax cuts and trillion-dollar war "supplementals" that exploded the deficit.)

Blue Dogs are political sociopaths: utterly amoral users with no empathy, no conscience, no remorse.

Since their founding by Billy Tauzin in 1994, they have cut a broad swath of destruction through the American political landscape, partnering with their natural allies in the looniest wing of the repugs to undermine Clinton's presidency and legitimize the terrorist dictatorship of Smirky/Darth.

And after every betrayal of Democratic Party principles, every treasonous vote to wage illegal war and commit war crimes and destroy the military and eliminate the middle class and shred the Constitution and campaign for repug candidates, Democratic Party "leaders" always forgave them and rewarded them and welcomed the next shiv in the back.

Until today.

But after many hours of talks, the Blue Dogs wanted to move the legislation even further to the right, and Waxman and Democratic leaders simply could go as far as the conservatives insisted. Blue Dogs, Waxman said, wanted to "eviscerate" the reform bill.

So, what happens next? At this point, it seems likely the leadership will simply bring the tri-committee bill to the floor, bypassing the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Blue Dog Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) of Louisiana, who was reportedly livid this afternoon, said 40 to 45 conservative Dems would oppose health care reform -- enough to defeat the bill -- and said Democratic leaders will "find out they have more problems with the Blue Dogs."

And you, Charlie, will find out that Henry Waxman hasn't spent four decades in the House playing Mah-Jongg.

Bring it on, fuckers. Bring. It. On.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Why Policing is Not Soldiering

The recent epidemic of police over-reaction - from tasering loud students in a library to pepper-spraying AARP members to arresting Harvard professors for jimmying their own front doors - has some people justifying such misconduct with hysterical paens to the extreme danger of police work.

Josh Marshall has a couple of nice correctives.

Following up on the post below, just how dangerous is police work?

Turns out it's pretty dangerous. But by no means the most dangerous line of work. In 2007, policing was the tenth most dangerous job in the country. In 2005, the profession was not in the top ten.

The most dangerous jobs are fisherman, loggers, pilots, iron and steel workers, farmers, truckers, construction workers, etc.

"The post below" to which Josh refers is is this one, quoting an email from reader JS:

Police work is not that dangerous compared to, say, driving a cab. Firefighters have a far more physically dangerous job. However, cops have a heroic job: much harder in so many ways than firefighting. Firefighters are almost never in a morally ambiguous zone and almost always are in the business of making people feel good. Cops handle humans at their worst.

This distinction matters. When cops stress the (low) physical danger of their job, they're setting themselves up to be military. That's no good for the country. Large cities probably need a SWAT team, but that is not the model for most police work. Collateral damage is simply not acceptable for police. It also leads to police cowardice. A lot of civilian damage is justified by the military concept: "force protection." Highly-armed and highly-trained cops use a lot more violence against citizens than a court would deem acceptable if one citizen used it against another.

Cops do not stress the (high) psychological danger of their job, because that makes them social workers with guns, able to handle difficult people with aplomb and an absolute minimum of violence, either threatened or applied. And that's what they should be.

So don't play into fascist stereotypes of manly danger. Police work is hard, dirty, and noble. But it is not particularly dangerous. And it shouldn't be viewed that way.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Torturers Still Getting Away With It

Saving real healthcare reform and forcing Congress to get it done before they go on vacation is still the top priority, of course. But we can't let equally critical issues fall by the wayside.

Like the Obama DOJ pretending it's going to prosecute those actually responsible for torture and other war crimes.

Glenn Greenwald explains:

Amazingly, reports that Eric Holder is considering commencing an investigation into Bush-era torture crimes has created extreme consternation in multiple Beltway circles despite how narrow and limited those investigations would be. As I wrote last week, numerous reports indicate that Holder wants to replicate the Abu Ghraib travesty by investigating only low-level interrogators who exceeded the torture limits approved by John Yoo and George Bush, and not investigate the high-level policy makers who instituted the criminal torture regime or the DOJ lawyers who authorized it.

Since then, the Newsweek reporter who first printed what DOJ officials told him about Holder's intentions, Daniel Klaidman, confirmed in an interview on The Young Turks that Holder intends to confine any investigations only to "rogue" interrogators who exceeded John Yoo's torture permission slips while shielding high-level Bush officials who acted in accordance with Yoo's decrees.


If low-level CIA interrogators -- and only them -- end up as the targets of investigations because they used more water than John Yoo allowed, or turned the thermostat lower than the hypothermic levels which the DOJ permitted, or waterboarded with more frequency than Jay Bybee approved, I wouldn't blame the CIA for being furious. It was the regime itself, implemented at the highest levels of our government, that was criminal. Prosecuting only low-level interrogators who followed the torturing spirit of those policies but transgressed some bureaucratic guidelines would be a travesty on par with what happened with the Abu Ghraib "investigations." Though there is the potential benefit that a prosecutor could follow the trail to high-level officials notwithstanding Holder's attempts to limit the investigation (a result I think is quite unlikely), there is a strong argument to make -- as I made here -- that prosecuting only low-level "rogue" interrogators would be worse than no prosecutions at all, as that would only serve to further bolster our two-tiered system of justice.


UPDATE: In comments, LBoogie makes an important point about the purported Holder approach of only investigating those who exceeded what John Yoo permitted:

The huge problem here is precedent. In specifically directing an investigation of those who exceeded Bush's torture authorization, our Justice Department is actually giving legal credence to Yoo, Bybee, and the Bush gang who sought to legalize these clearly illegal methods. Investigating only those who went beyond Yoo's memos affirms, as legal basis, Bush's detention and torture policies as the backdrop to be measured against; in effect establishing those practices listed in the memo as the legal standard.

It is less damaging to investigate no one at all than to use the Bush standard to measure those few who exceeded even those most grotesque of practices against. All we'll end up with is a few more Charles Graners in prison, everyone above middle management getting away without so much as public acknowledgment of having done something wrong, and a de facto Justice Department affirmation that not only will Bush's team not be investigated for having done something wrong, but that they never did anything wrong at all as those same standards become accepted baseline to measure future prosecutions against.

This is far worse than Obama's previous "look forward, not backward" stance. This is looking backward and establishing crimes and indignities against humanity as solid legal footing.

Exactly. It's one thing for a prosecutor to decide, as a matter of standard prosecutorial discretion, that those memos would make it too difficult to obtain a conviction, but to declare ahead of time that they constitute immunity as a matter of DOJ policy is another thing entirely. An investigation grounded in this premise would be to institutionalize the incomparably dangerous notion that anything the President does is legal provided he finds some low-level DOJ functionary to write a memo saying it is. The torture tactics Bush ordered are criminal no matter how many memos John Yoo wrote saying they weren't.

Read the whole thing.

Yes, President Obama has a lot on his plate, but that means we have even more on ours. He can kick the torture can down the road with Holder's head-fake, so it's up to us to call him on it and demand real prosecutions of the real war criminals, because anything less continues to shred the Constitution and turn this country into a rogue nation.

Keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

Freakazoids Back Down

Could one effect of the recession be that local freakazoids are less able to defend their unconstitutional proselytizing against lawsuits? In Kentucky, the same state in which county officials took their courthouse bible-thumping defense right to the Supreme Court just two years ago, another bunch of xian talibanistas has caved before the fight even began.

Jackson County officials have removed several displays of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse in the wake of a federal lawsuit challenging their constitutionality.

County officials removed 10 displays of the commandments from various locations in hallways, entrance ways, a stairwell and a courtroom.

"We think it's a positive first step and a reflection that the law is certainly pretty clear regarding this situation," said lawyer William Sharp of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. "We're hopeful that this is a sign that the parties would be able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution in short order."


Jackson County Judge-Executive William O. Smith did not immediately return a message seeking comment. But he told Hazard-based WYMT television that removing the commandments "was probably the best solution to the immediate problem."

He added: "From a financial standpoint, we do not want to jeopardize the taxpayers of our community and make them liable for something which is unfair."


(Local resident Eugene Phillips Jr. said) "My objection to the displays was never based on an opposition to religion generally or the Ten Commandments in particular but rather on my opposition to governmental expressions of religious endorsement," he said. "When government gets into the business of favoring one religion over another, or favoring religion over non-religion, it intrudes on the individuals' choice to believe or not as he sees fit."

Thank you, Mr. Phillips, and the ACLU of Kentucky, for your courage and determination.

Sense, Nonsense and Moyers on Healthcare Reform

Obama press conference highlights from the Associated Press:

The White House has the full video.

Heather at Crooks and Liars brings us Mitch McConnell on Meet the Press revealing his elitist disdain for people who actually work for a living:

Mitch McConnell came on Meet the Press to spew some more Frank Luntz talking points on health care reform, but when asked whether the United States actually has the "best health care in the world", McConnell punts and retreats to the Republican mantra of more tax cuts and then adds this little gem when asked if it's a moral issue that 47 million Americans go without health insurance:

McCONNELL: Well, they don't go without health care. It's not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance. So it is important, I think, to reduce the number of uninsured. The question is, what is the best way to do that?

So in other words, Americans have access to health care because they can go get in line at the emergency room, and the hospital cannot turn them away. I'm curious if Sen. McConnell would care to opt out of his government run health care plan and take a vow only to use the emergency room when he needs to see a doctor from now on since he believes it would mean he has access to health care? Anyone think he'd take me up on it?

Still agree with the MSM bloviators that "cost" is the reason to delay health care reform? Then listen to the voice of passionate reality, Bill Moyers, on what the real cost issue is:


Here's the difference. To Dr. Regina Benjamin, health care is a service, helping people in need with grace and compassion. To Ed Hanway and his highly paid friends, it's big business, a commodity to be sold to those who can afford it. And woe to anyone who gets between them and the profits they reap from sick people.

Here's the full transcript.

And keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

The Misery Index

Years ago, Texas gadfly and commentator Jim Hightower started agitating for a "Doug Jones Index" to counter the "Dow Jones Index." He insisted that checking the pulse of a couple dozen blue-chip corporations had nothing do with how ordinary guys on Main Street like Doug were actually thriving or suffering economically.

We still don't have a Doug Jones Index, but Huffington Post has developed the next best thing: a realistic Misery Index.

The Huffington Post has developed a new feature that aims to provide a more accurate gauge of what is happening in the lives of millions of Americans as a result of the ongoing economic hard times.

We're calling it the Real Misery Index.

The original Misery Index is a formula created by economist Arthur Okun that adds the current unemployment rate to the yearly increase in the consumer price index (a measure of inflation). It's an easily digestible number that the media loves to use to give a snapshot of how well or poorly the economy is doing.

Unfortunately, it's not a very useful statistic.


So, after consulting with experts who study economic trends, and receiving suggestions from many of our readers, we have created the Real Misery Index. It combines a more accurate unemployment statistic (the U6 formulation), with the inflation rate for three essentials (food and beverages, gas, medical costs), and year-over-year percent increases in credit card delinquencies, housing prices, food stamp participation, and home equity loan deficiencies.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"This Is Not About Me"

Excerpts from President Obama's opening remarks at tonight's news conference, now in progress.

That is why I’ve said that even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

So let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.

I realize that with all the charges and criticisms being thrown around in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, "What’s in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?"

Tonight I want to answer those questions. Because even though Congress is still working through a few key issues, we already have agreement on the following areas:

If you already have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it. It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, move, or change your job, you will still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

If you don’t have health insurance, or are a small business looking to cover your employees, you’ll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange – a marketplace that promotes choice and competition Finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

I have also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade – and I mean it.

I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics – to turn every issue into running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to "go for the kill." Another Republican Senator said that defeating health reform is about "breaking" me.

So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings…This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.

Oh, dog, Chuck Todd is being stupid. I may not last long enough to get you the full video tonight.

Report: Public Option Will Save $200 Billion

You read that right. The public option in health care reform will not only not increase the cost of health care reform, it will save $200 billion.

thebagofhealthandpolitics at Firedoglake explains:

A new study from the Commonwealth Fund finds that the public option could save the country $265 billion. The same study found that (republican Senator) Grassley's favored approach--allowing insurance companies to maintain their near-monopoly status--would cost the country $32 billion.

According the to the report, a combination of insurance regulations aimed at eliminating the insurance industry's ability to discriminate against the chronically ill, broader pooling of risks, and a more stream lined administrative system that the House bill would bring about saves money.

Read the whole thing.

Firedoglake is also sponsoring this petition to make the House of Representatives finish its work on health care reform before it leaves for vacation.

What would you choose - going on vacation or passing health care reform?

That is the choice facing the House of Representatives, who are nearing a vote on historic health reform legislation but are scheduled to go on vacation at the end of next week.

The choice is fairly obvious: the House should keep working until they pass a health reform bill - health care is more important than vacation.

We just created a petition asking the House to stay in session to pass health reform. Click here to sign the petition.

We'll deliver your signature to the House at the end of this week.

Some Members of Congress want three weeks of vacation before they tackle health care reform.

There is a real human cost for going on vacation. Three weeks in America without health care means:

  • 143,250 people will lose their health insurance coverage
  • 53,507 people will file for bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills
  • 1,265 people will die because they lack coverage

The House is so close to passing a health reform bill - they should not go on vacation now when thousands are losing their health care or worse every day.

Click here to sign the petition and ask the House to stay in session to pass health care instead of going on vacation.

The coolest part is the box in which you can write the reason you think the House should have to finish its work before it goes on vacation.

Try to keep the profanity to no more than 50 percent of the total word count.

And keep the pressure on. Here's a quick way to get to the contact information for your elected officials. (Scroll down to box on the right labelled "My Elected Officials" and enter your zip code.)

Alternatively, Max at Firedoglake explains how to put recalcitrant congress critters up against the wall - the Facebook wall.

KY legislators Defy State Law

Looks like Speaker of the Kentucky House Greg Stumbo needs another reminder:

Public service is a sacrifice, not a package of perks.

And one of those sacrifices is that your public duties are a matter of public record, all details subject to the state Open Records law. especially when you're spending big taxpayer bucks.

Kentucky lawmakers say it’s important they spend this week in Philadelphia at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit — but they won’t say how many of them are there or what it’s expected to cost the taxpayers.

Last summer, about 50 of the state’s 138 lawmakers went to the NCSL summit in New Orleans. House and Senate leadership brought Kentucky State Police with them as personal protection, as is their custom.

But on Tuesday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams‘ offices refused to say how many House and Senate members asked for permission to travel to Philadelphia this week, while the state government — and the nation — grapple with a serious recession.

Stumbo and Williams are there, as are about 25 legislative staffers. But the identities of other lawmakers in attendance, the overall number and the estimated cost of sending them remains a mystery to the public.

“We’re not releasing any information right now,” said Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson.

Wrong. You don't get to say that, Wilkerson. You release that information right this fucking instant, or you haul your filthy lawbreaking ass directly to jail.

Kentucky's Open Records Act is more than 30 years old. Stripped of details, it's pretty damn simple and straightforward:

Anything and everything done in the name of the people of the Commonwealth, by the representatives of the people of the Commonwealth, paid for with the money of the people of the Commonwealth, is the property of the people of the Commonwealth, to be shown to them at their request.

I expect crap like this from Senate president David Williams, who's a typical dictatorial repug, but Stumbo's endangering his man of the people reputation. I'm open to supporting Stumbo for Governor in 2011, but not if he keeps acting as if he's above the law.

Read the whole thing.