Monday, November 30, 2009

Only Liberals Can Save Obama and the Democrats Now

Let's review:

Explain to me exactly how this is different from where we would be in a McCain/Palin administration.

This is not a call to abandon Obama. This is a call to stand up and start screaming bloody murder at him.

If despite our demands he fails to turn this death ship around and start being the president the candidate said he would be, and Democrats still lose Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012, it'll be his fault.

But if we fail to even make that demand, President Palin will be nobody's fault but ours.

Steve Benen highlighted an article by Jacob Weisberg in Slate that claims "If health care reform is completed by mid-January, Weisberg argues, the president will deliver a State of the Union address in a couple of months 'having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency.'"

Weisberg is a putz, but in this he is not completely wrong. He's just irrelevant. Obama's many substantial accomplishments will sink without a trace if he continues to govern like Bush III.

Down with Tyranny on Obama's caving to the warmongers:

Looks like Obama finally found the bipartisanship he craves so much more than just doing the right things for America. He is allying himself with the Republicans in the same way Clinton allied himself with them to pass the catastrophic NAFTA legislation. Except this time it's for a war that will completely undermine him and guarantee that he's a one-term president and that we're delivered back into the tender embrace of the hard core enemies of working families. Jeff Cohen's OpEd at today's truthout goes beyond the story of how LBJ's tragic and wrongheaded policies in Vietnam opened the doors to Nixon.

And on the shameful fucking over of Rove framing victim Siegelman:

This is just awful. Shocking, disgraceful. If it isn't promptly repudiated and corrected by the Obama administration, I'm afraid we're going to be . . . well, exactly where we appear to be -- suffering through a presidential administration that qualifies as "moderate" only by the standard of present-day Republicanism, where "moderate" views are so extreme that not so long ago they would have qualified people who held them as mentally incompetent.

I know I'll be accused by many self-professed liberals as one of those self-hating left-wingers who believes in the old circular firing squad. Well, like a lot of other progressives, while voicing a fair amount of disagreement with the strategy and apparent goals of the Obama administration, I've held back, hoping its policymakers might have some grand plan that might not produce the results I would hope for, but that would at least move the country decisively away from the disastrous directions in which it was driven by the evil genies of the Bush regime.

Of course the crooks and clowns of the right wing of the Democratic Party, which Howie usually refers to as "the Republican wing" of the party, are never subjected to such accusations. Never. They are free to attack the administration, and it goes without saying anyone in the party to the left of Holy Joe Lieberman and Clueless Ben Nelson, at any level of vehemence. It goes without saying too that in Congress the Republican-Democrats are free not only to attackthe president's positions (that is, when he takes positions) but to vote with the "Just Say No" Republicans -- you know, the folks sworn to destroying this administration -- as often as they like.

From the White House's point of view, why not? The only Democrats who appear to have the trust of the administration's political point man, Master Rahm Emanuel, are the ones who were card-carrying Republicans until just seconds before they announced their candidacies --true believers that what's good for the giant corporations who show members of Congress with all those megabuck bribes is good for the U.S.A.

And yet again, on Obama's biggest failure:

Candidate Barack Obama had a unique opportunity during the campaign to use the international and domestic crises brought on by years of conservative misgovernance as a teaching moment, to try to make Americans understand how the conservative philosophy had failed. The explanation was something about his not wanting to be "negative," because voters don't like that. It seems clear that once in office he and his people were consciously working to avoid the onslaught of a culture war.

The result, however, is that he's got his culture war, and no weapons with which to fight back. In my darker moments what I foresee is the wreckage of this administration being used by the forces of darkness as proof of the failure of progressive ideas -- when nobody tainted with progressive ideas seems to have been allowed anywhere near the levers of power. Meanwhle, the "centrists" who are responsible for the carnage will as always conclude that they need to hunker ever farther toward the center, which has moved so far right as to be no longer visible to the naked eye.

Via Zandar, Andrew Sullivan nails the no-win politics of escalating in Afghanistan:

As Obama appears to be intensifying the lost war in Afghanistan, with the same benchmark rubric that meant next-to-nothing in the end in Iraq, he does not seem to understand that he will either have to withdraw US troops from Iraq as it slides into new chaos, or he will have to keep the troops there for ever, as the neocons always intended. Or he will have to finance and run two hot wars simultaneously. If he ramps up Afghanistan and delays Iraq withdrawal, he will lose his base. If he does the full metal neocon as he is being urged to, he should not be deluded in believing the GOP will in any way support him. They will oppose him every step of every initiative. They will call him incompetent if Afghanistan deteriorates, they will call him a terrorist-lover if he withdraws, they will call him a traitor if he does not do everything they want, and they will eventually turn on him and demand withdrawal, just as they did in the Balkans with Clinton. Obama's middle way, I fear, is deeper and deeper into a trap, and the abandonment of a historic opportunity to get out.

I pray I'm wrong. Maybe Iraq will teeter away from a second implosion. Maybe the Af-Pak strategy is credible in a way Iraq's surge never was. We have yet to hear the president's explanation and we would do well to ponder his proposal as thoroughly as he has.

But I fear Bush's wars will destroy Obama as they destroyed Bush. Because they are unwinnable; and because the US is bankrupt; and because neither Iraq nor Afghanistan will ever be normal functioning societies in our lifetimes.

You want empire? Then say so and get on with it - with far more forces, and massive cuts in domestic spending to rebuild thankless Muslim population centers thousands of miles from home for decades into the future.

You do not want empire? Then leave.

Those are the presidential level choices.

And neither Bush nor, it seems, Obama has the strength to make them.

Finally, Aimai gets to the heart of what Obama did wrong.

The Obama campaign was notable for many different things but the biggest, to my mind, was its ability to create and harness a huge amount of creative energy, idealism, and excitement among voters.


What happened to that enthusiasm and that creativity? If I fault the Obama administration for anything it is that they allowed all that sense of voter investment to die off. I don't have the sense that people watched the inauguration--the high point of my life, certainly--and thought "ok, now I can chill." People were hungry to be called to service, and to be trusted with stuff do to, but the Obama campaign put them out to pasture and only weakly appealed to them late in the Health Care Debate. I know because I stopped getting useful organizational materials and started getting annoying vague appeals to "support the president" by "calling my representatives" or donating money. Previously I could have discovered online groups pushing specific policy proposals, or asking me to go door to door with some kind of locally responsive action agenda.

As everyone in the bloggosphere knows a recent poll shows a huge drop in Democratic voter enthusiasm and a drop in people's intention to vote at all during the 2010 election. There are lots of reasons for this drop--I'm experiencing it myself though I will, of course, vote. But the main reason is that the Obama people decided that they could put the voters out to pasture between 2008 and 2010. Did it look like a really long time to Rahm and Axelrod? Too long to keep up the enthusiasm down ticket? Because it looks like a really short time, to me. In effect Obama and his team had one year to get stuff done to make people happy, and one year to let the Democratic Incumbents and Challengers try to reap the benefits at the local level. And that was just to stay even or get a slightly bigger majority to get more stuff done. In other words, as far as I can see, letting the Obama voter lose contact with, and ownership of, Obama's presidency was a really short sighted move.

Perhaps they did it because the cacophony of local, small time, democratic (small d) voices were too difficult for Obama to respond to in terms of policy, whether in detail or speed. Or perhaps they dropped their connection because the first few months Obama and Rahm were committed to demonstrating that they cared more about being beautifully conciliatory and bipartisan than ugly and partisan.

I hate to go for the sentiment but "in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make" goes double for political action. People are hungry to work with and for their own lives--the teabaggers are proof positive that people will heave themselves up out of their easy chairs, stand in the rain, wear silly clothing--if they feel that their political leaders are asking this sacrifice of them, and if they feel that they will be listened to if they do it. The Obama Administration, unlike the Obama campaign, has forgotten this simple fact and true: the more your trust and empower your supporters the more they are invested in you and your goals. Its a virtuous circle. Rather than assuming that the "grownups" were back in charge and that the agitators and voters and small fry should go into cryostorage until 2010 the Obama people should have allowed the original Obama supporters to continue to field organizers, actions, and ideas. If they'd done that we wouldn't be looking at this immense enthusiasm gap going in to the next election cycle.

Inexplicably, Obama and Congressional Democrats continue to behave as if their only hope of salvation is to win over repugs who would rather rip off their own genitals and eat them than lift a finger to help the President and the majority party.

Liberal values and liberal enthusiasm got Obama and the Democrats elected last year, and only liberal values and liberal enthusiasm can save them from making history again next year - in massive defeat.

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

Give the Gift of Citizenship

Give the gift of citizenship, not just to thousands of your fellow Kentuckians but to the Commonwealth as a whole, by supporting Rep. Jesse Crenshaw's BR1, to restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have served their sentences.

"The right to vote is so essential, so much a part of the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions, one of the most fundamental rights that a person has," Crenshaw said. "Once you pay your debt to society, then, in my opinion, we as a society should welcome you back as a full citizen."

Kentucky and Virginia are the only two states that permanently strip felons of their civil rights, such as voting, serving on juries or holding public office. It's a pretty effective way of ensuring that those who have paid their debt to society never get a chance to succeed on the outside, and end up back in prison.

Read the whole thing, including a heart-warming story of a woman who is defying the odds of success after prison, and details about a rally to support Crenshaw's bill in Lexington Wednesday.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Booby Prize

Kevin nails it:

On Tuesday Barack Obama will announce a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan. A week later he'll be in Oslo accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. Pretty good timing, no?

Don't get me wrong; I believe Obama did earn the Nobel Peace Prize.

But he's going to accept it with the Vietnam Quagmire Monkey already clinging to his back.

Last month, Naomi Klein wrote in The Nation about the danger that Obama's administration poses to the world.

Of all the explanations for Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, the one that rang truest came from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "It sets the seal on America's return to the heart of all the world's peoples." In other words, this was Europe's way of saying to America, "We love you again"--sort of like those weird "renewal of vows" ceremonies that couples have after surviving a rough patch.

Now that Europe and the United States are officially reunited, it seems worth asking: is this necessarily a good thing? The Nobel Committee, which awarded the prize specifically for Obama's embrace of "multilateral diplomacy," is evidently convinced that US engagement on the world stage is a triumph for peace and justice.

I'm not so sure. After nine months in office, Obama has a clear track record as a global player. Again and again, US negotiators have chosen not to strengthen international laws and protocols but rather to weaken them, often leading other rich countries in a race to the bottom.

She cites Obama-led retreats on climate change, on condemning racism (!), on human rights, on controlling financial speculation, then concludes:

Of course, Obama has made some good moves on the world stage--not siding with the coup government in Honduras, supporting a UN Women's Agency... But a clear pattern has emerged: in areas where other wealthy nations were teetering between principled action and negligence, US interventions have tilted them toward negligence. If this is the new era of multilateralism, it is no prize.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Death Penalty for Seizures

In keeping with the "I am a Liberal and I Vote" theme here at Blue in the Bluegrass:

I am a Liberal and I support thorough training for law enforcement in ways to deal non-violently with disturbed but unarmed citizens.

Digby says Don't Have A Seizure In Public

... unless you expect to get tasered:

A Washington man lost consciousness and was soon revived Wednesday after being hit twice with a Taser by city police during a struggle in which the man bit one of the officers several times.

Ronald Petruney, 49, of 1090 Jefferson Ave., remained in Washington Hospital Thursday, and his condition was not immediately known, city police said at a news conference that morning.

An officer, whose name was not released, was patrolling Jefferson Avenue when he encountered Petruney on the ground near his apartment about 1:05 p.m., suffering from what appeared to be a seizure.

Petruney then stood up, disoriented, and attempted to walk into traffic, police Lt. Daniel Stanek said at the news conference.

Petruney refused orders to sit down and charged the officer, biting him and swinging his arms when the two began to struggle, Stanek said.

Another officer, who also was not identified, arrived on the scene. Petruney was first shot in the legs with two Taser wires. The second officer then applied his Taser directly to Petruney's torso, Stanek said.

At that point, Petruney lost his pulse and was revived by paramedics.

Stanek said the officers followed department procedures in using Tasers. He said city police have had problems in the past with Petruney, who has known mental health issues. He has bitten a police officer before, Stanek said.

Police are preparing to charge him with aggravated assault and resisting arrest upon his release from the hospital.

No need. He died.

I understand the officers fearing being bitten and can appreciate the difficulty in dealing with the mentally ill in these situations. But when someone is having a seizure, biting and disorientation are common, and they should be trained to deal with it without shooting the person full of electricity. Especially since seizure disorders are caused by electrical disturbances in the brain.


It's impossible for me to believe that cops didn't have better ways of dealing with these situation, and mental illness too, before tasers came into the picture. They seem to be completely losing any sense of judgment in dealing with sick members of the population since they got this magic all purpose torture weapon.

Tasering undermines law enforcement. Tasering makes law enforcement less effective. Tasering turns law enforcement officers into enemies of the public good.

I am a Liberal and I Vote.

I am Liberal and I Vote

The latest Democrats Are Doomed poll is out, and it's a doozy.

Josh Marshall:

They asked voters, basically, how are sure are you you're going to vote next year. The first number is certain or likely to vote; the second is unlikely or certain not to vote.

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23
Democratic Voters: 56/40

Everyone knows there's an enthusiasm gap. You don't even need a poll to tell you. You can feel it. On the one hand you've got very gunned up conservatives, who make up an even greater proportion of the diminished GOP. On the other you've got a mix of demoralized progressives and other Dems who feel like they got the job done in November 2008 and have checked out on politics ... at least for now.
All together, it points to very, very rough seas in 2010.

Um, no. Anybody else want to give it a try? Yes, Steve Benen:

It's obviously not too late, and a great deal can happen over the next 10 or so months. What's more, the solution isn't exactly a mystery -- if Dems do what they were elected to do, they'll be pleased with the results. I keep thinking about something Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said earlier this month: "We must deliver. I need to give Democrats something to be excited about."

Finish health care. Pass a jobs bill. Finish the climate bill. Re-regulate the financial industry. Finish the education bill. Pick up immigration reform. Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." It's ambitious, but a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president can prove to the country that they know how to tackle the issues that matter and know how to get things done.

The R2K/Daily Kos poll shouldn't cause panic among Democratic leaders; it should serve as a wake-up call.

Close, but his first commenter, Karen Marie, gets even closer:

No, actually, I'd like to see a little panic among "Dem lawmakers."

Just how many times do they think they can get people to vote for them before people figure out they're not going to do any of things they conned them into thinking they would do?

You think I'm going to jump back on my primary-the-Blue-Dogs-with-real-liberals soapbox, don't you? And tempting as it is, as much as I believe liberals they would win red districts as Alan Grayson did, the truth is that before we can get more liberal lawmakers or even candidates, we have to, in the immortal words of Steve M., create more liberal voters.

I know, I know: liberals and moderates favor the public option, and if you put together a coalition of liberals and moderates and give them what they want, surely you'll be reelected. But liberals and moderates aren't adequately politicized -- they don't stand up for what they want. They don't vote, or withhold votes, based on fealty to progressive (or even moderate) principles -- that's the message of Connecticut '06.


I think wingnut Republicans are extremists who believe insane things -- but I envy thir level of political engagement. They know what they want and they vote accordingly. They've engineered a coup in upstate New York's 23rd congressional district, and they're making Charlie Crist sweat in Florida. Right-wingers know how to rally a base -- and, ultimately, politicians -- around an ideology. Our side has learned in recent years how to get whoever happens to be called a Democrat elected -- but no more than that.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to make more liberals in this country. We need to politicize more ordinary Americans the way the right-wing crazies have. We need a politicized, demanding voting bloc politicians fear. Until we have that, Conservadems know they're free to tell us where we can stick MoveOn.

It won't be easy, because there are strong political and cultural forces in the country, including the still-dominant Villagers in the mainstream media, working against liberal success.

Here's Digby on how the Stupak Amendment's real target is liberals:

I knew that after all the sturm and drang over the past few months over the public option, the number one liberal priority in the health care debate, there would be a price for its success. The ruling elite could never allow an unambiguous liberal victory. It would endanger their narrative that says fealty to business, religion, military and other authoritarian structures is democratically inspired. They have to maintain the fiction that the people prefer to be subjects. If politicians aren't convinced that there will be a price for being liberals, they might get the idea that they can actually govern liberally.

This is why changing the media narratives and forcing Democrats to use liberal rhetoric and reject right wing framing is as important to the process as anything else. By perpetuating this default, conservative ideology, even as they are excoriated for being liberals (see: Obama campaign) they permanently tilt the playing field to the right, even in a liberal era or one in which the only pragmatic answers to difficult problems are liberal.


Any legislation such as health care reform must therefore be tempered by a liberal sacrifice, something real, a principle that will make them hate themselves and loathe each other for having done it. It cannot be a clean victory, lest they come to believe they can do more. In the end, the "moral" must always be that you cannot go too far left.

The Stupak amendment was designed to do just that, a power move easily predicted by anyone who has watched the way policy victories are managed over the last couple of decades. The one consistent characteristic is that they are never unambiguously positive for the left. The arguments are always self-servingly pragmatic --- "blue dogs have to vote their district" --- but the real purpose is to drive home the absolute certainty that liberals are never really in charge. That is why there is never any desire among the ruling elite to sell the idea that liberalism itself -- its philosophy, its values, its ideology --- is something positive with which a majority of people, including Blue Dogs, can identify. If the public ever came to believe that, who knows what might happen?

Steve M. on liberalism's negative image:

Unfortunately, there's no negative baseline image of conservatism as it's practiced these days. The crazy things right-wingers are saying don't seem inherently crazy to much of the center, and that's true because no negative idea of conservatism has taken root in the heartland, even now. (Yeah, I know that the GOP gets lousy ratings in polls, but a lot of that has to do with Bush's incompetence, which I fear isn't seen as ideological by much of the country, and with right-wingers thinking the GOP isn't wingnutty enough.)

There is a negative baseline image of liberalism, of course -- it's carefully cultivated by the right-wing noise machine on a 24/7/365 basis. Liberals, we're told unceasingly, are crazy and evil and pathetic and dangerous and scary and bent on the destruction of America. So as soon as a Democrat starts sounding too scarily, evil-ly liberal, a cloud of suspicion forms. No similar cloud forms over the crazies on the right, Palin excepted -- and she's excepted because Tina Fey made her look like the dolt she is, not because what she's saying is nuts.

And thus even legislation and policies desired by a majority of the population, even a majority of moderate and republicans, that can be tagged as liberal and used as a way to discredit and destroy liberals, is itself discredited and destroyed, as Zandar explains.

I believe Digby is right, but I also believe that Stupak is the vehicle that was always intended to force liberals to scuttle the entire Obamacare package, rather than making the Sensible Village Centrists being the bad guys.

If Joe F'ckin Lieberman or Blanche Lincoln or Evan F'ckin Bayh or Ben Nelson are the bad guy, well, that would affect their Sensible Village Centrist credentials. Make no mistake, all of them want to scuttle the bill, but they don't want the blood on their hands. Better to make the bill so unpalatable and unacceptable to liberals so that they scrap it, and once again liberals are the bad guys and the Sensible Centrists can say "Well, we were going to vote for this compromise, but the liberals killed it. That's a shame. Maybe next time you'll listen to us instead of listening to them. See what happens when liberals are in charge?"

You see, only liberals want this silly health reform crap. (The truth is a majority of Americans do, but this is the Village. Perception is everything.) If you disabuse them of the notion by making the reform so painful and divisive through something like Stupak, then nobody will want health care reform anymore.

And in the end, that's the goal of Washington: to disabuse the people of the notion that the Federal Government is there to help them. It's there to help the Village, not you.

I'm a Liberal and I vote.

I am in favor of everyone making medical decisions with their doctors and no one else.

I am in favor of affordable health care for everyone.

I am in favor of putting criminals in jail, even if they are filthy rich christianists with billion-dollar government contracts.

I am in favor of demonstrating the superiority of the American System to the world by closing Guantanamo and trying accused terrorists in U.S. courtrooms.

I am in favor of every able-bodied adult working a safe job for fair pay, and for government using my tax dollars to build an economy that creates those jobs.

I am in favor of ensuring a livable world for our children by stopping global warming.

I am in favor of raising revenue and freeing up law enforcement resources by legalizing marijuana and taxing the shit out of it.

I am a Liberal and I vote.

Baby Jeebus Loses the Majority in Kentucky

Yep, real xians are down to a bare 25 percent of the population. I would have put it at 40, 45 percent, but I don't have actual, official, evangelical statistics.

According to a Kentucky Baptist Convention official, 2,587,995 Kentuckians “are lost without Christ.”

Ross Bauscher, Evangelism Growth Team Leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, announced those figures at the convention's annual meeting earlier in November. The context was a talk he gave promoting a major evangelistic campaign planned by the state's largest denomination for early next year, the aim being to win some of the souls he said are lost.

Statistics are a helpful, if limited, measure of the vitality of religious movements. There are statistics on religious membership (defined by denominations), religious identity (revealed by individuals in surveys), worship attendance (reported by either) and various subcategories.

Until now, I've never seen anyone offer such a precise estimate of the hellbound population, and it would be interesting to know the methodology.

Unfortunately, the formula used for the unusual statistic — measuring the relationship between individuals and God — is unclear.

Bauscher said in an interview he got the statistic from a researcher with the convention's national affiliate, the Southern Baptist Convention. Bauscher said he asked for the Kentucky figures after hearing more general statistics that three in four residents of North America are lost.

Statistics! From a researcher! How can you argue with that?

I look forward to first thing Monday morning, when Attorney General Jack Conway drops his case insisting an invisible sky wizard runs the Department of Homeland Security, and Governor Steve Beshear restores the proper name of the state Winter Solstice Evergreen.

Majority rules, you fuckers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gifts For a Recession

If you're avoiding the Black Friday crowds by starting your Christmas shopping online, remember that more overpriced stuff people don't need is even more ludicrously inappropriate than usual in these hard economic times.

Even if you can afford to keep giving everyone on your list the latest hyped gadget, consider that many of them may not be able to reciprocate.

One group of my friends decided this year to forego even small token gifts in favor of a holiday get-together at one home, with everyone contributing a dish.

Another group of friends started, at the suggestion of one of us, to make donations to charity in the name of each friend, trading an unappreciated thing for deeply appreciated help. Most large nonprofits with online donation forms allow you to donate in someone's name, and will send an acknowledgement to that person.

Yet a third group of friends includes someone who has been unemployed for more than six months and has cut spending to the bone. That group is exchanging "coupons" for expert time - home repairs, computer help, yard work, baby- house- or pet-sitting, almost anything one person needs done and another can do.

"Time coupons" that can be redeemed for chauffering to errands, appointments and shopping; or household organizing, or just a few hours of pleasant company are particularly appreciated by the elderly, disabled or housebound. And their caretakers.

Here are more ideas.

President Obama

"And it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day."

Read full text here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Better Thanksgiving "Prayer"

Today, before you dig into that turkey and stuffing, instead of the usual futile plea to an invisible sky wizard, bless your family and your meal by reading this story aloud:

Sleeping in an Army tent near the Pakistani border, Maj. Kenny Harryman awoke when the mortar rounds started exploding.

A suicide bomber had breached the gates, and machine gun fire was raging, but the Air Force nurse donned body armor and ran to the Army hospital operating room to help save critically wounded soldiers.

It was among the examples of valor during a 2008 tour in Afghanistan that recently earned the 53-year-old grandmother from Louisville the Bronze Star for exceptionally meritorious service, one of the military's top combat awards.

Harryman, now based in Germany, will receive the award early next year, most likely in Washington D.C.

But as she prepared to return to Louisville on Thanksgiving Day, she said her thoughts would not be on that honor but on the joy of being home, as she joins hundreds of Kentucky veteran's families sharing a grateful holiday with loved ones.

“I have many things to be thankful for,” Harryman said in a phone interview. “Most of the people at my base will not be going home for the holidays.”

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is a pale imitation of health care reform worth saving?

I was all set to write a fire-and-brimstone post condemning everyone involved in the Great Betrayal on health care reform and calling for liberal Democrats in the Senate to kill the piece of shit masquerading as a bill.

We have finally reached the point at which what we have really is worse than nothing. Kill it, I thought, and go full-out for single-payer.

Then I read Zandar:

Ezra Klein describes the current health care situation in the Senate as hostage negotiations.

The hostage-takers might not prefer to kill the kid, but there's definitely some upside to killing the kid, as it strengthens them in future negotiations. Conversely, the people on the other side of the phone don't want the kid to die, but also don't want a situation in which hostage-taking is encouraged. Generally, you try and resolve that by killing or capturing the hostage-takers, but that's not really an option here, with the closest analogue being a kamikaze primary challenge against Blanche Lincoln, which would come too late to affect health-care reform anyway.

This is actually incorrect.

Ezra still assumes that both sides are negotiating. To have negotiations, both sides must operate on good faith. This isn't any more of a negotiation that it was with the Republicans. What this is here is a plan to demand so much from the bill that the progressives are the ones that kill the bill and get blamed for it. It's patently obvious if you take into account 3 things:

The Senate corporate masters do not want any bill to pass at all. The GOP and the ConservaDems do not want to take the fall for killing the bill. Obama has to pass a bill or else he will be a one-term President.

Ergo, the easiest way to get rid of the Dems and Obama is to have the progressive Dems revolt and kill health care reform. This was the plan all along. The Republicans and ConservaDems are there to make the bill so horrible that passing it will be worse than not passing it. Howard Dean gets it. People still think the point was to kill the bill. It wasn't. The point was to kill the bill in such a way that nobody ever tries health care reform again. Ever.

The point is to bring down Obama in such a way that kills the Dems for decades and finishes off the Donks for good.

Steve Benen has a slightly less pessimistic take:

Put it this way: imagine there's a big meeting with every member of the Democratic caucus in both chambers. You stand at the front of the room and make a presentation: "If health care reform falls apart after having come this far, tens of millions of Americans will suffer; costs will continue to soar; the public will perceive Democrats as too weak and incompetent to act on their own agenda; the party will lose a lot of seats in the midterms and possible forfeit its majority; and President Obama will have suffered a devastating defeat that will severely limit his presidency going forward. No one will even try to fix the dysfunctional system again for decades, and the existing problems will only get worse."

For progressive Democrats, the response would be, "That's an unacceptable outcome, which we have to avoid."

For conservative Democrats, the response would be, "We can live with failure."

This necessarily affects negotiations. One contingent wants to avoid failure; the other contingent considers failure a satisfactory outcome. Both sides know what the other side is thinking.

Yes, progressive Democrats can force the issue, keep the bill intact, and force Nelson, Landrieu, Lieberman, and Lincoln to kill the legislation, in the process making clear exactly who was responsible for the debacle. But that's cold comfort -- the goal isn't to position center-right Dems to take the blame for failure; the goal ostensibly is to pass a bill that will do a lot of good for a lot of people.

The push for more "compromise" isn't going to be pretty.

And indefatigable public option champion Robert Reich isn't giving up:

It's a token public option, an ersatz public option, a fleeting gesture toward the idea of a public option, so small and desiccated as to be barely worth mentioning except for the fact that it still (gasp) contains the word "public."

And yet Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson mumble darkly that they may not even vote to allow debate on the floor of the Senate about the bill if it contains this paltry public option. And Republicans predict a "holy war."

But what more can possibly be compromised? Take away the word "public?" Make it available to only twelve people?

Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to ... our private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the rest of us.

Upbeat policy wonks and political spinners who tend to see only portions of cups that are full will point out some good things: no pre-existing conditions, insurance exchanges, 30 million more Americans covered. But in reality, the cup is 90 percent empty. Most of us will remain stuck with little or no choice -- dependent on private insurers who care only about the bottom line, who deny our claims, who charge us more and more for co-payments and deductibles, who bury us in forms, who don't take our calls.

I'm still not giving up. I want every Senator who's not in the pocket of the private insurers or Big Pharma to introduce and vote for a "Ted Kennedy Medicare for All" amendment to whatever bill Reid takes to the floor. And if this fails, a "Ted Kennedy Real Public Option for All" amendment. Let every Senate Democratic who doesn't have the guts to vote for either of them be known and counted.

Reich has more on how we got here from Medicare For All. Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Public Defenders to Jack Conway: Fuck You

So Jack "an invisible sky wizard does too run the Department of Homeland Security!" Conway, sucking wind in the U.S Senate primary, runs up to the podium waving his arms and yelling "oooh, oooh, I've got it - let's kill these guys!"

About a minute and a half later, the lawyers at the Department of Public Advocacy - where they do actual courtroom law protecting the Rule of Law, the Bill of Rights and oh, yeah, people's lives and liberty - announced "Not so fast, Fry-Boy."

From the Herald-Leader:

Attorney General Jack Conway wants Gov. Steve Beshear to set execution dates for three men on Death Row.

In a statement, Conway said that Ralph Baze Jr., Robert C. Foley and Gregory L. Wilson had exhausted all of their appeals and it was time for the families of their victims to have closure.

"Each has exhausted all of their 'matter of right' appeals in state and federal courts," Conway said, including reviews by the Kentucky Supreme Court and a federal habeas corpus review. "There are no remaining legal impediments to the finality of these death sentences," he said.

"The horrific crimes these men committed have taken an enormous toll on the victims’ families, for whom this may bring closure," he said.

Public Advocacy's response:

Public Advocate Ed Monahan and Louisville Metro Chief Public Defender Dan Goyette call for a moratorium on executions in Kentucky until the American Bar Association (ABA) objectively reviews the fairness, accuracy and reliability of Kentucky’s system for imposing and administering the death penalty. Today, Goyette and Monahan sent a request to the Governor asking that he not sign any execution warrant while the study is being conducted and a similar request to the Attorney General asking that he withdraw his three requests for execution warrants he made today until the review is completed and the ABA Assessment Team issues its report.

Public Defenders are appointed to represent the vast majority of those who are currently on Kentucky’s death row. Defenders play a critical role in ensuring full due process of law for their clients. There are individuals on death row who are severely mentally ill, who had lawyers that were ineffective, and who had trials in which serious errors occurred that remain uncorrected.

“There are serious and disturbing questions about the convictions of a number of inmates facing execution, particularly in those cases that were tried years ago by unqualified lawyers lacking adequate resources,” Dan Goyette said. “We should not proceed with executions until this independent evaluation is completed and we are assured that due process has been fully and properly provided in each and every case. To do otherwise would cast significant doubt on the fairness and propriety of imposing the ultimate punishment. We all have a fundamental responsibility to avoid at all costs the possibility of making an unjust and irreversible mistake.”

Since 1967 Kentucky has executed three people (two were volunteers) and three KY Governors have granted clemency to five people sentenced to death. Since 1976, 92 death sentences have been returned in Kentucky state courts. Currently, there are 35 people on KY’s death row. Of the 50 KY capital cases that have exhausted review by the Kentucky Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, 42 have been reversed.

“The error rate in KY capital cases over the last 33 years is stunning and unacceptably high,” said Ed Monahan. “It is compelling evidence that indicates the system is broken. This excessive rate of error shows that the system cannot get it right. A moratorium will prevent the execution of an individual whose conviction and death sentence has been imposed by an unfair and arbitrary system.”

The ABA Assessment Team has begun the process of reviewing the way the death penalty in Kentucky has been administered in light of established national standards. A number of other respected Kentucky lawyers have today also called for a moratorium while this study is underway.

Read the whole thing.

GAO: Kentucky Nursing Homes Among Worst in Nation

And the worst of the worst? For-profit, chain-affiliated homes.

Ten nursing homes in Kentucky, including one in Lexington, are among the most poorly performing in the United States, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

And, according to the GAO, which provides oversight of federal agencies for Congress, the nursing home receiving the worst scores in Kentucky was also the second most poorly performing nursing home in the United States. The report did not say which of the 10 named in Kentucky was the worst, and GAO official John Dicken said he could not provide the name.

Only 15 states had more poorly performing nursing homes than Kentucky, according to the report.


The GAO said the poorly performing nursing homes tended to be chain affiliated and for-profit, had more beds and residents and registered nurses spent fewer hours with residents each day than in others.

Read the whole thing.

Example number seven million why the profit motive has no place in health care.

Corporations are completely amoral. They have a two-branch decision tree. Does it increase profits? If yes, do it. If no, don't do it. Even if "it" is cutting staff to the point that helpless old people suffer and die.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Abdicating Personal Responsibility

Don't let the celebrity bullshit and the can-she-be-any-stupider shadenfreude hide the most frightening, yet neglected, revelation in the latest political "biography."

"My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over.”

This is classic born-again cliche. As a recovered born-again myself, I can testify to the relief of feeling all my problems were over because someone else was taking over. No more agonizing decisions, no more annoying responsibilities. Just kick back and let jayzuz, the Perfect Housekeeper, take care of the mess.

But a few days later, the mess is still there. It's obvious eventually even to the densest that "Him taking over" doesn't include erasing that pot possession charge or stopping the beatings or arranging a Powerball win.

Some born-agains deal with this rude intrusion of reality by praying harder, some by actually getting their act together and pretending god did it for them.

And some deal with it by manipulating others into taking care of their lives for them, and blaming the ones who refuse to cooperate.

Only the last group discovers the real benefit of being born again: permission to do exactly what you damn well please, no matter how many other people get hurt, because god is now running your life so everything you do is god-approved.

As Smirky proved so irrefutably, having someone who behaves this way in control of lethal weapons is extraordinarily destructive.

But not to the born-again him/herself. That person just floats above the wrack and ruin, divinely annointed and immune to responsibility or consequences.

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

To Stop the Secret Bailouts

From Crooks and Liars:

MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan talks to Rep. Alan Grayson about the amendment passed by the House Financial Services Committee to allow an independent audit of the Federal Reserve. If Alan Greenspan is not happy about it, I take that as a good sign they did the right thing. It only took putting this country on the edge of financial ruin that we're not out of yet for the S.O.B. to ever admit he might be wrong about anything.

Down with Tyranny has more on the bill, and Grayson's against-the-odds success in forming a winning, bipartisan coalition.

Dominionists Out of the Closet

The Dominionists are out to show the teabaggers who's really calling the shots in the republican party.

Tristero at Hullabaloo reads the Christianist Manifesto so you don't have to.

Led by an admitted felon,* a bunch of extreme, but influential, christianists have released a rambling statement which they've pompously called "Manhattan Declaration." Get it? That's "declaration" as in "Declaration of Independence" rather than "manifesto" as in "The Communist Manifesto." I prefer the latter, though. It bugs 'em, that's why.

A hat tip to Americans United for the heads up and for this response:

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “This declaration is certain to be deeply divisive. These religious leaders want to see their doctrines imposed by force of law, and that goes against everything America stands for.

“The United States is an incredibly diverse nation,” he continued, “and it would be a disaster if government started favoring one religious perspective over others.”

Well, in fact, the US has started favoring a religious perspective, via the faith-based initiative program, continued under Obama with the addition of a faith-based advisory council.** But let's not get distracted; I'll confront the F-BI on another day, as will, in more eloquent language than I can muster, Reverend Lynn. What Colson and his fellow creeps are up to is a more salient issue.

The "Manhattan Declaration" is an odiously grandiose screed.


In other words, Colson and his cronies are saying Obama is Hitler and Democrats are Nazis. They're planning a Holocaust for Christians.

Disagree that that is the intent? Perhaps you think the gratuitous use of the German was just an accident, or mere intellectual posturing. Or that it's just a coincidence that the phrase "The President and many in Congress" occurs so close to "Industrial mass production" as well as the word "human" and the phrase "to be killed."

If you really think this is just some kind of random half-baked nonsense, just boiler-plate, then - and I mean this very sincerely - you don't know the first thing about how language works in modern American political discourse. And so, you will be satisfied with a liberal rhetoric that counters this disgusting demagoguery with something as unfocused and ineffective as spring rain and mushrooms. And nasty creeps like Colson, Donohue, and their ilk will continue to have regular access to sitting presidents .

And no, I will not get over it.***** This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no...

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Ordinary Injustice"

While wingnuts froth at the mouth at the prospect of murderers of Americans getting tried in American courtrooms, a new book documents the many small but devastating injustices perpetrated by the system throughout the country every day.

In Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court (Metropolitan; $27), legal writer and erstwhile law professor Amy Bach uncovers a clubby system in which overworked lawyers and law enforcement officers are often more loyal to each other than to their clients, and become blind to the human consequences of routine error ;and business as usual. --Christine Smallwood

What was the genesis of this book?

I was reporting a series of civil rights articles and went to Greene County, Georgia, in 2001, where I watched a public defender plead forty-eight people guilty in a little over a day. And I saw several people break down. People would start to cry and say, Wait, I didn't realize I was going to jail. They didn't understand what they were pleading guilty to, and that was because the attorney had never talked to them about the facts of their cases. Afterward the public defender said something I will never forget: "Nobody could say that they didn't have their day in court."

You write about situations where the prosecutor is exercising discretion about which cases to bring to trial, acting within his legal rights, and yet the result is injustice.

In Quitman County, Mississippi, I found that entire categories of cases had disappeared. I met one woman--this is the most shocking thing--she had been beaten up by her boyfriend with a tire iron underneath a bridge while her daughter and niece watched, locked inside a car. I heard that the prosecutor hadn't prosecuted a domestic violence case in at least twenty-one years. He wanted to spend his resources and time on cases that he was sure he could win. So if an attention-getting crime happened, he would pursue it vigorously. But for cases that required legwork and tricky maneuvering--generally, domestic violence cases can be difficult, or that's the preconception--he would put those aside. Prosecutors get elected by the citizenry, and they often will announce their win/loss records, or convictions. You don't want to lose.

Procedural rights--specifically the right to plea-bargain--can wind up hurting defendants.

If you exercise your right to a trial, you'll often get hit with a greater sentence than if you took the plea bargain. When you take the plea bargain you're essentially bargaining away your right to assert your rights, and that's part of the deal. It's a crazy gamble to make. The system is beautifully set up with all sorts of rights that are accorded to defendants, all sorts of protections for the little guy. But in practice those rights are extremely difficult to assert. The problem is that there are so many new laws that people can break; there's such a tremendous influx of people into the criminal justice system because more and more people are being charged. The system just can't hold a trial for everybody unless a different type of trial system is created.

In the book I discuss a woman in Troy, New York, who is arrested for trespassing. She's sitting on a stoop braiding somebody's hair and there's a sign that says, "No Trespassing." She's arrested and taken to jail. She's a nurse. She's in jail for eight days and misses work. When she's finally brought back to court, she has a public defender, but she never recalls meeting him. On the day she pleads guilty, she's slapped with a fine. She could have contested it and had a trial, but she doesn't; she wants to get out of there. She can't miss any more work. She has five kids; she's a single mom. Several months later, she's applying for public housing and she is rejected because she has a misdemeanor conviction. Just by asserting her rights, the system punishes her.

You tell the story of Michael Evans and Paul Terry, who at 17 were imprisoned for raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl. Twenty-seven years later, they were exonerated. Evans's mother and sister continued to set a place at the dinner table for him for nearly three decades. They were in jail, too.

First of all, there are costs to the individual. Paul Terry basically came out insane, as any normal person would after twenty-seven years in prison. He has never recovered. And Michael Evans, too, has pretty much been left without a compass. There's the individual costs and the costs to the families. But I also think that there's a cost to the people who work in the system. The people who "perpetrate" these injustices don't have bad intentions. Everybody thinks that they want to do justice. And yet at the same time, they know that they're doing something wrong. Tom Breen, the prosecutor on the case, came forward two decades later and said, "I think I could have made a mistake." It's hard to work in a system that's so dysfunctional. The attorneys and law enforcement officers lose their mind a little bit. They have some knowledge of that. It's upsetting because nobody wants to fail on a daily basis. People want to do their jobs well, but for various systemic reasons they can't.

How can the system be fixed?

My book calls for monitoring and measurement. Right now we can't see that errors are being made. Leading scholars agree that the courts are the most unexamined public institution in America. We measure our schools, the purity of the water supply. Why do we leave our courts alone? What kinds of cases are being prosecuted? What kinds of cases are not being prosecuted? How many people are pleading guilty? How many people are pleading guilty without attorneys? How high are the bails? We need to start paying attention to the ordinary. Right now the scorecard is the big, important trials that grab the media's attention. But that's just not enough. People should be thinking about how to create new scorecards. We have to start thinking about how to document the ways that regular people are actually treated.

The Failure of Post-Partisanship

As we get closer to the short strokes on health care reform, Digby points to a sharp analysis of the conservative opposition and President Obama's ability to beat it.

If you want to understand Palin and the teabaggers etc, you have to understand the conservative movement. Nobody understands it better than Rick Perlstein, who is interviewed here on the subject of Obama and the conservative movement. Here's an excerpt:

Question: What’s a modern example of synergy between corporate and religious conservatives?

Rick Perlstein: Well, healthcare is a fascinating example of this question of how religious conservatives and business conservatives can act in coalition. Being on the mailing list of, the American Family Association, Don Wildmon’s organization, I’m beginning to, get the emails saying that, healthcare - that, basically, a national healthcare program is an imposition on Christians. It’s going to fund abortions. It’s going to violate the sanctity of the traditional family. So, you see a pure example of kind of a right-wing Libertarian business conservatives using the leaders of the religious right in quite an effective way to undermine a mass constituency for a reform which, in the end, is actually quite conservative. I mean, what could be more, what could be more judicious than, like I said, letting people change their jobs if they have an entrepreneurial idea? What could be more strengthening of the traditional bonds of family and society than families not going bankrupt because someone in the family gets sick?

But, there are very powerful interests who basically benefit from the status quo, and they're able to take advantage of this preexisting distrust that’s very American of anything having to do with an expanding state. And again, historically it’s the same thing you saw with Social Security. It’s the same thing you saw with Medicare. It’s the same thing you saw with the idea that the United States in the 19th century should have a central bank. The same thing you saw when the government began talking about financing internal improvements like canals, the interstates which were seen as a Communist plot by some people.

So, the challenge for progressives, the challenge for people who believe that this is not only an important goal but an imperative goal, national healthcare, is not to imagine that this kind of irrational fear is going to go away, but simply to bull through it. Force healthcare down people’s throats whether they want - whether they like it or not, and watch what happens ten, twenty, thirty, forty years from now when, again, conservatives come to power promising to uphold the ideals of Obama’s healthcare program just like George Bush promised to uphold Social Security and promised to honor FDR, and just like conservatives of every generation - or I should say reactionaries of every generation say, “Well, the liberals that we’re dealing with now are unacceptable extremists. The ones we had last generation weren't so bad.”

That takes guts and a certain tactical vision --- which Perlstein also discussed:

Question: Has Obama succeeded on his promise of being a “post-partisan” President?

Rick Perlstein: Well, the problem with Obama’s post-partisan agenda is that he came into it, he came into his presidency at a time when millions of Americans, perhaps even tens of millions of Americans don’t consider a Democratic president legitimate, don’t consider liberalism legitimate, don’t consider the idea of the state forming new programs to help people legitimate. So, he’s in a situation a lot like Abraham Lincoln faced in 1860 when you had millions of Americans who didn’t even consider what was going in Washington to have anything to do with them.

So, the big question for me was always was this post-partisan idea --- this idea that you could kind of bring adversaries across a table and get them to agree to each other and agree with, to get them to agree with each other and achieve social progress --- was that a deep-seated belief of his or was that, in a certain sense, a tactic? Not a cynical tactic, but a tactic. And I would be very with him if it were a way of thinking about politics, if it were a tactic, because the job of transformative leader is not to cue to the center, but define their own values as the center, as common sense.

And if he ... I believe in the agenda he’s putting forward, for example, universal healthcare, cap and trade and green jobs as a way to, solve our energy problems while growing the economy. I think these are reasonable, while liberal, goals and if he presents them as reasonable and the reaction to them as one could knew they were going to - because there are these millions of people that don’t consider a liberal president legitimate - was irrational, extreme, that presented him an opportunity to say, “My program is rational, but my opposition has chosen extremism, has chosen unreason,” and be willing to take the hit.

There's always going to be a minority of the country, thirty percent, 35 percent, even 40 percent who disagrees with him radically. disagrees with him strongly. But if he’s still willing to pass his program with that 60 percent margin, the rest of the country will eventually catch up. The reactionaries will understand as they did with Social Security, as they did with women getting the vote, freeing the slaves, Social Security - that actually these things were in their interests. They’ll accept them as part of the established order of American society, and in fact, 20, 30, 40 year down the road the Republicans and the Conservatives will be campaigning to save universal healthcare just like they campaign to save Social Security.

But the problem is this doesn’t really work unless you make this kind of tactical shift. If people say that you're illegitimate and your liberal agenda is extremist socialist destroying the America that we all grew up with, you have to be willing to say, “This is unreasonable. This is extreme.” And if you aren’t able to say, “This is unreasonable and this is extreme,” then you're granting your opposition an undue influence. You’re basically negotiating with the unnegotiatable. And as Abraham Lincoln said quite eloquently in his 1860 speech at Cooper Union, you can’t win that way.

No you can't. And it remains to be seen if Obama has the will to blast past these barriers and take the win with an extremely hostile opposition getting ever more radical in deeply stressful times. We just don't know yet.

I have never shared Perlstein's quandry with respect to Obama's post-partisan vision. It seemed obvious to me from his life story that he genuinely believed in his ability to transcend partisanship. It makes him somewhat eager to split the difference, I think.

But that doesn't mean he doesn't also see the value of placing his political adversaries in the role of unreasonable extremists. His administration has done that with some success, I would say (and a lot of help from the crazies) but they haven't yet explicitly positioned their policy positions as the reasonable, mainstream alternative and I think it's because they are flummoxed without any bipartisan support. The political establishment can't see anything being "reasonable" if the Republicans are rejecting it.

He needs to say it anyway, as Perlstein prescribes. I would predict that citizens in the middle are well prepared to see total obstructionism as an unreasonable position, even if the Villagers see it as a sign of liberal extremism. After all, to them all partisanship is a sign of liberal extremism.

At Down With Tyranny, KeninNY has a good analysis of Obama's failure as a pragmatist. He concludes:

The result, however, is that he's got his culture war, and no weapons with which to fight back. In my darker moments what I foresee is the wreckage of this administration being used by the forces of darkness as proof of the failure of progressive ideas -- when nobody tainted with progressive ideas seems to have been allowed anywhere near the levers of power. Meanwhle, the "centrists" who are responsible for the carnage will as always conclude that they need to hunker ever farther toward the center, which has moved so far right as to be no longer visible to the naked eye.

Read the whole thing.

Because Together We Are Stronger

If you're not unemployed, or underemployed, or likely to become unemployed soon, you know somebody who is. Probably several somebodies.

So don't just sit there - Help yourself, your friends, your neighbors and your community by forming a common security club.

Chuck Collins, co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, describes the difference between this financial crisis and those of the past.

"The risk of this economic crisis is that people stay isolated, hunkered down and afraid," Collins says. "What's different from the serious economic crises of the past is the much greater potential for fragmentation and isolation--because we've lived through a couple generations of 'you are on your own' economics. So the idea that we can trust any kind of shared response is broken."

That's why in January 2009 the Institute for Policy Studies piloted Common Security Clubs to break through the isolation, and bring people together to learn, help one another increase their economic security, and ultimately take political action. The clubs are not an effort to turn away from government, in fact they are in part an effort to develop the skills and solidarity needed to advocate for a government that work for the common good.

"It's a way to organize the vast, anxious, unconnected public," Collins says. "It's really important to get people together, away from their isolation, and the sense that they should figure this out on their own. Learning together--people learn the economy is not a weathered event here, people caused this economic crisis, this could have been prevented. Now we have to get active to make sure this doesn't happen again."

There are now over one hundred clubs, averaging fifteen to twenty people, across the nation--with clusters in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Over 900 groups or individuals have requested the facilitator guide and other club materials but IPS doesn't have the resources to track everyone. Some religious and community groups have used the materials to go in their own direction.
"It's sort of taken off and has a life of it's own," Collins says.

The clubs are all founded on three key principles: learning together, mutual aid, and social action. Every two weeks a round-up of good learning resources is circulated to participating clubs. It might include anything from a good Bill Moyers' interview or a Jonathan Schell piece in The Nation, to a story of a rent party with a band or an effort to weatherize one another's homes to cut fuel costs, to ideas for political action.

Members have helped one another network for jobs, strategize personal budgets, and find ways to be more frugal. They barter services--for example, swapping yard work for childcare or computer skills for language lessons. They have lobbied Congress on legislation to stop foreclosures, protect consumers, and rein in Wall Street.


One of the most appealing aspects of these clubs is that many are multi-generational. In fact, a special youth edition of the facilitator's guide was developed drawing on the work of Tamara Draut. Collins notes that it is people beginning their careers--in their twenties and thirties--and people in their mid-fifties, who are "really getting clobbered" in this crisis. He describes the coming together of older and younger people in his own church-based club in Boston.

"Several women lived through the Depression," he says. "They have all kinds of skills that the younger people in our group are hungry for--how to preserve food, how to do canning, how to mend clothing, and prepare simple, low-cost meals that are healthful. They have all kinds of domestic arts skills that society stopped valuing. Our younger people are excited to learn from them."

Once the clubs develop trust as a group, and begin helping one another, it opens opportunities for political action and pressing for policy changes--whether fighting foreclosures in the neighborhood, advocating for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, or beginning to take a new look at the global economy.


"In the end, it's not really that complicated--it's getting people together," Collins says. "And the most important thing is the sense that people feel of being held by a group--that they will not fall. There are people watching their back--people who are thinking about them every day. In our insecure society a lot of people are afraid of falling through the cracks and that no one will care."

Kentucky Home for the Holidays

UPDATED, Tuesday, Nov. 24, UPDATE, Tuesday, Dec. 1, UPDATE, Saturday, Dec. 19

The leaves are off the trees, which means Kentucky's fall festivals make room for great winter events.

You can ring in 2010 at a number of Kentucky State Parks with New Year’s celebrations and parties. Several state resort parks across Kentucky are having parties, dances and dinners on Dec. 31 to say goodbye to 2009 and welcome in a new year. The resorts have lodges, cottages, restaurants and other facilities and many parks will be offering overnight packages that include meals and a party, dance or show."

Big Bone Lick State Park is home to 14 bison, commonly called buffalo. What is the difference? Can you out run a bison? What do bison eat? If you want to know more about these rugged animals then join the park naturalist and learn all about the bison. These weekend tours are free of charge and start at 1:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, from Nov. 28-Dec. 20, weather permitting.

The Kentucky State Parks are hosting many holiday events this time of year, including open houses, children’s activities and tours of historic homes. State parks are a great place for holiday gatherings in December. All 17 resort parks have restaurants and state parks gift shops that offer unique gift ideas. That includes Kentucky Unbridled Spirit gift cards that are good at Kentucky State Parks, the Kentucky Horse Park, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea.
And don’t forget New Year’s Eve! Many resort parks plan special events for Dec. 31. For more information about events and how to purchase a gift card, visit Click here for a listing of state parks with dates and event information for the holiday season.

The historic Old Governor’s Mansion on High Street in downtown Frankfort will be open for public tours Dec. 10-12 to celebrate “Christmas at the Old Governor’s Mansion.” In addition to the impressive interior design that showcases the donated furnishings and accessories from talented decorators across the state, the Old Mansion will also be decked out for the Christmas season. “Christmas at the Old Governor’s Mansion” will be the public’s last opportunity to tour the Old Mansion until the conclusion of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in October 2010. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door. All proceeds will go to the Kentucky Executive Mansions Foundation, Inc. (KEMFI). The renovations were solely funded by private and in-kind donations. The tours will run from 5:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. on Saturday.

Looking to get away for a few days and do something different for the holidays? The Kentucky State Parks invite you to stay with them at one of their cottages at 13 resort parks between Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, 2009. The parks will be closed through this traditional holiday period, but the cottages, which range from one to three bedrooms, will be open for business at lower, winter rates. All have kitchens and utensils, full bathrooms, and TV sets. Fresh linens and towels will be available during this time. Trails at the parks will be open for hiking and wintertime is an excellent time to view wildlife.

Carter Caves State Resort Park continues to offer cave tours during the winter season in two caves. Tours of Cascade Cave are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily through April 2. Cascade Cave is one of the largest of over 200 caves in Carter County and is noted for its large chambers and numerous cave formations. Highlights of the tour include the reflecting pool in the Lake Room, the unique cave formations in the Cathedral Room, and an underground waterfall over 30 feet high. The tour lasts about 75 minutes and covers a walking distance of about ¾ of a mile.

It’s time for nature lovers to make plans for a Kentucky State Park tradition – Eagle Watch Weekends in January and February of 2010. American Bald Eagles will be gathering around the major lakes of Western Kentucky and South-Central Kentucky as they look for food during the winter. Kentucky State Parks will take you there to observe and learn about these beautiful birds of prey.

Timing is Everything

The U.S. Senate is beginning its debate of the health care reform bill today.

One of the many "compromise" provisions that are making liberals swallow hard but that still won't satisfy Mitch McConnell's repugs and their Blue Dog fellators is the one delaying the best parts of the program until 2014.

This doesn't just cruelly and unnecessarily harm the 45,000 people who die every year because they don't have health insurance, but actually harms Democratic electoral prospects. That makes it inexcusably stupid.

Josh Marshall explains:

TPM Reader BK disagrees that health care reform's greatest vulnerability will be the 2010 election.

Actually, its greatest point of vulnerability will be the 2012 election, since much of it doesn't take effect until 2013. The mandates that will drive up costs will take effect before then--young people will pay much more since premiums will be equalized for all age groups and private companies will have to cover even sick people. Since there will be no opt-out or no competition, they will be able to charge whatever they want.

By 2012, the exchanges that will get small business owners and employees insured are not supposed to be set up. So basically, all the politically and economically costly things go into effect first, and the beneficial things (insuring people and taking burdens off small business) will not have materialized. It's perfect for demonization.

I'm sorry, but the 2012 campaign is going to be all about repealing health care reform, and it will find a sympathetic audience if the schedule isn't fixed.

This is actually a point I've given a lot of thought to. And it's an important and complicated point. It's true that key parts of the legislation don't go into effect until 2013, or at least that's where things stand right now. It less clear to me that a hypothetical unified Republican government in 2013 would be able to repeal the law just as the most beneficial parts of the legislation are coming into effect.
But it does make me wonder why the schedule can't be tweaked at least a little. Certainly changes as big as these can't happen over night. But you could see where early 2012 as opposed to 2013 could make a pretty big difference.

Late Update: I realize that the original version of this post wasn't entirely clear. It was not my understanding that mandates and the exchanges are staggered in the way that BK suggests. And I've just confirmed that that is not the case. The issue is that few of the structural changes go into effect before the 2012 election. Bans on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, dropping people as soon as they get sick ("recision") will go into effect earlier, basically new regs cracking down insurance companies' behavior. And those should be popular for a lot of people. But the stuff that really tackles cost and other aspects of availability won't go into effect during this presidential term. That's problematic politically for the Democrats. And I think it also raises the real prospect that the insurance companies will start pulling various pricing shenanigans in advance of 2013, hoping they can create the political climate for repeal before those parts of the legislation come into effect.

Is it just to honor football season that Congressional and White House Democrats are playing prevent defense and punting on fourth-and-short deep in opposition territory?

If they don't cut it the fuck out and start playing to win, they're going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Thanksgiving Rescue Script

From Digby, Turkey Day Talking Points for liberals breaking bread with wingnut freakazoid relatives:

Campaign For America's Future does yeoman's work on many important issues, most recently their campaign to bring back America's manufacturing base. They are committed progressives who put their time and effort into making the country better for average people every day.

But for all the important things they do, this may be the most immediately useful and practical for you and me:

Dear Heather,

For millions of Americans, Thanksgiving is home, food, and family. And for many of us, the inevitable polite conversation with the uncle who has squandered too many hours listening to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

How are you to survive an evening with your Uncle Mortimer?

You know, the uncle who looks vaguely like Dick Cheney. He worships Ronald Reagan, considers "French" an insult, and wants to know where Obama was really born. Neither he nor his wife, Aunt Minerva, ever tips more than ten percent.

Uncle Mort knows you're a "liberal," and he eagerly sits next to you at the Thanksgiving table, armed and ready with the usual conservative tripe. Not surprisingly, he starts with what's hot:


Thanksgiving Day: Gearing up for the Chat with Uncle Mort

Mort: You hear about Sarah Palin's new book?

Heather: Uhhh...

Mort: She's on the march! Giving Republicans some backbone. Given the mess Obama has made of things, Americans are going to sweep Democrats out in the fall.

Heather: We'll see. Didn't work out for Republicans very well in upstate New York.

Mort: You watch. A Palin-Beck ticket will cast out Obama and his socialist crowd. The turkey.
Heather: Please, Obama's no turkey, he...

Mort: No, no. Pass the turkey. The problem with Barack Hussein Obama is that he's spending us into bankruptcy. And it hasn't worked!

Heather: How long did it take you to get that shop of yours to turn a profit? Two, three years. So Obama inherits the worst economy since the Great Depression, two wars, a broken health care system, an economic hole that took years to dig - and you want miracles in 10 months? In fact, he staved off the crash and the economy is showing some signs of life. More needs to be done.

If it weren't for the Recovery Act, layoffs at your nieces' schools would be twice as bad. In fact, what we need is more federal help - for states, for jobs rebuilding schools and roads. We need more jobs programs, not less. The gravy...

Mort: More spending isn't gravy, America can't afford it.

Heather: No, no, pass the gravy please.

Actually, we need more federal spending now. Unemployment could remain over 10 percent through all of next year unless Congress creates jobs. We need to put young people to work, aid states and localities to prevent layoffs of police and teachers, and expand investments in new energy and infrastructure to boost our economy.

We can afford it. Interest rates aren't soaring. And our debt and deficits will get worse if we don't get the economy going.

There's more. Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to Save the Economy and Wrap Up 2010 Elections, in One Easy Step

As Digby has repeatedly shown, people blame Obama for the financial crisis, even though he didn't cause it or approve the initial Wall Street bailout. This is accurate and fair for two overwhelming reasons: Tim Geithner and Larry Summers.

Hiring those two Wall Street shills to oversee the U.S. economy was hiring arsonists to put out a house fire. We and many others have been calling for the president to fire Geithner and Summers since the rumors first broke more than a year ago that he was considering hiring them.

With one stroke, President Obama can put his economic plan on the right track and win the approval of millions of Americans who blame him for the recession.

A huge statement tonight – Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon and one of the chairs of the Populist Caucus in the House, just called for the firing of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, saying that Barack Obama’s economic team is failing him. He said that there’s a “growing sense” in the caucus that a new economic team committed to jobs and American workers is needed to replace the one primarily concerned with Wall Street.

This is the first Democrat, to my knowledge, who has called for Geithner and Summers to step aside. He said that “boos” accompany Geithner and Summers’ names in the Populist Caucus meetings. Earlier this month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) openly wondered why Geithner still has a job, but DeFazio took it a step further.

The money quote:

“We may have to sacrifice two more jobs to get millions more for Americans.”

This comes in the context of deliberations in the House over a new jobs bill.

DeFazio has offered that it should be paid for through a financial transactions tax on oil futures and derivative transactions; other proposals include stock transactions. Such a tax faces an uphill climb in a Congress too willing to back corporate interests, particularly from the financial industry.

David Sirota explains that the leadership on economic populism is up for grabs, and if progressive want to keep it away from repugs, they're going to have to fight for it with actual economic populism.

It's easy to write-off batshit crazy narcissists like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin as what they are: Batshit crazy narcissists. But as Wellstone Action's Jeff Blodgett reminds us in this blog post, Armey/Palin-ism does represent something real and potentially powerful, even if it is insane.

Blodgett is a former aide and campaign manager for Paul Wellstone, so he knows a little bit about progressive movement building and the double-edged sword that is populism. Here's what he sees:

ECONOMIC CONSERVATIVES ARE IN ASCENDANCE -- growing in influence and setting strategy for the right. The social religious wing, dominant in the Bush administration, has become less effective and relevant. Their message is angry, populist, and economic: FreedomWorks' slogan is: Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom. Government takeover is their bogeyman. In 2010, they will focus on exploiting the economic pain in the country, railing against spending and taxes, and blaming all government and certain incumbents.

CONSERVATIVES ARE BORROWING FROM THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT. The NYT article quotes FreedomWorks staff saying that they are making close study of Saul Alinsky and other community organizers. Like progressives, the other side is increasing conservative candidate development (NY-23 and in GOP primaries all over the country), and improving their grassroots advocacy skills (like the impression made at August town halls).

THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT CONTINUES TO BE BETTER FUNDED. FreedomWorks, just one of many groups, easily raised $7 million from donors in 2008, including single gifts of $1 million and $750,000. The Leadership Institute, the premier training center for the right, sustains an $8 million dollar annual budget--at least twice the budget of any of comparable groups (like Wellstone Action) on the progressive side. Americans for Prosperity, another key conservative economic group has 73 staff people nationally and in 20 states.

In the short term, of course, this frothing movement may temporarily self-destruct by virtue of being publicly represented by incoherent and politically unpalatable freaks like Armey and Palin. But in the long term, it's scary stuff, because it represents one expression of authentic anger in the country at large.

As I wrote in my book, The Uprising, populism is value neutral - there's conservative populism and there's progressive populism; there's productive populism and there's destructive populism. And so a battle is on right now between the Right and Left to offer an enraged America a populist way to channel its justifiable anger.

Progressives can win this fight - but we face some disadvantages, not the least of which is that a cautious and sometimes corrupt Democratic Party has become the Washington Establishment via its overwhelming wins in 2006 and 2008. That means it becomes harder to harness anti-establishment fervor in a backlash election climate.

It doesn't, however, mean we cannot defeat the Armey/Palin phenomenon. On almost every issue, the right is way out of step with America. In that sense, our charge is simply delivering on the progressive promises we've been making, while their charge is the much more difficult task of convincing/misleading America into supporting positions the country doesn't already support.

That's why those who berate progressive pressure against Obama and Democrats are so wrong in their outlook. If we don't mount that pressure and Democrats therefore do not deliver, we will help build the Armey/Palin movement into something even more dangerous.

But President Obama and Congressional Democrats can't even pretend to the economic populism which is the only thing that will save them from electoral disaster next year until they take at least the first tiny step away from the Wall Street Americans love to loathe:

Fire Geithner and Summers. Do it now.

"Torture for Tantrums"

Juvenile program officials can lose millions in federal funding by failing to use carefully-taught passive restraints on children. But cops can tase them with impunity.

The 10-year-old girl throwing a temper tantrum her mother was too lazy to deal with didn't actually die from the tasering, but that's no thanks to the cop who delivered it or the mother who gave permission for it.

From Digby:

Taser madness of the day:

Ozark police said they were called to a home where a mother asked for help with her unruly child, but the 10-year-old's father said he's outraged at the force police used against his daughter.

"I would like to say Ozark police Tased this little girl right here. Ten years old and [they] shot electricity through her body, and I want to know how the heck in God's green earth can they get away with this," said the girl's father, Anthony Medlock.

Medlock said his daughter was at her mother's house when Ozark police Officer Dustin Bradshaw shocked her in the back with a Taser and arrested her.

"If you can't pick the kid up and take her to your car, handcuff her, then I don't think you need to be an officer," Medlock said.

Medlock said his daughter does show signs of having emotional issues, but she "doesn't deserve to be treated like a dog. She's not a tiger."

According to a police report, the officer was called to the home by the mother and witnessed the child kicking and screaming.

The officer's statement said the girl's mother, Kelly Hamlert, told him to use a Taser on her if he needed to.

The officer did shock the girl after he said she kicked him in the groin.

"He had no other choice. He had to get the child under control," said Ozark police Chief Jim Noggle.

Noggle said the officer shocked the girl for about a second.

Ozark police said it is their policy to use a Taser on someone who is a threat to others, no matter their age.

Noggle said simply restraining the child could be harmful.

"Well, if he tried to restrain her, he might hurt her by restraining her. If you grab somebody, you can slip an arm out of joint. They can slip from you and fall on the ground," Noggle said.

Right, all those things would hurt. So it's best to avoid such "harm" by shooting a child with 50,000 volts of electricity.

Do they even bother training cops anymore or do they just give them a taser and tell them to use it in all circumstances?

More details the next day:

Bradshaw stated in the report that when he arrived at the scene, he found the girl "balled up in the floor crying and screaming (sic)," according to the report.

"I made several attempts to speak with her and she continued to behave in this manner," Bradshaw stated.

Bradshaw said the child's mother attempted to place the girl in the shower to get her ready for bed.

"I witnessed (the child) screaming, kicking and resisting every time her mother tried to touch her," Bradshaw stated. "Her mother told me to Tase her if I needed to."

Bradshaw said he and the mother carried the child to the shower, but the child refused to cooperate.

Bradshaw said after realizing there would not be a "peaceful resolution," he moved the child to the living room and told her he was going to place her under arrest, according to the report.

"She was jerking her arms away from me violently while I was trying to cuff her and thrashing about wildly," Bradshaw stated. "While she was violently kicking and verbally combative, (she) struck me with her legs and feet in the groin."

Bradshaw said because he had difficulty placing handcuffs on the girl, he administered a brief drive stun to the child's back with his stun gun, the report states.

"She immediately stopped resisting and was placed into handcuffs," Bradshaw stated. "She would not walk on her own and I had to carry her to my police car."

Digby comments:

Well, why didn't they say so? The little girl was having a tantrum and got even more upset when her mother and a strange man in a uniform tried to carry her into the shower. She's lucky she wasn't pistol whipped.

This is a new parenting technique I think every mom should try. But you needn't call the police when your kid refuses to bathe or clean up her room or has a tantrum. Just stick her finger in an electrical outlet for a few seconds and she'll turn right around. After all, it's not like it hurts them or anything:

The girl, who hasn't been identified, wasn't hurt and is now at the Western Arkansas Youth Shelter in Cecil.

I am very much against tasering, but I honestly believe that any mother who tells a policeman to taser her child should be tasered first, just so she knows what she's asking them to do. And if she then says it's ok to do that to her own child, the child should be removed from her custody immediately.

Electricity shooting through the human body is excessively painful, which is why people fall to the ground screaming in agony when it happens. People who purposefully do that to children for any reason are sadistic and abusive. It's torture.

It might not have hit the local papers yet, but that doesn't mean it's not happening in your town.