A moment of levity from the healthcare denouement over the past few weeks was the shout of "Yes, we did" from a Congress member during the President's signing ceremony. The President had commented about the amount of abuse many members of Congress had suffered during the debates, and "Yes, we did" was Congressman Ackerman's response.
But "Yes, we did" is also a fitting reminder for what has been accomplished since January, 2009. In the face of united and vitriolic opposition from the Republicans, as well as outright lies and slander, our Democratic Congress and President Obama have delivered on progress for the American people. It's cumbersome progress, and the change we want is not arriving as quickly as we might have wished, but turning the ship of state is not a rapid maneuver. Our President promised change we could believe in, not change that would happen quickly, or even change that would be revolutionary.
The most courageous Democrat in Virginia gets his due in a terrific piece in the current New Yorker titled "Obama's Lost Year". The feature, by staff writer George Packer, is not to be missed for its sharp analysis of what went wrong for the President in Year One and how Obama can get his groove back - by following the down-home populist path of our native son Tom Perriello.
Packer sets the piece in Virginia's Fifth District, where during the summer, Perriello held "twenty-one town-hall meetings around the district - more than any other congressman", impressing constituents with his passion, sincerity and commitment. But Tom, like a lot of other incumbents, has been swimming against a powerful tide, as Democrats in Washington get blamed for every twist and turn of a still-struggling economy.
Packer lays out a clear case for how the Obama presidency can be saved, and why he thinks the answer is for the White House to be more like Perriello, "an emblematic member of the Obama generation - a practical-minded idealist, skeptical of Washington but also eager to make government work on behalf of the hard-pressed farmer, the out-of-work seamstress, the small businessman."
Back when I was a young comic book reading whipper-snapper, I remember Superman's freaky enemy, Bizarro. In the upside-down and backwards Bizarro world that he came from, as Jerry Seinfeld described it in the Seinfeld episode "The Bizarro Jerry": "Up is down, down is up. He says 'Hello' when he leaves, 'Good bye' when he arrives."
Although Bob McDonnell did not start his response to Obama's State of the Union with "Goodbye", the whole presentation kind of struck me as the Bizarro Obama giving a very different kind of an address from a vaguely familiar but off-kilter world.
In Governor Bob's Bizarro world, minorities stand behind him and nod approvingly, like Tonto to his Lone Ranger -- unlike the real world where he only received 9% of the black vote last November.
In the Bizarro General Assembly set up for this speech, there is no opposition -- everyone is a supporter, clapping wildly and continually like trained seals on crack. A little different from the real SOTU, where President Obama had to address himself to both supportive Democrats and cynical Republicans.
As news about the contents of President Obama's SOTU tonight leaks here, fifteen voices (including Elizabeth Warren, Rob Johnson and Eliot Spitzer and others) have told Huffington Post what they hope to hear tonight. Here is their wish list, in summary:
*Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, wants to hear the President make an aggressive case for regulatory reform.
*Robert Johnson, Senior Fellow and Director of the Financial Reform Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute, wants to hear that there will be sunlight surrounding the AIG bailout and all relevant correspondence.
*Eliot Spitzer wants a huge second economic stimulus because "10% unemployment is a human tragedy and a political disaster."
The first week of January 2010 has seen "the tide turn against Democrats" according to pundits and Conventional Wisdom as Senators Dodd and Dorgan and Governor Ritter of Colorado all announce their retirement, not to mention Senator Nelson saying it was a "mistake" for Democrats to go after health care instead of the economy. Put this together with the Democrats' losing the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, and the constant cacophony about health care reform, conversion of one (so far) Blue Dog Democratic Representative to the Republican Party, the security lapses evident in the attempt to bomb the Detroit-bound airplane, problems with closing Guantanamo, an upsurge by al Qaeda in Yemen, a sputtering economy which has seen Wall Street smirking its way to the bank with huge bonuses while Main Street continues to lose jobs---- well, no wonder Fox News is cackling with glee and Politico's formerly Republican operatives smugly predict, if not a Democratic wipeout, then a serious rout in 2010 and beyond, proclaiming The Elephant Triumphant!
Oh, dear, oh dear:
When in worry, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.
In the January/February 2010 edition of the magazine Mother Jones there are several important articles concerning the global financial meltdown which triggered the still potent Great Recession, that attempt to answer the 64 trillion dollar question: How is it that the banksters are already back at doing the same things that caused the mess, and why is it that they still haven't been punished and the system reformed? It is Kevin Drum's fact-filled article "Capital City" which explains it all, and which I will discuss here, but the entire edition of MoJo is worth a close read.
We already know the purely financial and economic story of the 2008 meltdown; Drum explains the politics of how Congress and the Federal Reserve were "persuaded to let all this happen.... In other words, it's about the finance lobby." Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said last April that "they frankly own the place." But there is another reason that is even bigger: over the past 30 years the finance lobby, supported by the conservative movement and some powerful backers, convinced the American people that the financial sector's success should be measured "not by how well it provides financial services to actual consumers and corporations, but by how effectively financial firms make money for themselves." This is the (crazy) Big Idea which has smothered every opponent and conquered every perceived threat to Wall Street and its profits.
Here's another example of deceiving by headline, interestingly caught at headline news. The cnn.com political ticker here, there's some real subterfuge, exaggeration (and deception). Is it any wonder this network once brought us Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs (or, at its sister station, us Nancy Grace)?
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday morning indicates that 38 percent of the public blames Republicans for the country's current economic problems. That's down 15 points from May, when 53 percent blamed the GOP. According to the poll 27 percent now blame the Democrats for the recession, up 6 points from May. Twenty-seven percent now say both parties are responsible for the economic mess.
Given the epic economic collapse ushered in by eight catastrophic years of George W. Bush, and ignored even as many, many voices tried to bring Bush's unconscious mind into the "game," these numbers are far too damning of Democrats. Giving Dems a year to solve such a massive collapse is absurd.
The Deeds campaign has confirmed that President Obama will return to Virginia to campaign for Deeds on Tuesday, 27 October. This should "put to rest" rumors that the President was distancing himself from Deeds, and should inspire the Democratic core constituency including African Americans just before the election. Details will follow http://voices.washingtonpost.c...
The news from Oslo this morning at 6 AM our time is that President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. We will follow up on this story. We note that, predictably, the news has been greeted with pleasure and respect around the world---- the only two groups which have sneered at the award are the American Republican political party and the Islamic jihadist leaders.
UPDATE 2 A final word from the adult side:
Salon.com commentary (http://www.salon.com/opinion/walsh/politics/2009/10/10/obama_nobel_prize/index.html?source=newsletter):
In recent years the Nobel Peace Prize has more often honored promise and encouraged progress than it marked concrete, permanent achievements in the realm of world peace. So the prize went to President Carter's ultimately unsuccessful 1978 Middle East peace drive....I suddenly saw Obama's win as strangely humble, and personal: One man trying to reverse the bloody tide of recent American history....Let's take in what that said about the way our country had become a source of aggression, belligerence and hostility, and never peace, in the last eight years....
The right-wing's idiocy about Obama's Nobel win is no longer even interesting....The country will move on without them. I loved what French President Nicholas Sarkozy (not always an Obama fan) said about why the U.S. president really got the Nobel Peace Prize: "The award marks America's return to the heart of the people of the world." That deserves a prize.
UPDATE Here are some partial quotes from the Republican political party and its members concerning the award, mostly copied from Salon.com (http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/feature/2009/10/09/reaction/index.html)
Rush Limbaugh: "This fully exposes, folks, the illusion that is Obama....This a greater embarrassment than losing the Olympics bid was.... The intent of the committee is to neuter the United States of America. They've done it by rewarding a pacifist....I think Obama's the second Kenyan to win."
There's a lot of anger in America right now. Republicans are busy accusing our president of being a lying, un-American, baby-killing, grandma-slaughtering, gun-hating, illegal-immigrant-loving, socialist tax-and-spend commie pinko Bolshevik Trotskyite Maoist Everything-else-ist threat to life, liberty and our precious bodily fluids.
In response, furious progressives are rushing to the barricades to unload their full firepower on - the very same president!
What's wrong with this picture?
It's not unusual for a fired-up constituency, flush from a historic victory, to feel the letdown as the euphoria of campaigning gives way to the drudgery of governing. But I've been taken aback by the quickness and ferocity with which the same progressive blogosphere that boosted Obama into office has lately been pursuing him like Wiley Coyote after the Road Runner.
I do understand some of the frustration with his leadership. Obama needs to govern with a heavier hand, injecting a little more Lyndon Johnson into his dealings with Congress. (Isn't that what God created Rahm "F-bomb" Emmanuel for?)
But being pissed off, and venting about it, is not by itself a strategy. And politics is all about strategy. It's like chess - you make a move today in order to win three or four or twenty moves down the line. Although we have to constantly let politicians and the media and the public know how we feel, winning in politics is about a lot more than just expressing your frustrations. Sure, if you fire enough rounds into the air, you might eventually hit your target. But you might hit your friends too - or even yourself.
C'mon folks - take a deep breath, think, aim - and only then fire.
President Obama showed himself every bit the national and world leader that he is yesterday. Who wouldn't be proud of the masterful way he worked to create working relationships so that the G-20 would speak with one voice on Iran. The upshot of a complicated game of chess, Friday's unity came after The President made a series of shrewd moves. One of the key aspects of his work was the withdrawing of a "strategic defense initiative" (which doesn't' even work at this point) from Eastern Europe, and substituting instead off-shore middle- and short-range missiles. Thus he brings swifter (as in immediate, not some time into the future), more reliable and more effective protection against Iran. If you are interested, take a look at two clips of US Rep. and Retired Admiral Joe Sestak (D) talk about this subject on MSNBC (video in aside.
Update (hattip to TPM): The Insurance Industry, through it's lobbyist, Karen Ignani, has thanked Max Baucus. Therefore, we must nix his bill. Read the leaked memo for yourself.
Mad Max's summer of enabling health reform opponents has come to an end and now he's belatedly holding committee meetings to work on over 500 amendments. He says he and his committee worked 100 whole hours on this! 100 hours! That's about 2 weeks (or less) for average Americans. And he thinks we should be impressed. What has Max been doing for the past year? Better yet, does he even know what the typical American work week is? The fact is he recycled most of what he proposed last fall. And he has changed little since he put forth his framework earlier this summer. And then he stonewalled long enough for the Town Halls and their Freedom Works yellers to do their stuff. The bill is bad for most of us. It's especially bad for the sick, women, low-income workers, and more. There's no real public option to keep insurance companies honest. There is nothing to control costs, except those levied against individuals.
An intermittent intelligence report on what the righties are up to, with an occasional counter-commentary by a progressive voice; based on actual right-wing documents and/or statements. WARNING: Those with high blood pressure are advised to seek medication.
The highly respected former CEO of Procter and Gamble, Lou Pritchett, wrote an Open Letter to President Barack Obama entitled "You Scare Me," and sent it to the New York Times, which, not surprisingly says Mr. Pritchett, did not publish it, so he threw it on the Internet. Mr. Pritchett is considered a living legend in management circles because his "partnering" concepts changed how we do business. He is the successful author of Stop Paddling and Start Rocking the Boat, published in 1995. According to snopes.com (http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/youscareme.asp) the letter is genuine. We are told that it has had over 500,000 hits on the Internet, and are advised to "keep it going. All that is necessary is that good men do nothing. It's happening right now."(so the righties say the same things to each other that we do).
Yesterday the House presented its health care reform bill, America's Affordable Health Choices Act (AAHCA). The name is unfortunate, however, because the acronym includes the initials of HCA, the gigantic chain founded by the Frist family. The House just published its 1018-page document on reforming health care here.
Please read, at minimum, the four-page summary here. It's easy to read and an excellent summary.
The HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) committee of the Senate passed the Kennedy version of reform. Even worse than predicted, it did so without a single Republican vote. Meanwhile, the President spoke to Dems, trying to move them toward finalizing the bill(s) and getting the final versions passed. More on what the President said below the fold.
After eight years of silence, please welcome back the Deficit Hawks. I refer, of course, to those self-appointed guardians of the public purse, so-called fiscal conservatives who are professional worriers when it comes to the national debt (please ignore however many bridges to nowhere they insert in the budget, that's different). They have been joined in the public complainers' square by public spirited millionaire retirees like Pete Peterson and Ross Perot, as well as energetic lobbyists from Big Business (please ignore however much bailout money has been distributed, it's being paid back already). Why have these penny-pinchers suddenly arisen like Lazarus from their tomb of silence where they huddled while Bush II destroyed Clinton's surplus and ran up the deficit with two wars, no-bid contracts to favorite buddies, boondoggles to cover up Katrina failures, the first big Wall Street bailouts, and prescription drug pay-outs to Big Pharma, to name a few Bush budget-busters?
It is true, Obama has proved to be no slouch at budget-busting himself, and even supposed liberals are mewling uneasily when they see the projections of trillion dollar deficits, two trillion and counting. Why, poor George W. begins to look like a little piker, second class once again.
Let's consider where we are, and why the two different administrations found themselves in two very different situations:
President Obama recently signed into law the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, which creates an investigative commission on our economic meltdown. The idea of such a commission was inspired by the famous Pecora Commission of the 1930's, when the Senate Banking Committee led by Chief Counsel Ferdinand Pecora did such a thorough job of investigating the collapse of the Great Depression, revealing the dishonesty and secretive manipulations of Wall Street and banks in all their ugly glory, that it led to a wave of reforms and regulations which included, among other things, the Securities and Exchange Commission. These reforms prevented another 1929's disaster for 80-plus years---- until they were spitefully and shrewdly dismantled by a resurgent, Wall-Street run bunch of economic theorists and slavish politicians.
The new Financial Markets Commission has been given subpoena power and a "sweeping mandate," says Robert Kutner, writing in Huffington Post.com on 31 May, as shown by the following condensed list of its functions (I've embolded some I find especially significant, but they all are important):
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana)has declared single payer off the table.
Congress is at "work" on the budget for FY 2010 beginning in October. At least some members in Congress are at work trying to bring Americans the health care insurance they want and deserve. Others have dug their ideological heels in. Meanwhile, as do many economists, President Barack Obama sees health care reform as critical to our economy, and as essential to the budget this year. With health care costs skyrocketing along with the ranks of the uninsured, we have no choice.
Yet, on cue, the whiners and obstructionists are out in force, trying to prevent anything from being done. Ourfuture.org today presented a number of quotes from Whiners, Inc. You know the guys who have health insurance but don't want you to. You'll want to take a look at the absurdity of many of them.
Whiner-in-chief Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)copmplained, "that would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through...You're talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You're talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them into the Chicago River."
Perhaps (if you are old enough) you recall Spiro Agnew's line about "nattering nabobs of negativity." He invoked this if Democrats voiced any criticism of the Republican administration whatsoever. Now, however, finding fault with President Obama, picking apart every last thing about him, his words, his actions is just everyday common. It's become sport, even. Witness the contrast in 2000 and the protracted "honeymoon" well into 2002 and early 2003 that George W. Bush enjoyed.
And Gingrich isn't alone. The Party of No is ever-present around the TV dial, dialing up its automatic negative reaction to everything. Most recently, there was Newt knocking President Obama for his during a handshake with Hugo Chavez. Doesn't the president know that (smiling) diplomacy is "bad, bad, bad?"
Grinch and Head Republican Finger Pointer (the Republicans don't have much besides this disgraced, ousted, rejected former Speaker of the House) is at it again here. It sends a "poor message" to our enemies, he thinks. Feel the fear, he hints darkly. And then he invokes Jimmy Carter. That's supposed to be a bad thing. You see, diplomacy is OK if your Dick Nixon --or the Bushes. If you are anyone else, it conjures up weakness.
Talk about weakness. Note that Newt got single digits in his failed presidential run--but wants to run for president again!) former speaker of the House.) So, each of his pronouncements suggests implicit opportunism. President Obama's administration is barely three months old, and here's Newt trying to oust the popular president--in 2012. He's spent his time in exile working from the limelight behind the scenes bringing us such success stories as a war against a country not attacking us.
A Democratic Underground journal captures the absurdity of this in pictures here. You won't want to miss this photographic journey through Republican presidential terms with their overtures to Communist leaders. (Her photos are better than the ones I link, so do check hers out.)
Do you care? Do you care that politicians are once again ginning up the inflammatory rhetoric on the immigration front? Do you care that here, in America, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)snatches off the streets and denies them lawyers, a chance to obtain their documents, or the ability talk to family or friends for days, weeks, months, or longer? ICE detention centers force detainees to work for $1 a day until they save enough money to buy the documents or the legal help they need. Imagine how long that could take at $1 a day! Do you care that families have no idea where their beloveds are, or if they are alive or dead? Do you care that they are kept in ICE centers which, in some instances, resemble the infamous concentration camps where US citizens of Asian descent were detained during WW2?
Did we learn nothing since then? During WWII US citizens were presumed to be the enemy because of their race. Their property was seized, and much of it lost forever. I personally once knew a couple who lost their home and a landscaping business during that period. During the Great Depression, Mexican immigrants bore the brunt of anti-immigrant hysteria. Not relevant today, you say? Today, America "only detains undocumented workers," you say? Read on.
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