Category Archives: Opinions

Hallelujah! by Paul Begala

Posted by: BuellBoy

Op-ed by Paul Begala

Democratic Strategist, Paul Begala

HP~I have been working for Democratic and progressive causes for 29 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder than today. When David Obey swung that gavel — the same gavel used to hammer home Medicare — and struck it on that historic rostrum, it made a joyful noise unto the Lord. And I for one said Hallelujah.

There is no doubt the sweeping changes enacted today will create unforeseen problems — that is the nature of reform. The one law Congress can never overturn is the Law of Unintended Consequences. But that’s why our Founders challenged us to “form a more perfect Union,” because true perfection is not possible this side of heaven. Instead, we work to improve, to make progress, to renew.

The merits of the health care law have been debated ad nauseum. I will not revisit them here. Rather, I want to take a moment to salute the raw courage of the women and men who made this possible.

Primus inter pares must be Nancy Pelosi. The House Speaker, so vilified by the right, so caricatured by the press, has etched her name in marble. She has accomplished what no other Speaker could — not Uncle Joe Cannon, not Mister Sam Rayburn, not Tip or Newt nor any of her predecessors. Health care reform was dead after Scott Brown’s remarkable Senate victory in Massachusetts. But Speaker Pelosi would not let it die. The greatest single reason this bill will become law is because of the sheer force of will, the remarkable political skill, and the legislative mastery of Nancy Pelosi. If there were a Mt. Rushmore for House Speakers, her pleasant grin and steely eyes would be on it.

Harry Reid, too, worked wonders. In order to overcome a Republican filibuster, Reid had to bat 1.000 — corral all 58 Senate Democrats and two Independents. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott called the job “herding cats.” Harry Reid, through quiet consultation, respectful negotiation and rare grit pulled off a Christmas miracle, mustering 60 votes for health care reform on Christmas Eve.

Pelosi and Reid did all this in the teeth of naysayers and cheap-shot artists who were counseling caution and urging capitulation.

The so-called “Dean” of the Washington press corps, David Broder, told Politico that Reid was not in the same class as revered leaders like Mike Mansfield. “Maybe I have an idealized view of what a Senate leader ought to be,” he said. “But I’ve seen the Senate when a leader could lift it to those heights…I wish it had that kind of leadership now.”

In a sense, Broder’s right. In 1968, Mansfield presided over a majority of 68 Democrats — 68. And Senate Republicans included such giants of bipartisanship as Everett McKinley Dirksen, who played a crucial role in passing the Civil Rights Act. And yet even Mansfield could not pass universal health care. With just 58 senators of his party, Reid did what Mansfield could not do with 68 — and he did it with a GOP dominated by implacable obstructionists who have used the filibuster more in two years than the GOP of Mansfield era did in decades.

To be sure, this is an enormous, historic victory for Pres. Obama. He refused to trim his sails, refused to cut and run, refused to cave in to the timid souls of the commentariat and the hatemongers of the kook right. His cool courage, his dogged determination, his fearless focus are now the stuff of history.

One cannot see this history unfold and not think of those who paved the way. John Dingell, the valiant congressman from Michigan, has been fighting for national health care for 54 years — and his father before him sponsored national health care legislation in 1935. Speaker Pelosi and her Democrats stand tall today because they stand on the shoulders of Dingell and other giants.

In the Senate, Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats stand on the shoulders of Ted Kennedy. Teddy fought for national health care when Reagan was saying government would screw up a one-car parade. His energy, passion and compassion inspired several generations of Democrats.

And, of course, my old boss Bill Clinton. He was 50 minutes late for the Gridiron Dinner the night before the historic vote. For his tardiness he was privately and bitterly excoriated by a very famous journalist, but this time Clinton was necessarily detained: President Obama had him on the phone, asking for help on a last list of wavering Democrats. Clinton, of course, was happy to help. He, too, shed blood and political capital in the cause of health care reform. He confidently told the media elite: “I am proud to stick up for this President and his Administration. Let me tell you something: they are going to pass health care reform, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe not in my lifetime or Dick Cheney’s, but, hopefully, by Easter.” Pres. Obama, too, stands on the shoulders of Clinton, two Roosevelts, Truman and Carter, Kennedy and Johnson.

But amidst all this history there is still politics. Let’s be realistic: Both history and the economy dictate Democratic losses in November. But passing health care will, I am sure, help mitigate the losses. First because the bill does real good for real people right away: a $500 down payment on the Donut Hole for seniors’ medication, the right to carry your adult children on your health insurance until they turn 27, an end to annual caps and lifetime limits, an end to rescissions, a high-risk pool for those too young for Medicare and too middle-class for Medicaid. Second, the only way to disprove the false charges from the Republicans is to actually live under the new law. There will be no death panels. There is no government takeover.

The vast majority of Americans will continue to have the health care they like — but the biggest difference is the insurance company will no longer be able to cancel it as they can now. Failure on health care would have depressed the Democratic vote and disgusted independents, who would have concluded Democrats can’t run the government.

Let the Republicans campaign on repealing this. Why not campaign on repealing Medicare, too? They called that socialized medicine. Why aren’t Scott Brown or Mitt Romney calling for repeal of the Massachusetts health care law (upon which this bill is based)?

Nothing succeeds like success. Or, as George S. Patton said to the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army in 1944: “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Today the Republicans are losers, and the Democrats — and every American who worries about getting sick and getting dumped by their insurance company — are the winners.

Paul Begala is a political commentator providing insight “from the left” on CNN’s programs including Inside Politics.

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The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged by Frank Rich

Op-ed by Frank Rich

Frank Rich

Frank Rich/The New York Times

New York Times/Frank Rich~~No one knows what history will make of the present — least of all journalists, who can at best write history’s sloppy first draft. But if I were to place an incautious bet on which political event will prove the most significant of February 2010, I wouldn’t choose the kabuki health care summit that generated all the ink and 24/7 cable chatter in Washington. I’d put my money instead on the murder-suicide of Andrew Joseph Stack III, the tax protester who flew a plane into an office building housing Internal Revenue Service employees in Austin, Tex., on Feb. 18. It was a flare with the dark afterlife of an omen.

What made that kamikaze mission eventful was less the deranged act itself than the curious reaction of politicians on the right who gave it a pass — or, worse, flirted with condoning it. Stack was a lone madman, and it would be both glib and inaccurate to call him a card-carrying Tea Partier or a “Tea Party terrorist.” But he did leave behind a manifesto whose frothing anti-government, anti-tax rage overlaps with some of those marching under the Tea Party banner. That rant inspired like-minded Americans to create instant Facebook shrines to his martyrdom. Soon enough, some cowed politicians, including the newly minted Tea Party hero Scott Brown, were publicly empathizing with Stack’s credo — rather than risk crossing the most unforgiving brigade in their base.

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, even rationalized Stack’s crime. “It’s sad the incident in Texas happened,” he said, “but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary. And when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the I.R.S., it’s going to be a happy day for America.” No one in King’s caucus condemned these remarks. Then again, what King euphemized as “the incident” took out just 1 of the 200 workers in the Austin building: Vernon Hunter, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran nearing his I.R.S. retirement. Had Stack the devastating weaponry and timing to match the death toll of 168 inflicted by Timothy McVeigh on a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995, maybe a few of the congressman’s peers would have cried foul.

It is not glib or inaccurate to invoke Oklahoma City in this context, because the acrid stench of 1995 is back in the air. Two days before Stack’s suicide mission, The Times published David Barstow’s chilling, months-long investigation of the Tea Party movement. Anyone who was cognizant during the McVeigh firestorm would recognize the old warning signs re-emerging from the mists of history. The Patriot movement. “The New World Order,” with its shadowy conspiracies hatched by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Sandpoint, Idaho. White supremacists. Militias.

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President Clueless? Not so fast…

Posted by: Betsm

Reports claim Obama kisses up to the bankers in an interview. Critics on the left erupt! Here’s why they shouldn’t

President Barack ObamaPretty clever, those Bloomberg folks! First they buy BusinessWeek. Then BusinessWeek gets an interview with President Obama. Then, one day before the interview is to run, Bloomberg scoops its sister publication by excerpting a couple of choice nuggets suggesting Obama is cuddling up to the banks.

President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay…

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”

Unsurprisingly, two of Obama’s harshest critics on banking policy — from the left — immediately went ballistic. Simon Johnson called it “a major public relations disaster” and Paul Krugman, in a post titled “Clueless,” said “you would think that Obama would understand the importance of acknowledging public anger over what’s happening” and declared that “we are doomed.”

Hmm. Maybe we should read the entire interview before rending our hair and screaming doom and disaster? If there’s one thing we know about the president, it’s that he is pretty good with nuance and capable of making complex, multifaceted arguments. His performance during his meeting with the House GOP two weeks ago should provide all the evidence we need for that.

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Read the entire article by Andrew Leonard @ Salon

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Shake-up at MSNBC: New Changes to Daytime Line-up

Posted by: Audiegrl

TVNewser reports that MSNBC is streamlining its daytime schedule and doing away with the themed hours focused on the economy and politics. It’s a back-to-basics approach for the network’s daytime news hours which slipped to fifth place in December, behind FNC, CNN, HLN and CNBC between 9am-4pm.

Effective Monday the new daytime line-up is:

  • Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski ~ “Morning Joe” at 6-9amET
  • Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie ~ “The Daily Rundown” at 9amET
  • David Shuster at 10amET
  • Tamron Hall at 11amET
  • Contessa Brewer at 12Noon
  • Andrea Mitchell ~ “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at 1pmET
  • Tamron Hall at 2pmET
  • David Shuster at 3pmET
  • Dylan Ratigan ~ “The Dylan Ratigan Show” at 4pmET

In a late December shake-up, Ratigan’s morning show was cut in half and moved to a afternoon slot, along with the cancellation of Dr. Nancy Snynderman’s “Dr. Nancy” show.

The network’s themed shows “It’s the Economy” which had been co-anchored by CNBC’s Melissa Francis and Brewer and Friday’s “New York Times Edition” which had been co-anchored by NBC’s Norah O’Donnell and CNBC’s John Harwood have both been canceled.

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The Death of U.S. Political Democracy For The People

Posted by: LibbyShaw

Will the Senator from Wal-Mart please yield to the Senator from Halliburton? The Congressman from Black Water has 5 minutes remaining before the Congresswoman from United Health may speak.

Mark your calendars, folks. January 21, 2010 is the day the radical and activist Supreme Court of the United States delivered the U.S. Democracy into the hands of the corporate sector and special interests groups. According to an article in the New York Times corporations, lobbyists and unions can now legally purchase their candidates of choice.

“We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you – whichever one you want,’ ” a lobbyist can tell lawmakers, said Lawrence M. Noble, a lawyer at Skadden Arps in Washington and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.

The decision yesterday will usher in unimaginable numbers of Swift Boat attack ads. Corporate fat cats can now threaten and bully politicians to do their bidding or else.

“It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.”

“Parties will sort of shrink in the relative importance of things,” he added, “and outside groups will take over more of the functions – advertising support, get out the vote – that parties do now.”

Front row: Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Antonin G. Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Back row: Associate Justices Samuel A. Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Some have called the SOTUS decision a power grab that is intellectually dishonest.

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power-grab part. I agree with them. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts had not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.

“If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more,” a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John G. Roberts — back when — and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.

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Republicans naturally and predictably love this recent ruling. But of course they would. Republicans embrace and fully support authoritarian forms of government. And the sad truth of the matter is the GOP has always worked for the corporate sector.

It is devastatingly unfortunate that Republican voters have never been able to understand the hard, cold and mean reality of those they elect into office. Politicians take an oath to serve the people in their districts but many merely give their constituents nothing but empty rhetoric. If one were to closely examine one’s Republican lawmakers’ voting records one would find who their elected officials really work for.

My guess is the teabaggers will wraps it head around the reality of the SCOTUS decision like we progressives have, for the only one imperative we do share in common is a collective outrage over the corporate takeover of the U.S. government and its legislative process by special interest groups and corporations.

But unfortunately teabaggers, unlike progressives, are far too easily led astray by the likes of Dick Armey, one of the numerous behind the scenes leaders of the teabagger movement. Armey’s main mission is to promote the interests of the health care industry. He and his organization, Freedom Works, uses teabaggers as its tools.

Republicans and teabaggers alike have been led to believe that the government is the root of everything evil while progressives know that government is the only force that can and will protect us from the evils of self-serving greed mongers of the corporate sector.

We are where we are today b/c the corporate sector has been enabled to run rough shod over the American people. We are broke. There are no jobs. We lost homes. We lost retirement savings. Meanwhile on Wall St. the fat cats who can now purchase politicians get richer by the minute.

Elections have consequences. The nice guy or girl candidate with whom to have a beer could very well be an anti-political democracy devil in disguise who has every intention of throwing the middle and working classes to the lions.

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Oh, and Prince Alwaleed, grandson of the King of Saudi Arabia and the largest individual shareholder in Citigroup and second biggest shareholder in News Corp (Murdock’s FOX “News”) doesn’t like Obama’s tax on the banks.

Who would have thought?

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Cancer Treatment and Health Care Reform

Blogged by: BarbaraOBrien1

One argument you may hear against health care reform concerns cancer survival rates. The United States has higher cancer survivor rates than countries with national health care systems, we’re told. Doesn’t this mean we should keep what we’ve got and not change it?

Certainly cancer survival rates are a critical issue for people suffering from the deadly lung mesothelioma cancer. So let’s look at this claim and see if there is any substance to it.

First, it’s important to understand that “cancer survival rate” doesn’t mean the rate of people who are cured of a cancer. The cancer survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time, usually five years after diagnosis.

For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, the survivor rate of prostate cancer in the United States is 98 percent. This means that 98 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later. However, this statistic does not tell us whether the men who have survived for five years still have cancer or what number of them may die from it eventually.

Misunderstanding of the term “survivor rate” sometimes is exploited to make misleading claims. For example, in 2007 a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug used to treat colon cancer released statistics showing superior survival rates for its drug over other treatments. Some journalists who used this data in their reporting assumed it meant that the people who survived were cured of cancer, and they wrote that the drug “saved lives.” The drug did extend the lives of of patients, on average by a few months. However, the mortality rate for people who used this drug — meaning the rate of patients who died of the disease — was not improved.

But bloggers and editorial writers who oppose health care reform seized these stories about “saving lives,” noting that this wondrous drug was available in the United States for at least a year before it was in use in Great Britain. Further, Britain has lower cancer survival rates than the U.S. This proved, they said, the superiority of U.S. health care over “socialist” countries.

This is one way propagandists use data to argue that health care in the United States is superior to countries with government-funded health care systems. They selectively compare the most favorable data from the United States with data from the nations least successful at treating cancer. A favorite “comparison” country is Great Britain, whose underfunded National Health Service is struggling.

It is true that the United States compares very well in the area of cancer survival rates, but other countries with national health care systems have similar results.

For example, in 2008 the British medical journal Lancet Oncology published a widely hailed study comparing cancer survival rates in 31 countries. Called the CONCORD study, the researchers found that United States has the highest survival rates for breast and prostate cancer. However, Japan has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in men, and France has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in women. Canada and Australia also ranked relatively high for most cancers. The differences in the survival data for these “best” countries is very small, and is possibly caused by discrepancies in reporting of data and not the treatment result itself.

And it should be noted that Japan, France, Canada and Australia all have government-funded national health care systems. So, there is no reason to assume that changing the way health care is funded in the U.S. would reduce the quality of cancer care.

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Republicans Delivered the Worst Decade in Modern U.S. History

posted by: LibbyShaw

Republicans ruled for 80% of the last decade, 60% of which Republicans were in total control

At least when W. ran his companies into the ground Daddy’s friends would step up and bail junior out. But Daddy’s buddies are nowhere to be found now that W. and his GOP drove the country straight to hell. Tragically for the American taxpayers, we, our children, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to clean up the squalor. It will take generations to undo the GOP’s financial carnage.

A recent article published in the Washington Post reveals that the American worker lost big time during the past decade.

This news should come as no surprise to any hard working middle class American. We have been living the pain for 10 long years.

The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times, a sharp reversal from a long period of prosperity that is leading economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation’s growth.

It was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for American workers. The decade began in a moment of triumphalism — there was a current of thought among economists in 1999 that recessions were a thing of the past. By the end, there were two, bookends to a debt-driven expansion that was neither robust nor sustainable.

The Washington Post also reveals that there has been zero net job creation since December 1999. Conditions have not been this grim for decades. Essentially, the American worker has not had a raise in a very long time.

Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 — and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.

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As we well know, our home values have declined as have our retirement and savings accounts.

What happened?

Economists attribute the decline to economic stagnation, an out of control housing bubble, too much risk and too much debt. Money was invested in mini mansions instead of business investments that would have created jobs and economic growth.

The housing bubble both caused, and was enabled by, a boom in indebtedness. Total household debt rose 117 percent from 1999 to its peak in early 2008, according to Federal Reserve data, as Americans borrowed to buy ever more expensive homes and to support consumption more generally.

An experiment called an unbridled free market economy ended very badly for we the people.

The first decade of the new century was an experiment in what happens when an economy comes to rely heavily on borrowed money.

A big part of what happened this decade was that people engaged in excessively risky behavior without realizing the risks associated,” said Karen Dynan, co-director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution. “It’s true not just among consumers but among regulators, financial institutions, lenders, everyone.”

The experiment has ended badly. While the stock market bubble that popped in 2000 caused only a mild recession, the housing and credit bubble has had a much greater punch — driving the unemployment rate to a high, so far, of 10.2 percent, compared with a peak of 6.3 percent following the last such downturn.

In short, the big banks, enabled by Republican free market ideology, gambled with our money and they lost it. And they lost it big time. As we know we the taxpayer had to step up and bail out the banks so there would not be a complete and thoroughly devastating global economic melt down.

The G.W. Bush era was one in which the GOP rewarded every one of its fat cat sugar daddies, including Halliburton with its no bid contracts for a ginned up war called Iraq.

We the people are dearly paying the price for the Bush era’s unforgivable mistakes.

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I am with Dylan Ratigan on this one. The banks should pay the taxpayers back with interest. Why on earth did Hank Paulson give away our money with no strings attached? What was he thinking?

So next time we hear about the virtues of an unbridled free market economy we need to say no way in hell. Any politician who embraces this voodoo notion of economic devastation should be run out of office on a rail for they are unfit to serve the people.

Speaking of unfitness to serve, why is that Republicans have to blame their short comings on others? Why can’t Republicans ever step up and take responsibility for their mistakes?

Republicans are obviously inept at running the economy and they are also incompetent at keeping our nation safe whether from terrorist attacks or national disasters like Hurricane Katrina. It seems that the only thing Republicans are good at is playing the blame game.

A coordinated, successful attack, with sufficient warning, carried out by 19 terrorists, killing 2,973 people, on the 234th day of an administration… that’s completely and totally and absolutely and so gosh-durn’t the fault of the previous President… who happened to be a Democrat.

HOWEVER, an unsuccessful attack, attempted by 1 terrorist, killing absolutely no one on the 339th day of an administration… that’s completely and totally and absolutely and so gosh-durn’t the fault of the current President… who happens to be a Democrat.

SIMILARLY, a complete and total meltdown of the financial system, including a stock market collapse and levels of bankruptcy/foreclosure not seen since the Great Depression on, or around, the 2415th day of an administration… that’s completely and totally and absolutely and so gosh-durn’t the fault of the previous President (and Congress)… who created Acorn, and just happened to be Democrats.

BUT, 10% unemployment and lackluster job growth on the 215th day of an administration… that’s completely and totally and absolutely and so gosh-durn’t the fault of the current President (and Congress)… who want to institute socialism (in the form of Acorn) and happen to be Democrats.

NOW, making a statement from your “brush farm” 144 hours after a dude with bad facial hair is prevented from blowing up an airplane… that’s fighting some serious war on the baddies.

AND YET, making a statement from the beach 72 hours after a dude with bad genital burns is prevented from blowing up an airplane… that’s “pretending the war on terror doesn’t exist“.

If folks really have a desire to destroy what is left of their financial security, go ahead and continue to vote for Republicans. Hopefully most of us won’t have this death wish in November.

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The Moment Ted Kennedy Would Not Want To Lose by Victoria Reggie Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy and Victoria Reggie KennedyWashington Post—My late husband, Ted Kennedy, was passionate about health-care reform. It was the cause of his life. He believed that health care for all our citizens was a fundamental right, not a privilege, and that this year the stars — and competing interests — were finally aligned to allow our nation to move forward with fundamental reform. He believed that health-care reform was essential to the financial stability of our nation’s working families and of our economy as a whole.

Still, Ted knew that accomplishing reform would be difficult. If it were easy, he told me, it would have been done a long time ago. He predicted that as the Senate got closer to a vote, compromises would be necessary, coalitions would falter and many ardent supporters of reform would want to walk away. He hoped that they wouldn’t do so. He knew from experience, he told me, that this kind of opportunity to enact health-care reform wouldn’t arise again for a generation.

A supporter of health-care legislation holds a portrait of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at a Times Square rally shortly after Kennedy's funeral.

A supporter of health-care legislation holds a portrait of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at a Times Square rally shortly after Kennedy's funeral.

In the early 1970s, Ted worked with the Nixon administration to find consensus on health-care reform. Those efforts broke down in part because the compromise wasn’t ideologically pure enough for some constituency groups. More than 20 years passed before there was another real opportunity for reform, years during which human suffering only increased. Even with the committed leadership of then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, reform was thwarted in the 1990s. As Ted wrote in his memoir, he was deeply disappointed that the Clinton health-care bill did not come to a vote in the full Senate. He believed that senators should have gone on the record, up or down.

Ted often said that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He also said that it was better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all, especially with so many lives at stake. That’s why, even as he never stopped fighting for comprehensive health-care reform, he also championed incremental but effective reforms such as a Patients’ Bill of Rights, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and COBRA continuation of health coverage.

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Thrown Under the Bus Again: The GOP Made a Pact with the Devil

Posted by LibbyShaw

The Republican Party threw the American people under a high speed train fast tracked straight to hell.

Again.

Predictably Republicans made a pact with yet another devil. This time the GOP sold its and our souls, too, to the hottest and most irresponsible devil in hell.

Let me introduce the banking devil for whom we emptied our U.S. Treasury in an extraordinary effort to save the American economy.

Tragically the Bush Administration and its rubber stamping Republicans in Congress failed to set up any rules, enforcement mechanisms, proposals for accountability, transparency or pay back benchmarks before it allowed the devil to empty our national piggy bank. Sure, guys, just back up your 18 wheeler big mother trucks to the U.S. Treasury and we will help y’all load the bags of taxpayer cash.

Clearly the GOP is totally on board with the banker devil run lawless casinos on Wall St. The devil is gambling with our money that includes our savings accounts, investment portfolios, retirement savings and bail out taxpayer dollars. The GOP also gave its blessing to a continuation of the banks extensive abusive consumer practices. Usury level interests rates and fees anyone? Worse, the GOP obviously does not have a problem with the obscene Wall St. bonuses, earned on the backs of our savings accounts, portfolio investments, not to mention again, the sucker U.S. taxpayer bucks, thank you.

I guess the sold-out Republicans are also supportive of the banks refusal to lend money to small businesses and consumers because it is more profitable for banks to gamble with our money instead.

Hell, at least we know for certain that the Republicans are completely on board with obstructing our nation’s economic recovery. If small businesses cannot get jump started with an influx of cash, it cannot do business. It cannot meet its inventory needs nor can it make payroll. If mortgages cannot be re-negotiated, bankrupted homeowners cannot hold on to their homes. Consumers cannot purchase new homes or cars if we cannot borrow money, either. Nor can we improve or make substantial repairs to our homes if the banks won’t lend home equity funding.

Republicans don’t care. They simply do not care about the people.

Yesterday Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) informed the Huffington Post that the GOP signed a political pact with the banks to kill off regulatory reform measures.

The allegation of a quid pro quo was based on an email that Durbin received last spring after his amendment to allow judges to modify mortgages for homeowners who enter bankruptcy was defeated on the Senate floor. During a discussion to promote publicly-financed elections on Friday, the Illinois Democrat relayed that, shortly after the defeat of his “cram-down” amendment, a “banker friend” forwarded him the note from Tanya Wheeless, president & CEO of Arizona Bankers Association.

I have contacted the market presidents for each of the three banks (Chase, Wells and Bank of America) and explained that in my humble opinion it’s a big mistake to cut a deal with Durbin and alienate our (in Arizona) Senator,” Wheeless’s email reads. “I also told them that I thought this would drive a wedge in our industry. [Senator Jon] Kyl has pointedly told them not to make a deal with Durbin and then come looking to Republicans when they need help on something like regulatory restructuring or systemic risk regulation.”

Repeat:

…Come looking to Republicans when they need help on something like regulatory restructuring or systemic risk regulation.

The smoking gun email is included in the link above.

According to Senator Durbin:

The email, he added, “is a total smoking gun as far as I’m concerned. It tells the whole story and it is in writing as to what is happening behind the scenes… So when people say I don’t know if we should have public financing because that is my tax dollars, I can tell them that their resources, whether tax dollars or personal wealth, are being impacted every day by decisions being made by the special interest groups.”

Special interest groups obviously own most if not all of the GOP and 12 lousy Democrats. Earth to Democrats, having a D behind your name means you are supposed to vote as a Democrat, not as a pimped out Republican, sell-out Republican lite or an anti-democracy, reactionary teabagger. Nor are you supposed to cave into to the greed infested fat cats.

Fortunately, Senate Democrats have not given up. New cram down legislation is likely making a come back.

An amendment allowing judges to modify mortgages on primary residences for homeowners in bankruptcy will finally find a home as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173).
The amendment, which is being offered by Representatives Conyers (D, MI), Turner (R, OH), Lofgren (D, CA), Marshall (D, GA), Cohen (D, TN), Miller (D, NC), Nadler (D, NY), Delahunt (D, MA) and Waters (D, CA), is potentially the best news homeowners and our economy have had in quite some time.

The amendment is essentially the same as H.R. 1106, a bill passed by the House on March 5, 2009, by a vote of 234-191, but subsequently defeated in the Senate by a vote of 51-45. The measure needed 60 votes to pass over Republican objections, and 12 Democrats succumbed to pressure from the banking lobby and voted nay.

Check out Senator Durbin’s searing indictment of bankers on the Senate floor:

One other argument that I think takes the cake: “Senator, you understand the moral hazard here. People have to be held responsible for their wrongdoing. If you make a mistake, darn it, you’ve gotta pay the price. That’s what America is all about.” Really, Mr. Banker on Wall Street? That’s what America is all about? What price did Wall Street pay for their miserable decisions creating rotten portfolios, destroying the credit of America and its businesses? Oh, they paid a pretty heavy price. Hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money sent to them to bail them out, to put them back in business, even to fund executive bonuses for those guilty of mismanaging. Moral hazard, huh? How can they argue that with a straight face? […]

We want America to be strong, but if it’s going to be strong, you should be respectful, Mr. Banker, of the people who live in the communities where your banks are located. You should be respectful of those families who are doing their best to make ends meet in the toughest recession that they’ve ever seen. You should be respectful of the people that you want to sign up for checking accounts and savings accounts, and make sure that they have decent neighborhoods to live in. Show a little loyalty to this great nation instead of just your bottom line when it comes to profitability. Take a little consideration of what it takes to make America strong…

I’ll offer this Durbin amendment as I did last year. When I offered it last year, they said, “Not a big problem, only two million foreclosures coming up.” They were wrong. It turned out to be eight million. And if the bankers prevail today, and we can’t get something through conference committee to deal with this issue, I’ll be back. I’m not going to quit on this […] At some point, the Senators in this chamber will decide, the bankers shouldn’t write the agenda in the United States Senate.

Bankers and their enabling Republican lawmakers are oblivious to the notion of moral hazard. Since the Reagan Administration, the Republican Party has been on a crusade to insulate the banks and the corporate sector from its own risk taking. Those big government loathing, tax paying hater Republicans stuck the entire fat cat enabling mess on the backs of the American people.

At least the folks in Illinois can count on their lawmakers like Dick Durbin to step up. Unfortunately for those of us in Texas, however, we have no such luck.

We are tragically saddled with cartoon like characters and carnival barkers. The three below are just a few examples.

Senator Cornyn claims in one sentence that Senate Democrats want to kill private health insurance companies. In the next he says Senate Democrats intend to hand over $450. billion to to private insurance companies. Talk about double speak and stupid talk.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Senator Hutchison tells serial lies about health care reform and uses the usual GOP scare tactics. Ohmigod! Health care reform would be disastrous for the American people. Not. What we have now is horribly disastrous for 47 million uninsured Americans.

And then there is this.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet our distinguished governor.

The Party of No says no to everything that would help the people whether it is with extending unemployment benefits, banking regulation and fairness practices, jobs, health care reform and the economy. Today,in his speech at the Brookings Institute, President Obama told us precisely where Republicans stand on everything.

Hat tips to Jed Lewison over at Daily Kos for providing the video clip of President Obama’s talk below.

It is about time, Mr. President. Your words are long overdue.

In a sober tone, President Obama portrayed the Republican Party as opportunistic, obstructionist, and deeply hypocritical, accusing them of both having created the economic crisis we face today and having done nothing to help solve it. He also slammed their hypocritical attacks on government spending, reminding them that they are the ones who created the deficit, and that the recovery act represents just a small portion of it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Texas, more than a few really rather drop dead and serious kick ass changes are long overdue.

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It’s a Helluva State by Cynthia Nixon

Op-ed by Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon and her girlfriend, Christine Marinoni

HP/Cynthia Nixon—My girlfriend and I want to get married. Only thing is: it’s not legal in NY State, where we live. So we started doing everything we could think of to reverse that. Including going up to Albany this past spring with two of our politico friends to speak to some Senators — Democratic and Republican — who were on the fence on the issue.

Wednesday’s No vote on same sex marriage was supremely disappointing on a personal as well as a political level. Guess Christine and I can kiss that Waldorf Astoria wedding… Brooklyn Botanical Gardens wedding… Montauk Beach wedding — you fill in the blank — goodbye. But we have two things today we didn’t have yesterday.

The first thing we have is clarity about who’s with us and who’s against us. And we’ll remember those yays and nays for next November and for Novembers to come. And there will be consequences.

The second thing is a new ally. Her name is Ruth Hassell-Thompson. She is a Senator from the Bronx and Mt Vernon and she is fierce.

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester)

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-NY)

Our gang of four met with her last spring and she explained to us in depth, over a long and respectful meeting why she thought she was going to vote no on gay marriage. Senator Hassell-Thompson is deeply religious. She felt strongly that marriage always has been and always should be the union between a man and a woman.

But she is a careful, thoughtful person and you could see her weighing the issue again and again in her mind. And in her considering she stumbled across something in her personal experience that began to change her perspective.

She spoke about how her mother had been a deacon in their church at a time when previously only men had been deacons. And how controversial that had been. And how vehemently many people opposed her mother’s appointment. And how none of those opposed could give any explanation for why her mother becoming a deacon was wrong, just that it was. Because it was new. Because it was shocking. Because it was an idea that took people a little time to get used to.

On Wednesday Ruth Hassell-Thompson voted yes.

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