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President Obama Weekly Address: Compromise (Feb. 7. 2009)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The White House
Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yesterday began with some devastating news with regard to our economic crisis. But I'm pleased to say it ended on a more positive note.

In the morning, we received yet another round of alarming employment figures – the worst in more than 30 years. Another 600,000 jobs were lost in January. We've now lost more than 3.6 million jobs since this recession began.

But by the evening, Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands.

In the midst of our greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people were hoping that Congress would begin to confront the great challenges we face. That was, after all, what last November's election was all about.

Legislation of such magnitude deserves the scrutiny that it's received over the last month, and it will receive more in the days to come. But we can't afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary. The scale and scope of this plan is right. And the time for action is now.

Because if we don't move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe. Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes, and their health care. Millions more will have to put their dreams on hold.

Let's be clear: We can't expect relief from the tired old theories that, in eight short years, doubled the national debt, threw our economy into a tailspin, and led us into this mess in the first place. We can't rely on a losing formula that offers only tax cuts as the answer to all our problems while ignoring our fundamental economic challenges – the crushing cost of health care or the inadequate state of so many schools; our addiction to foreign oil or our crumbling roads, bridges, and levees.

The American people know that our challenges are great. They don't expect Democratic solutions or Republican solutions – they expect American solutions.

From the beginning, this recovery plan has had at its core a simple idea: Let's put Americans to work doing the work America needs done. It will save or create more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, all across the country – 16,000 in Maine, nearly 80,000 in Indiana – almost all of them in the private sector, and all of them jobs that help us recover today, and prosper tomorrow.

Jobs that upgrade classrooms and laboratories in 10,000 schools nationwide – at least 485 in Florida alone – and train an army of teachers in math and science.

Jobs that modernize our health care system, not only saving us billions of dollars, but countless lives.

Jobs that construct a smart electric grid, connect every corner of the country to the information superhighway, double our capacity to generate renewable energy, and grow the economy of tomorrow.

Jobs that rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and levees and dams, so that the tragedies of New Orleans and Minneapolis never happen again.

It includes immediate tax relief for our struggling middle class in places like Ohio, where 4.5 million workers will receive a tax cut of up to $1,000. It protects health insurance and provides unemployment insurance for those who've lost their jobs. And it helps our states and communities avoid painful tax hikes or layoffs for our teachers, nurses, and first responders.

That's what is at stake with this plan: putting Americans back to work, creating transformative economic change, and making a down payment on the American Dream that serves our children and our children's children for generations to come.

Americans across this country are struggling, and they are watching to see if we're equal to the task before us. Let's show them that we are. And let's do whatever it takes to keep the promise of America alive in our time.

Thank you.


AP CEO Urges Better Press Access to Military Ops

By John Hanna
Associated Press via Truthout

Lawrence, Kansas - The Bush administration turned the U.S. military into a global propaganda machine while imposing tough restrictions on journalists seeking to give the public truthful reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Associated Press chief executive Tom Curley said Friday.

Curley, speaking to journalists at the University of Kansas, said the news industry must immediately negotiate a new set of rules for covering war because "we are the only force out there to keep the government in check and to hold it accountable."

Much like in Vietnam, "civilian policymakers and soldiers alike have cracked down on independent reporting from the battlefield" when the news has been unflattering, Curley said. "Top commanders have told me that if I stood and the AP stood by its journalistic principles, the AP and I would be ruined."

Curley said in a brief interview that he didn't take the commanders' words as a threat but as "an expression of anger." Late in 2007, Curley wrote an editorial about the detention of AP photographer Bilal Hussein, held by the military for more than two years.

Eleven of AP's journalists have been detained in Iraq for more than 24 hours since 2003. Last year, according to cases AP is tracking, news organizations had eight employees detained for more than 48 hours.

AP, the world's largest newsgathering operation, is a not-for-profit cooperative that began in 1846 to communicate news from the Mexican War. Curley has been the company's president and CEO since 2003....(Click for remainder).


President Obama Slams Republican Obstructionists

Part 1

Part 2


Defense Dept. Claims of Gitmo Prisoners Returning to Battlefield Debunked

By William Fisher
The Public Record

A prominent law professor is charging that the Defense Department is issuing questionable data on the number of Guantanamo detainees who have been released “and then returned to the battlefield” because the government “is now in a position where they have to find some bad guys -- even if they have to invent them by naming people who were never there.”

Their ultimate aim, Professor Mark Denbeaux of the Seton Hall University law school told us, “is to foment fear among American voters and limit the freedom of the Obama Administration to release any of the detainees still imprisoned."

Denbeaux heads the law school’s Center for Policy and Research. The Center has issued a report which it says “rebuts and debunks” the most recent claim by the Department of Defense (DOD) that 61 “former Guantánamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight.”

The report is one of a series produced by the Center’s faculty and law students. Professor Denbeaux says the Center has determined that “DOD has issued 'recidivism' numbers 43 times, and each time they have been wrong --this last time the most egregiously so.”

He told us, “Once again, they’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, the DOD has been forced to retract their false IDs and their numbers. They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantánamo—much less were they released from there.”

He added, “They have counted people as 'returning to the fight' for their having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for their having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. The DOD has revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning -- except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men.”...(Click for remainder).


No, Seriously: Republicans Don't Get It

By Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Via Huffington Post

With this latest attempt to strip bike finding from the recovery bill, Republicans have once again demonstrated how out of touch they are with their pathologically short-sighted attacks on bicycles. To their detriment, they are continuing their trend from last Congress of using the most economical, energy-efficient, and healthy forms of transportation as their whipping post. Investment in bike paths will not only improve our economy, and take our country in the right direction for the future; it is exactly the kind of investment the American people want.

Moreover, bicycle and pedestrian paths are precisely the kind of infrastructure projects our country needs. These projects tend to the most "shovel-ready" and are more labor-intensive than other projects-- therefore putting more people to work per dollar spent.

We might have understood these attacks a decade ago, but today they ignore the explosion of bicycling in this country in recent years that has been nothing short of phenomenal. There are tens of millions of American cyclists and even more who want their children to be able to bike and walk to school safely and therefore support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects.

American families have indicated time and again in the passage of bond measures across the country that they favor spending on alternative transportation, such as bicycles and mass transit, over spending on mere highway capacity. Americans want real solutions to the economic crisis, not just a band-aid fix. These investments will stimulate our economy now - when it counts and point our nation toward the economic and environmental realities of the future.

Recent transportation surveys indicate that 52% of Americans want to bike more than they do now - but don't, because of the lack of safe and connected bicycle facilities....(Click for remainder).


Right-Wing Establishment Embraces Discredited 1930s-Vintage Economic Doctrines

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress

One line of argument you’re seeing with alarming frequency from the right these days is a modern-day version of the “Treasury View” from the 1930s. Here, for example, is Heritage’s Brian Riedl explaining things to National Review’s David Freddoso:
The grand Keynesian myth is that you can spend money and thereby increase demand. And it’s a myth because Congress does not have a vault of money to distribute in the economy. Every dollar Congress injects into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. You’re not creating new demand, you’re just transferring it from one group of people to another. If Washington borrows the money from domestic lenders, then investment spending falls, dollar for dollar. If they borrow the money from foreigners, say from China, then net exports drop dollar for dollar, because the balance of payments must adjust. Therefore, again, there is no net increase in aggregate demand.
If you think about it for a bit, you’ll see that this is an argument that proves too much. Conservatives like the conclusion that having the federal government engage in deficit spending can’t improve economic performance, irrespective of the circumstances. But the same reasoning would also support the conclusion that a tax cut stimulus can’t work, which is less congenial. And it gets worse. The same logic also leads to the conclusion that monetary policy can’t boost the economy. Sure, you could lower interest rates thus encouraging firms to take advantage of cheap money to engaging in some debt-financed investment but since those companies don’t “have a vault of money to distribute in the economy” they won’t be creating new aggregate economic activity, they’re “just transferring it from one group of people to another.”...(Click for remainder).


What the Senate's cut: Funds for states and schools

Can I just say that Senators Nelson and Collins should be ashamed of themselves. Their action are not the actions of a law maker who cares about the future of the nation, but rather the actions of a traitor.

By McClatchy Newspapers

Here're the cuts, according to Sen. Leahy's office. Based on this list, the governors who've been the strongest supporters of the stimulus bill, because it offered them some relief in a terrible budget year, will cry the loudest. Schools, environmental programs and broadband expansion projects also take a hit.

Billion dollar cuts
  • $40 billion State Fiscal Stabilization (Yeah, let's cut this. Stable States? Not important)
  • $16 billion School Construction (Schools that aren't falling down? Not important)
  • $7.5 billion of State Incentive Grants
  • $5.8 billion Health Prevention Activity (Healthy citizens? Overrated.)
  • $4.5 billion GSA
  • $3.5 billion Higher Ed Construction (Eliminated) (Competitive university and colleges? Bah humbug).
  • $3.5 billion Federal Bldgs Greening (Save the taxpayers money? Who cares about that?)
  • $2.25 Neighborhood Stabilization (Eliminate) (Yes, we want unstable neighborhoods).
  • $2 billion broadband (All you rural American can just fuck right off).
  • $2 billion HIT Grants
  • $1.25 billion project based rental
  • $1 billion Head Start/Early Start (We don't care about children after they're born.)
  • $1.2 billion in Retrofiting Project 8 Housing (What? Poor people? Bwah hah! You're not serious?)
  • $1 billion Energy Loan Guarantees
Million dollar cuts
  • $100 million FSA modernization
  • $50 million CSERES Research
  • $65 million Watershed Rehab
  • $30 million SD Salaries
  • $100 Distance Learning
  • $98 million School Nutrition
  • $50 million aquaculture
  • $100 million NIST
  • $100 million NOAA
  • $100 million Law Enforcement Wireless
  • $50 million Detention Trustee
  • $25 million Marshalls Construction
  • $100 million FBI Construction
  • $300 million Federal Prisons
  • $300 million BYRNE Formula
  • $140 million BYRNE Competitive
  • $10 million State and Local Law Enforcement
  • $50 million NASA
  • $50 million Aeronautics
  • $50 million Exploration
  • $50 million Cross Agency Support
  • $200 million NSF
  • $100 million Science
  • $300 million Fed Hybrid Vehicles
  • $50 million from DHS
  • $200 million TSA
  • $122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use
  • $25 million Fish and Wildlife
  • $55 million Historic Preservation
  • $20 million working capital fund
  • $200 million Superfund
  • $165 million Forest Svc Capital Improvement
  • $90 million State & Private Wildlife Fire Management
  • $75 million Smithsonian
  • $600 million Title I (NCLB)


Paul Krugman Slams Joe Scarborough's Republican Myth


Goldman Sachs CFO seeks to repay TARP funds

Could it be that they don't want to adhere to the pay cap instituted by President Obama? I'm gonna go with yes on that. Greedy bastards.

By Elinor Comlay
Reuters via Yahoo! News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) Chief Financial Officer David Viniar said the bank is keen to avoid restrictions it agreed to after receiving funds from the U.S. government late last year and it is looking to pay the money back as soon as possible.

The investment bank, which received a $10 billion capital injection from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program in October, is not happy with the strings that came attached to the money.

Compensation restrictions and certain capital requirements were part of the original injection, and extra limitations may be in store after U.S. President Barack Obama imposed tough new rules limiting pay for companies receiving government aid.

"We would like to get out from under that," Viniar said, adding that the bank aims to pay back the $10 billion this year.

Viniar said Goldman Sachs is also cautious about buying a bank, a move many have urged upon the investment bank to ensure its access to stable deposit funding.

Banks have come under heavy fire for paying executives too much after receiving more than $300 billion of capital from the government and trillions of dollars of additional U.S. support. A report last week said that banks paid out $18.4 billion of bonuses, a fact that Obama called "shameful."...(Click for remainder).


KBR wins contract despite criminal probe of deaths

By Kimberly Hefling
Associated Press via Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON – Defense contractor KBR Inc. has been awarded a $35 million Pentagon contract involving major electrical work, even as it is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The announcement of the new KBR contract came just months after the Pentagon, in strongly worded correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, rejected the company's explanation of serious mistakes in Iraq and its proposed improvements. A senior Pentagon official, David J. Graff, cited the company's "continuing quality deficiencies" and said KBR executives were "not sufficiently in touch with the urgency or realities of what was actually occurring on the ground."

"Many within DOD (the Department of Defense) have lost or are losing all remaining confidence in KBR's ability to successfully and repeatedly perform the required electrical support services mission in Iraq," wrote Graff, commander of the Defense Contract Management Agency, in a Sept. 30 letter.

Graff rejected the company's claims that it wasn't required to follow U.S. electrical codes for its work on U.S. military facilities in Iraq. KBR has said it would cost an extra $560 million to refurbish buildings in Iraq used by the U.S. military, including Saddam Hussein's palaces, which among other problems are based on a 220-volt standard rather than the American 120-volt standard....(Click for remainder).


More Bipartisanship, Less Stimulus

By John Nichols
The Beat at The Nation

Determined to pass something in the way of a stimulus package, Senate Democrats on Friday bartered away key elements of the more robust plan approved by the House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and his caucus colleagues got what is being called a "bipartisan agreement." But this is not a case of less being more.

The Senate's $780 billion plan is still a budget buster.

It's just not focused on spending as much of the money as the House sought to on renewing the economy.

In order to get the votes of two Republican (Maine's Susan Collins and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter) and perhaps another (Mainer Olympia Snowe) that were needed to undermine the threat of a GOP filibuster, Reid surrendered $86 billion is proposed stimulus spending. In doing so, the Democrats agreed to cut not just fat but bone, and to warp the focus and intent of the legislation.

The Senate plan is dramatically more weighted than the House bill toward tax cuts (which account for more than 40 percent of the overall cost of the package). This is despite the fact that there is a growing consensus -- among even conservative economists and policy makers -- that tax cuts will do little or nothing to stimulate job creation in a country that lost almost 600,000 positions in January alone. As French President Nicolas Sarkozy, no liberal, said Friday of countries that opt for tax cuts rather than stimulus: The approach "will bring them nothing" in the way of economic regeneration.

The Senate's increased emphasis on tax cuts comes at the expense of the aggressive spending in key areas that might actually get a stalled economy moving....(Click for remainder).


Olbermann: Cheney doing the work of terrorists

By Keith Olbermann

Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on former Vice President Cheney's remarks about the prospects of future terrorist attacks in this country. Flatly, it may be time for Mr. Cheney to leave this country.

The partisanship, divisiveness and naiveté to which he ascribed every single criticism of his and President Bush's delusional policies of the last eight years, have now roared forth in a destructive and uninformed diatribe from Mr. Cheney, that can only serve to undermine the nation's new president, undermine the nation's effort to thwart terrorism, and undermine the nation itself.

Mr. Cheney's remarks were posted yesterday at They are a reiteration of all the manias of his vice presidency. Only they now come without the authority of office. They insist, he insists, on the imminence of attack, of the maintenance of Gitmo, of the necessity of waterboarding, of the efficacy of torture.

Time does not stale nor custom wither your infinite variety, Mr. Cheney. You will say it, and be wrong and you will still say it anew. You will say it, and undercut a President 17 days on the job and you will still say it anew. You will say it, and help terrorists and you will still say it anew.
"The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I'm not at all sure that that's what the Obama administration believes."
The first glimmer, in years, of sanity in any your remarks, Sir. That's not at all what the Obama administration appears to believe. It seems to be ready to use all avenues and all emotions, seeking love, respect, fear, diplomacy, shared experience, education, principle, and, yes, even rational thought. This President, unlike yours, seems intent on living in the real world rather than trying to re-shape an imaginary one, by force.
"When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al-Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry."
More concerned, Mr. Cheney? What delusion of grandeur makes you think you have the right to say anything like that? Because a president, or an ordinary American, demands that we act as Americans and not as bullies; demands that we play by our rules; that we preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States; you believe we have chosen the one and not the other? We can be Americans, or we can be what you call "safe" — but not both?
"If it hadn't been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth — then we would have been attacked again. Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S."
Mr. Cheney, you are lying. As the cloud of fear you deliberately fostered in this good-hearted and courageous nation finally begins to dissipate, the nonsense that you and Mr. Bush presented as "evidence" of this childish claim, this perverse example of wishful-nightmare-thinking, has become apparent, and it should shame you.

The "major-casualty attacks" on the U.S. you think you stopped, involved would-be hijackers who were under constant surveillance and had neither passports nor plane tickets. They involved feeble-minded braggarts so clueless as to even the most obvious steps of organization that they believed they could enter Fort Dix in New Jersey disguised as delivery men, and kill hordes of Americans, and get out alive, even though Fort Dix teems with soldiers who have an almost inexhaustible supply of weapons.

They involved embittered ex-Airport-employees so uninformed about where they used to work, that they thought dropping a match in a fuel supply line thirty miles away would cause the airport to explode. These are the plots that by your own proud, strutting, crazy admissions, were the ones you "got us through."

You and Mr. Bush, sir—you are the old men who cried wolf. The Politico story continues:
"Citing intelligence reports, Cheney said at least 61 of the inmates who were released from Guantanamo during the Bush administration - "that's about 11 or 12 percent" - have "gone back into the business of being terrorists."
Mr. Cheney, you made this statistic up. Perhaps not you personally, but your people made this statistic up! As the new reality-based administration has discovered, there are not enough records of detainees still at Gitmo to suggest that there is any reliable database on those released. That McCarthy-esque number, Sir, is also as fluid as the infamous Senator's was.

As Professor Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall University noted on this network last month:
"The government has given its 43rd attempt to describe the number of people who have left Guantanamo and returned to the battlefield. Forty-one times they have done it orally as they have this last time. And their numbers have changed from 20 to 12 to seven to more than five to two to a couple to a few - 25, 29, 12 to 24. Every time, the number has been different. In fact, every time they give a number, they don't identify a date, a place, a time, a name or an incident to support their claim."
Mr. Cheney, which orifice are you pulling these numbers from? Y'know, in the movie "The Manchurian Candidate," the character based loosely on Joe McCarthy had trouble remembering all the different numbers. His Lady Macbeth-like-wife pointed out to him that the reason she kept changing the number of purported communists in the state department, was so that people would no longer be asking "are there communists in the state department?" but would begin only asking "how many communists are there?"

And, six years and more since General Powell, and Dr. Rice, and all the rest, played the trump card of terrorizing this nation, the mighty Cream of Mushroom Cloud soup, you played it again... nuclear weapon, biological agent, deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands.
"I think there's a high probability of such an attempt. Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts, since 9/11, to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States."
"The Bush System," as John Yoo so aptly re-christened it the other day. Start the wrong war, detain the wrong people, employ the wrong methods, pursue the wrong leads, utilize the wrong emotions. Beat up first, ask questions later. You know, just like Al-Qaeda does, or Iran. Save this nation from terrorists by doing the terrorists' work for them, Mr. Cheney. To your credit, sir, you have added a new monster under a new bed, to try to continue to foment a national policy of panic. It's the Terrorists-on-our-streets ploy.
"Is that really a good idea to take hardened al-Qaida terrorists who've already killed thousands of Americans and put 'em in San Quentin or some other prison facility where they can spread their venom even more widely than it already is?"
As opposed to keeping them in an extra-legal facility mixed in with some unknown number of innocents mistaken for terrorists. Who's likelier to be more influenced by terrorist venom, Mr. Cheney? The characters from the TV series "Oz?" Or a bunch of guys who we're holding in chains without trial and without even some token attempt at rehabilitation? And by the way, what about Ahmed Ressam, sir? Benni Noris, if you prefer. The Millennium Bomber.

Caught at a ferry crossing from Canada to Washington State in December, 1999, on his way to blow up Los Angeles International Airport. He had a car, a legit passport, nitroglycerin, and timing devices. And what did we do to him, Mr. Cheney? Did we send him to Gitmo? Or Pre-Gitmo? As "high a value" terrorist as ever we've caught in this country. Trained by Abu Zubaydah.

Days away from his target and ready to go. We tried him. In U.S. courts. With U.S. lawyers. Part of the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He got 22 years in U.S. prisons.No torture, no Gulag, no stories of him proselytizing fellow prisoners. Oh, but he did cooperate long enough to tell prosecutors about al-Qaida cells in this country.

That was his info they stuck in the President's Daily Brief of August 6th, 2001. That's probably news to you, since obviously you and Mr. Bush didn't read it, stalking Saddam Hussein as you were. Of course, none of that mattered to Mr. Cheney, just as none of this matters to Mr. Cheney. Because, at heart, Mr. Cheney is not interested foremost in protecting this country. He is interested foremost in protecting Mr. Cheney. And the business of being Dick Cheney, of rationalizing one's own existence after one of the most reprehensible, myopic, unprincipled, and even un-American careers in the history of our government, depends on continuing to convince the gullible of us to live in abject fear and not with vigilance and common sense and principles.

We, sir, will most completely assure our security not by maintaining the endless, demoralizing, draining, life-denying blind fear and blind hatred which you so thoroughly embody. We will most easily purchase our safety by repudiating the "Bush System." We will reserve the violence for which you are so eager, Sir, for any battlefield to which we truly must take, and not for unconscionable wars which people like you goad and scare and lie us into.

You, Mr. Cheney, you terrified more Americans than did any terrorist in the last seven years, and now it is time for you to desist, or to be made to desist. With damnable words like these, Sir, you help no American, you protect no American, you serve no American — you only aid and abet those who would destroy this nation from within or without. More than 400 years ago, when a British Parliament attempted to govern after its term had expired, it was dispersed by the actions, and words, of Oliver Cromwell.

"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately," he told them — exactly as, Mr. Cheney, exactly as a nation now tells you: "Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.

"In the name of God… go!"


Eliminate Filibuster and With it the Need to Debate Republicans

By David Swanson
After Downing Street

From the pains Democrats take to out-argue and/or to compromise with the fringe minority party called the Republicans you'd think no other course of action was available, specifically you'd have to assume that the filibuster -- the power of senators representing 11 percent of us to block all work by the House and Senate -- is written in stone. In reality, 51 senators could eliminate the filibuster or change the number of votes required to use it. This nation got along for many years without the filibuster and could do so again. It is no more a part of our Constitution than the CIA, enemy combatants, corporate persons, or the political parties that allow the filibuster to wreak such havoc with our so-called democracy.

For the most part we no longer have representatives in Congress, because of the corruption of money, the weakness of the media, and the strength of parties. There are not 535 opinions on Capitol Hill on truly important matters, but 2. Our supposed representatives work for their party leaders, not for us. Luckily, one of the two parties claims to want to work for us.

When the Democrats were in the minority and out of the White House, they told us they wanted to work for us but needed to be in the majority. So, in 2006, we put them there. Then they told us that they really wished they could work for us but they needed bigger majorities and the White House. So, in 2008, we gave them those things, and largely deprived them of two key excuses for inaction. We took away the veto excuse and came very close to taking away the filibuster excuse, and -- in fact -- the filibuster excuse could be taken away completely if the Democrats didn't want to keep it around.

This is not to say that either excuse was ever sensible. The two most important things the 110th Congress refused to do (ceasing to fund illegal wars, and impeaching war criminals) did not require passing legislation, so filibusters and vetoes were not relevant. But the Democrats in Congress, and the Republicans, and the media, and the White House all pretended that wars could only be ended by legislation, so the excuses for not passing legislation loomed large. The veto excuse is now gone. The filibuster excuse could be gone this week if Senator Harry Reid wanted it gone, or if President Obama appointed a Republican senator from a state with a Democratic governor to a cabinet position without allowing a corrupt deal on the senator's replacement, or if the House and Senate were to give Washington D.C. voting representation.

The filibuster excuse works like this. Any 41 senators can vote No on "cloture", that is on bringing a bill to a vote, and that bill will never come to a vote, and anything the House of Representatives has done won't matter. Plus any of the other 59 senators, the 435 House members, the president, the vice president, television pundits, and newspaper reporters can blame the threat of filibuster for anything they fail to do....(Click for remainder).


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