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Trumka on The Senate Passing Health Care Reform: They Can Do It, They Just Choose Not To Do It

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

By Heather
Crooks and Liars

Chris Matthews talks to the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka about the need for at minimum to have a public option in the health care bill. Trumka does a great job despite Matthews' badgering and taking a shot at union members by asking him if they're going to "pummel" (Democratic Senators who won't go along) during the interview. Way to advance that "union thugs" meme there Chris....(Remainder.)


Glenn Beck's Long History of Extremist Rhetoric: When Will He Finally Face the Music?

By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars

Probably the most ironic -- no, make that flat-out bizarre -- aspect of Glenn Beck's ultimately successful campaign to force out Van Jones is that it was predicated on Jones' supposed indulgence in extremist rhetoric ideas.

This isn't just a matter of the pot calling the kettle black. It's more like the black hole calling the sunspot dark.

Glenn Beck's history of indulging in extremism -- not just turning a blind eye to its presence, but promoting it outright to an audience of millions -- is so deep and wide that whatever indiscretions Jones might be guilty of fade into total insignificance.

Of course, we're all familiar with the remarks that lie at so much of the root of this matter: Beck's outrageous claims that President Obama is a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people", which prompted a largely succesful campaign by Color of Change to encourage advertisers to pull their support for Beck's Fox News program. But that, frankly, is barely scratching the surface....(Remainder.)


Meet the Knuckleheads of the U.S. Senate

The Senate has come a long way since Ted Kennedy arrived in Washington in 1962. But not in the right direction

By Salon Staff

Since the passing of Ted Kennedy, commentators have noted, almost ritually, how a seemingly feckless 30-year-old transformed himself over 47 years into the most accomplished senator of the modern era. Not to denigrate his many years of service to the nation, but maybe this isn't just a matter of Ted Kennedy's personal growth. Maybe, to paraphrase Norma Desmond, it's the Senate that got small. As pundits like Alex Massie and Tom Schaller have observed, when young Teddy arrived on Capitol Hill, he was breathing the same air as Scoop Jackson, Barry Goldwater, Everett Dirksen, Hubert Humphrey, William Fulbright, Ed Muskie and Birch Bayh. When he left a half-century later, his colleagues were Evan Bayh, and Mike Crapo and Mike Enzi and John Cornyn. (And Ted Kaufman, who's only there so the vice-president's son can run for his seat.)

In honor of the most recent Master of the Senate, Salon presents its list of those senators who are not masters, those who have helped turn what was once the nation's foremost debating society into the corporate board of Dunder Mifflin. Meet the senators who for reasons of questionable IQ or eccentricity, because they are vapid, stubborn or ornery, can fairly be called knuckleheads.

Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

Evidence of knuckleheadedness: Sure, DeMint won notoriety (or fame, if you're the Tea Party-ing type) for saying early this summer that healthcare reform could be Obama's Waterloo. But ignore that -- that's about the nicest thing he's managed to say about Obama all year. He's also compared America circa 2009 to the Weimar Republic, circa 1932: "We're about where Germany was before World War II, where they became a social democracy," he told the National Press Club in July. "You still had votes, but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran and other places in South America, like [President Hugo] Chavez is running down in Venezuela." That's a pretty good trifecta, lumping Obama in with Nazis, a populist anti-American dictator and an Islamic republic. DeMint may be the most fervent Republican believer in the notion that Obama has, will or wants to subvert the Constitution in the pursuit of such sinister goals as universal healthcare or saving the economy from sinking into a depression. Even better, lately he's been talking about the vast numbers of people who ask him if he's running for president himself in 2012 -- a prospect that would surely lead him to pursue even more ridiculous extremes as he courts the GOP base....(Remainder.)


Dumping Van Jones: Why Give In To Republicans' Tantrums?

By John McWhorter
The New Republic

With the Obama Administration letting Green Jobs czar Van Jones resign, questions as to whether these people have any spine are becoming sadly legitimate. What, precisely, would have been wrong with letting Glenn Beck and the others keep screaming their heads off about Jones’ purported radical intentions? Why not do a Glinda and dismiss this nonsense with a breezy “You have no power here”?

After all, we are faced here not with serious charges. There are no modern-day Whittaker Chambers in this crowd. The Republican smears against Obama of late are nonsense, pure and simple.

Example: now that we know what the President has had to say to our kiddies about education, it is clear that last week’s uproar over the supposed horror of Obama “indoctrinating” children with socialism was a cartoon.

The speech, a no-nonsense call to work hard, could easily be a Republican tract. “Pay attention those teachers, listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults, and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.” “If you quit on school you’re quitting on your country.” The circumstances of your life are “no excuse for not trying.” “Whatever you resolve to do I want you to really work at it,” Obama says.

I would be interested to see just what point Obama makes in it Rush Limbaugh would disagree with – in its assumption that an unlevel playing field is eternal and cannot be an excuse for failure, the speech likely offends many radicals as settling for the status quo....(Remainder.)


The Next Financial Crisis

It's coming--and we just made it worse.

By Peter Boone and Simon Johnson
The New Republic

To many observers, the Federal Reserve has never looked more heroic than it does right now. This past winter, America’s financial system faced the prospect of utter ruin. And, while the economy has suffered plenty in 2009, the worst did not come to pass. The banking system that lends to our employers, thereby allowing our economy to function, never did collapse. Now, many of the accolades for averting catastrophe are going to the Fed. President Obama himself ratified this analysis last week when he renominated Fed chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term. Bernanke, the president told reporters, had marshaled “his background, his temperament, his courage, and his creativity” to help prevent a second Great Depression.

What these words of presidential praise obscured was that the Fed may well have mitigated our current crisis by sowing the seeds for the next one. All modern economies need a financial system that can connect people who want to save with those who have good investment projects. This is essentially what banks do. But, unfortunately, this process often goes wrong. And that is precisely what is happening now. Our banks have gotten into the habit of needing to be rescued through repeated bailouts. During this crisis, Bernanke--while saving the financial system in the short term--has done nothing to break this long-term pattern; worse, he exacerbated it. As a result, unless real reform happens soon, we face the prospect of another bubble-bust-bailout cycle that will be even more dangerous than the one we’ve just been through....(Remainder.)


Joseph Kennedy Will Not Run for Late Uncle's Senate Seat

By VOA News

Former U.S. Congressman Joseph Kennedy has said he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat held for 47 years by his late uncle Ted Kennedy.

In a statement released Monday, Kennedy said he would do a better job of serving the public by remaining in his current job as the head of Citizens Energy Corporation, a non-profit company that provides heating oil to low-income families.

Many politicians who expressed interest in running for the Massachusetts Senate seat said they would not run against a member of the Kennedy family.

A primary election to fill the empty seat will be held on December 8. The general election will be January 19.

Ted Kennedy, who was one of two Massachusetts senators in Congress, died last month of brain cancer....(Original.)


Rocking Roberts?

The most important political event this week won't be Obama's speech on health care.

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.
The New Republic
Photo: Getty

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's health care speech on Wednesday will be only the second most consequential political moment of the week.

Judged by the standard of an event's potential long-term impact on our public life, the most important will be the argument before the Supreme Court (on the same day, as it happens) about a case that, if decided wrongly, could surrender control of our democracy to corporate interests.

This sounds melodramatic. It's not. The court is considering eviscerating laws that have been on the books since, in one case, 1907 and in the other, 1947 banning direct contributions and spending by corporations in federal election campaigns. Doing so would obliterate precedents that go back two and three decades.

The full impact of what the court could do in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has only begun to receive the attention it deserves. Even the word "radical" does not capture the extent to which the justices could turn our political system upside down. Will it use a case originally brought on a narrow issue to bring our politics back to the corruption of the Gilded Age?

Citizens United, a conservative group, brought suit arguing that it should be exempt from the restrictions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law for a movie it made that was sharply critical of Hillary Clinton. The organization said it should not have to disclose who financed the film....(Remainder.)


This Isn't Reform, It's Robbery

By Chris Hedges
Photo: Bob Child (AP)
Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health-insurance companies: +87%

Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428%

Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10

—Harper’s Index, September 2009
Capitalists, as my friend Father Michael Doyle says, should never be allowed near a health care system. They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care. The sick do not have a choice. Medical care is not a consumable good. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is no choice between illness and health. And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health care industry is the problem and must be destroyed. This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to deny care to patients in order to increase profits. It is an industry that causes half of all bankruptcies. And the 20,000 Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder.

The current health care debate in Congress has nothing to do with death panels or public options or socialized medicine. The real debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health services are going to be able to siphon off from new health care legislation. The proposed plans rattling around Congress all ensure that the profits for these corporations will increase and the misery for ordinary Americans will be compounded. The corporate state, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, is yet again cannibalizing the Treasury. It is yet again pushing Americans, especially the poor and the working class, into levels of despair and rage that will continue to fuel the violent, proto-fascist movements leaping up around the edges of American society. And the traditional watchdogs—those in public office, the press and citizens groups—are as useless as the perfumed fops of another era who busied their days with court intrigue at Versailles. Canada never looked so good....(Remainder.)


Taliban Making Profit from Belgian Antiques Dealers

Reporters working for the VRT's flagship current affairs programme Panorama have discovered that Belgian antique dealers are illegally offering stolen Afghan art for sale.


Many of the profits are channelled to the Taliban.

Belgian police and customs are aware of the problem, but little is being done about it.
“The traffic in antiquities from Afghanistan resembles the smuggling of diamonds from Africa that are used to finance conflicts. The sale of antiquities and heroine are an important source of funding for the Taliban,” said VRT reporter Peter Brems.

In order to make his report entitled "Blood Antiquities" Brems also travelled to Afghanistan.

Many Belgian dealers are aware that the art is smuggled out of Afghanistan illegally. Some buyers are also aware that they purchase this art.

The antiques are on sale in shops from Brussels to the prestigious resort of Knokke in West Flanders.

In Belgium no certificate to authenticate Afghan art is needed.

Quizzed about a possible investigation the Belgian police's Axel Poels told the VRT: "We first have to establish whether any crime has been committed. Maybe an investigation will be initiated next week."...(Original.)


Stuck in the Middle

By Eugene Robinson
Photo: Pete Souze (White House)

The rule among politicians in Washington used to be that when the provincials become restless, as they are now, the safest thing to do is run to the center. But as this sour and unsettled summer ends, the political center looks like the white line running down the middle of a busy street—a foolish place to stand, and an excellent place to get run over.

President Obama might want to keep that image in mind, not only as he navigates the health care endgame but also as he charts his way through the rest of his ambitious and promising agenda. He is a master at threading the needle by rejecting what he calls “false choices.” But some choices are made of concrete and can only be postponed, not avoided.

It is a core belief of Washington’s political culture that policymaking by compromise—“meeting in the middle”—is the way to gain and keep the support of the vast, moderate, essentially reasonable group of voters who constitute a coherent political center. My problem with this analysis is that so many of the big decisions that have to be made are binary: yes or no. The only terrain in the middle consists of “maybe” or “kind of,” and I see no evidence that the country is in a “maybe” or “kind of” mood.

Much of the energy, passion and anger on display at the health care town-hall meetings was irrational and based on ridiculous misinformation. But the emotion was real, and it reflects the fact that the far right is essentially taking an obdurate, rejectionist stance toward anything Obama tries to do.

Republicans in Congress clearly have decided that it is in their interest to keep these motivated activists within the fold—even the crazy “birthers” who deny Obama’s legitimacy as president and the militant yahoos who question his patriotism. If ever there was a chance to win Republican support for legislation providing meaningful health care reform, that moment has passed....(Remainder.)


It's Time to Get Help

By Bob Herbert
The New York Times

Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.

The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis. People who don’t even know that Medicare is a government program have been trying to instruct us on the best ways to reform health care.

The administration’s most popular anti-recession initiative was a startlingly creative economic breakthrough known as the cash-for-clunkers program. Over the weekend (presumably while the president was sleeping, because this occurred in the wee hours of the morning), White House officials whispered the official announcement that Van Jones would no longer be working in the administration.

The White House wishes it had never heard of Mr. Jones, who was hired to be its point person on green jobs. It turns out that Mr. Jones had used a nasty anatomical slur to refer to Republicans and once signed a petition suggesting that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.

There is no end to the craziness. The entire Republican Party has decided that it is in favor of absolutely nothing. The president’s stimulus package? No way. Health care reform? Forget about it....(Remainder.)


Thank You, Glenn Beck!

By Arianna Huffington
The Huffington Post

Thank you, Glenn Beck. By helping force the resignation of Van Jones, you have done a great service to your country. But in the exact opposite way than what you intended.

Your vile and vicious smear campaign has helped reverse one of the worst examples of miscasting since John Wayne took on the role of Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.

Don't get me wrong: Van Jones was the best person for the job he just gave up. But the job was not the best use of Van Jones.

Contrary to the media caricature, the real Van Jones is a thoughtful leader who knows how to use words to move people to action. To stick him behind a desk, working out the details of tax credits for green jobs -- incredibly important though the job is -- was never the best use of his unique and abundant skills.

This is not an attempt to put a positive spin on an ugly episode. I've actually been feeling this way ever since Van told me he was taking this job.

I remember going to the White House this spring for a briefing of journalists by David Axelrod. Before the meeting, Van and I met for a quick coffee and I was hit with the same overwhelming thought: how much we were going to miss his voice on the outside....(Remainder.)


Headscarf Ban: Eight Arrested Outside School in Antwerp

The unrest is due to the new rule banning the Muslim headscarf from being worn at school which came into effect on the 1 September this year.


The police of Antwerp arrested 8 youngsters at the Royal Athenaeum in Hoboken on Monday because they violated a ban on demonstrations.

A left wing student organisation gathered before school opening at the Royal Athenaeum in Hoboken to hand out pamphlets and urge students not to accept the headscarf ban.

Last Friday the mayor of Antwerp, Patrick Janssens (Flemish socialist), issued a ban on demonstrations at the school and the police quickly intervened.

"The police have detained 8 youngsters. A ninth person was detained during protests last week," says a police spokesman.

A group of Muslim women also gathered in front of the school, but retreated on to the surrounding streets when the police arrived at the scene. Calm returned to the school and surroundings at about 11am.

However, the protest against the Muslim headscarf ban at the school continues. Vandals broke into the school during Sunday night and spray painted slogans on doors of the school. They also threw school books out of the windows.

The vandals spray painted the slogan 'No headscarf, no school' onto the school’s entrance. They also smashed a window to get inside the school.

"They went in through the side door and went to the administrative offices," said headmaster Chris Weyers. "They sabotaged the internet and jammed some doors. They took some paper and flung it around the hallway. They threw books out of the window."...(Remainder.)


WTF?!? Obama: Health Insurers Must Profit

By Al Jazeera English

Barack Obama has said US health insurance companies should be able to turn a profit, but reforms should also provide a government-run healthcare plan.

The US president told a crowd gathered in Ohio on Monday for the AFL-CIO union Labour Day picnic that "the time is now" for changes to be made to the US healthcare system.

"I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs," he said.

"I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry.

"They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair," he said.

The president's comments, which came two days before he is due to address the US congress on his domestic policy ambitions, are likely to alarm liberal Democrats, who have called for tough restrictions to be placed on health insurance firms.

A government–run healthcare option has been criticised by the multi-billion dollar health insurance industry and by opposition Republicans, who claim the government is trying to impose a socialist agenda....(Remainder.)


Max Baucus (D-Blue Cross/Blue Shield) Is Proposing A Tax on Health Insurance Companies - Again!

By Susie Madrak
Crooks and Liars

I wonder when it's going to sink into Max Baucus's thick skull that Republicans aren't going to make a deal because as a party, they simply aren't interested in solving the problems of healthcare.

Maybe I'm giving Max too much credit for trying, and he knows exactly what he's doing. Because his latest proposal is a Kabuki dance of a bill that won't really help people. In fact, we'd be paying obscene amounts of money for a plan that doesn't really cover anything.

Bug - or feature?
WASHINGTON — In a last effort to give the Senate a bipartisan health care bill, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee circulated a comprehensive proposal on Sunday to overhaul the health care system and proposed a new fee on insurance companies to help pay for coverage of the uninsured.

The proposal is the culmination of more than a year of work by the chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. A similar fee was proposed by several liberal Democrats in July. In making it part of his proposal, Mr. Baucus may help cover the costs of the bill but also risks alienating Republicans whom he is trying to win over. Mr. Baucus is struggling to forge a bipartisan consensus among 6 of the 23 senators on his committee before President Obama puts new pressure on lawmakers in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening.

The proposal by Mr. Baucus does not include a public option, or a government-run insurance plan, to compete with private insurers, as many Democrats want.


No, This is What a Socialist Says: Eugene Debs Would Kick Your Ass

By Rude One
The Rude Pundit

For Labor Day, as people who don't actually understand a thing about socialism keep spouting that vaguely moderate Barack Obama is some unholy descendant of Cesar Chavez or Emma Goldman (did she ever go to Kenya?), the Rude Pundit is offering some quotes from a real socialist, Eugene Debs, who ran for president as, you know, a Socialist Party candidate five times between 1900 and 1920, getting nearly a million votes in 1908. See, real socialists aren't exactly known for subtlety in their rhetoric. They don't want to trick workers into uniting. They want to show workers the failure of the capitalist system, which will make them willingly join. And, as you can see below, Debs will kick your ass (and he'll take your name, since organizing was the foundation of the socialist movement):

From an August 27, 1912 campaign speech in Fergus Falls, Minnesota:
"[Capitalism is] a confidence game the professional politicians have been playing with the workers of all nations all these years. To keep them in subjection by playing upon their ignorance is the rule that governs their campaigns for votes among the workers. The 'issues' upon which they keep the workers divided into hostile camps are of their own making."
From a June 16, 1912 campaign speech in Chicago:
"The baseness, hypocrisy and corruption of these twin political agencies of Wall Street and the ruling class cannot be expressed in words. The imagination is taxed in contemplating their crimes. There is no depth of dishonor to which they have not descended - no depth of depravity they have not sounded.

"To the extent that they control elections the franchise is corrupted and the electorate debauched, and when they succeed in power it is but to execute the will of the Wall Street interests which finance and control them. The police, the militia, the regular army, the courts and all the powers lodged in class government are all freely at the service of the ruling class, especially in suppressing discontent among the slaves of the factories, mills and mines, and keeping them safely in subjugation to their masters....


Glenn Beck is No Howard Beale

He’s mad like a Fox, and wants to take us in

By Steve Rendall

Fox News’ latest sensation Glenn Beck has invited comparisons of himself to Howard Beale, the barking-mad TV host in 1976’s black comedy Network, who urged viewers to throw open their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Beck recently told the New York Times (3/30/09): “I think that’s the way people feel. That’s the way I feel.” Beck has even played clips of Beale’s scenes on his show (Beck, 3/23/09).

Declaring one’s kinship with a fictional TV host famous for undergoing an on-air emotional disintegration would not normally recommend one to anchor a real national television news show. But Beck is on Fox.

And Beck is not entirely unlike the deranged Beale; both men describe the world in paranoid and apocalyptic terms while attempting to play on populist sentiment. But Beale, even in full-fledged madness, could still be relied upon to occasionally say something truthful and worthwhile. It’s unlikely that Beck would ever choose to speak truth to power the way Beale did when he learned that his cynical network was being bought by an even larger and more cynical conglomerate:
And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network!
Indeed, Beck’s jumble of false, contradictory and disingenuous commentary in the service of corporate power seems precisely the kind of programming Beale envisioned in his worst nightmares.

The Beale comparisons began after Beck jumped from CNN Headline News to his current job at Fox. Through years as a talk radio host and then Headline News anchor, Beck had been more or less faithful to the standard hard-right, GOP-aligned politics of conservative talk radio—he is well-practiced in such obligatory skills as immigrant-bashing, warmongering and Islamophobia (Extra!, 11–12/08)—though his embrace of violent rhetoric and fascist imagery has always put him at the extreme end of the talk radio spectrum. Beck’s record includes fantasizing about strangling Michael Moore with his bare hands, seeing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) “burst into flames” (AlterNet, 11/21/08) and warning that “Muslims will see the West through razor wire if things don’t change” (CNN Headline News, 9/5/06)....(Remainder.)



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