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Thursday: Stating the Obvious

I was flipping through channels last night, trying very carefully to avoid broadcast news, when my low battery powered remote got stuck on PBS during the NewsHour.  There was Judy Woodruff interviewing Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin about their (yet another) budget deficit reduction plan.  This one is just another version of “stick it to the middle class” that has become the popular fad in Washington these days.  In this one, we get a sales tax!  Ooo, it’s like opening a new present every morning.

But what was funny about this interview was not their earnest but misguided assertion that if we, the naively childish middle class voters of America, would just understand what the problem is, we would thank them for bringing it to our attention before things got really bad.  It wasn’t the magical rearranging of the debt burden saddling us while the rich get away with murder with (yet another) income tax cut.  It’s not that these bipartisan groups to which no one WE know were invited to participate in keep coming up with new ways to screw us.  No, it was Domenici forgetting where he was.  Literally:

ALICE RIVLIN: We got a surplus. We both worked on that.

And we got the budget from a considerable deficit into surplus. And the way it was done was some tax increase and holding down spending. The caps on spending are the same idea that we had back in the ’90s. And it worked. It worked. Yes, it worked.

PETE DOMENICI: I want to say this one thing about this. And, as far as I’m concerned — tell me what I’m talking about, because I have forgotten.

JUDY WOODRUFF: About whether you believe that this will actually be solved, that the members of Congress will vote…

PETE DOMENICI: Oh. Yes. We were able to — we were able — we were able to do bipartisan work and get some big problems solved. [RD hides head in hands from embarrassment] This problem is many, many more times difficult for America. We’re going to be ruined as a nation and become a second-rate country if this debt is allowed to continue like it is.

So, we have a bigger, a more just reason to convince people. We convinced them then to work together. We ought to be able to now. It won’t be easy, but I believe leadership, including leadership from the president, is going to make this a war, a war on this debt. And, if we do that, we might win.

Well, I’m confident now.

(Ok, maybe I was too hasty.  Pete Domenici apparently suffers from a brain disorder that leads to Republicanism dementia.  My remarks might be misconstrued as a bit insensitive.  However, with that in mind, Domenici probably was not the best person to work on this committee or present it on TV.  It tends to make me not take this bipartisan task force very seriously)

By the way, Washington, the next time you want to set up (yet another) bipartisan group thingy to examine the deficit, I suggest you go through the formal route and have Congress do it so the people’s representatives, some of whom may be liberal Democrats (we’re not positive but some claim to lean that way) have some semblence of having the teeniest, tiniest input.  Otherwise, it doesn’t look legitimate to us and we will probably not “understand” and will be harder to “convince”.  JMHO

Paul Krugman weighs in on a national sales tax with some graphs to back it up but I’m with Atrios on this one.  (come to think of it, I’m in agreement with a lot of what Atrios wants like better urban planning and mass transit. If Obama hadn’t destroyed the left blogosphere, we might even be allies.  Go figure.)  The deficit hawks aren’t giving us any choices to reduce the deficit except on the backs of the middle class and I’m agin it until they do.

Accountability before Austerity

But I could think of at least one way to boost the nation’s economy in a big way that got taken down by Ben Nelson of Nebraska yesterday…

Join me below the fold…

Continue reading

The Democrats are going to run on “results” in November??

Bart Stupak, poster boy for the "party of results"

I know, I know.  It took me awhile to stop giggling too.  They can’t possibly be serious.  But that’s what PoliticalTicker is claiming.   Swallow your coffee before you read it:

Washington (CNN) – When voters head to the polls in November, the Democratic National Committee would like them to remember Democrats with one word: results.

On Wednesday at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, chairman Tim Kaine revealed his party’s new message and strategy months ahead of the midterm elections. Kaine talked about the efforts with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King in an interview that aired on John King, USA.

Kaine told King that Democrats hope to convince voters they are the party of results. Part of their new strategy will involve pushing that message, helping local candidates, and convincing many of the new voters – that voted for President Barack Obama in the last election – to support Democrats in the midterms.

The DNC chairman said that while the economy still needs improvements, it’s moved from recession to recovery.

Kaine said, “I think the improvement will be noticed by our voters and we’ll be able to make the case to them, do you want to keep climbing or do you want to hand the keys back to the guys who put us into the ditch?”

Yeah, I’m sure that’s what they will be thinking as they head out the door today with their complimentary cardboard box for their stuff and their three month severance packages.

Actually, that’s not what I’ve been witnessing here in the heart of middle class suburbia.  What is happening is that the Republicans in NJ are stirring up an anti-tax rebellion and directing it against hapless teachers.  Why should THEY be getting decent bennies and a steady paycheck when the people footing the bill with their ridiculous property taxes are seeing their industries disappearing and their own lives on the brink of disaster?

Tim Kaine and the Democrats are utterly clueless.  They have no idea what is really going on out here.  Results?  What results?

Was the stimulus package big enough to stave off these drastic cuts in our school districts?

Did Democrats end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Did the Democrats fight hard for the entrepreneurs and small businesses to get the capital they need to start new ventures so people would have jobs?

Did the Democrats soak the rich bankers within an inch of their lives so that they would learn a valuable lesson and the financial catastrophe they brought upon us wouldn’t happen again?

Did Democrats put together an adequate bailout and mortgage restructuring package for strapped homeowners so they wouldn’t throw in the towel and walk away from their obligations?  Did they make it easier for mortgage owners to keep money flowing to the banks to keep them solvent?

Did the Democrats impose some emergency regulations so that bankers would stop gambling away our futures?

Have the Democrat done ANYTHING so far to make sure that no one touches Social Security and that we get our Trust Fund money back from the thieves who took it?

Did the Democrats give us actual health care reform that’s truly universal, affordable, with competition?

Did the Democrats protect womens’ rights and autonomy of her own body?

Did the Democrats fix gender paycheck inequalities for real or did they simply pass a law with no teeth?

Did the Democrats try to protect American workers’ jobs?

I haven’t seen any results.  I’ve seen them turn their backs on their own voters in 2008 in order to elect their lightbringer, an easy win for them.  All they had to do was change the roolz in the middle of the game and cudgel frantic American voters with false accusations of racism to guilt them into voting for one of the most unprepared but nakedly ambitious presidents since George W. Bush.  But it wasn’t enough to make him president.  No, the world had to give him a Nobel prize as well.  What’s next?  A MacArthur genius grant for curing cancer?  Where does he find the time??  The awards must be piling up on his little display etegere, like a bunch of 3rd place martial arts trophies.  Everyone who participates gets a prize for trying.

And the whining.  I can’t stand it.  We are now supposed to believe that a minority party, the Republicans, are responsible for all that has gone wrong.  They stand in the way.  They say no to everything.  Even when Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, the Republicans were responsible.  How can that be??  I am trying hard to wrap my head around this concept.  Here’s what I’ve got: 1.) Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the senate.  2.)Republicans got what they wanted anyway.  3.) Soooo, maybe the problem is actually *in* the Democratic party.   Three names come to mind immediately: Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak.  You can throw Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu in there as well but at least they can be leaned on.  Who leaned on Nelson, Lieberman and Stupak?  Those three swaggered all over Congress and Stupak in particular got whatever the hell he wanted.  It was Bart Stupak vs the majority of voters in the USA and Bart won.  BART won.  The Democrats allowed Bart and Obama to screw millions of women out of their personal autonomy and Democrats have the nerve to blame Republicans?

I don’t think Democrats understand the impact of their cowardice.  Women are not a special interest.  Workers have to work to pay taxes.  The financial investment industry is out of control and wrecking havoc around the world.  Our current wars are pointless wastes of lives and money.  Sick children should never have to pass through a gauntlet to get affordable health care.  And we need teachers, even the mean ones who can’t be bothered to address the needs of the gifted.  If they do a good job with the other 98% of the students in their classes, we will have gotten more than our money’s worth.

You want to know what I want to see in the results category?  I want to see real passion on the Floor.  I want to see yelling and screaming.  I want to see the progressives and liberals eat some red meat and throw a fit until the Bart Stupaks in their own party back down.  I want to see eggs thrown and smoke bombs and bloody noses.  I want to see incivility.  I want to see so much fighting in Congress by Democratic representatives on behalf of Americans not in the bonus class that the editorial page of the New York Times faints before it can reach the smelling salts.  I don’t want two Republican parties.  I want to see Democrats actually ACT like Democrats. 

Shove your “party of results” meme until you have some results.  I own my vote.  I don’t give it away for social promotion purposes.  You can’t scare me with the Republican boogie man anymore.  I voted for downticket Dems in 2008 but they haven’t pulled their weight.  If Republicans win this fall, Democrats have themselves to blame and no one else.  It was their responsibility to get things done and they blew it.  They coasted.   This fall, I’m not voting for either party.  I’m voting for a party to be designated later.

And stop calling me for money.

Griswold and Roe are dead, Joan

I just read Joan Walsh’s flimsy excuse for passing the health care reform bill as is.  Put me among the “fix it now, not later” camp.  Health care reform is vitally important for millions of families.  But why everyone has to be held hostage to unchecked insurance companies when good and thorough regulation that is found in other civilized nations could have spared all of us from profit and rent seeking monopolies is a mystery.  The Democrats had a chance to lock up their status as national heros for a generation and they’ve thrown it away by getting an F in negotiation skills.

But what is even more troubling is how they have allowed a few conservative members of their caucus to completely run over the rights of women.

Actually, women have no rights.

What this bill has exposed once and for all is that Griswold and Roe were fatally flawed decisions that were substitutions for women’s equality.  Almost as soon as Roe was decided, the move to pass the Equal Rights Amendment ground to a halt.  It finally died for good in 1982.  I guess we decided that it was enough that biology was no longer destiny.  A flimsy “right to privacy” was sufficient for equality.

We didn’t count on other people’s consciences eventually trumping our own.  It should have been obvious that this is what the fundamentalists were after.  They wanted some way to put women back in their place in their universe.  I don’t know why they need this.  It has never made any sense to me.  I suspect it doesn’t really make any sense to them either.  They don’t stop to think about the implications and the miracles of modern biology from birth control to DNA testing.  It’s just tradition.  It is written.  The fundamentalist conservatives are lagging indicators.

What this bill shows is that you can not have equality based on a right to privacy.  You can have all the private conversations you want with your health care providers.  But if their religious beliefs tell them that they can’t deliver your health care needs, you are SOL.  You are entitled to privacy but not your own conscience.  If you aren’t entitled to your own conscience and liberty, you are not equal and never will be.

And so, Joan, you may think it’s vitally important for the Democrats to insure millions of people and who can argue with that?  But they also have an obligation, after screaming at us for months on end about Roe! Roe! Roe! to not allow women to become the sacrificial lambs of the health care reform bill.  They owe young women that, especially the young stupid women they terrified and herded like cattle who threw away the one candidate that never would have sold them down the river for health care reform no matter what.

But if the Democrats do dump those women and Roe and Griswold die because Bob Casey, Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson’s consciences have more weight than more than half of all of the citizens of this country, maybe it’s the best thing really.  Women will see themselves as the party sees them- easily manipulated, lesser beings whose rights and needs will always take a backseat to everyone elses. It will pay lip service to Roe and then do whatever the hell it wants.  In fact, why even bother with the lip service?

And if it can’t take the time to stare Ben Nelson down, then it no longer deserves our support as a party.  Well, we’ve had that attitude since the RBC meeting of May 31, 2008.  We were ahead of the curve back then.  We warned you party loyalists that if you accepted the RBC hearing’s decisions without sticking up for the rights of the voters that the party would ignore your wishes in the future.  The result of the Obama camp victory was predictable.  And if the Joan Walsh’s of the world accept this bill as is without insisting on substantive changes before the Senate votes on the bill, then don’t be surprised at what comes after.

Here’s what’s going to happen:  Somewhere across the nation, some woman with an urgent need for reproductive healthcare will have a private conversation with her provider and that provider is going to tell her “No” and there won’t be a damn thing she can do about it.

If it can happen in Omaha, it can happen anywhere.

Roosting chickens, party unity and all that stuff, Joan.

The healthcare reform bill’s true name: The American Womens’ Catholic Conversion Bill

It’s worse than we thought.  Stateofdisbelief unpacks it for us on the Conscience Rule.

In the Chairman’s recent amendment (read: bribe for Nelson’s vote) here is what it says:

(A) IN GENERAL.–Nothing in this Act shall be construed to have any effect on Federal laws regarding– ‘(i) conscience protection; ‘(ii) willingness or refusal to provide abortion; and ‘(iii) discrimination on the basis of the willingness or refusal to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortion or to provide or participate in training to provide abortion.

The current status of the conscience rules themselves are that in March of 2009 HHS posted a proposed rule change to withdraw all of the Bush changes.  Comments were due in April 09 (30 day period) but to date, no action is showing on the docket.  It’s as if they just put out the proposal and then dropped it.  Here is the register link.  You can click on the docket # to get the actions taken on the proposal.  http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail?R=090000648090229f

Didja get that?  The Bush Conscience Rule is still in effect and Reid’s manager’s amendment keeps it safe.

That’s right.  At any point in time when you feel you might like to exercise your own conscience regarding birth control and other health care related to reproduction, a Catholic or religious fundamentalist can override your decision and substitute their own consciences.  And there won’t be a bloody thing you can do about it.

You will become an automatic Catholic or fundamentalist convert right there on the spot.

Obama did NOTHING to remove the Bush Conscience Rule.  In fact, he’s probably hoping no one would notice that he is appeasing the evangelicals and Catholics while eliminating the rights of other believers and non-believers to follow their own consciences.

And this is OK for Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Barbara Mikulski and others?  THAT is what they are voting for: involuntary conversion of American women to fundamentalist religious doctrine.

I haven’t heard these senators calling on Obama to rescind the Bush Conscience Rule right this very minute, have you?

Meanwhile, Protestants apparently only have the right to consult their own consciences in places ike Old Europe:

The abortion “compromise” doesn’t make the health care reform bill good

Nebraska: Allowing gender inequality one state at a time!

Time has the lowdown on what Harry Reid had to offer Ben Nelson in order for him to sign on to the health care reform bill:

In addition to getting a sweetheart deal for his home state, Ben Nelson also got Harry Reid to offer more than the Casey abortion language in the manager’s amendment. In addition to providing stronger conscience protections for medical institutions and health workers opposed to abortion, and expanding adoption tax credits, the manager’s amendment segregates funds and gives states the option of excluding from their insurance exchanges any plans that cover abortion. In essence, that allows states to adopt the strict Stupak provisions without requiring that states do so.

I think there’s a bit of reverse psychology going on with respect to the issue of abortion.  Let’s dispense with the term anti-abortion, shall we?  Let’s call it what it really is: The movement to deny women the ability to decide for themselves whether to be parents as most persons endowed by their creators with unalienable rights have the right to do.  With anti-abortion measures, women are not just subject to the state, they are forced to recognize a religious presence in their lives whether they have faith or not.  Men do not need to recognize any faith.  They are allowed complete freedom of conscience.

In fact, a crisis of conscience is only respected when women decide to end a pregnancy.  If religious people decide to kill innocent civilians as the collateral damage in a proxy religious war halfway around the world, the rest of us still have to pay taxes for this endeavor regardless of our crisis of conscience.  If fundamentalists insist on an eye for an eye with respect to convicted murderers, even if some of those people are victims of mistaken identity, those of us who oppose capital punishment of innocent people are not allowed to segregate our tax dollars from theirs when it comes time to purchase materials for a lethal injection. One would think that their god would have more consistency when it comes to life ending procedures but for some unfathomable reason, he only objects to women doing it when it affects their own personal lives.  If that’s not the definition of inequality, I don’t know what is.   In fact, if we’re going to continue to fight about Roe v.Wade for the duration of the Republic, let’s just get rid of it now and re-decide the case based on equality instead of privacy.  Are women equal persons under the law? Do they have the unalienable right to decide for themselves if and when they will be parents? Bart Stupak, would you like to answer that question so the women of Michigan can know what they’re voting for in 2010?

This is at the bottom of Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak’s argument in favor of anti-abortion language in the proposed bills.  They feel their priesthood status in their chosen Christian faith charges them with ordering everyone’s lives according to their worldview.  Who appointed them their very narrow and specific, fundamentalist and authoritarian Judeo-Christian God’s authorities on earth?  Apparently, the people of Nebraska and a district in Michigan did.  I thought the Constitution guaranteed us no state religion but I guess the founders weren’t thinking about the extra specialness of Nebraska and a district in Michigan.  Nebraska has a population density of 23 persons/square mile and decreasing.  To put some perspective on that, New Jersey’s population density is 1,134 persons/square mile.  Now, I know that we have a new Republican governor  who could conceivably decide to impose his own conservative stamp on the health care reform act in NJ and take the Nebraska Compromise but if he does, he probably shouldn’t be surprised if women here send their friends around to break his knees.   And then they’re going to be really angry at Congressional Democrats for making it possible for a handful of religious hardasses in Nebraska to control the equal and independent women living in the crowded suburbs of New Jersey.

Look ahead, Democrats.  Do you really want to piss off more women in New Jersey?  Remember what happened to Corzine.

It’s important that we separate abortion from health care reform if for no other reason than there are buggers inside Congress that are trying so damned hard to conflate the two.  So, here’s the deal, guys.  There is no deal. We don’t like this bill.  You apologists for the Democratic party can rationalize it 6 ways to Sunday but there’s no denying that it doesn’t go far enough.  It’s not the New Deal type legislation we desperately need and everyone knows it.  It’s going to saddle a lot of people at the edge with another major expense they can’t afford to pay.  It will rob Petra to pay Paula and even though Petra and Paula are friends, Petra gets relatively little out of this deal.  We aren’t going to end up with a Canadian system, heck, we’re not even getting Germany or Switzerland.  We’re getting a uniquely American system where the middle class and everyone under it is going to be forced to buy from virtual monopolies that will join the cable companies and telecomm giants and banks in screwing them out of every disposable dollar they have.  It’s socialism for the insurance industry.

There were a multitude of permutations that would have succeeded in covering poor and sick people but the Democrats picked the one that is most likely to piss off their own constituents in the highest numbers.  Congratulations, guys.

But this abortion thing?  I gotta wonder why it wasn’t sufficient to stick the knife into health care reform without adding the agonizing poison.  You should have never even entertained Stupak and Nelson no matter how much they howled and screamed.  That’s going to come back to bite you.  And no matter how much theater comes up on the floor of the Senate during debate in the next couple of days to try to remove the amendments and compromises, taking them out is not going to make this bill smell any sweeter.  The jig is up.  We see through the distraction.

Leave the Nebraska Compromise in and you’re massively screwed next year by all of those involuntary female converts to fundamentalist Christianity and Catholicism no matter where they live.  An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.

Take it out and you’re still going to alienate all of the Democrats who now have your number.  Either way, your failure to deliver a truly transformative health care reform bill is going to bite you in the ass.

Put the champagne flute down and sober up.

Update: The official talking points troll has arrived in the comments and has a message prepared in the best marketing, manipulative language the Democrats can buy.  It’s obvious that it’s prepared because the commenter didn’t really bother to read the post.  So, here is a summary for those of you too lazy to read the whole thing:

Here’s the bottom line:
If you don’t take the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?
The answer is never. The Democrats are shooting their wad right now on an insufficient and fatally flawed bill because they are afraid they will lose their majorities in congress in 2010.
We want to decouple abortion from this bill, not because leaving in the restrictions are abominable but because it distracts from the badness of the bill.
And don’t tell me about how non-profits have to now take care of the abortion needs of women. American women are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for this country. They deserve to be treated like independent persons with dignity and respect, not like fucking second class citizens and beggars.
The equal rights issue is going to last waaaay past the resolution of this bill. Democrats should be a lot more careful about these things. They WILL pay for it.

Addendum: We need to dump Roe v. Wade. All it has ever done is empower the religious right and allows both parties to use it as a political football.  It is time for the country to decide once and for all whether women are equal persons under the law entitled to equal pay, equal rights and the equal ability to decide if they are going to be parents.  Dump the damn POS.  Put the politicians of both parties on the hotseat and make them defend their primitive inequitable treatment of women. Repeat after me: “I will not support any politician who invokes Roe v. Wade in order to get my vote.”

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Monday Midday: Zombietime News and Views

This is how I feel this morning

Hello Conflucians!! I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’ve been sitting here staring off into space like a zombie since I woke up at 7AM Eastern time. The only time I’ve gotten up was to make a cup of tea and go to the bathroom. I guess it’s the end-of-the-semester syndrome–nearly compete emotional, physical, and spiritual burnout.

Here are a few interesting stories for you to discuss when you finish reacting to myiq’s post–maybe seeing that headline about Obama’s grade for his first year that bumped me into zombieland. B+?! What is that guy on? We’re in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, real unemployment is around 20%, the banksters are being bolstered by Obama’s free hand with the U.S. Treasury, health care reform is dead for at least another decade, and Congress is pushing for cuts in Social Security and Medicare. In my gradebook, that would be grounds for an F.

Anyway…where was I? Oh yeah. Headlines…..


Developing nations walked out of the Copenhagen climate talks this morning:

A little more here

THE Copenhagen climate summit is in chaos after poor countries walked out of negotiations en masse today.

The G77, a group which represents 130 developing countries, walked out because it is concerned the existing Kyoto protocol will be abandoned.

Australia’s Climate Change Minister Penny Wong confirmed that organisers were trying to fix the problem and coax back the developing world.

Many countries at the UN climate summit want a brand new treaty to tackle climate change, but the developing world wants the Kyoto protocol to continue as well.

The protocol forces rich countries to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator Wong said the walkout was “most unfortunate”.

“It is regrettable that we appear to have reached a gridlock on process,” she said.

I was getting excited, but the developing nations have already walked back in:

Developing nations return to Copenhagen climate talks

Talks at the UN climate summit resumed on Monday afternoon after protests from developing nations forced a suspension.

But talks have been limited to informal consultations on procedural issues, notably developing countries’ demands for more time on the Kyoto Protocol.

The G77-China bloc, speaking for developing countries, said the Danish hosts had violated democratic process.

Some delegates talked forlornly of the vast amount of negotiating left to be done before the summit concludes.

The countries that suspended co-operation were those which make up the G77-China bloc of 130 nations. These range from wealthy countries such as South Korea, to some of the poorest states in the world.

Italy’s Berlusconi to stay in hospital after attack (with video)

Italian Prime Minister is in the hospital after having a statue thrown at his face.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi will stay in hospital at least until Tuesday after having his nose broken by an attacker, doctors say.

A medical bulletin reported in the Italian media said Mr Berlusconi was able to eat, but only with difficulty.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, suffered a broken nose, two broken teeth and a cut lip after being hit with a model of Milan cathedral after a rally in the city.

A 42-year-old man was arrested and has been charged with aggravated assault.

The suspect, Massimo Tartaglia, was said by police to have had a history of mental illness, receiving treatment over a 10-year period.

Excuse me, I started laughing inappropriately and had to take a short break. {wiping tears away}


The Horrible Health Care Destruction Nightmare Continues unabated. Will it ever end?

Health Care Progress Report: December 14

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — one of the Democratic caucus members the plan was intended to appease — dropped a bombshell Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” when he said he would not vote for a bill that expands Medicare.

“From what I hear, I certainly would have a hard time voting for it because it has some of the same infirmities that the public option did,” he said about the Medicare buy-in.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another conservative who may or may not vote for the health care bill, said on “Face the Nation” that the Medicare buy-in is “the forerunner of single-payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option.”

WTF are Lieberman and Nelson doing in the Democratic party anyway?


Is Reid Cursed by the Lucky Number 60?

Sixty is the number of senators in the Democratic caucus, and the precise number needed to overcome Republican filibusters. It is the magic number of votes that Mr. Reid needs to pull together to advance major health care legislation.

In many ways, 60 is also a mirage – falsely raising Democratic hopes, particularly those of more liberal senators, that they have the muscle to push the health care bill without making painful concessions to centrists in both parties.

To be sure, controlling 60 votes has generally been advantageous to the Democrats. They have repeatedly cleared procedural obstacles that Republicans set in their path, even on routine bills that ultimately are approved by overwhelming majorities.

But on the health care bill, in particular, the notion of nominally controlling 60 votes has emboldened many Democrats, especially liberals, to make demands that they might otherwise have regarded as unreasonable if their party held even one less seat.

WTF?!! Wanting Americans to have reasonably priced health care like the civilized countries do is “unreasonable?” Maybe it’s reading assinine stories like this every day that is making me feel like a zombie.

ProPublica.org is running a series of stories on police misconduct after Hurricate Katrina–highly recommended.

<a href=”After Katrina, police shot first and asked few questions.“>After Katrina, NO police shot first and asked few questions

Matt McDonald left his native Connecticut and headed to New Orleans in the summer of 2005, shortly before Hurricane Katrina struck and floodwaters engulfed the city. McDonald was a troubled soul, a heavy drinker who had lived on the streets, but he kept in touch with his family, calling from time to time.

After the storm, his brother John, an auto-body technician who lives in Norwich, Conn., began working the phones, reaching out to anyone in Louisiana he thought might know something. “I heard so many different things,” John McDonald recalled.

John McDonald’s wife, Kerry, spent the next month making one phone call after another. “It was such a big runaround,” said Kerry McDonald, who recalled speaking to FEMA officials, American Red Cross staffers, New Orleans police officers and numerous others. “One person would say he was shot to death; the next would say he was found floating.”

Eventually, despite the conflicting stories, one thing became clear: Matt was dead at 41. His body was identified by several distinctive tattoos, including the name of his daughter, Crystal, and a pair of black bat wings.

His girlfriend, Martha Dziadul, paid to cremate the body.

Four years later, a reporter looking at the conduct of the Police Department in the aftermath of the hurricane called Dziadul to ask whether she had ever seen the official report on McDonald’s death. The document said a police officer armed with an AR-15 assault rifle had shot him to death on Sept. 3, 2005.

She was staggered. “They never, ever told me the police shot him. They told me it was a homicide,” she said. “They said: We don’t even know what day it happened because we weren’t there.”

Shot or Not, Dead or Alive? Two Men’s Fate Lost in Chaos

A motionless body lay on the pavement. Perhaps 20 riled-up police officers milled around. On the shoulder of the road, an RTA bus was parked at a crazy angle, like a dislocated elbow. Nearby was a long white limousine, crashed into a pole.

What had we stumbled upon?

Then there were guns aimed at us, and my face was pushed against a wall. I heard lots of shouting and cursing.

It was three days after the levees broke: Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 — in my limited view, the day things completely fell apart in New Orleans.

The desperation was mounting. The cavalry wasn’t coming, it seemed. We were in it alone.

The heat was brutal, punishing. Supplies were minimal, and shrinking.

Can any country that permits this kind of abuse and neglect of its people survive? I honestly don’t think so.

There are a couple of terrific opinion pieces at Truthdig today:

Scott Ritter on Afghanistan: Our Murderers in the Sky

The true test of a society and its leaders is the extent to which every effort is made to both properly define a problem as one worthy of military intervention and then exhaust every option other than the use of force. It is true that President Barack Obama inherited the war in Afghanistan from his predecessor and therefore cannot be held accountable for that which transpired beyond his ability to influence. But the president’s recent decision to “surge” 30,000 additional U.S. military troops into Afghanistan transfers ownership of the Afghan conflict to him and him alone. It is in this light that his decision must be ultimately judged.

In many ways, Obama’s presentation before the Long Gray Line at West Point, in which he explained his decision to conduct the Afghanistan surge, represented an insult to the collective intelligence of the American people. The most egregious contradiction in his speech was the notion that the people of Afghanistan, who, throughout their history, have resisted central authority whether emanating from Kabul or imposed by outside invaders, would somehow be compelled to embrace this new American plan.

Chris Hedges: Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War

I have spent enough time inside the American military to have tasted its dark brutality, frequent incompetence and profligate ability to waste human lives and taxpayer dollars. The deviousness and stupidity of generals, the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence—which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand—make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy, especially as we head toward economic collapse.

Barack Obama, who is as mesmerized by the red, white and blue bunting draped around our vast killing machine as the press, the two main political parties and our entertainment industry, will not halt our doomed imperial projects or renege on the $1 trillion in defense-related spending that is hollowing out the country from the inside. A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry. It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military—half of all discretionary spending—than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat.

Mike Gravel, the former two-term senator from Alaska and 2008 presidential candidate, sat Saturday on a park bench in Lafayette Park facing the White House. Gravel and I were in the park, along with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and other anti-war activists, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a sparsely attended rally. Few voices in American politics have been as consistent, as reasoned and as moral as his, which is why Gravel, on a chilly December morning, is in front of the White House, not inside it.

Hedges is one powerful writer!

Please add more links in the comments. I’m sure I missed something big….

HAVE A MARVELOUS MONDAY!!!!!!!!!

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