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You can call him Senator Al

Franken takes the oath, proudly (Photo from the NYTimes)

Franken takes the oath, proudly (Photo from the NYTimes)

He’s an occasionally tasteless, egomaniac who declared the 80’s “The Al Franken Decade”, dedicated to him, Al Franken.  But Al Franken got me and millions of others through the darkest nights of the Bush Administration in 2004.  His Sundance Channel rebroadcast of his Air America show was one of my DVR must sees.  Every night.  As I curled up on the sofa sipping my chamomile tea and wondering when it would all end.  We cried together when Kerry lost, not because we were enamoured with Kerry but because the Bushies had four more years to screw things up.

He wrote some pretty scathing books too.  Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Lying Liars were funny in a “kidding on the square” way.  In other words, Franken flayed the bastards with facts.  They were deliciously wicked reads. Not only is he funny but he’s smart as a whip and could always carry on an intelligent conversation with his guests on Air America.

But it was easy to see where Franken was coming from.  He never hid his political leanings.  He is unabashedly liberal who cares about his country in a choked up with pride and concern kind of way.  I remember seeing him in an interview a couple of years ago after Air America started.  At one point, he stopped the sarcasm and got emotional about what was happening to the country.  It’s real.

I think his friends told him to hold off running for Senate in 2006.  He probably wasn’t ready but you could tell he was disappointed to not be able to pick up where Paul Wellstone left off.  But 2008 was a good year for him and he learned what it takes to be a good politician and also how to be patient during an agonizing 8 months of recount.  Now, he’ll have his chance to be a dedicated public servant.

Today as he took the oath, many congressional staffers who wanted to see him sworn in were prevented from doing so.  The gallery was too crowded.  There was an ovation afterwards.  People who still see him as a comedian don’t understand how courageous he looked to the rest of us.  It’s hard to go against the irresistable force of public opinion and conventional wisdom and to put one’s fortune and sacred honor on the line for principle and personal belief.  In this day and age, it’s just not done.  But he did it.

Al Franken has managed to snag some pretty impressive committee assignments. He will be a junior member of the Committess on Aging, Indian Affairs, HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) and Judiciary.  That last assignment is a bit unusual for a guy who is not a lawyer.  But Al has a chance to become our voice in the nomination hearings of Sonia Sotomayor starting next week.  We’ll have to work out a live blog schedule to cover it.  I hope Franken recognizes that Sotomayor probably isn’t going to change the dynamics when it comes to abortion but her opinions on business practices, corporations, the unitary executive theory and discrimination law need to be fleshed out.  I’m looking forward to seeing Franken sink his teeth into it.

So, Good Luck, Al.  We know you can do this.  Make the voters of Minnesota and the rest of us proud.

Now, get to work!


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Tuesday – Looking for News in all the Wrong Places

OBVIOUSLY the biggest news is the funeral/carnival for the Most Important Man who Ever Lived. This post is not about that.

Dakinikat, who would normally be submitting this post, is ill and won’t be posting for a few days.  So as a special treat this post is a group project. . . .


StateOfDisbelief


BostonBoomer


Yesterday Katiebird had a moment of weakness when this headline made her smile, “Schumer: With Franken Seated No Need To Compromise On Public Option” — and she wasn’t the only one (see Chuck Schumer Might Need to Watch His Back). A quick search in Google shows over 4,000 references to that phrase! Well.  (quick disclaimer: A Public Plan IS a compromise — we should be talking Single Payer) THAT couldn’t last.  This stunning set of stories was submitted by ALL of todays contributors (StateOfDisbelief & BostonBoomer & Katiebird) . . . . Here’s today’s headline: White House Open to Deal on Public Health Plan :

It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

“The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest,” he said in an interview. “The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable.

Wow. It’s great to have our priorities straight. I KNOW — that last link is from the Wall Street Journal and their motives are nothing but suspect on this issue.  But, I thought the comments were particularly interesting.  The journalists aren’t looking for change/reform — but their readers are!

And in the fake news department (and the second in the pair of stories submitted by all of us):  Hospitals Reach Deal With Administration, $155 Billion in Health Savings Offered.

Finally, I’ve seen this story & graph all over but, it can’t be publicized enough: A Sphere of Influence

influenceThe nation’s largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.

The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post’s analysis.