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Your Breakfast Read Saturday Edition

Health-Care Mess

My peeps at Black Agenda Report want us to stop blaming everybody under the sun: There’s a clear culprit.
Who’s Blocking Health Care Reform Now? Blue Dogs? Senate Dems? House Progressives? Or the White House Itself?

In less than a year, Democrats have transformed themselves from the party of change to the party of excuses. Republican birthers and teapartyers, blue dog Democrats, rogue donkey and elephant senators, and even progressives favoring single payer or the shadowy “public option” have all been blamed by the White House for holding up health care — or is it health insurance — reform.
[…]
It’s not Republicans, it’s not blocking blue dogs, or die-hard progressives who form the biggest political obstacle to enacting universal health care this year. It’s Democrats, following the lead of the chief Democrat in the White House.

Huh???
Obama May Need Sense of Crisis to Revive Health-Care Overhaul

President Barack Obama returns to Washington next week in search of one thing that can revive his health-care overhaul: a sense of crisis.

I’m dying to see what this draft would look like.
White House Considers Drafting Health Care Bill

Multiple sources close to the process told CNN Friday that while the plan is uncertain, they are preparing for the possibility they could deliver their own legislation to Capitol Hill sometime after the President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, with one source calling the possibility of new legislation a “contingency” approach if efforts by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to craft a deal fall through.

The White House emphasized Friday that no formal bill has yet been written. “The President has been reviewing all of the various legislative proposals, but no decision has been made about whether formal legislation will be presented,” said Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

Max Baucus says he has a bill.
Senate Chairman Says Health Care Bill Is Coming

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee told colleagues on Friday that he would soon present them with a detailed proposal for overhauling the nation’s health care system in an effort to force either an agreement or an acknowledgment that further bipartisan negotiations would be futile.

The least powerful and least listened-to group in the whole debate is making a plea.
Liberals Push Obama on Health Care Public Option

House liberals pleaded with President Barack Obama on Friday to push for creation of a government-run health care program as the Senate’s chief negotiator said he won’t wait much longer for Republicans to compromise amid dwindling chances for a bipartisan bill.

Breaking news: The sun rises from the East.
Harry Reid may compromise on public option

With so many doofuses and duplicitists “tinkering” with the legislation, this has become a very realistic scenario.
What If They Had a Health-Care Reform Bill and Nobody Could Support it?

[T]here’s an increasingly evident path by which health-care reform begins to hurt the very people it’s meant to aid. As Jordan Rau reports, making health-care reform affordable for the centrists in the Congress could make it unaffordable for the people.

Health Bills Might Not Protect Some Needy Americans, Experts Say

Concern about the legislation’s cost has overshadowed a major worry among some policy experts: Whether the Democrats’ plans would protect low- and moderate-income earners from excess financial burdens, as backers have promised.

Wasn’t this whole thing a farce to begin with?
Gang of Six healthcare reform negotiations on verge of collapse

Bravo Al Franken!


Around The Nation

Stories like these are the reason I’m opposed to the death penalty.
Did Texas execute an innocent man?

[Cameron Todd Willingham] insisted upon his innocence in the deaths of his children and refused an offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence.

He got what he deserves.
US soldier gets life for rape and murder of Iraqi girl

A US army soldier has received five consecutive life sentences for his role in the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and the slaying of three of her family members.

Colleges brace for swine flu assault

With thousands of college students flooding New England campuses this week, universities are taking unprecedented measures to contain possible outbreaks of influenza, knowing that young adults sit squarely in the bull’s-eye of susceptibility to swine flu.

In observance of Labor Day: a progress report on jobs

The picture is slowly improving. But how well you’re doing depends on your profession, where you live, and how old you are.


Torturegate: The “Postplay”

Chalabi aide: I went from White House to secret prison

U.S. authorities detained a top aide to former Iraqi exile leader and Bush administration ally Ahmad Chalabi last year and accused him of helping Iranian-backed militants kidnap and kill American and British soldiers and contractors.

Ashcroft can be sued over arrests, appeals court rules

In a ruling that said Ashcroft could be sued for prosecutorial abuses, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the former attorney general immunity from liability for how he used the material witness warrants in national security investigations.


Economy Watch

Paul Krugman has a superb essay on macroeconomics in the NY Times Magazine.
How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?

Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy. During the golden years, financial economists came tobelieve that markets were inherently stable — indeed, that stocks and other assets were always priced just right. There was nothing in the prevailing models suggesting the possibility of the kind of collapse that happened last year. Meanwhile, macroeconomists were divided in their views. But the main division was between those who insisted that free-market economies never go astray and those who believed that economies may stray now and then but that any major deviations from the path of prosperity could and would be corrected by the all-powerful Fed. Neither side was prepared to cope with an economy that went off the rails despite the Fed’s best efforts.

Black Swan anyone? (Sorry! I had to squeeze that in, I’m currently re-reading the book and I can’t believe how prescient Nassim Nicholas Taleb was.)

Economists React: Improving Trend ‘Can’t Be Denied’

Economists and others weigh in on the increase in the unemployment rate and moderating job losses.

Things getting better or “getting worse more slowly”?
Job losses slow as unemployment rises to 9.7 percent

Another important sign of a firming economic recovery emerged Friday from government statistics showing a slowdown in the torrid pace of job losses, even as a larger-than-expected rise in the unemployment rate to 9.7 percent signaled a long road ahead before Americans feel a return to normalcy.

Whose recovery is it anyway?
U.S. Recovery Leaving Workers Jobless May Spur Company Profits

Employers kept Americans’ working hours near a record low in August, signaling that economic growth is poised to reward companies with added profits while postponing any recovery in the job market.

Why the Stimulus Is Helping the Economy but Not Obama

Proving a negative is always a challenge, but there’s mounting evidence that the controversial $787 billion stimulus bill is achieving one of its major goals: shortening the recession. Economists at Goldman Sachs say the bill, officially called the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act, has resulted in a 2% to 3% boost to annual GDP in the second and third quarters of this year, turning what could have been a worsening recession into potential growth. For President Barack Obama, whose poll numbers have dropped precipitously from around 65% to around 50% as Americans have become worried about government spending and health-care reform

How did we get here?
How the collapse of Lehman Brothers pushed capitalism to the brink

The Wall Street titan’s bankruptcy triggered a system-wide crisis of confidence in banks across the globe

This is just not looking good.
Banks Closed in Four States; 89 in 2009

Regulators on Friday shut down banks in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Arizona, pushing to 89 the number of banks that have failed this year under the weight of the soured economy and rising loan defaults

The financial meltdown made some big winners and losers.
Executives who gained–or lost–the most in the economic crisis


Op-ed Columns

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two American journalists that were captured and held hostage in North Korea penned an op-ed a couple fo days ago. It’s well worth a read.
Hostages of the Hermit Kingdom

Since our release, we have become aware that the situation along the China-North Korea border has become even more challenging for aid groups and that many defectors are going deeper underground. We regret if any of our actions, including the high-profile nature of our confinement, has led to increased scrutiny of activists and North Koreans living along the border. The activists’ work is inspiring, courageous and crucial.

Many people have asked about our strength to endure such hardships and uncertainty. But our experiences pale when compared with the hardship facing so many people living in North Korea or as illegal immigrants in China.

Health-care reform 1993: Brad Delong reminisces
Why health-care reform failed last time

Joe Conasson says Obama screwed the pooch.
Healthcare didn’t have to go this way

Obama gave away the store on this crucial issue. It’s time to take it back

Chuck Hagel making some good noise
America Must Recognize Her Limits

Iraq and Afghanistan Aren’t Ours to Win or Lose

Where the Jobs Aren’t

As is the case with so many economic indicators these days, the only good thing to say about the August jobs report is that it could have been worse. Employers shed another 216,000 jobs last month, a smaller loss than expected and the lowest monthly loss total in a year.


Around The World

Did Gordon Brown really believe we would be happy about the release of the guy we are holding responsible for blowing up hundreds of Americans?
Lockerbie bomber: Megrahi’s release has strained the special relationship

There is no mistaking the rage in America, across the board, at the release of the Lockerbie bomber Megrahi, and at the apparent duplicity of Gordon Brown and his kinsmen north of the border. Americans dislike more than anything else duplicity among friends (though it is not always absent in Washington).

Nobody likes “collateral damage” on their soil.
NATO seeks to calm Afghans after deadly air strike

U.S. and German military officers met families and victims of a NATO air strike in Northern Afghanistan on Saturday in a bid to cool anger over an incident that undermines NATO efforts to win hearts and minds.

Afghan officials say scores of people were killed, many of them civilians, when a U.S. F-15 fighter jet called in by German troops struck two hijacked fuel trucks before dawn on Friday.

You can guess who in the G20 is against a serious reform of the financial sector: It’s so much more fun to play footsies with Wall Street.
G20 united on stimulus, divided on bank reform

While policymakers appear agreed that economic life-support packages need to remain in place, divisions have appeared over the best way to fix the banking system and ensure no repeat of the credit crisis that plunged the world into recession.

Those damned “communists”
France tells G20 finance ministers it will cap bankers’ bonuses

France will go it alone and axe bankers’ bonuses even if Britain and America refuse to cap them, the French Finance Minister said yesterday after the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in London.


From The World of Science

When do we actually start to know what we are doing and why we are doing it?
When Does Consciousness Arise in Human Babies?

It is well recognized that infants have no awareness of their own state, emotions and motivations. Even older children who can speak have very limited insight into their own actions.
[…]
A more complex behavior is imitation: if Dad sticks out his tongue and waggles it, the infant mimics his gesture by combining visual information with proprioceptive feedback from its own movements. It is therefore likely that the baby has some basic level of unreflective, present-oriented consciousness.

But when does the magical journey of consciousness begin?


Odds & Ends

Tired of these usually boring “Top Colleges” lists, here is a much better one for you:
America’s 25 Douchiest Colleges

The question isn’t whether you’re a douche bag when you go to college. We were all kind of douche bags when we went to college, if we’re going to be honest about it. No, the question for America’s youth is: What kind of douche bag do you aspire to be?

Some members of Congress have really deep pockets, but the recession didn’t spare them either.
Rich List: Kerry, Issa, Harman most wealthy; new kids of ’09 are rich kids, too

The richest lawmaker is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a veteran senator and 2004 presidential nominee, who has a net worth of at least $167.8 million, thanks to his wife’s fortune. Some of the members well known for their wealth, such as Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), are also on the Rich List, with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.

Best wedding wows ever.

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66 Responses

  1. Thanks mablue for this comprehensive line-up!

    I’m suspicious of Bill Moyers ever since the 2008 Democratic primary. However, he gets it right sometime. I do think he was a true believer that Obama stood for something. Last night he challenged Obama to stand up for health care. It’s good:

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2009/09/bill_moyers_on_obamas_moment.html#comments

  2. The Black Agenda Report is right! And you won’t be able to guess the rationale
    http://edgeoforever.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/obama-will-save-us-if-congress-veers-too-far-left/

  3. Hi MABlue,

    I could tell right away that piece on consciousness in babies was written by a man. There is so much more research already than he is aware of. Thank goodness women are doing important research on infant development these days. We’d still be in the dark ages otherwise.

    • I could tell right away that piece on consciousness in babies was written by a man.

      How could you tell?

      • I suspected it right away, because the information isn’t new or startling. Then when you start to read the article, there is that conscending attitude toward mothers. It wasn’t until women started doing developmental research that psychologists began to understand how much was going on in babies’ minds. I’m a developmental psychologist, remember–I’m pretty familiar with the latest research.

      • For me, because of the very first line of the article:

        Mothers will want to crucify me for this seemingly cruel question, but it needs to be posed: How do we know that a newly born and healthy infant is conscious?

        Why would mothers want to crucify him?

        • Because he’s a man who knows so much more than they do?

          /snark

        • I’m still trying to get his point. He seems to intimate in the article that they have no way to measure the dreams of a fetus and then boldly proclaim that his personal belief is they don’t dream because in his personal opinion they have no experiences to draw upon to base dreaming and this formulates his position that therefore concsiousness begins at birth? Where is the science portion of this to back up his hypothesis?

          I could just as easily juxtapose that they do dream and therefore they are conscious in utero without facts to back it up. So his point was?

        • same reason I wanted to kill my son’s pediatrician when he kept telling me I worried too much and my son was just catching whatever was going around day care. I was bringing him to the doctor about three times a week for six months, until on his first birthday he finally started having asthma attacks in response to all the foods he was allergic to. The poor kid had to take medicine for the next twelve years.

  4. A nice, chock- full morning read.

    I opened my mail to the headline in the NYT – Signs of a Jobless Recovery. I am so tired of that meme. How is it a recovery if people cannot get jobs?

  5. MaBlue…how’d you get that picture of my (spoiled) cat?

  6. thanks for posting the laughing bride, i sure needed a good laugh today and that hit the spot:)

  7. Clyburn: half a loaf is better than none
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/politics/story/74879.html

  8. great rournd up mablue2 !

    In less than a year, Democrats have transformed themselves from the party of change to the party of excuses

    I suggest that they became the party of excuses some time ago and it went hyper speed in ’06. Today is ” every Dem value is off the table ‘ 06″ on steroids….more of the same , just WAY more .

  9. Our government: it just does not work effectively and the way it is constituted it never will. It is not set up to identify problems and resolve them; it is set up for competition and power. This has always been the case but modern communication has brought it to its logical conclusion of complete gridlock. The fact that we have had a healthcare crisis for 50 years and can not solve it is primary evidence that we have a government that just can’t work for us.

  10. Why does that video of Franken have a title: “Franken Talks Down Angry Mob?” That doesn’t sound/look like an angry mob to me–they were constituents with (mostly) legitimate questions and concerns. He did what Hillary would do–explains different issues in calm detail. This generalization and demonization of anyone who is confused or disagrees as an “angry mob” is simplistic partisan b.s. Insulting people is not going to persuade them, it’s only going to anger them more. Listening and educating, as Franken does, is much more effective.

    • Wondered that, too. Kept waiting for an outburst or something but it never happened. S/B “Franken discusses health care reform with Minnesotans at State Fair”.

    • Listen to the 1st question and look at the body language of the questioner.
      It was all adversarial but Franken successfully took any potential hit out of the conversation. I do agree that “talk down” was not an acurate description

  11. I don’t have a link, because I’m not on my computer, but Peggy Noonan (no, not a fan, but this section of her piece today on how young and arrogant Obama’s admin. is in particular caught my eye) Again, they are just now noticing the obvious lack of empathy this guy has:

    The difference between the party establishments struck me, but is not my point. This is: The president walked into the funeral and moved toward the front pews nodding, shaking hands. He hugged Mrs. Kennedy, nodded some more, shook more hands. He was dignified and contained, he was utterly appropriate, and he was cold.

    He is cold, like someone who is contained not because he’s disciplined and successfully restrains his emotions, but because there’s not that much to restrain. This is the dark side of cool. One wonders if this will play well with the American people. Long-term it is hard to get people to trust your policies if they think you’re coolly operating on some intellectual or ideological abstractions.

    I don’t think as a presidential style it will wear well with the center. And it may not wear well with the president’s own party. They may come to see him, in time, as not really one of them. And that’s when things will really get interesting.

  12. That video of the vows is hilarious. What a great laugh. If they start out laughing like this, it’s a good sign.

  13. “But when does the magical journey of consciousness begin?”

    For many voters in America, it never does.

  14. Why the Stimulus Is Helping the Economy but Not Obama

    That piece is in Time magazine, quoting economists at Goldman Sachs?! Oh, there’s two reliable sources.

  15. My Ongoing Michelle Bachmann is Insane Watch:

    http://mediamattersaction.org/blog/200909040004

    BACHMANN: Also with women politicians, they want to make sure no women, no woman becomes president before a Democrat woman, and so they’re doing everything they can to, I think, sabotage women like Sarah Palin, perhaps women like myself, or similarly situated women, to make sure that we don’t have a prominent national voice. But the thing is, the people in our country, they don’t care who the voice is, they just want someone, they want to know that someone is speaking out for them against what will certainly bring about the destruction of our great country if we continue to go down the Obama path.

  16. More Signs states are in trouble: They’re shedding jobs.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125210649478787765.html

    State and local governments stood out as safe havens for workers during the recession’s early stages. Now even they are laying off employees as officials rush to cut costs and balance budgets.

    August marked the third straight month that state and local governments shed jobs, reflecting cutbacks prompted by declining income and property taxes. They accounted for the bulk of the 18,000 government jobs lost in August — the U.S. Postal Service cut about 8,500 jobs as well — and analysts expect the reductions to continue through much of the year.

    • Can you say “second stimulus”?

      • How about using the stimulus we already have? How much of it have they actually used to date? It’s a fraction of the $787 million right?

        • Wasn’t the first stimulus supposed to kick in its main effects during 2010? (just in time for the elections…)

        • Billion with a b. The states are only getting a fraction of that and I wonder were the heck the rest of it is going and when, too.

      • They should’ve done the first one right. Job creation is the focus of a stimulus bill, not tax handouts.

        • Joe Stiglitz had a great article about that. The 1st stimulus was watered down with senseless tax cuts to appeal to Republicans and it ended up passing with ZERO Republican vote.

          The 2nd stimulus should be used to help the States if we don’t want them to start firing firefighters, teachers and other public employes.

  17. File this under “I don’t believe my uterus would be up to this challenge”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32630876/

  18. Hard not to read this without an urge to laugh. I hope these people don’t vote.

    Fire Chief shot by police in court!

    These people would probably be dumb enough to want a second stimulus bill. More pork for the constituents!

    • That definitely wins the Saturday morning WTH award.

      • This and the Duggars from Arkansas. What’s up with that?

        • re: the Duggars:

          They adhere to a Christian movement called Quiverfull, whose members take seriously the biblical exhortation to be fruitful and multiply and believe that every child is a gift from Providence.

          • Oooohhhh, now I see. I’ve always tried to pay little attention to groups like that. It’s much easier to stay sane that way. 🙂

  19. Terrific roundup of what’s up in the world, Mablue – BTW – both my husband and I had a good laugh with the bride – I just sent that link off to a friend whose daughter is getting married next Saturday! Thanks

  20. A Doctor’s Plan for Legal Industry Reform not pre-digested opinion piece from the WSJ. Kind of funny to me though.

  21. The speech Obama should give, but won’t:

    My fellow Americans, I’m speaking tonight to dispell a lot of confusion around the healthcare debate, some of it caused by Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats acting in the interests of health insurance corporations, drug companies, and others with a vested interest in the status quo.

    But a lot of it has been caused by me. First, I have a confession and a profound apology to make. In putting together my healthcare plan, such as it is, I betrayed my promise of change and sold you out to those very same special interests. I have no excuse for that betrayal, and I don’t ask you to forgive me. It is up to me to prove to you, here and now, and from this moment on, that I’VE changed, that I’ve learned my lesson, and that from now on I’ll stand with you, and beside you in your fight for health care for all Americans.

    It is absurd that we spend twice as much as any other country on healthcare, but get no better results, and leave tens of millions living under the threat of bankruptcy if they get sick. It is absurd that the wellbeing of health insurance companies should take precedence over the well-being of the American people. I bought into that absurdity, and again I apologize. It won’t happen again.

    From today I support the House Bill for Medicare for All, a single-payer system that will save us as a nation between 300 and 500 billion dollars a year, that will not have to wait until 2013 to be implemented, that will put your interests ahead of Washington politicians and special interest money. I ask you to join me in this fight-and it will be a fight. The forces that profit from things as they are wealthy and determined, and have reporters and politicians and even an entire political party in their pocket. But from now on they will only have one party in their pocket, not two. All true Democrats will stand with me, with you. Those who don’t, I trust, with your help, will find themselves facing primary challenges next year.

    Because I will do everything I can to help you in this fight-but ultimately it is your fight. Your health. Your children. Your security. Flood Congress with phone calls and letters demanding-not asking, DEMANDING, as your right-Medicare healthcare for all. Demonstrate. March on Washington. Confront-peacefully but forcefully-your members of Congress. Do your part as Americans and I promise never to betray your trust again.

  22. Wow:

    It was just too much, having to return to court twice on the same day to contest yet another traffic ticket, and Fire Chief Don Payne didn’t hesitate to tell the judge what he thought of the police and their speed traps.

    The response from cops? They shot him. Right there in court.

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