Saturday, October 31, 2009

Republican Filibuster Of Unemployment Insurance Extension Broken


Early in the week the Senate tried taking up Rep. Jim McDermott's rather urgent bill, H.R. 3548, which would extend unemployment insurance to the hundreds of thousands of American workers for whom it has expired-- the banksters having eaten up all the TARP money in cartel-like mergers and bonuses for their top executives without having loosened up on credit for job-creating businesses. Money for working people? You can imagine what happened, of course. The Republicans went into obstruction mode and began their faux filibuster. Harry Reid called for a cloture vote on Wednesday and it passed 87-13, every Democrat and most of the Republicans slapping down the worst of the anti-working family fanatics:

John Barrasso (R-WY)
Kit Bond (R-MO)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Jeff Sessions (KKK-AL)
David Diapers Vitter (R-LA)

The miscreants whose names are bolded are running for re-election next year.

With the filibuster out of the way, next week the Senate will be taking up the actual bill. Reid has added an extension and expansion of a tax credit for first-time homebuyers to the final bill which has one more procedural hurdle to pass on Monday before it can be voted on later in the week. The bipartisan deal Reid agreed to Thursday extends the homebuyer tax credit for first-time homebuyers, scheduled to expire Nov. 30, to people who sign sales contracts by April 30, 2010, and close within 60 days. The refunds would work for their 2009 returns. The amendment also adds a $6,500 credit for existing homeowners, who have lived in their current homes for 5 consecutive years earn less than $125,000 ($225,000 for married couples), although homes sold for more than $800,000 would not be eligible for the credit.

This seems to complement a new Obama proposal announced yesterday for a $5 billion tax credit expansion. According to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner this is supposes to help distressed communities across the country and he says the tax credits "have proven to be remarkably effective job creators, engines of economic development. To date over $14 billion of private sector capital has been invested in an estimated 2,000 businesses, supporting roughly 200,000 jobs."

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DCCC Sends Paul Ryan Halloween Greetings


Everyday is Halloween for this clown

The DCCC may have picked a really bad candidate-- another worthless reactionary not even worth voting for-- in NY-23, but they sure know how to send out a cool Halloween card. And speaking of "worthless," you won't find many members of Congress, on either side of the aisle, worth less to working families than Wisconsin bribe-taker Paul Ryan. It starts with a standard Kenosha Halloween greeting: TRICK OR TREAT-- Representative Ryan: Where's Your Health Reform Bill?

After Roy Blunt failed, dismally, to come up with a Republican alternative to the Democrat's plans to offer more choices and less expensive health insurance to Americans, Minority Leader John Boehner popped his head out of his tanning booth long enough to ask Paul Ryan to come up with something that might sound plausible and make people think Republicans were something other than just the Party of No. He explained that this time they were looking for something with a little more effort put into it that an empty binder, like when he handed in his neat-looking, but kindergarten level, alternative budget.
It’s been more than four months since the House Republican leadership broke their promise to release a health reform alternative, and Representative Paul Ryan has yet to offer a meaningful alternative. Acknowledging the fact that House Republicans have no actual solutions, in what can only be described as a Halloween trick, today the Republican Party of ‘No Health Reform’ circulated a memo on how to kill health insurance reform without “making the Republican Party look bad.”
“As a Member of Congress who doesn’t have to worry about the taxpayer-funded health insurance for themselves or their family, it’s easy for Representative Ryan to just say ‘no’ to health insurance reform and play tricks on his constituents while continuing to put big health insurance companies first,” said Ryan Rudominer, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “But, the people of Representative Ryan's district deserve more than his offering how-to guides for killing health insurance reform ‘without making the Republican Party look bad,’ they deserve actual solutions to spiraling health insurance costs.”

Ryan is by no means the longest-serving member of Wisconsin's Washington delegation. David Obey, one of the most powerful figures in DC, was first elected in 1969 and Ryan's 2 Republican colleagues, Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Petri were both elected in the 1970s. But when it comes to trading votes for Insurance Industry bucks, no one comes close to Ryan. Tammy Baldwin and Ryan were elected on the same day in 1998. She's taken slightly over $50,000 in contributions from the Insurance Industry. Ryan has taken considerably more: $518,051. Ryan hadn't been born when Obey was first elected but Obey's only gotten $123,556 from Big Insurance (about $3,000 a year). When Sensenbrenner was elected Ryan's mother was still pulling her hair out because her son was still wetting his bed at night. But Sensenbrenner, a devoted friend and supporter of all Big Business interests, has only taken in $252,898, half of Ryan's haul! Ryan has taken in over double what all three of the state's senators in recent times (Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl and Republican Bob Kasten) have, combined. There's little doubt that Paul Ryan is the most corrupt man Wisconsin has ever sent to Washington, part of the reason he's the only member of the House with a Blue America page devoted exclusively to defeating him.

The Democrat running against him, Paulette Garin, lists health care as the #1 issue she wants to address. And she's far from the only one living in southeast Wisconsin who has noticed that Ryan is more concerned with the Insurance Industry lobbyists and CEOs than he is with the working families of Racine, Kenosha, Franklin, Janesville, Greenfield and Muskego. The Racine Journal Times published an OpEd by local health care expert Kelly Gallaher excoriating Ryan for his deceitful approach to the health care debate. He "establishes his opposition by claiming that 'drastic cuts to Medicare Advantage plans would devastate seniors enrolled in these plans.' This assertion," she writes, "is questionable at best, and certainly an ironic role reversal given GOP actions of the recent past." Ryan, like most of his Republican colleagues voted to end Medicare as it currently exists and convert it "from a program that guarantees seniors all necessary access to care into a voucher system that provides future retirees only a fixed sum of money to purchase private health insurance. In Rep. Ryan's proposal '... new retirees would not even have the option of buying into traditional fee-for-service Medicare once the voucher system is implemented.' John Rother, Vice President for Policy at AARP called the Ryan plan 'a very dangerous idea.' Furthermore, Rother said, 'Converting Medicare into a voucher would increase costs for all beneficiaries and over time force less-affluent seniors to accept lower-quality care.'"
It is also ironic that Ryan and his Republican colleagues have chosen Medicare Advantage as a rallying point for dispensing falsehoods and distortions about health care reform. In 2003, Republicans joined forces to create Medicare Advantage as an upgrade to Medicare by allowing private insurers to compete with government plans for seniors. Medicare gave them the money it would have spent and let private insurers try do a better job. Except they didn't, in fact, they failed. Prices shot up and Republicans funneled in more money to increase reimbursement rates. Today, Medicare Advantage pays private plans 114 percent of the cost Medicare would have paid, with cost projections continuing to rise. Overpayments resulted in $3.36 billion in profits for private insurers in 2006 alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This free market experiment has not yielded the innovations promised and the only "advantage" has been for private insurance companies and not the American people.

Current health care legislation which Rep. Ryan opposes is designed to cut the waste and overpayments in Medicare Advantage, but not benefits. Any argument against such action is really an argument in favor of waste and abuse.

The America's Affordable Health Care Choices Act being considered today is committed to protecting and strengthening Medicare for America's seniors. It doesn't use a dime of the Medicare trust fund to pay for reform. Instead, it eliminates waste to strengthen the financial health of the program. The AAHCCA enhances quality and affordability particularly for seniors by filling the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D (prescription drug benefit). AAHCCA will eliminate any deductible, co-payments and cost sharing for preventive services in Medicare and Medicare Advantage. AAHCCA improves low-income subsidy programs in Medicare; it improves the delivery and coordination of services for people dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, enhances nursing home transparency and accountability requirements and makes long-term care more affordable.

The America's Affordable Health Care Choices Act extends Medicare program solvency by improving payment accuracy to ensure that the right amount is paid, expands funding and authority to fight waste, fraud and abuse and eliminates overpayments to private plans.

When Rep. Ryan argues against health care reform by telling you that it will cut Medicare benefits for seniors, all one has to do is look at his record. The current system is unsustainable and he helped create it. During Republican control of Congress, health insurance premiums in Wisconsin increased 108 percent from 1999 to 2009 while wage earnings increased only 30 percent. In speaking about his failure to act on health care just last week, Ryan said "We should have fixed this under our watch and I'm frustrated we didn't." Because of this inaction: 14,000 Americans lost their health insurance today and another 14,000 will tomorrow. About 122 Americans died today because they had no insurance and the same number will die tomorrow. Every 30 seconds today an American will file for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious illness. Ryan had years to fix our broken system; he failed. Democrats will protect the promise they made to American seniors with Medicare 40 years ago and pass real health care reform. The time is now.
There are something like 73,000 uninsured people among Ryan's constituents. Under the plan he's taken a leading role in savaging, 51,000 of them would gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance, while 14,000 small businesses would qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance and 9,400 senior citizens in the district would avoid the Donut Hole annually. Would taxes go up? Yes-- but in WI-01, they would rise only for the wealthiest few. In fact 99.3% of Ryan's constituents would see exactly zero dollars in increases. But he's more concerned about the 0.7% of millionaires-- many of whom donate to his campaigns-- than he is about health care or about the 99.3%.

Please consider donating to Stop Paul Ryan or to electing Paulette Garin... or both.

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Official GOP Nominee Backs Out Of Congressional Race In NY-23-- Shockwaves Across America


The Republicans haven't lost a congressional race in the northeastern corner of New York State since around the time of the Civil War. But after polling showed their mainstream candidate, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, coming in third after conservative Democrat Bill Owens and the teabagger candidate, ultra right extremist Doug Hoffman, Scozzafava pulled out 3 days before election day! A Siena poll released this morning shows her campaign sinking rapidly-- with the support of only 20% of the voters.

In "suspending" her campaign, she pointedly did not endorse the right-wing extremist who has thwarted her bid to win a congressional seat. Democrats are reaching out to her to endorse Owens. The NRCC has now officially jumped on the Hoffman bandwagon but Scozzafava's name will still be on the ballot Tuesday and many of her most ardent supporters will vote for her as a protest against Hoffman's extremism and against the party being taken over by deranged, hate-filled radicals. Her complete statement is here. Many observers saw this coming when ostensible mainstream Republican ex-Governor George Pataki endorsed the teabagger candidate last night. His vicious blast must have felt like a ton of bricks falling on the head of the faltering Scozzafava:
“Simply put, we cannot afford to give another vote to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, we cannot afford another vote for higher taxes, we cannot afford another vote for government-run health care, and we absolutely cannot afford another vote to take away from hard-working men and women the right to secret ballot.”

It was more significant than, say, the meaningless switch of a parade of extremist congressional clowns like Darrell Issa (R-CA), who have in recent days run to the microphones to kick their own party's candidate to the curb while endorsing the teabagger.

Interestingly, more than a few Republicans fear that the teabagger surge could swamp them as well. Already several extreme right candidates with teabagger support are dooming establishment Republicans. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, with a once insurmountable lead of a little known extremist pip-squeak, Marco Rubio, is now-- despite all the Establishment support and all the big money-- an underdog in the race for the GOP Senate nomination. Teabaggers in South Carolina are in the process of taking over the party from mainstream conservatives and look likely to defeat regular Republican incumbents. Yesterday The Hill started talking about the Hoffman Effect in terms of primaries in other states:
In Virginia’s 5th district, state Sen. Robert Hurt’s entry into the GOP primary has spurred little-known candidate Bradley Rees to switch to the Virginia Conservative Party. And in Ohio, another GOP primary contender said this week that he’ll run as a Constitution Party candidate.

Both will go at the GOP nominees from their right flanks and try to expose some unhappiness in conservative ranks. They might not be as well-funded as Hoffman or be filling quite as big a vacuum as the one left by Republican Dede Scozzafava’s left-leaning politics, but they could steal valuable votes.

Rees isn’t afraid of playing spoiler to the establishment-favorite Hurt. He even suggested his third-party candidacy could help freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) stay in Congress.

“It may amount to only drawing enough votes from the Republican candidate to ensure Tom Perriello a second term,” Rees told the Lynchburg News and Advance.

“If so, so be it. Maybe then the party will understand that we are trying to save the GOP from its worst enemy-- not the Democrats, but themselves.”

A similar situation occurred in Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s (D-Ohio) district last year, when Republican Steve Stivers lost enough of the vote to conservative third-party candidates to allow Kilroy to win.

And now Stivers, who supports abortion rights, could again be ceding support to his right, in the form of Ron Paul supporter David Ryon. Ryon switched from the GOP to the Constitution Party this week.

Bill Owens isn't even a Democrat-- he registered as one a few weeks ago when the DCCC said they would back him despite having been a GOP financial donor for years-- and he's far too conservative for progressives to support. But Perriello and Kilroy are real Democrats who will be heavily supported by the Democratic grassroots. That isn't the case in Alabama, where one of the most reactionary and hated faux-Democrats in Congress, Blue Dog Bobby Bright is going to watch as teabagger Rob John battles it out with official GOP nominee, Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby. Progressives will be rooting for either to defeat the Blue Dog, a Boehner Boy who has voted far more frequently with the Republicans on substantive matters than with the Democrats and routinely opposes the Democrats on the most fundamental issues. Glenn Beck takes it a step further: Palin will run as a third party teabagger candidate in 2012. Rahm Emanuel must have all his fingers-- all 9 of them-- and toes crossed!

This sad, last minute, disjointed plea to Republicans didn't save Dede Scozzafava:

UPDATE: Scozzafava Pressured To Withdraw But She Refuses To Endorse Teabagger

Elizabeth Benjamin at the NY Daily News interviewed Scozzafava, who refuses to endorse Hoffman. It doesn't sound like she's going to dump the party that dumped on her either though. Watch the video.

Another late development: one of Scozzafava's key backers, the New York State Independence Party chairman has switched... to Owens! Frank MacKay says he wishes he had endorsed the quasi-Democrat from day one. Meanwhile, the NRCC changed it's mind and has now endorsed Hoffman, the teabagger. I guess they decided to overlook the small differences like when they said he "lacked the integrity and qualities needed to be elected to anything-- let alone Congress."

SUNDAY UPDATE: Bad News For Teabagger

The Watertown Times has now switched its endorsement from Scozzafava to Owens and Scozzafava is urging her supporters to vote for Owens as well. Last night her husband, Ron McDougall, president of the Jefferson/Lewis/St. Lawrence Central Labor Council issued a statement through the AFL-CIO that he is endorsing Owens against teabagger Hoffman.
"This has been a difficult day for my family. But the needs and concerns of the men and women of the 23rd Congressional District remain paramount," McDougall said. "As such, I wholeheartedly and without reservation endorse the candidacy of Bill Owens."

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Why Don't We Call Bribery "Bribery" When It Involves Senators Wives Getting Paid Off For Their Husband's Votes?


Not a Halloween montage, but no lobbying allowed in these families

I'd be more interested in knowing how the Justice Department investigations into the most corrupt members of Congress-- like the 3 Inland Empire crooks, Jerry Lewis, Ken Calvert and Gary Miller-- are progressing, but yesterday the Washington Post published a leak showing that more than 30 House members are being looked at by the largely ineffective Ethics Committee. As always-- going back to the days when Jerry Lewis ran it and Duke Cunningham and Duncan Hunter ran rampant-- the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is a major focus. Todd Tiahrt, a teabagger-supported candidate for the open Kansas Senate seat is one member who has been trading earmarks for campaign cash.

Aside from the regular crooked dealers we've all been waiting to get carted off to prison, like Charlie Rangel, I was especially happy to see that Blue Dog Jane Harman's activities on behalf of another country are being looked into:
The committee on June 9 authorized issuance of subpoenas to the Justice Department, the National Security Agency and the FBI for "certain intercepted communications" regarding  Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). As was reported earlier this year, Harman was heard in a 2005 conversation agreeing to an Israeli operative's request to try to obtain leniency for two pro-Israel lobbyists in exchange for the agent's help in lobbying  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to name her chairman of the intelligence committee. The department, a former U.S. official said, declined to respond to the subpoena.

This week investigative journalist Joe Conason took corruption investigating to a much-needed level the feds have generally avoided-- how members of Congress use their spouses to collect millions of dollars in bribes from corporate interests. It's hardly a new phenomenon, and John Doolittle isn't in Congress any longer because of it. But Conason shines a much needed light on two sickeningly sanctimonious hypocrites: Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh.
If Democrats are disappointed by Joe Lieberman’s threat to filibuster any healthcare reform bill that includes a public option, they shouldn't be. Despite all of his past promises to support universal healthcare, nothing was more predictable than the Connecticut senator's fealty to the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists.

Much the same can be said of Sen. Evan Bayh, who emerged from hiding on healthcare to announce that he too plans to filibuster against reform with the Republicans, regardless of what his constituents and Americans in general plainly want. Like Lieberman, his state is home to powerful corporations that want reform killed-- and like Lieberman, his wife has brought home very big paychecks from those same interests.

The Lieberman family's financial ties to the health industry are no secret, yet their full extent remains unknown. During her husband's 2006 reelection campaign, Hadassah Lieberman's employment as a "senior counselor" to Hill & Knowlton, one of the world’s biggest lobbying firms, briefly erupted as an issue, especially because the clients she served were in the controversial pharmaceutical and insurance sectors. Exactly what she did for those clients has never been disclosed.

...The best that can be said about the Lieberman family's conflict of interest is that it appears to have ended in 2005-- while the Bayh family continues to collect enormous amounts of money from the same health insurance and drug companies that will benefit from her husband’s actions. Indeed, the smell of ethical rot arising from the Bayh household is even worse than the self-serving aroma that surrounds the Liebermans.

Susan Bayh was invited to join the board of Wellpoint back in 1998, when the Indiana-based company was still called Anthem Insurance and had not yet completed the mergers that made it the largest health insurer in America (and gave it monopoly status in many regions of the country). According to her official biography on Wellpoint's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, her qualifications to sit on the board of a billion-dollar corporation were minimal, to put it politely. She was 38 years old, teaching law at a local university, with limited experience as a corporate attorney at Eli Lilly & Co., the big pharmaceutical company that is also headquartered in Indiana. But then her husband, Evan, after two terms as governor, had just been elected to the United States Senate.

Susan Bayh's compensation from Wellpoint, including the stock options that she has exercised repeatedly over the past 10 years, has reached an estimated $2 million, including last year's director salary of over $300,000. She is the only director who, according to the most recent SEC filing, actually owns no shares in the company, because she sells as soon as her options become available. In January 2007, she exercised her options to acquire 3,333 shares of Wellpoint for an estimated cost of $147,000-- and sold them the same day for an estimated price of $260,000, netting a tidy sum of $113,000. She repeated the same process five months later for a net profit of $136,000, and then seven months after that, selling another 1,430 shares for $123,000. That represented profits of nearly $400,000 on top of her salary.

Evidently Susan Bayh is most interested in accumulating wealth, and so far she has done a fine job. The Bayhs are now worth somewhere between $5 million and $10 million, an amount that was not scrimped from Evan's salary in the Senate. In 2007 he reassured a Fort Wayne newspaper in sonorous tones that sounded Liebermanesque: "I can honestly tell you that if my wife did not have a job, none, I can't think of a single decision I've made that would be any different. I look at what's best for our state and our country and my own conscience. My integrity matters more to me than anything, so I always do what's right for the people who put their trust in me."

Evan Bayh claims Susan Bayh isn't allowed to lobby him on matters regarding the companies she's financially involved with. Whew! I wonder if there's another repeat about that Balloon Boy show on TV today.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Will Obama Take The Coward's Way And Just Take His Orders From The Pentagon?


We didn't elect the Pentagon. We elected a leader promising us Hope and Change. Of course all during the campaign Obama badmouthed U.S. involvement in Iraq but always talked up Afghanistan. I don't know a single person who didn't think he was just saying that to sound plausible to imbeciles. Now he's stuck with his campaign rhetoric: "a war of necessity" and all that bullshit, with a Military Establishment itching to blow things up; and with an Intelligence Establishment that is addicted to the unaccountable money it makes-- off the books-- from the Afghan opium/heroin trade. What a mess. And the coward's way is to just compromise, split the difference, go along with the generals...

Watching Obama since he's become president has convinced me, there's nothing to Hope for and no Change coming. And, yep... he's a coward. I know not everyone will see it the same way I am. I know plenty of folks are going to want to cling to their prayers that he really is-- or ever was-- the Change and Hope guy. But if you don't start weaning yourself away from that now, it'll be worse later. Did he sell us out on health care? Abso-effin'-lutely! Good for Big Pharma; good for Big Insurance; good for Wall Street; good for Obama 2012. And for America? Sucks. Look no further than the crap with eyeballs he hired to run his administration-- corrupt Wall Street banksters (Summers, Emanuel, Geithner, Rubin) every bit as bad as the monstrosities Bush inflicted on us. What happened to the whole fixing Wall Street thing? Nothing's substantively changed and no one's in jail but a handful of rogue players. The dozens of dirty dealers who gamed and collapsed the system are still living high on the hog, gobbling up our tax dollars as bonuses and enhanced compensation packages.

And next up is Afghanistan... more catastrophe and disaster for the Afs and for us courtesy off the Nobel Peace Prize winner. He can fool a bunch of Norwegians but why should we be fooled? Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Jack Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee are warning him not to listen to the generals, warning him that he's stepping right into Redux Vietnam. Murtha also raised concerns about dire economic risks of expanding the war in Afghanistan, where he said there is no apparent “achievable goal.” But he doesn't have what it takes to say no to the Pentagon and the CIA. Let me leave you with an analysis of the Big Picture for the U.S. challenge in Afghanistan from Stratfor Global Intelligence from last week:
The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.

The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.

In our view, Obama’s decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal’s strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal’s strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.

Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.

Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for “hold until relieved.” We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won’t be too far off.


Blue America Just Got An Urgent Message From Blanche Lincoln


Will the Insurance Industry lobbyists' expensive insurance be effective this time?

No, it wasn't a direct message, although she's probably thankful and relieved that we haven't run any more of our TV ads in a few weeks. Our pals at the PCCC polled for ad effectiveness and sent us a heartening message this morning. The TV spots-- all of which were paid for by contributions at the Blue America Campaign For Heath Care Choice page-- were seen by a startling 44% of Arkansas voters, including 47% of Democrats, our target audience. The message from Blanche referred to in the headline was a statement, couched in false Republican talking points about a government take over of health care, that she still won't support a public option." She's the only Democrat who has flatly stated that she would join the Republican filibuster of Employee Free Choice and on Capitol Hill her threat to do the same for Health Care Reform has encouraged Insurance industry lobbyists to demand deadly modifications to the legislation that will make the bill far more expensive and far less effective. Blanche Lincoln is a cancer on the country's hopes and aspirations. She is even more so a cancer on the hopes and aspirations of the working families in her own state.

A brand new poll that was released today, shows that 56% of all Arkansas citizens favor the public option Blanche is working so hard to kill. Among women that figure rises to 62% and among Democrats to a staggering 83%. Even one in 5 Republicans favor the public option! And 49% of Democrats say they would be less likely to vote fro her next year if she joins the Republican filibuster to kill the public option and stop health care reform in its tracks. So... time for some more ads.

Our old pals from Donkey On The Edge, who were responsible for the "David Dreier: Bush Rubber Stamp" campaign ads are creating a new ad campaign right now. We hope to increase the number of Democrats who have seen the health care ads from 47% to over 50%. I hope you'll give us a hand with that. Forcing Blanche Lincoln to commit to an up-or-down vote on health care, regardless of how she plans to vote on the bill itself, is the only way this bill will even get voted on.

Even more so than most of her colleagues, she's steeped in corruption. So far, in this electoral cycle alone the Medical-Industrial Complex has shoveled $427,950 into her re-election campaign, more than to any other member of Congress other than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That's right, they've given her more than even their full time paid Senate shills like Arlen Specter ($324,410), Richard Burr ($275,032), Chuck Grassley ($248,560), Orrin Hatch ($217,187) or David Diapers Vitter ($141,350). Across her whole shameful career she's taken $1,724,658 in thinly-veiled bribes from this one sector alone-- and these guys aren't even close to being her main source of funding.

Our ads have helped bring down her favorability rating gigantically. That's something she understands. She's gotten her allies to ask us to stop. And we will, as soon as she commits to voting for cloture against the Republican filibuster of health care. Contributions will allow us to blanket Arkansas with our new ads. Even $10 and $20 donations add up, especially in a state like Arkansas where spots on television cost a small fraction of what they cost in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Dallas.

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Obstructing-- It's The Republican Way... That And Hypocrisy


South Carolina Republicans say they don't have the time to deal with impeaching the state's Republican Governor. Many Republicans are worried that if they get rid of him they'll look even worse because the Lt. Governor, Andre Bauer, is a closeted gay man and that would make three of the state's highest ranking and most visible "family values" Republicans closet cases-- Bauer, senior Senator Lindsey Graham and state Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell. On the other hand, maybe they don't have enough time to deal with impeaching Sanford because they're all as sex-obsessed as their former colleague (now a South Carolina Assistant Attorney General) Roland Corning. Former legislator Corning was caught with an 18 year old girl in his car... in a dark downtown cemetery. And there's more.
According to an Associated Press report, Corning, who was a Republican legislator in the late 80s and early 90s, was relieved of his position on Monday after he was found with a stripper in a cemetery by a police officer. It is not exactly clear what it was that he did that warranted him being fired, as neither he nor the stripper was arrested.

What is known at this point is that a police officer approached Corning's SUV that was parked in a remote part of the cemetery. When the officer approached, Corning sped off. After traveling just a few blocks, he pulled over.

He reportedly had an 18-year-old employee of the Platinum Plus Gentleman's Club in the vehicle with him. When questioned as to why they were in the cemetery, they gave conflicting stories.

Corning showed the officer on the scene, Michael Wines, his badge, which showed that he worked at the state Attorney General's Office. As it turns out, Officer Wines' wife works at the state Attorney General's Office, so he called her to confirm that Corning was telling the truth.

Officer Wines then searched Corning's vehicle. He reportedly found a Viagra tablet and sex toys therein. When he questioned Corning about the items, he reportedly said that he kept them in his SUV "'just in case.'" What does that even mean?

But this isn't really supposed to be a post-- not this early in the day-- about how hypocritical and sexually ambivalent South Carolina Republicans are. It's really about the Republican strategy for making themselves look attractive by undermining Obama's attempts to rescue the country from the 8 years of Bush/GOP misrule. Ritual obstructionism is what observers call that strategy and nowhere has it been more apparent than in their determination to keep the president's judicial nominees from being confirmed. Yesterday we saw how Republican anti-Asian racism has launched a Fox-backed jihad against Ed Chen, a highly regarded magistrate judge who would be the first Asian-American to serve on California’s northern district bench if the Republicans stop blocking the nomination. But Chen is just one of dozens of judicial nominees the Republicans are blocking. Harry Reid, who is feeling a great deal of pressure himself, absolutely excoriated Republicans for their spiteful obstructionism:
“Last week, four Nevadans tragically died from the H1N1 virus. In Clark County, Nevada-- the state’s most populous county and the home of Las Vegas-- 18 people have now died this year from H1N1.
“We are all familiar with this strain of the flu-- it has been on the front pages for months. This past weekend, President Obama declared the outbreak a national emergency in anticipation of a rush of patients to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.
“Fortunately, for nearly 150 years the United States has had a high-ranking official in place to serve as the government’s top public-health officer. We call that person the Surgeon General.  
“Unfortunately, though, right now we have no permanent Surgeon General in place.  And the reason is as simple as it is mind-boggling: Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm President Obama’s exceptionally qualified nominee for this job.
“I would try to explain the Republican reason for their refusal, but as with so many other things they oppose, a rationale simply doesn’t exist. Senate Republicans are simply so opposed to everything-- absolutely everything-- that they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government... [I]n fact, in the first four months of the Bush Administration, when the Senate was controlled by the President’s party and we were in the minority, there wasn’t a single filibuster of a Bush nominee. Not one.
“But in the first four months of the Obama Administration, Republicans filibustered eight of his nominees. That means that President Obama faced twice as many filibusters of his nominees in his first four months as President Bush faced in his first four years.
“Now, those watching and listening may also understandably assume that if this is not how the Senate always operates, there must be something extraordinarily controversial about these nominees-- something highly objectionable, or even questionable. Again, there is not.
“As I mentioned, Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm our nation’s Surgeon General at a time when the President has declared a national emergency over the H1N1 virus. But President Obama’s nominee, Regina Benjamin-- a physician from Alabama and the founder of a non-profit rural health clinic-- is eminently qualified for the position.
“That’s not all. They also refuse to confirm the top official responsible for science and technology in our Department of Homeland Security. For that position, President Obama nominated an expert in combating both pandemics and bioterror attacks. Imagine that: Americans are bracing against a flu epidemic here at home and threats of terrorism from abroad, the President nominated someone highly experienced in both of those areas, and Republicans are saying no.
“If that sounds like something you wouldn’t want your Senate to do, you might be even furthered concerned that it’s not the first time these Republican Senators have done it. While our sons and daughters are fighting in Iraq and rebuilding that nation, Republicans earlier this year delayed the confirmation of America’s ambassador to Iraq. And while troops serve bravely in Afghanistan, Republicans earlier this year delayed the confirmation of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, our new commander in that difficult war.
“These telling examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Allow me to continue:
“Months ago, President Obama picked a trade expert who worked in the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations to be this nation’s Deputy Trade Representative. But she has yet to officially join the Obama administration. Why? Because a Republican Senator is holding up the nomination over a bill that he thinks would hurt tobacco companies... These examples are not isolated. They are part of a much larger pattern.  Republicans this year have already gone to great lengths to ensure President Obama cannot have his full team in place.
“They have already wasted taxpayers’ precious time and money by holding up the President’s nominees for:

·       the Secretary of Labor;

·       the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

·       the Director of National Drug Control Policy

·       the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior;

·       two members of the Council of Economic Advisors;

·       several Assistant Attorneys General;

·       and many others.

“These nominees finally broke through. But their story doesn’t end there. When votes were finally called, they passed with flying colors: They passed with vote counts of 89-2, 97-1, 88-0 and 97-0. The numbers don’t lie, and there’s no clearer evidence that many of these objections are without merit.
“So it’s obvious that these objections are not the norm, that they are not based on qualifications, and that they are rampant.
“As far as Republicans are concerned, no one is too important to block, no high-ranking position is too important to remain empty, no problem is too urgent to delay.
“If I sound like a broken record, it’s because Senate Republicans continue to be record-breakers. Last year, after they held up the work of Congress more than any other time in history, the American people rejected the Republican status quo. They said ‘no’ to Republicans’ just-say-no strategy.
“There is no question the American people are taking notice. There is no question they see these games for what they are. There is no question they are fed up with these petty, partisan tricks. And there is no question that these reckless tactics have consequences.
“I would say that Republicans delay and delay at their own peril-- but the truth is, all Americans suffer. It’s time Republicans let us get to work.”

Doug Kendall penned a post about ritual Republican obstructionism for Slate earlier this week, The Bench in Purgatory. "It seems clear," he writes, "that Senate Republicans are prepared to take the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory-- delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the president's judicial nominees. If this continues, it will worsen an already serious problem of vacancies on the federal courts. And it will discourage from ever entering the confirmation process precisely the type of nominees both parties should want."
One might expect that Obama would have a much easier time getting his nominees confirmed than Bush. After all, Obama remains popular, and his party controls a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats in the Senate. And Obama has been exceedingly careful in his judicial picks. His team is searching high and low for nominees who fit the bill as consensus candidates: so much so that his pace for judicial nominations, of 22 so far, is far behind Bush's.

The emerging Republican strategy is to hold these uncontroversial nominees hostage as pawns in the larger war over President Obama's agenda and the direction of the federal judiciary. The Senate operates according to a set of arcane rules that allows a minority party to bring the institution to a halt if it chooses to do so. Most bills and nominations pass through the Senate with no debate and only a voice vote on the Senate floor. But this requires every senator to play along. By stonewalling on every nominee so far, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is requiring his counterpart, Sen. Reid, to negotiate, or devote precious floor time, for every judicial confirmation.

This is unprecedented and dangerous. There are already 95 vacancies on the federal bench at a time when there is bipartisan agreement that we need more judgeships. The last thing we need is for existing seats in overworked courts to go unfilled.

Even more important, Republican obstruction of uncontroversial nominees undermines the one part of the judicial confirmation process that was still working, until now. Well-qualified nominees who enjoy bipartisan support should be able to count on a fair and relatively smooth Senate confirmation process. This is critical because while they're waiting, the careers of these nominees go on hold. Given the demands of the bench, and the gap between judicial salaries and what these candidates could earn in private practice, the nation is already lucky that top candidates are willing to serve. If we throw in an unpredictable and lengthy confirmation process, the quality of the federal bench-- and the dispensation of justice-- will unquestionably suffer.

The molasses treatment Republicans are giving Obama's consensus judicial nominees should convince President Obama that accommodation is fruitless. Republicans are spoiling for a fight over judges, bucked up by an energized base and polling that indicates that such a fight will help them. Obama cannot avoid a confrontation. And those of us who care deeply about a well-functioning judicial branch should work now to stop this new form of obstructionism.

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Health Insurance Reform-- Side By Side Comparison


Last night Countdown showed Dennis Kucinich on the floor of the House excoriating his colleagues for settling for a very disappointing bill (above) and then Howard Dean came on to talk about how it's not perfect but a good first step. A few minutes before that, Alan Grayson was on with Ed explaining why he has no problem voting for it. Confusing. I hope this will help everyone to make up their own minds. It's a comparison between H.R. 3200 as opposed to the legislation that will go before the full House. If you click on each page, you'll actually be able to read them.

John Nichols skewered Pelosi's compromised bill at the Nation today pointing out what most progressives feared, namely that all the compromising with corporatists, reactionaries and obstructionists would leave us with a fairly weak bill. There's a public option, but it sure ain't robust.
The "public option" Pelosi and her team have proposed a plan that would not make payments for care based on Medicare rates, as the Congressional Progressive Caucus and key Senate Democrats have proposed.

Rather, under the Pelosi plan, the rates be tied to those of the big insurance companies. That's a big, big victory for the insurance industry, as it will undermine the ability of the public option to compete-- and to create pressure for reduced costs.

Pelosi's plan also drops a number of provisions that had been advanced at the committee level to promote consideration of "Medicare for All" models and to allow states to experiment with single-payer plans.

That's an especially bitter pill for House progressives, who have won support for state-based experimentation in committee votes... House progressives were quick to express disappointment, as they were counting on the House to advance a strong alternative to the Senate Democratic leadership's very weak public option proposal-- which would allow states to opt out of the plan.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which Blue Dogs Can Boehner And Cantor Always Count On? The Boehner Boys


Since Obama was elected there are a handful of neo-Confederate Blue Dogs who have voted-- on crucial substantive issues-- more frequently with the Republicans than with the Democrats, Parker Griffith of Alabama has gone so far as to promise his constituents that if they re-elect him, which isn't very likely (since Democrats have no reason to vote for him and Republicans will have their own candidate), he'll vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker next year. The Blue Dogs, and fellow travelers, who vote more frequently with the GOP on the big issues are, from bad to worse:

Baron Hill (IN)
Jim Matheson (UT)
John Barrow (GA)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Heath Shuler (NC)
Chris Carney (PA)
Mike Ross (AR)
Artur Davis (AL)
Lincoln Davis (TN)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Frank Kratovil (MD)
Walt Minnick (ID)
Jason Altmire (PA)
Bobby Bright (AL)
Charlie Melancon (LA)
Harry Mitchell (AZ)
Glenn Nye (VA)
Scott Murphy (NY)
Jim Marshall (GA)
Dan Boren (OK)
Travis Childers (MS)
Parker Griffith (AL)
Gene Taylor (MS)

Many of these clowns were recruited and nurtured by Rahm Emanuel to help keep the Democratic caucus corporate friendly for his Wall Street paymasters. There are several Republicans who vote more frequently with the Democrats than some of these characters-- Tim Johnson, Ron Paul, Mike Castle, Jimmy Duncan, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Vernon Ehlers, Walter Jones and Chris Smith. But most of the time the Republicans vote in lockstep. Their party discipline is good; they're all a bunch of robots for the most part. This morning, for example, H.R. 876 came up and it passed 232-184, "providing for consideration of the conference report to accompany the bill (H.R. 2996) making appropriations for the Department of Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010. Basically, it just sets forth the rules for the debate and it isn't considered a substantive vote. It's a procedural vote, the kind where party discipline is supposed to kick in.

But a dozen reactionary Democrats crossed the aisle to start the day standing with Boehner and Cantor: Bobby Bright (AL), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Travis Childers (MS), Jim Costa (CA), Parker Griffith (AL), Frank Kratovil (MD), Charlie Melancon (LA), Walt Minnick (ID), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Scott Murphy (NY), Glenn Nye (VA), and Gene Taylor (MS). They do it all the time. In fact the 9 bolded did it on another resolution on the same procedural bill just a few minutes earlier. These are all Boehner Boys.

The DCCC will be putting virtually every cent they collect into protecting the Boehner Boys and trying to save their seats. Right now they are begging for donations for Bill Owens in NY-23, who will absolutely be a Boehner Boy if he wins a seat next week, the same way Scott Murphy-- who they also tricked grassroots Democrats into supporting in a special election-- is. It's very hard to do it-- yes, yes, the Republican running against them are even worse-- but the Republicans can't ruin the Democratic brand and make it worthless. The Republicans can't inexorably drag the Democratic caucus further and further from the interests of working families and align it with the Wall Street banksters and the anti-family corporate interests. You want to know why the Health care reform bill Nancy Pelosi put out today was so disappointing? Two words: Blue Dogs.

At 1:39 this afternoon, the final appropriations bill for Interior passed-- 247-178. Ten Republicans broke ranks with obstructionists Boehner and Cantor but they didn't care because they had their Boehner Boys crossing the aisle in the other direction, among them 8 mangy Blue Dogs: Bobby Bright, Travis Childers, Joe Donnelly, Parker Griffith, Baron Hill, Frank Kratovil, Walt Minnick, Harry Mitchell, and Gene Taylor.

Blue America is putting together a dedicated effort for 2010 to defeat Blue Dogs. Doug Kahn, a former Democratic candidate for Congress will be working as a full time volunteer on that effort. Our fundraising for this effort is at the Bad Dogs page, which will grow as more progressives jump into primaries against Blue Dogs. Right now Marcy Winograd is running hard against Jane Harman and Doug Tudor is fighting back against an insidious new Blue Dog, Lori Edwards. Both can use help. I expect the next progressive to step up to the plate will be Regina Thomas against John Barrow in Georgia's 12th CD.


Why Do Conservative Hypocrites Hate Asian-Americans?


There was an odd little resolution that passed the House yesterday, H.R. 784, "honoring the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius and recognizing his invaluable contributions to philosophy and social and political thought." Al Green (D-TX) proposed it and there were 41 co-sponsors, primarily progressive Democrats, although a couple of Blue Dogs and one Asian-American Republican signed on as well, Anh Cao (LA). I guess I even bothered looking at it because I had read something earlier in the day about how the GOP extremists had decided to target an Asian-American judicial nominee, Edward Chen who we had blogged about last week. Chen's an outstanding magistrate judge in San Francisco and at Dianne Feinstein's urging President Obama nominated him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Every single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, at the urging of the Senate's most blatant racist, KKK member Jeff Sessions of Alabama, voted against him.

Media Matters pointed out that the Republican smear machine has cranked up to slime him. Fox and the Moonie Times, as usual, are leading the way. The Moonies claim he doesn't love America and O'Reilly pulled some unsubstantiated claim out of his ass that "you can't get more radical than Judge Chen." Hannity was quick to jump on board (as usual).

So today when I noticed there was a vote on Confucius I thought it would be fun to see who voted against it. It passed 361-47 (with 13 voting "present"), 12 Democrats and 35 Republicans against. I thought maybe it was some serious advocates of Separation of Church and State. But no... just a gaggle of the regular racists, bigots and some of the crazier of the far right-wing Christian supremacists. Almost all the no votes among Dems were Republican-lite Blue Dogs like Jim Matheson (UT), Jason Altmire (PA), Gene Taylor (MS), Lincoln Davis (TN), Marion Berry (AR), Zack Space (OH), and Brad Ellsworth (IN). The Republicans were all the regular suspects from Jeff Flake (AZ), Paul Broun (GA), Lynn Westmoreland (GA), Jason Chaffetz (UT), and John Shadegg (AZ) to Pete Hoekstra (MI), Kenny Marchant (TX), Ted Poe (TX), Michael Burgess (TX), Mike Conaway (TX), and Sam Johnson (TX). Did I ever tell you how the first time I ate in a Chinese restaurant in Texas-- it was Amarillo-- they were serving canned Chung King with baskets of rye bread on the tables? Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) voted "present."

When accused of bigotry, all the bigots claimed it was too trivial for their attention in such tough times. Jeff Flake, for example, thought he was being cute to quip: "He who spends time passing trivial legislation may find himself out of time to read health care bill."

The Confucius bill was voted on at 1:48 PM. Just before it, at 1:41 PM, the House unanimously passed a resolution, HR 838, "welcoming to the United States and to Washington, DC, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch on his upcoming trip on October 20, 2009, through November 6, 2009." Flake and the rest of the bigots had no problem with that one. And then right after the anti-Asian display, another trivial bill Flake and the bigot posse, H.R. 824 sailed through unanimously at 1:58 PM "congratulating the Northwestern University Wildcats on winning the 2009 NCAA women’s lacrosse championship, and to commend Northwestern University for its pursuit of athletic and academic excellence."

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The Crimson Tide Won't Touch Stalwart Progressives But Tennessee Blue Dogs May Soon Be Working As K Street Whores


You may not think it's the big a deal to go from being the guy who's being bribed (a congressman) to the briber (a lobbyist) but it's quite a blow to the ego to be defeated and publicly displayed as a whore skirting lax laws you may have voted on yourself. When scurrilous California Republican Congressman Bill Lowery (a notorious check bouncer and bribe taker) was scared off by the less dishonest Duke Cunningham he headed straight to a K Street whorehouse and became the only path to crooked Appropriations Committee head Jerry Lewis, Congress' most corrupt member. All his wives have divorced him and his personal life is a shambles but he owns LOTS of property and is rolling in cash and has the kind of lifestyle you would probably expect from this kind of Republican criminal. Just down the road another crooked GOP congressman, Brian Bilbray, lost his seat to Susan Davis in 2000 and went into an emotional funk and became a lobbyist. When Cunningham was carted off to the federal pen for taking bribes from lobbyists, Bilbray moved into his House seat.

Now it looks as though some of the corrupt members of Congress from the other side of the aisle will be playing the same game of musical chairs. Corrupt Blue Dogs in Tennessee, for example, have been taking immense sums of money from Insurance and Medical-Industrial Complex special interests and are opposing meaningful health care reform in return. Although our system doesn't provide for prison sentences for their kinds of thinly disguised criminality, it looks like voters in Tennessee will be retiring them. Good examples are Blue Dog slime Bart Gordon, John Tanner and Jim Cooper, all die-hard foes of meaningful reform, all vulnerable to electoral challenge next year.

Gordon and Tanner are especially exposed since both represent districts that have been trending red. Gordon' north-central 6th CD (Murphreesboro) saw a tie between Bush and Gore in 2000, a 60% win for Bush in 2004 and a 62% win by McCain last year. Tanner's west Tennessee (Jackson) 8th CD actually saw a Gore victory in 2000, a close Bush win in 2004 and a comfortable McCain win last year. Neither Gordon nor Tanner even drew an opponent in 2008, the former having won with 67% in 2006 and the latter 73%. But Blue Dog mania may be ending in Tennessee where the folks are ready for real Republicans instead of fake ones.
Both have prospered over the years by projecting images as center-right Democrats even though their heavily conservative districts tend to favor Republican candidates for other major offices. In 2008, Republican presidential nominee John McCain trounced Democrat Barack Obama by 62 percent to 37 percent in Gordon’s mid-Tennessee district, which includes the city of Murfreesboro and some fast-growing Nashville suburbs, and carried the vote by 56 percent to 43 percent in Tanner’s west Tennessee district, which includes Jackson and suburbs of Memphis.

Republicans have long argued they could compete on this turf if they could drum up strong candidates. And they think they finally have solid contenders in Stephen Fincher, a farmer and gospel singer who has signed on to tackle Tanner in the 8th District, and Lou Ann Zelenik, chairwoman of the Rutherford County Republican Party, who is challenging Gordon in the 6th District.

Polling of Blue Dog districts across the nation has shown that incumbents recognized as taking significant campaign contributions from lobbyists and CEOs from the Insurance companies and the Medical-Industrial Complex and then opposing meaningful health care reform will be facing a political death sentence in 2010. Tanner has taken $575,518 in thinly-veiled bribes from the Insurance Industry and Gordon has taken $304,416. The Medical-Industrial Complex have been even more generous to the two sleazy Blue Dogs. Gordon has gobbled up $1,234,646 and Tanner has gotten his paws on $813,212. That's a lot of money and it goes a long way towards explaining why these two fake Democrats are willing to sell out their own constituents on health care reform.

According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee 107,000 of the 129,000 uninsured people represented by Gordon would gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance if the bill Gordon is opposing were signed into law. And in Tanner's case, 84,000 uninsured constituents out of 104,000 uninsured would gain that benefit.

You might even want to help these two creeps save their own seats. Gordon's office number is 202-225-4231 and Tanner's is 202-225-4714. And you know, it isn't just out and out Blue Dogs who are betraying their constituents. There are a whole gaggle of frightened, principle-less Democrats in the House who would much rather kiss up to lobbyists and corporate interests than look after the needs of their own constituents. Freshman disappointment Suzanne Kosmas (FL) is a perfect example. Today Randi Rhodes was on air talking about how members of Congress go to breakfasts and meetings with sleazy lobbyists before coming to the Capitol to work. Kosmas, who has an even worse ProgressivePunch score this year than arch-Blue Dog Allen Boyd, doesn't just eat breakfasts, lunch and dinner with sleazy lobbyists; she actually skips important committee meetings when lobbyists summon her. Meanwhile, constituents complain that the lobbyist-atuned representative never gives direct answers to where she stands on any controversial issues. "No one knows what she stands for or even if she's an actual Democrat or not. She refused to do a public event in town with Vice President Biden and she avoided being in Miami last week when President Obama was there; she's no better than Charlie Crist. She just seems to vote for whatever lobbyists tell her to," one Democratic activist in Winter Springs told me this morning. "Even her hedge fund registration bill gives them a full year reprieve which is like a license to turn up the shenanigans, the same way the credit card companies did when they were given a reprieve. Look, I voted for Suzanne because she seemed so much better than Feeney. But she's been a huge disappointment. She's on the Financial Services Committee and all she ever does is solicit money from Wall Street lobbyists. According to OpenSecrets she's taken in $361,136 from bankers and brokers and their lobbyists this year. How is she going to make fair assessments on legislative matters if the special interests are financing her re-election efforts. I'd never vote for her again no matter who the Republicans run."

In return for supporting Big Pharma's greed and allowing them to plunder her own constituents, here's the bullshit ad that Pharma ran on Central Florida TV stations for her She's one of them, not one of us.

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Why I wouldn't vote for Mayor Bloomberg if he paid me -- and you know, that's not such a bad idea, Mr. Mayor


by Ken

I don't think Bloomberg has been a terrible mayor. In some ways he has done just what he claims to have done: look at the problems of the city from a standpoint other than traditional politics.

So, for example, when he identified NYC schools as an early and urgent priority, because for all their massive and impenetrable bureaucracy (as each of our numerous successive schools channelers discovered after taking on the job), they were intolerably underserving our children. When Bloomberg moved into City Hall, the mayor had quite limited input into the schools, and for historically excellent reasons: Because of all the money that's pumped into the schools, they become sitting ducks for every gouger, grifter, and scam artist who enriches his/her personal lifestyle by diverting public money. Just as street thugs who mug old ladies do so because it's easy, and seem to experience no shame for such predatory crimes, the grifters who steal money destined for the children apparently don't have working consciences. What would those stoopid kids have did with the money anyways?

There are two problems with the degree of control Mayor Bloomberg sought and won from the state legislature over the city's schools. (That's right, ultimate control over that aspect of our lives, and many others, lies not in City Hall, but in Albany.) First, when the mayor gets as much control as this mayor got, that means what happens depends entirely on his vision of education, and I'm not aware of any serious vetting of his educational credentials. And second, when he stops being mayor, whether it's his successor or the mayor after that or the one after that, we will go back, as he has been saying incessantly in this misbegotten campaign, to "politics as usual" -- in other words, the very conditions from which the schools once had to be protected.

Take this as a model for my feeling about most of what the mayor has done, or at least talked about. (They're not exactly the same thing. We get increasing reports that, for example, one reason the city streets look much cleaner on TV wherever he travels is that advance parties mobilized from somewhere in City Hall -- in other words, it could be not under the mayor's orders but on the order of folks who don't want to bear his wrath -- undertake a crash beautification program, even if it means actually damaging the neighborhood that is "benefiting." Local TV crews can usually be counted on not to realize when they're being conned. They probably feel like big shots just being in the imperial presence.) An awful lot of knowledge about the city's problems, built up over decades and waiting out there to be tapped, is ignored because the mayor listens only to the people he listens to, most of whom, again, have never been vetted for insight into urban problems or planning. It is, in other words, a truly imperial vision of the new New York City.

The imperial attitude also explains some of Mayor Bloomberg's failures, like his inability to sell the legislature on his plan for "congestion pricing" of traffic in the impossibly congested lower portion of Manhattan. It's a plan that has been tried elsewhere, like London, apparently with success, but a lot of New Yorkers, especially in the outer boroughs (where most of the citywide votes are), people who depend on their cars to get them to and from work because they don't have ready access to public transit, simply saw it as a class issue: a regressive tax that barely inconveniences the rich while seriously disrupting the lives of economically less advantaged New Yorkers.

And the mayor felt no obligation to explain, or to put those fears to rest. Maybe he felt he'd done as much explaining as he should have to. He really seemed to take personally any criticism of his proposal. (Come to think of it, he seems to take all criticism of his policies personally, and can be absolutely withering when questioned. It makes for some mighty tense moments at press opportunities.) If he had assumed it was part of his job to make people understand the "why," and appreciate how they would benefit, he might have had a unified city storming the gates in Albany. As it was, why should state legislators, even those from the city, go out on a limb for him?

This is also a mayor who is wildly pro-development. There probably isn't an underdeveloped parcel of land in the five boroughs for which he doesn't foresee some grandiose scheme. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. To the extent that those land parcels are underused, they fail to provide either benefits for city residents or taxes for the city coffers. But again, the plans are always delivered completely concocted, and they're plans of a certain developer's-gee-whiz kind (I'm tempted to call them "rich guys' plans"), with seemingly no input except from the tight group of people he listens to, and all the people who are affected -- including most obviously the people who are being cleared out of those "underused" parcels for the greater good -- are expected to cheer because Emperor Mike has delivered another brilliant plan.

The ironic result is that the most visible and public proposals have stalled, because that's the reality of the politics of it. The mayor doesn't actually have imperial powers. Of course the Bloomberg administration has hatched so many plans, I'm not sure we know which of them have gone through by stealth while we were mostly fixed on the most grandiose projects. And again, it's all one man's vision for the city, and I'm seriously doubtful that his city-planning credentials are better than those of our average "politics as usual" mayor.


My feeling is that the mayor ought to be disqualified from holding further public office just on the basis of this obscene campaign, where he has been shoving his money in our faces. Reportedly Bloomberg has bought up all the A- and B-list consultants, not to work for him (how many consultants can he use?), but to prevent them from working for another candidate. Then there are the shockingly dishonest TV ads, all over the damned air, filled with slander and innuendo if not outright lies (I assume they have lawyers vetting this garbage for lies), and the wall-to-wall promotion (glossy mailing pieces in the mailbox every day, umpteen online surveys a day).

All of this against a candidate, City Comptroller Bill Thompson of Brooklyn, a perfectly decent pol with whom the mayor has gotten on fairly well in the past (once saying, as a current Thompson TV ad shows, that he would go probably go down as the city's best comptroller), who has no money, hardly any traditional Democratic support, not great name recognition -- in other words, not a ghost of a prayer of a chance next Tuesday. That doesn't stop the ruthless Bloomberg campaign machine, with its bottomless pit of financing.

And of course Bloomberg has no business running. I'm no great fan of term limits, but he could cause me to change my mind. The fact is that the city's voters have twice reaffirmed their support for term limits in referendum votes, and the mayor has known this perfectly well. Nevertheless, when he decided the city needed him for another term, he strong-armed the City Council into allowing it, sweetening the pot by allowing themselves to award their own selves another term opportunity as well. I always thought you couldn't change such laws to benefit yourself, but I guess that doesn't apply if you're rich enough.

When I see all that money being spent -- and believe me, you can see it, all around you, the air is filled with it -- I wonder why the mayor didn't just negotiate with himself, the way he always does, to determine a fair price, and then pay us directly for our votes. (I suppose another way of looking at it is that the mayor's spending binge is a shot of Keynesian stimulus for the city's struggling economy.)

Suddenly, after two terms in office, our mayor, according to one of his TV ads (I try to filter them out, but jeez, they're all over the damned place!), now suddenly has a plan to reassert city control, or a larger measure of control, over our transit facilities. This is an interesting idea, and other under circumstances I might want to know more about his plan. But under these circumstances, where the mayor managed to get through the only two terms in office he was supposed to be allowed without saying a word about this as far as I know, what I want to know is, why haven't we heard about this transit plan before now? What was he saving it for?

The last time we had a mayor who thought himself indispensable to the city, it was our last mayor, Rudy Giuliani, whose career had been sinking under the weight of his own cartoonlike preposterousness when it was revived by 9/11. Not many people seem to remember that 9/11 was primary day, when we were going to the polls to choose candidates to succeed Rudy when Osama bin-Laden revealed that he had other plans for us. In the end, it didn't matter which Democrat we chose to oppose the new Republican nominee, Mike Bloomberg; Rudy's mock-heroic luster reflected onto his Republican "successor" (though there were already plenty of indications that these guys didn't much like each other). Then Rudy made his magnanimous offer to stay in office for, well, an extra while, just to keep things going, so we wouldn't have to go through a mayoral transition at such a perilous time in our history. The mayor-elect, to his credit, said thanks but no thanks, we we can get through the transition just fine. And we did.

I'm betting that Mayor Thompson can do the same. Oh, I know he doesn't stand a chance. So let me just offer this confidential to Emperor Mike: You know those third terms have a way of catching up with you. It's just a shame the city will have to pay the price.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"3-2-1 Countdown to Equality": In less than a week, one group of Americans gets to veto the basic rights of other Americans


by Ken

Let me say again that this shouldn't be happening. People's basic rights shouldn't be subject to anyone's vote. Do you think there's any chance that, say, the First Amendment could survive a trip through the ballot box? Not hardly. And yet respect for all citizens' basic rights is as central to democracy as the principle of majority rules; without it, all you've got is a tyranny of the majority.

But here we are, in the last week before crucial votes are to be held in Maine, Washington State, and Kalamazoo, MI. The issues are different in the three votes, but the same principle is at stake: Does one group of people get to vote away another group's basic rights?

Luckily, my friends and colleagues at the Courage Campaign have thought it through a bit more thoroughly, so I'm going to turn the floor over to them.

3-2-1 Countdown for Equality: No Bittersweet Victories

Progressives are closer than ever to a victory on health care reform. As 2009 comes to a close, we've moved forward on other issues. But what's looming up ahead could be a disappointment.

On Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009- less than a week away- there will be critical votes on on LGBT equality in three states: Washington State, Maine, and Michigan. With so much attention devoted to other issues in the political realm, bloggers have banded together to ensure we don't forget the ones with a firm deadline next week.

For that reason, we've joined with these three campaigns to put together a summary of who, what, and how. If you haven't heard of these campaigns, and/or haven't done anything yet to support them, please consider helping out. If you are a blogger please feel free to grab this content whole cloth and use it for your blog posts. Scroll down to the bottom to grab the formatted HTML to drop into a post.

Last year, as Obama and Democrats were winning across the country, we lost marriage equality in California. It was a bittersweet victory. Pitch in to make sure 2009 isn't a bittersweet year. Take action to support LGBT equality TODAY.

And they've provided the following breakdowns of the three votes:


Who we are: Approve Referendum 71 is the campaign to preserve domestic partnerships in Washington State. By voting to approve, voters retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year's legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.

What we need: We need phone bankers to get our supporters out to vote. Washington is an all mail-in ballot state, and we need to ensure our supporters put their ballots in the mail. Also, youth turnout is a critical component of our campaign, and youth turnout historically drops in off-year elections. So we need a lot of help to turn them out.

How you do it: Sign up here to make remote calls for Approve 71. We'll then contact you for a training, and you can make GOTV calls.


Who we are: The No On 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign is working to protect Maine's recently-passed law legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Our opponents have put the issue on the ballot for Nov 3, 2009. Because of Maine's early voting election laws, people are already voting at the polls, so we need help immediately to turn out our side at the polls.

What we need: We need you to devote a few hours to Call for Equality. Call for Equality is a virtual phonebank set up so that you can call Maine voters wherever you are. Much of Maine is rural, where canvassing isn't effective, so we need to reach these voters- along with other supporters- by phone. All you need is a phone and internet connection. No experience required! We'll provide the training, and all you need is a a few hours to help get a win in Maine.

How you do it: Click here to sign up for a training and your shift. There are lots of times available for your convenience.

[AND REMEMBER: DWT and our Blue America partners have an ActBlue page where you can contribute to No On 1/Protect Maine Equality.]


Who We Are: The Yes on Ordinance 1856 / One Kalamazoo campaign is working in Michigan to support the City Commission of Kalamazoo's twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents. Opponents forced a public referendum on the ordinance so dedicated local volunteers, led by former Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley, are working to ensure voters say YES to fairness and equality and keep Ordinance 1856.

Why the Urgency: In the final weeks, the opposition has gone all out with aggressive disinformation and misleading red herrings to try to defeat the ordinance. This includes signs that say "No to Discrimination" (even though voting No actually supports continued discrimination of GLBT residents), transphobic door hangers and fliers, and now radio ads that falsely suggest that criminal behavior will become legal when this simply isn't true. The Yes on Ordinance 1856 supporters are better organized but many voters who want to vote for gay and transgender people are getting confused by the opposition.

How to Help:

1) Help the One Kalamazoo campaign raise a final $10,000 specifically dedicated to fight back against the lies on the local TV and radio airwaves and fully fund the campaign's final field and GOTV efforts.

Give here:

2) If you live nearby and can physically volunteer in Kalamazoo sign up here. If you know anyone that lives in Kalamazoo, use the One Kalamazoo campaign's online canvass tool to remind those voters that they need to vote on November 3rd and vote YES on Ordinance 1856 to support equality for gay and transgender people.

Contact voters:

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A War That Can't Be Won


Sunday I passed a TV someone had left on and Christiane Amanpour was talking with some expert about the Afghan opium trade and how it's worth $65 billion a year. That's a lot of money and a lot of sharp operators would like to control that very special non-taxed resource. Let's see... the Taliban, the CIA, the Russian Mafia, Karzai, the Pakistanis... Yesterday's NY Times had this whole story about how the guy who runs the opium trade for President Hamid Karzai, his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, is a CIA asset. Gee, I hope all those American kids aren't over there dying because the CIA-- who, believe it or not, lies to Congress when it's convenient for them-- wants an independent source of income they can use without having to account to anyone.

Call me crazy, but instead of building in an opt out for red states that don't want their poor citizens to have health care, Congress should be opting out of Afghanistan... now. I'm not even the only one who thinks that. I mean aside from the 32 courageous Democrats who stood against the Obama supplemental war budget last June, there's the story of Matthew Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq who was working in the State Department's development efforts in Zabul province between Kandahar and Kabul. Last month Hoh resigned-- "the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency." Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and then Richard Holbrooke appealed to him to stay-- but to no avail.
"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

...[M]any Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there-- a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.

As the White House deliberates over whether to deploy more troops, Hoh said he decided to speak out publicly because "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right.'"

The U.S. has no role in Afghanistan. It is an occupation that will only end in tragedy for everyone concerned and probably doom America to another Republican-run government here in the U.S. if Obama doesn't find the depth of character to stand up to the Pentagon and just say no.

UPDATE: Feingold Talking Inconvenient Truth On The Senate Floor Again

This afternoon it wasn't the wrong-headed George Bush war policies Russ Feingold was deconstructing; it was the wrong-headed Barack Obama war policies. As a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, he addressed four common myths in the debate regarding Afghanistan.
·         Myth 1 – Preventing a potential al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan is more important than addressing existing safe havens elsewhere.
·         Myth 2 – We’ve already tried counterterrorism and it didn’t work.
·         Myth 3 – Additional troops will regain the initiative in Afghanistan.
·         Myth 4 – We can pursue a heavy handed strategy in Afghanistan without further destabilizing Pakistan.

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