Friday, July 31, 2009

Sunday Classics preview no. 2 -- Horowitz


CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23

[8:58] Vladimir Horowitz, piano. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded live at Horowitz's Carnegie Hall "return" concert, May 9, 1965

Horowitz RCA Polonaise Fantaisie download


The current list is here.

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Sunday Classics preview no. 2 -- Horowitz


CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23

[8:58] Vladimir Horowitz, piano. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded live at Horowitz's Carnegie Hall "return" concert, May 9, 1965

Horowitz RCA Polonaise Fantaisie download


The current list is here.

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Through the Looking Glass: Under Bush, Obama, and the new House and Senate


Beacuse of our Campaign For Health Care Choice, which has run nearly 1,000 cable TV spots already in Arkansas-- and because of the writing Ken and I have been doing about the health care debate-- we've been swamped with letters from readers about their own health care perspectives. Although we sometimes refer to them, this is the first one we decided to publish. It comes from a longtime reader who has asked to not be named for professional reasons.


Your blog is so close to home on health care and taxes, I feel like I could be a poster child. I have been "through the looking glass over the past 5 years. Especially under Bush, but it concerns me that Obama has not stood fast to reverse those policies.

I have and had an injury that caused me to be completely out of work for 3 years... and I'm still recuperating from a rib/ligament injury that makes it tough to breathe... sometimes impossible, until it resolves during a given day. In fact, for the first 3 years, I had such difficulty getting off of our living room floor, the only place I could breathe comfortably (and only on my right side).

In the first 3 years, 2004-2007, I was in one of the nation's “Top 10” hospital systems. (I came to find that rankings are based on financial income, not patient outcomes.)

They were happy to do multiple standard MRI's, scans and so forth, though never finding the problem, and often making fun of me because it was outside their realm. The insurance companies were happy to pay for the many MRI's, CT scans, and a multitude of (unhelpful) drugs they had me on. While this was going on, I had to stop working and was housebound for those 3 years.

While not claiming disability, and while taxes to the very wealthy were being cut, I got audited for "being a hobby" because I could not work. I produced my hundreds of pages of medical records. Amazing. And fortunately, my records, as they always are, were immaculate. Still, I had to hire lawyers for $10k to fight it. I won; the IRS decided that, over a 3 year period, I had to owe for mileage: $200, because they didn't want to "couldn't be wrong"-- or had to find money anywhere they could... just not from the wealthy. I actually didn't, but paid it. I also heard from many middle income friends during that year who were also being audited for the first time in their entire lives. (It was my first, too.) By the way... I was not able to write off my legal fees for that fight... but let's not stop there!

I found a doctor who was an osteopath for the Pirates and Indians baseball teams, who started a very new procedure (and who, unlike many-- not all-- docs, still goes to school half of his time to keep up) that included help from the massage therapists for the Steelers who noticed my swollen back. The  doctors at my famous medical center never touched me once in 3 years, although they ran many many tests, before telling me to live with being disabled.

The massage therapists unwound the 3 years of muscle spasms, allowing the doctors for the Pirates to find the real injury, a ligament that was stretched, which holds in a thoracic rib. His treatment was to centrifuge my blood to the white blood cells (PRP therapy) and reinject it into the ligament to re-tighten it, which the other doctors said was not doable. It worked IMMEDIATELY. My insurance company (Blue Cross) approved it... then, after I had it done, withdrew approval, leaving me with a $1200 bill. (The same procedure was used on Hines Ward for this year's superbowl by this doctor, and it was big news). I've had it done again, with pre-approval-- then had it denied after the process-- leaving me with a bill again.

Much of this of course would go on credit cards, as surprise medical and legal (IRS battle) bills can... and my massage is never covered although it is the only thing that helps.

Because of this, I am on my feet and working... but paying out of pocket for the treatments. Insurance won't cover it, although they are still happy to cover any more MRI's and medications I would want (although they do not help).

But let's not stop there. On the move from my former city to my current city, our current home, we actually made some money on our house sale in a down market by not being greedy and not overpricing. We paid off all of our credit cards/medical bills, got great credit, and enough for a down payment on a house here in our new city. Given the current difficulties in the market, we never use our credit card, and found a nice house in our new town.

However, I continue to have to pay for the only procedures which help me (although they'll pay for any drugs and MRI's I get without any question)... and our new house?

Well, the loan has been re-sold 3 times since June 1st of this year (after the banks were bailed out for doing just this) in a month by the mortgagors'... Bank of America to Chase to ironically, Fannie Mae.

I say "ironically" re: Fannie Mae, as we would have liked to have gotten our original loan with them, because a loan with them allows us to forego mortgage insurance, an additional several hundred dollars per month. But we were told we were ineligible. Yet, they were happy to end up with the loan... and we still have to pay the extra mortgage insurance.

...And each one sends in notes asking for payments, saying they are the ones to get the payment and a late payment will incur a penalty-- even with good credit and wanting to make the payment to the proper people! So the banks surely have not learned a lesson. It required a lot of time on our part to determine which of the companies saying “Me ! No.. ME!” actually was due the payment.

Meanwhile, my new bank in my new hometown started a new policy of only allowing a certain number of transfers between accounts... both with reasonable sums in them... before they levy the equivalent of an overdraft fee, though neither are overdrawn or even close to being overdrawn.

And they have instituted a policy that only clears portions of checks I deposit... even from accounts in the same bank, which caught me by surprise, causing a few overdrafts in one week when the change was made. But in the scheme of things a few hundred dollars is small, even though it all took place in the 10 days after they instituted the new policy without informing us about it. They also say this is a federal policy, using that as the reasoning. It wasn't an issue previously.

I wrote you this long note because I think your blog is both good and powerful; I feel as though things are upside down and not being remedied and I feel like we are currently living in Wonderland... or as the Red Queen said..."We're painting the roses red today..."

(Oh, and we never ever use credit cards anymore-- zero balance-- and have changed banks and started fresh with the new one. And we enjoy our new home thoroughly.)

Hope you're well..and perhaps this capsulizes modern times in one story

A footnote... of all people, former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (also former CEO of Alcoa) who was forced out under Bush for being rational, has started a new company I feel is very valuable. It's sole purpose is to rank hospitals based on patient outcomes, and not on revenue, as they currently are.

Not surprisingly, the hospitals are showing reluctance to adopt his policies or work with his new company, but he may be a good person for President Obama to consult as he reaches across the aisle to the last few pragmatic Republicans.


A Fight For The Soul Of The Florida Republican Party: Crist vs Rubio


"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross"

Earlier today we talked a little about Florida in terms of fanatic anti-government state legislators attempting to pass a constitutional amendment that would nullify any national health care reform that passes. Parts of Florida-- the parts visitors to Miami and Orlando and the beaches never see-- are as backward and reactionary as the worst areas of Alabama and Oklahoma. And it seems not many people around the country are aware of the epic battle over the Republican nomination for open U.S. Senate seat looming there between mainstream conservative, Charlie Crist and the darling of the extremist brat pack Marco Rubio.

The dilemma for the Republican Party is that true believer Rubio represents the purity of the extreme right positions. He would fit right in with the 3 obstructionist Jims: DeMint, Inhofe and Bunning, the apostles of a creed that is willing-- even eager-- for America to fail so that Obama's presidency is a failure. Rubio polls extremely well with the Republican base-- at least when they know who he is and what he stands for. Charlie Crist is the governor, a well known political figure (also a barely concealed closet queen) who has been Attorney General and is now Governor. He was recruited by the NRSC as the only chance they saw to hold the Senate seat being abandoned by Mel Martinez. You see, Rubio could easily appeal to Republicans in a primary; he's what many of them are all about. But he would probably not be able to win a general election, even against the weakest of Democrats (which is exactly who the Democrats have running in Kendrick Meek-- but that's another story for another day). Crist is looked at by the GOP Establishment as a less than perfect Republican-- he gets along well with President Obama and endorsed the Stimulus package and mostly embraces the concept of government working for the benefit of citizens-- but as one who can win a general election with ease.

Rubio has been garnering endorsements from the far right nationally-- Jim DeMint, Dick Armey, Mike Huckabee-- and has been doing well in straw polls among the grassroots and teabaggers across the state. Jeb Bush Jr. has endorsed him-- a signal that the Bush clan approves of his hard right stands. He has all the momentum-- even if Crist has all the money. In fact, Rubio is going broke... fast. The NRSC and the Florida Republican Party want him out of the race and they're using a carrot (the Attorney General slot) and stick (drying up donations) approach to pressure him. The latter, at least, is working; he had to let his campaign manager go and put his chief fundraiser on as a part-time employee. Down but not out.

The tweet above is another in a long line of reports from the frontlines that shows-- despite the financial disparity and the general polling-- the right-wing grassroots wants Rubio, not Crist. He won the Highlands County Republican Party Executive Committee straw poll... 66-1. Rubio owns the hearts and souls of the Republican hard-core but he doesn't seem able to get past that. He forced Crist to come out against Sonia Sotomayor to please the wingnuts, even though it is expected to hurt Crist in the general election-- in a state with a large and growing non-Cuban Hispanic population.

Local Republican politicians are having a hard time. They know the activist base is emotionally committed to Rubio. These are the people who are incensed over Crist's perceived slight of Sarah Palin and they are adamant that "their politicians" endorse Rubio. Right-wing Congressman Jeff Miller in the panhandle endorsed Rubio. Meanwhile, in Rubio's own backyard, the gangster Diaz-Balart brothers endorsed Crist, joining Congressmen Connie Mack IV and Vern Buchanan. Most political leaders in Florida feel certain that Rubio will, despite his protestations to the contrary, drop out of the Senate race and run for Attorney General (unless Crist has a devastating gay sex scandal).

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Who Says The House Can't Move Fast When It's Important?


Nancy cracked the whip and Congress jumped! The Cash For Clunkers program was such an overwhelming success that it ran out of money this week. In order to make sure people who want to trade in their gas guzzling polluters for more energy efficient cars, the House immediately moved into action to suspend the rules and pass a supplemental $2 billion appropriations bill. According to the NY Times "The House shoved other business out of the way on its last day before the August recess to rush through a measure to address the cash shortage of the car program." It was all over and done by 1:30 this afternoon-- and it passed overwhelmingly, 316-109. 77 Republicans joined almost all the Democrats to pass the bill.

Needless to say, most of the America-Must-Fail Club crazies-- Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), lobbyist John Boehner (R-OH), Allen Boyd (Blue Dog-FL), Paul Broun (R-GA), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA), Patty McHenry (R-NC), Mike Pence (R-IN), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH), Aaron Schock (R-IL), dirigible corruptionist Pete Sessions (R-TX), and John Shadegg (R-AZ)-- opposed the measure.
The Senate, which will be in session next week, will take up the program then. A spirited debate is likely, as some senators have said they will use the opportunity to push for tougher fuel-efficiency requirements. If the Senate does not go along with the House’s version, the House might have to return to work on a compromise.

Minutes after the House vote, President Obama praised the legislators for moving quickly. “We’re already seeing a dramatic increase in showroom traffic,” he said, adding that the program helps to reduce air pollution while helping car buyers.

The sudden legislative action was prompted by the overwhelming response to the program, formally known as the Car Allowance Rebate System, which its backers say has helped not only car buyers but the struggling automobile industry.

Earlier Friday, Robert Gibbs, the chief White House spokesman, offered assurances that the administration was looking for ways to continue the popular new program, which offers $3,500 to $4,500 for people who trade in an old car for a new one with higher fuel economy.

“If you were planning on going to buy a car this weekend using this program, the program continues to run,” he said. “If you meet the requirements of the program, the certificates will be honored.”

...“Consumers have spoken with their wallets,” Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin of chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in urging quick passage.

The panel’s ranking Republican, Jerry Lewis of California, complained that Democrats, who have a 256-to-178 majority in the House, were rushing the measure through with too little thought,-- “shoveling another $2 billion out the door,” in his words.

Lewis, one of the most corrupt members of Congress in history, knows that if the process could have been slowed down for a week or two, there would have been tremendous opportunities for bribery for the kinds of congressmen who engage in those kinds of activities. Karina in Speaker Pelosi's office posted all the details of the program and why it was important to get this through before the break.
More than 200,000 cars have already been bought through the program, and it is expected to spur the sale of up to 800,000 more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, while stimulating the ailing auto industry and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. The funds to immediately extend the “Cash For Clunkers” program are coming from a clean energy fund appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be returned so as to further our nation’s long term clean energy and innovation goals.

President Obama, of course, was very enthusiastic and, sensing trouble from the House of Lords-- worthless Missouri imbecile Claire McCaskill has already tweeted she's against it-- issued this statement:
“I want to thank leaders in the House of Representatives for working quickly and in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that will use Recovery Act funds to keep “Cash for Clunkers” going. This program has been an overwhelming success, allowing consumers to trade in their less fuel efficient cars for a credit to buy more fuel efficient new models. It has given consumers a much needed break, provided the American auto industry an important boost, and is achieving environmental benefits well beyond what was originally anticipated. The program has proven to be a successful part of our economic recovery and will help lessen our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of the air we breathe. I urge the Senate to act with the American consumers in mind to pass this important legislation.”

Obama should have been clearer; he didn't tell the senators how he wants them to act-- and many of them have every intention of acting very badly. McCain and DeMint, for example, have already said they intend to filibuster the bill and Dianne Feinstein sounds just as uninterested in seeing it pass.

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Right-wing Republicans In Florida Threaten To Nullify Any Health Care Reform Congress Passes That Helps The Needy


The extremists from the Marco Rubio faction of the Florida GOP have the perfect solution to health care reform: they've proposed a constitutional amendment banning federal health care. Think Progress broke the bizarre story last night. Two of the worst right-wing fanatics in the state legislature, Senator Carey Baker (Eustis) and Representative Scott Plakon (Longwood), filed HJR 37, a whacked-out proposal that somehow forgot to mention that President Obama was born in Mombassa, Jakarta and Mexico, but that does seek to prevent planned Federal health care reform legislation from affecting Floridians.

Baker, who's an underdog in the GOP primary for State Agriculture Commissioner against Adam "Howdy Doody" Putnam is a leader of the Florida secessionists and a self-styled tea-bagger. The bill calls on all Floridians to provide for their own health care "to preserve the freedom of all residents of the state." Baker receives health care benefits under the US Veteran’s Administration, funded by federal tax dollars, and participates in Florida's health insurance plan whose premiums are subsidized by state taxpayer funds. He's widely considered to be an off-the-wall crackpot, a product of too much Hate Talk Radio.

Even the very conservative Orlando Sentinel couldn't resist gently poking fun at the two delusional wingnuts. Paranoid and looking for some free publicity, the two of them are calling health care reform an "unprecedented power-grab by President Obama and Congress" which is "clearly not in the best interests of the citizens of Florida.”
The Legislature and then 60 percent of the state's electorate would have to OK the state constitutional amendment, which would almost certainly face its own federal constitutional hurdles (the state doesn't have much say-so in federal tax penalties).

Nearly 4 million Floridians are uninsured presently, and an effort last year by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature called "Cover Florida" to try and make more no-frills coverage plans available without placing mandates on businesses or insurers has so far failed to make a dent in that number.

The battle perfectly demonstrates the narrow and twisted conservative mentality that fights for the status quo and for wealthy elites and has, historically been on the wrong side of every important battle in American history. Conservatives like Baker, Plakon and Rubio opposed the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the Bill of Rights, "universal" suffrage for white males, extending suffrage to women and to the poor and to minorities; conservatives opposed ending slavery, opposed public education, opposed food safety and consumer protection, opposed the abolition of child labor, opposed the 8 hour workday, opposed the national park system, opposed the minimum wage, opposed the right of workers to form unions, opposed cleaning up our air, our water, and toxic dump sites, opposed rural electrification, Social Security, Civil Rights, Medicare and Medicaid. They opposed-- in general-- PROGRESS-- and they're still dancing to the same stale tunes.

UPDATE: The Need For Health Care Reform In Florida

The Ceter For American Progress took a look at the health care situation in Florida that Baker and Plakon are trying to use to further their disgraceful political careers. The numbers show a great need for the kind of health care reform President Obama is proposing:
• 850 residents of Florida are losing health insurance every day, and 14,000 Americans nationwide lose insurance daily.

• The average family premium in Florida costs $1,400 more because our system fails to cover everyone-- and $1,100 more nationally.

• Our broken health insurance system will cost the Florida economy as much as $19 billion this year in productivity losses due to the uninsured-- and up to $248 billion nationally.

• In Florida there has been a 15 percent increase in the uninsured rate since 2007.

• 3,920,000 are uninsured today in Florida.

• In Florida the combined market share of the top two insurers is 45 percent, limiting employers’ and families’ health insurance options as well as the care they receive.

• The average family premium will rise from $12,763 to $21,779 by 2019 in Florida without health care reform.

• In Florida, without health care reform, 556,070 will have lost coverage from January 2008 to December 2010.

• In Florida, 1,854,000 people would gain coverage as a result of the House health care reform bill by 2013, and 2,982,000 would gain coverage by 2019.

• A typical Florida family will pay $21,779 for health coverage in 2019 without health care reform.

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Senate Votes To Re-Finance Highway Trust Fund After A Day Of Republican Obstructionism


Ultimately, the Senate passed H.R. 3357 yesterday, a bill that will restore funding to the Highway Trust Fund. But first there were a slew of typically obstructionist, time-wasting Republican amendments that had to be voted down. The rejected amendments came from three of the Senate's most scandalous members, David Diapers Vitter (R-LA), John Ensign (R-The Family) and Jeff Sessions (KKK-AL). The amendments were all defeated along party lines with DLC corporate whores Ben Nelson (NE) and Blanche Lincoln (AR) spending the day on the Dark Side of the aisle with their ideological soulmates.

In the end, the bill passed 79-17, Nelson and Lincoln crossing back to the Democratic side they so rarely visit these days. Needless to say, all of what passes for GOP leadership-- McConnell, Kyl, DeMint, Sessions, McCain, Thune-- voted no. Over half the Republicans left them to stew and voted with the Democrats.

What the bill does is to add $7 billion to the Trust Fund, as well as ensuring the continued flow of federal aid to states unable to cover unemployment benefit costs, and bolstering a federal program offering low-interest housing loans-- all 3 of which were in danger of running out of money while Congress is on break. More than four and a half million people would have been without unemployment benefits nationwide had the GOP been able to sabotage passage. Conservatives opposed unemployment insurance when it was first proposed in 1932 and they still try to kill the concept whenever they can. Ironically, unemployment insurance was first proposed by and enacted in the state of Wisconsin and today one of its most vicious enemies is right-wing corporate shill Paul Ryan from southeast Wisconsin.

The highway trust fund, made up of revenue from gasoline taxes brings in around $40 billion annually that the federal government spends each year on roads, bridges and transit projects. With the general downturn in the economy, more fuel efficient vehicles. and less driving, the fund's balances have been declining recently and will go into the red sometime next month. Had the Republicans been able to kill the bill, the result would be that federal payments to states for highway and transit projects, now made on a daily basis, would be strung out and made once a week or twice monthly. The $7 billion would keep the fund solvent through Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year.

When the bill that passed yesterday in the Senate was voted on by the House the day before, every single Democrat and more than half the Republicans voted yes. It passed 363-68. What kind of irresponsible lunatics voted know? Lot's of Confederate anti-government extremists and fellow travelers in other states. The Let-America-Fail crowd somehow feels their only shot at returning to power is if the country goes into crisis. Who are these people? Among the worst offenders are familiar names:

Todd Akin (R-MO)
Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
birther Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
lobbyist John Boehner (R-OH)
Paul Broun (R-GA)
birther John Campbell (R-CA)
Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
David Dreier (R-CA)
euthanasia fanatic Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
conspiracy nut Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
birther Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Darrell Issa (R-CA)
birther Kenny Marchant (R-TX)
Tom McClintock (R-CA)
birther Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
Tom Price (R-GA)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
sex predator John Shadegg (R-AZ)
alcoholic John Sullivan (R-OK)
Buy Bull expert Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sunday Classics preview no. 1 -- Cortot


by Ken

Back when I made my ill-fated stab at the Chopin Preludes, I promised that even if we didn't work our way through Op. 28 we would still have more Chopin coming, and this weekend we're going to hear the four Ballades, which seem to me to offer a wonderfully wide sampling of the composer's pianistic and musical range.

Sunday we're going to hear all four ballades played by Augstiv Anievas, Arthur Rubinstein, and Sviatoslav Richter. By way of preview, tonight we're going to hear Alfred Cortot (1877-1962), whom we heard playing the first two Preludes, play the Ballade No. 1, and then tomorrow night we'll hear Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) play it again -- in each case along with some other Chopin just to provide a bit of context for his Chopin playing.

CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23

[8:28] Alfred Cortot, piano. EMI, recorded Dec. 12, 1926

I asked my piano maven Leo for a suggestion of some other Cortot Chopin to sample, and he mentioned the pianist's late recording of the Preludes,
[plus a couple of preludes from the late Cortot recording?]


The current list is here.

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Sunday Classics preview: Chopin ballades preview no. 1 --Cortot


CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23

Alfred Cortot, piano. EMI, recorded Dec. 12, 1926

cortot playing a couple of the late preludes?

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Lamar Alexander Abandons GOP Obstructionists-- Will Vote To Confirm Sotomayor


Some felt it was remarkable that conservative Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Once Specter did his little fence jump though, it was inevitable. The Judiciary Committee rule says that at least one Republican has to vote "yes" on a nominee in order for the committee to send a recommendation to the full Senate. (This may have something to do with why not one single judge nominated by Obama has been confirmed so far.) Anyway, the Republicans secretly agreed internally that they had to put on a big anti-Sotomayor show for the drooling racist savages in their base but that they couldn't afford to actually block the nomination without risking sustained, perhaps even fatal damage at the polls. So someone on the committee had to take the political risk. The seven Republicans on the committee are all very right-wing: Jeff Sessions, the KKK member from Alabama, Orrin Hatch (UT), Chuck Grassley (IA), Jon Kyl (AZ), Graham, John Cornyn (TX) and Tom Coburn (OK). It was always a question of whether it would be Hatch, Grassley or Graham who would provide the one vote to let the nomination move forward.

Grassley begged out citing a tough re-election bid in 2010, and Hatch pointed out that his state's party has been taken over by teabagging radicals who have been replacing conservatives with extremists-- last year Chis Cannon was dumped for far right lunatic fringe Jason Chaffetz and this year Hatch's colleague Bob Bennett is facing political extermination at the hands of wingnut Mark Shurtleff. That left Graham who won't have to face the voters again until 2014.

But then today, just as the most conservative (and aisle-crossing) Democrat in the Senate, corporate shill Ben Nelson (NE) announced he might not vote for confirmation, up steps the first member of the Republican Senate Leadership Team, Conference Chair Lamar Alexander (TN) to announce that he's supporting confirmation. “I will vote to confirm her because she is well-qualified by experience, temperament, character and intellect to serve as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court,” he said, also pointing out that her “political and judicial philosophy may be different than mine, especially regarding Second Amendment rights.”

Aside from Nelson there are a number of Democratic senators who have proven they have no backbone, particularly when it comes to standing up to the NRA, which is vigorously opposing Sotomayor. Worst among the Democratic cowards is Mark Begich, a freshman from Alaska, who has proven a terrible disappointment to the progressives who helped him narrowly defeat Ted Stevens last year.

Many eyes are now focused on John McCain-- who also faces the voters next year. The radical right kooks at the Moonie Times are demanding in an editorial today that he oppose confirmation. But as the somewhat savvier Hill pointed out this morning, McCain has been hiding out and ducking the issue-- and with good political reason: he's scared to move in either direction.
Somewhere, in his new life as a political hermit, Sen. John McCain must be grinding his teeth. Facing a primary challenge from the right in his campaign for reelection, McCain (R-Ariz.) has gone from spending nearly a decade as a hyper-exposed, perennial presidential candidate to being someone you can only find on Twitter.

But with a tough decision to make any day now, McCain will reluctantly do what he has avoided for so long: make news. This will happen when McCain announces his vote for or against the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Either choice will be surprising-- risk losing votes in a primary by supporting her, or risk losing votes in the general by alienating Hispanic voters in a purpling state where the Hispanic population is double the national average. President Barack Obama’s selection of Sotomayor was exactly the kind of complication McCain really didn’t need.

McCain’s attempt to woo Arizona Republicans is challenged by his maverick identity and long history of bucking his party. A founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has announced his candidacy and criticized McCain for “reckless bailout spending” (he voted last fall for the Troubled Asset Relief Program) and a record of “opting to hold our nation’s border security hostage to his amnesty schemes.” So while McCain has spent time blasting Obama’s energy reform plans, his reaction to the election in Iran and his policies that have grown deficits and debt, he hasn’t spent much time keeping that promise he made on election night 2008: to “do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.” Most notable is the absence of the bipartisan dealmaker in the midst of the brutal battle over healthcare reform.

Two of McCain's trusted gay pals, Lindsey Graham and Charlie Crist, have taken different positions on the Sotomayor nomination. With Graham voting yes, Crist-- under pressure from right-wing fanatic Marco Rubio-- has taken the gamble that Florida Latinos won't care that he's opposing the first Latina nominated to the Supreme Court. "Perhaps," speculates The Hill, "McCain is consulting with both Graham and Crist. We will learn soon-- likely by Tweet rather than a press conference-- which friend McCain is going to disagree with."

As of today 6 Republicans (not counting Arlen Specter)-- Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), Dick Lugar (IN), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mel Martinez (FL) and Lamar Alexander (TN)-- have pledged to vote for confirmation. Many of the lunatic fringe extremists have already declared they will oppose confirmation, including the other 6 Judiciary Committee members, Jim DeMint, Jim Bunning (KY), Jim Inhofe (OK), Miss McConnell (KY), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Thad Cochran (MS), Richard Burr (NC), Mike Johanns (NE), Sam Brownback (KS), Pat Roberts (KS), Bill Bennett (UT), Jim Risch (ID), Mike Crapo (ID), and of course, Richard Shelby (AL). Reactionary Democrats who play footsy with GOP interests who have not announced one way or the other-- aside from Begich and Nelson-- include Blanche Lincoln (AR), Mark Pryor (AR), Evan Bayh (IN), Tom Carper (DE), Max Baucus (apparently too busy thinking about how to wreck health care reform for his corporate donors to have even thought about the historic Supreme Court nomination), and Michael Bennet (CO). This afternoon, for example, 2 putative Democrats, both far right of the mainstream, voted for another obstructionist anti-Obama bill, this one offered by right-wing fanatic David Diapers Vitter. Who were the 2 miscreants-- Nelson, of course... and Blanche Lincoln, who apparently enjoyed the Blue America TV ads and is asking for more.

Today's Hotline guesses that Judd Gregg (NH), McCain, Kit Bond (MO), George Voinovich (OH), and John Ensign (NV) are the most likely to join the growing Republicans-for-Sotomayor Club and brave the overwrought hysteria of the Republican Party fringe. Ensign, though, they rate as "a longshot."
[T]he beleaguered Ensign has a little more than three years to rehabilitate his reputation before his re-election bid. Where to start: his conservative base, or the 25%-and-growing Hispanic population of his home state?

UPDATE: Amazing-- A Democratic Senator, More Or Less, Announces His Support For His President's Nominee

Break out the champagne! Looks like someone had a talk with that shithead Baucus. I guess killing health care is all he'll do for the Republicans this month.

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Progressives Urge Beck Advertisers To Stop Enabling The Extremism


Do you know who pays for the racist campaign against Obama? GEICO, NutriSystems, Proctor & Gamble, and... United Postal Service. Yep, those are the advertisers who pay for the TV time so that deranged sociopath Glenn Beck can get up and spout his divisive hatred and racism. And today the top online civil rights group Color of Change urged its 600,000-plus members to petition companies who advertise on Glenn Beck’s radio and television shows to urge them to cut off their advertising on Beck’s programs. The mobilization comes after Beck called President Obama a “racist” who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people” during an appearance Tuesday on Fox and Friends. [Video below]

Color of Change has also been urging CNN to fire their own racist shill, Lou Dobbs for his gratuitous birther campaign, which CNN irresponsibly uses to pump up lagging viewership.

“What Beck is doing is race-baiting at its worst, it's dangerous and it's hard to imagine any company wanting their brand associated with it,” said James Rucker of “Beck has now shown that his extreme views are more appropriate for a street corner than a major media program. He no longer deserves the backing of mainstream advertisers.”'s decision to hold companies accountable for where they spend their advertising budgets is significant because of the increased consumer power of African-Americans. A 2008 report by the market research publication Report Buyer forecasts that the buying power of the country's African-American community will hit $1.1 trillion by 2012.

Please sign their petition.

UPDATE: Ratings Plummet For Cable News Hatemongers

If CNN is trying to get ratings with Lou Dobb's hate show-- which is what Bill O'Reilly claims (and who would know better?)-- the tactic is failing. His ratings have taken a serious hit since he started his psychotic birther campaign according to today's NY Observer.

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Is Pete Sessions (R-TX) A Crook?


GOP crook Pete Sessions hosting a Republican Party fundraisier

One of Texas' most radical right congressmen, Pete Sessions, who is likely to lose his suburban Dallas seat to demographic changes in the next few years if he can't force through another redistricting, is the current head of the NRCC. Even if Democrat Grier Raggio can't do it in 2010, TX-32 is now a district that is minority white-- and not all that receptive to the kind of right-wing extremism Sessions has built his career on. Right wing extremism and a cozy relationship with Big Business. One of the shrillest and most hysterically determined opponents of health care reform that would serve ordinary American families, Sessions' #2 source of campaign contributions is the Medical-Industrial Complex and Big Insurance (1,485,374). You can probably guess that the banksters and big real estate interests are #1 ($2,799,298). Sessions takes more in thinly legalized bribes from Big Business than any other member of the Texas House delegation. And he serves their interests slavishly. Lately he's been pushing a barrel of desperate lies about health care reform.

Yesterday Sessions was in the news bragging about how his committee is targeting 80 Democrats for defeat. Although some of the Blue Dogs -- like Bobby Bright (AL) and Frank Kratovil (MD), may be in trouble for voting too frequently against working families and with the corporate interests supported by the GOP and their conservative Democratic allies, most observers think Sessions better put his funds into protecting vulnerable Republican seats that are likely to flip blue next year. But Sessions may have a problem focusing on NRCC problems because of the personal ethics scandal developing around him.

John Bresnahan at Politico broke the story today: Pete Sessions' Blimp Flies Into Storm, and like most Republican scandals, its as much about hypocrisy as it is about a tendency to blur the line between criminal behavior and the way the rest of us are expected to conduct our lives. Once the GOP was driven from power, Sessions' website started whining how earmarks had become “a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people.” But even with Bush and the congressional Republicans out of power, Sessions has hardly slowed down his mania for suspiciously corrupt earmarks. Last year, for example, he steered $1.6 million in tax money to a dirigible company that isn't even in his district; it's in Illinois-- ad the president of the company admits that they have no experience in government contracting, in defense or aviation industries, no engineering or research expertise or and experience at all in blimp building! So what was Sessions up to?
What the company did have: the help of Adrian Plesha, a former Sessions aide with a criminal record who has made more than $446,000 lobbying on its behalf... [T]he company that received the earmarked funds, Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, is based in the suburbs of Chicago, with another office in San Antonio-- nearly 300 miles from Dallas. And while Sessions used a Dallas address for the company when he submitted his earmark request to the House Appropriations Committee last year, one of the two men who control the company says that address is merely the home of one of his close friends.

If this smells like fraud to you, you're hardly alone. The owner of the company, Jim Ferguson, is a lobbyist himself and he and his son (a partner in the fake blimp business) have donated thousands of dollars to Republicans in Congress (including $5,000 to Sessions)
Ferguson declined to describe his relationship with Plesha.

“I’ve known him for a long time,” Ferguson said. “As you know, [Washington] is a small town.”

Likewise, Plesha would not comment about his work with the Fergusons or about any interactions he may have had with Sessions or his office concerning the earmark.

“As a policy, I never discuss anything regarding my clients other than what is already publicly available or required to be disclosed by law — especially for a client such as this where their technology is very much sought after by the larger defense and corporate shipping firms,” Plesha said in a statement provided to POLITICO.

In 1997 — before going to work for Sessions — Plesha was arrested for illegal possession of a handgun in Washington, after he shot a man who was burglarizing his apartment, according to court documents. Plesha claimed he had acted in self-defense, but the burglar said Plesha shot him three times in the back as he was running away. Plesha pled guilty to the handgun charge, was sentenced to 18 months’ probation and ordered to do 120 hours of community service.

Within a year, he was working as a campaign manager for Republican House candidate Charles Ball, who was running against then-Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.).

In that campaign, the FEC has said that Plesha created a fake Democratic committee to attack Tauscher. The FEC said the committee sent out 40,000 letters and made 10,000 phone calls to Democratic voters in Tauscher’s district just prior to the 1998 midterm elections suggesting that Democratic Rep. George Miller was opposing Tauscher’s reelection.

But Miller was, in fact, backing Tauscher. The FEC launched an investigation. And in a 2004 news release, the FEC said that Plesha had not only “authorized and distributed the fabricated letters and calls” but also “knowingly made false statements to the FEC” about them, “denying involvement in or knowledge of this scheme.”

According to the FEC and court documents, Plesha pled guilty to lying to investigators in the case. He was fined $5,000, placed on three years’ probation and ordered to do an additional 160 hours of community service, according to federal court documents. He also entered into a “conciliation agreement,” under which he was to pay a $60,000 civil penalty, the FEC said.

Lobbying disclosure records show that, beginning in November 2005, Ferguson and Plesha lobbied on behalf of Sphere Communications, a division of NEC Corp., the Japanese telecommunications giant. Plesha also worked for a time for a San Francisco-based defense contractor whose employees, FEC records show, had contributed heavily to Sessions and his PAC.

By 2006, lobbying disclosure forms show that Plesha was working for the Fergusons. The records show that he collected $51,400 in fees from the Fergusons during the last six months of 2006; nearly $292,000 more in 2007; and $64,500 in 2008.

The records show that the Fergusons are, by far, Plesha’s most lucrative lobbying clients.

Knowing how the Washington Culture of Corruption works-- after all Sessions didn't get caught with stacks of hundred dollar bills in his office freezer and his is white and rich and Republican-- don't look for a trial-- or even an ethics hearing-- any time soon. However, unless blatant bribery of our congressional representatives is stopped and serious campaign finance laws are instituted, don't expect democracy to function in any way other than as an impediment to changing the status quo.

People in Washington, though, are wondering if so many top tier Republican recruits by Sessions' committee are backing away from running in 2010 because of Sessions personal ethical problems, rather than just because of Sessions' crazy pronouncements about how the GOP needs to be more like the Taliban. This morning another one, Connecticut state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, announced he was passing on an expected run against Democratic freshman Jim Himes. Maybe someone should tell the NRCC Twit-master-- or maybe the NRCC has more pressing problems at the moment. Poor Sessions-- sitting and blithely twittering away in the wrong place at the wrong time while Jeff Flake denounces corrupt earmarkers!!! LOL!

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Whoremonger David Vitter Takes A Swing At George Voinovich


I doubt serial adulterer and whoremonger David Diapers Vitter personally fire-bombed the car of a Stormy Daniels campaign advisor-- although I hope the police ask where he was at the time of the incident. I know where he was yesterday afternoon-- slamming fellow Republican Senator George Voinovich (OH) and defending the honor of the Confederacy and it's racist, reactionary politics. (Recall that Voinovich had blamed the deterioration in the Republican Party on Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) and other southern radical right politicians who are out of touch with mainstream America.)
"I'm on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values," said Mr. Vitter, Louisiana Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There are a lot of us from the South who hold those values, which I think the party is supposed to be about. We strayed from them in the past few years, and that's why we performed so badly in the national elections."

...Mr. Vitter also criticized Mr. Voinovich for voting last week against a failed amendment sponsored by Mr. Vitter and Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, to expand Americans' ability to carry concealed weapons.

"He's a moderate, really wishy-washy," Mr. Vitter said.

Yesterday Voinovich sided with Democrats on a number of votes that pitted die-hard right-wing obstructionists against a bipartisan majority trying to keep the government functioning in a productive way. For example, he voted against Coburn's gratuitous amendment to cut the funding for the Department of Energy, against Lamar Alexander's amendment to cut off TARP money to auto manufacturers, and against another gratuitous obstructionist amendment from Coburn, this one to harass energy and water development projects. Vitter, of course, voted for all 3 bills because Vitter wants President Obama to fail so badly that he doesn't care if the whole country falls apart. As expected, Vitter also announced, via Twitter, that he will vote against confirming Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
Louisiana has a reputation for tolerating misbehavior. Witness former Gov. Earl Long's cavorting with stripper Blaze Starr in the 1950s, former Gov. Edwin Edwards' frequent one-liners about his reputation as a womanizer and former Congressman William Jefferson's re-election to a ninth term after FBI agents said they found $90,000 in bribes he'd taken stashed in his freezer.

But if polls show the first-term Vitter struggling, Republicans could decide he is too weak to hold the seat, the analysts said. His biggest threat then could come from the right, possibly from Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who already has statewide name recognition, or even Gov. Bobby Jindal, who so far has denied any interest in the race.

For now, that scenario appears unlikely, and with qualifying for the primaries less than a year away, time is growing short for potential opponents to start raising money for a credible campaign.

"Someone's going to have to announce soon," said Chervenak, who added that Vitter is likely hoping there is not another Republican scandal to remind voters of his own transgressions-- "another Mark Sanford or something like that."

UPDATE: Stormy Being Pressured To Get Out Of The Race Because Of A Domestic Violence Charge

Stormy Daniels-- a far more formidable opponent than conflicted and pathetic Louisiana Blue Dog Charlie Melancon, presumably the loser the Democrats plan to run against Vitter-- was arrested Saturday for punching out her husband. She faces jail. Vitter, who was been hiring prostitutes for his entire career-- and has been exposed and force to admit that he did as much-- has never been charged with a crime, even though hiring a prostitute is a criminal offense in Louisiana. Funny how the law works for lawmakers, huh? The guy admitted it... on TV! The spokesperson for the Louisiana Democratic Party, Kevin Franck remarked appropriately "Last time I checked, you don't find core Southern values in the places David Vitter has been found... If David Vitter can lead his party back to their conservative values, maybe Larry Craig can give them tips on bathroom etiquette and Mark Sanford can recommend a really good restaurant in Buenos Aires."

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Why Does David Dreier Want To Poison Your Family With Tainted Food Products? And He's Got Some Cronies In Congress Who Feel The Same Way


CA Congressmembers Dreier & Bono Mack dream of free market e. coli

Conservatives have always fought like mad dogs (if not blue ones) against protecting consumers from being poisoned by people selling bad food. Learning about the battles between progressives and conservatives regarding food safety in school helped me understand why I would never support conservatives and why I was-- and am-- a progressive. How in the pocket of Big Business do you have to be to risk killing your own constituents-- or even family members-- in the name of unregulated markets?

Yesterday the House failed to pass HR 2749, John Dingell's Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, a major overhaul of the FDA 280- 150. (It needed a 2/3's margin to pass under the rules so it lost by about 10 votes). Who would vote against food safety? You know the answer: conservatives, the whole reactionary Republican leadership and almost all the GOP loons in the House plus 23 mostly disgraceful Democrats, primarily Blue Dog congenital aisle jumpers like Heath Shuler (NC), Walt Minnick (ID), Travis Childers (MS), Parker Griffith (AL), Frank Kratovil (MD), Jim Marshall (GA), etc.

The DCCC sent out press releases today pointing out how California reactionaries Brian Bilbray, Mary Bono Mack, Ken Calvert, David Dreier, Elton Gallegly, Dana Rohrabacher, Dan Lungren, Tom McClintock, and Buck McKeon blocked Dingell's bill:
Despite recent outbreaks of food borne illnesses such as E.coli and salmonella, today Representative David Dreier blocked an attempt to strengthen and modernize the way we protect America’s food supply.
“Americans worrying about when the next outbreak of E.coli or salmonella will strike their families deserve better than Representative Dreier blocking a plan to keep our food supply safe,” said Ryan Rudominer, National Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“It’s outrageous that Representative Dreier is willing to block solutions to make sure the food Americans feed to children is healthy and safe.” 

It is outrageous and Dreier should be defeated next year. But so should Minnick, Childers, Griffith and Kratovil, all of whom voted with Dreier and the Republicans and all of whom are on the Debbie Wasserman Schultz' DCCC Frontline Program. Donate to the DCCC and help defeat Republicans who want to poison our families and help re-elect with the same check Democrats who want to poison our families. How does Debbie Wasserman Schultz fall asleep at night or look in a mirror?

Meanwhile, the bill will be voted on today and it will only need a simple majority to pass. (Astute readers may have noticed that a small handful of dedicated progressives voted against the bill yesterday as well-- Lynn Woolsey, Maurice Hinchey, Chellie Pingree, Earl Blumenauer, Ben Ray Luján, Peter Welch, Steve Kagen, Eric Massa, and Martin Heinrich. After talking to a few Capitol Hill staffers and to food policy expert Jill Richardson (author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It) it appears that they are concerned about the burdensome effect on small organic farms since there's a flat $500 registration fee per facility and they thought it should be adjusted and made lower.)

UPDATE: The House Overcame GOP Obstructionism And Passed The Food Safety Enhancement Act

Adopting a rule that allowed the bill to pass with a simple majority, with just a few vote changes from yesterday-- 3 Democrats and 4 Republicans gave up their opposition-- the bill passed 283-142, another progressive victory for consumer protection against the extremism of anti-social mania of proft-driven conservatives. The California E. coli Republicans, Brian Bilbray, Mary Bono Mack, Ken Calvert, David Dreier, Elton Gallegly, Dana Rohrabacher, Dan Lungren, Tom McClintock, and Buck McKeon, all voted against the bill again. President Obama commended the House on passage:
Today the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, legislation that will raise food safety standards, allow the FDA to issue mandatory recalls of harmful products, and enhance our oversight of imported food.

This action represents a major step forward in modernizing our food safety system and protecting Americans from foodborne illness. Those are the goals of the Food Safety Working Group I convened in March and charged with making recommendations to improve our food safety system. And that is why we announced a new rule to control Salmonella contamination in eggs and are working to reduce the presence of harmful pathogens such as E. coli in meat and produce; strengthen our capacity to trace the source of outbreaks; and update our emergency operations procedures.

I commend the House of Representatives for its action today and look forward to working with the Senate to enact critical food safety legislation.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fantasy Tonight: The Gloucester Cheese Roll -- sometimes the British are so damn inspiring


by Noah

Recently, I’ve been seeing news clips of an annual event that always has the Brits enthralled -- when they aren’t comatose and lying on the sidewalks of their towns in pools of their own beer vomit, that is. It’s the Gloucester Cheese Roll. I first became aware of it through ESPN and then Countdown, but, in true American corporate fashion, the reports of those networks are not easily available for viewing on the internet. After all, why would a TV network want to promote itself or its shows? Fortunately, I found a longer, better visual of the event on youtube.

Now that's entertainment! It's The Brits! Rolling cheese down a hill and chasing it. First loon to the bottom "wins". The winner hoists the cheese! I hope it's really good cheese. No doubt alcohol is involved, as it is with every aspect of British life, but maybe it's just the inbreeding. Dig the guy with the horse head. Obviously the Brits are taking that human-animal hybrid thing seriously.

This event has inspired me! I also realize that I may be letting a personal bigotry that I have get the best of me. Hey, I, Noah, “have a British friend,” so how dare I call myself a bigot?

To the civilized mind, guys or girls chasing rolling cheese down a hill while wearing a horse head or even ending up carried off the course on a spine-immobilizing stretcher may seem somewhat barbaric, but to the vengeful mind, my mind, I find something better. I find inspiration!

Just as Americans of the early 19th century adapted another British sport, cricket, into the national pastime of baseball, why can’t we adapt the cheese roll? Sure, it’s a fantasy, but isn’t life about making our fantasies come true?

Here’s how it would go:

First, I would find a boulder-strewn, pockmarked hill somewhere just outside of Washington, DC, where, as newly elected Benevolent Dictator, I would stage my new, improved version of this hallowed British tradition. Next, I would place some angled six-foot-long very sharp iron spikes at the bottom of the course. Poison-tipping them would be optional, or only for special national holiday races.

Then I would pass a law that decreed that the only way K Street could possibly pass money into the gaping eager pockets of our bribe sponging U.S senawhores would be through events such as what I am proposing. Instead of a large roll of smelly cheese, as shown in the clip, my little game would feature a large roll of stinking cash, provided by K Street. The Senate would be “invited” to participate. If the greedy, evil, good-for-nothing slimebuckets like Max Baucus and Chuck “Grasshole” Grassley want the cash, they have to dash, downhill. I might even give those two a head start.

The element of extreme risk would be introduced and there would be the side benefit of having the greediest, fastest, connivingest, piggiest members of the Senate standing a jolly good chance of impalement at the fantasy line. Who wouldn’t tune in to ESPN to see if Max Baucus got deservedly kababbed at the finish line? I know I would! The whole thing is evolution at work, the greediest and fastest etc. would risk all in a frenzied hopeless endeavor. They think they can win the prize, but the odds are stacked against them.

I’d even let a few win once in a while, like a casino does just to encourage participation. If the K Street Bribery Squads want to peddle some influence, this will be the only legal way for them to do it. This idea could even be adapted to the handing out of bailout money to banksters! All in favor?

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Blue Dogs Strike A Pose-- A Republican One


There were a few good Republicans after him, but not really that many

I spent most of the summer in Indonesia and Thailand. In between scaling Mount Batur, white water rafting down the Mighty Ayung River, sleeping ten hours a day and going to a plantation with my friends who wanted to drink coffee made of mongoose poop, I inspired myself by reading Mike Lux's powerful new book The Progressive Revolution, the best and most thorough contrast I've ever seen explaining the difference between progressives and conservatives. I'm back in L.A. now and I see Democrats are in the midst of an internal struggle between it's better nature, progressivism and the Dark Side, conservatism.

It isn't as though conservatives, by nature the defenders of the status quo and of the wealthy and powerful, don't have adequate representation. It's called the Republican Party and soon after the demise of Abraham Lincoln it sold its progressive soul to the industrialist robber barons and southern racists and transformed itself into a bulwark against change. Among the changes conservatives have opposed-- usually hysterically, warning about the end of civilization and the family and religion, were:

• The American Revolution
• The Bill of Rights and the forging of a democracy
• Universal white male suffrage
• Public education
• The emancipation of the slaves
• The national park system
• Food safety
• The breakup of monopolies
• The Homestead Act
• Land grant universities
• Rural electrification
• Women’s suffrage
• The abolition of child labor
• The eight hour workday
• The minimum wage
• Social Security
• Civil rights for minorities and women
• Voting rights for minorities and the poor
• Cleaning up our air, our water, and toxic dump sites
• Consumer product safety
• Medicare and Medicaid

"Every single one of those reforms," explains Lux, "which are literally the reforms that made this country what it is today, was accomplished by the progressive movement standing up to the fierce opposition of conservative reactionaries who were trying to preserve their own power. American history is one long argument between progressivism and conservatism."

Ken and I have been endeavoring to make sure DWT readers are aware that this is part of the historical context in which the battle over health care reform is being waged. Conservative warriors on the corporate payroll-- both Republican politicians like Jim DeMint, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Virginia Foxx, Richard Burr, Mike Pence, John Boehner, Miss McConnell, John McCain, Evan Bayh, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, etc and their media echo chamber (Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc)-- will stoop as low as they need to, regardless how much they damage the country or the fabric of society, to hold up progress. They always have. Remember, it was conservatives who predicted the end of the world if Jefferson was allowed to publish the Declaration of Independence, if the slaves were freed, if consumers were protected from businessmen selling poisonous meat, if the minimum wage were enacted, if labor unions were allowed to exist, if women were given the right to vote, if child labor were abolished, if Social Security were passed, etc. It never ends; it never will-- not even after the political right went on a rampage in the 30's, not content with destroying the world's economy, plunging the world into a global war of annihilation. And even in the midst of the pan-partisan conservatives' battle against expanding health care, they have a whole package of agenda items they are determined to shove down American's throats.

Earlier today, my friend Cliff Schecter, posted Blue Dogs, Birthers and Bullet Fetishes at the Huffington Post, which analyzes the uncomfortably narrow progressive victory over one of the latest right-wing distractions, John Thune's misguided legislation to override state laws trying to prevent criminals from carrying concealed weapons.
Thankfully, the NRA lost a gun battle for the first time in five years, but no thanks to squeamish Blue-Dog Democrats. Take Colorado Democratic Senators Udall and Bennet, for example. They waited to the end to vote, as if calculating which way to go right up until the vote, and then voted with the gun nuts. Interestingly, two Republicans from generally pro-gun states, Senators George Voinovich of Ohio and Dick Lugar of Indiana, didn't feel a need to cave to the Bonkers Wing of the GOP. Nor did Democrats from pro-gun states, like Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

In any case, a Columbine dad, a man who suffered what is a nightmare for all of us with children in school, decided to remind these two men [the 2 conservative Democrats from Colorado] about what is and is not leadership in today's Denver Post. It says everything that needs to be said on this issue, as well as a host of others.

Sadly, the biggest threat to rational legislating right now is not from Republicans, who are and should be irrelevant, but from Blue Dogs. These people need to be taught not to fear their big contributors, but We The People.

Blue Dogs in the House, the DLC in the Senate... Democrats who feed at the same corporate troughs as Republicans-- legally-protected bribery, guaranteeing that the status quo will pretty much remain unchallenged and that progressive ideas will rarely be enacted. Even with Lindsey Graham voting to support Sonia Sotomayor, two reactionary Democrats, Mark Begich and Ben Nelson have announced that they are undecided about confirmation. Makes perfect sense to me. It's a battle between progressives and conservatives, not really between the bought out Inside the Beltway political establishments and the careerists who use them as vehicles. Is there a way to solve this roadblock against democracy short of violence? Most experts think that there is one way and one way only: real campaign finance reform, the kind that gives ordinary American families a shot against the corrupting influence of Big Money.
It takes a lot of money to run a modern Senate or House campaign, and lawmakers now have to compromise themselves by personally pleading for contributions from big-money interests. Also, the massive amount of time members must devote to fundraising makes them less effective.

One way to get cleaner elections and better government is for Congress to adopt a Connecticut-style reform being pushed by Democratic U.S. Rep. John B. Larson of East Hartford and Rep. Walter Jones Jr., Republican of North Carolina. Senate sponsors are Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

A hearing on the "Fair Elections Now Act" will be held by the House Administration Committee today. We heartily support Mr. Larson's initiative.

The bill would create a voluntary program and would work like this: Participating candidates for the House and Senate would have to raise a large number of contributions, not to exceed $100 each, in order to qualify for public funding. Qualified House candidates would receive $900,000 in Fair Elections funding split 40 percent for the primary and 60 percent for the general election. Qualified Senate candidates would receive $1.25 million plus another $250,000 per congressional district in their states to take into account population differences. That funding, too, would be split 40-60. Qualified candidates would also be eligible to receive additional public funds if they continued to raise small donations from their home states.

The Senate campaign money would come from a small fee on government contractors, and the money for the House races from 10 percent of revenues generated through the auction of unused broadcast spectrum. The reform could cost between $700 million and $850 million a year, but it would remove much of the influence of special interests on elections. That's money well spent.

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What To Do About The Enemy Within-- Conservatives Wrecking Progressive Initiatives In Congress


I hope you watched the video of Maxine Waters talking about the health care battle that we ran last night. In it she answered a question from MSNBC anchor Carlos Watson about primarying Blue Dogs and conservative Democrats. Her response was that "you can't make empty threats... But many of these Blue Dogs," she continued, "represent districts that have strong pockets of poverty and minorities and they're not representing them with this approach that they're taking. I don't know whether or not there will be people running against them. Certainly we're [the House Progressive Caucus] not organized to run anybody against anybody. That's not normally what's done. But there may be people out there listening and observing all of this who may get motivated based on what they're seeing and throw their hat into the ring." This morning The Hill reported that she warned Blue Dogs to beware 2010.

I doubt many of them are frightened (although the Blue Dogs bolded in the chart below could be made to be frightened). Of the 51 Blue Dogs, only 19 represent districts that Obama won in 2008. Most of those 19 are not among the really outright reactionary neo-Confederates and Republican-oriented, anti-family Blue Dogs making all the trouble, your Mike Rosses, Baron Hills and Heath Shulers. Most but not all. Below is a list of all the Blue Dogs, starting with their 4 right-wing leaders, that shows which presidential candidate won each of their districts in 2008:

• Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD)- McCain 53%
• Rep. Baron Hill (IN)- McCain 50%
• Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA)- McCain 61%
• Rep. Heath Shuler (NC)- McCain 52%
• Rep. Jason Altmire (PA)- McCain 55%
• Rep. Mike Arcuri (NY)- Obama 51%
• Rep. Joe Baca (CA)- Obama 68%
Rep. John Barrow (GA)- Obama 54%
• Rep. Marion Berry (AR)- McCain 59%
• Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA)- Obama 54%
• Rep. Dan Boren (OK)- McCain 66%
Rep. Leonard Boswell (IA)- Obama 54%
• Rep. Allen Boyd (FL)- McCain 54%
• Rep. Bobby Bright (AL)- McCain 63%
• Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA)- Obama 59%
• Rep. Chris Carney (PA)- McCain 54%
• Rep. Ben Chandler (KY)- McCain 55%
• Rep. Travis Childers (MS)- McCain 62%
Rep. Jim Cooper (TN)- Obama 56%
• Rep. Jim Costa (CA)- Obama 60%
Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX)- Obama 56%
• Rep. Lincoln Davis (TN)- McCain 64%
Rep. Joe Donnelly (IN)- Obama 54%
• Rep. Brad Ellsworth (IN)- McCain 51%
• Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ)- McCain 52%
• Rep. Bart Gordon (TN)- McCain 62%
• Rep. Parker Griffith (AL)- McCain 61%
Rep. Jane Harman (CA)- Obama 64%
• Rep. Tim Holden (PA)- McCain 51%
• Rep. Frank Kratovil, Jr. (MD)- McCain 58%
• Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC)- McCain 52%
• Rep. Jim Marshall (GA)- McCain 56%
• Rep. Jim Matheson (UT)- McCain 57%
• Rep. Mike Michaud (ME)- Obama 55%
• Rep. Walt Minnick (ID)- McCain 62%
• Rep. Harry Mitchell (AZ)- McCain 52%
• Rep. Dennis Moore (KS)- Obama 51%
• Rep. Patrick Murphy (PA)- Obama 54%
• Rep. Glenn Nye (VA)- Obama 51%
• Rep. Collin Peterson (MN)- McCain 50%
• Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND)- McCain 53%
• Rep. Mike Ross (AR)- McCain 58%
• Rep. John Salazar (CO)- McCain 50%
• Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA)- Obama 60%
• Rep. Adam Schiff (CA)- Obama 68%
• Rep. David Scott (GA)- Obama 71%
• Rep. Zack Space (OH)- McCain 52%
• Rep. John Tanner (TN)- McCain 56%
• Rep. Gene Taylor (MS)- McCain 68%
• Rep. Mike Thompson (CA)- Obama 66%
• Rep. Charles Wilson (OH)- McCain 50%

Last year, two of the really bad Blue Dogs, Nick Lampson (TX) and Don Cazayoux (LA), were defeated but they were defeated by very far right Republicans. Lampson had disillusioned enough local progressives so that they just didn't vote for him-- he got a mere 45% of the vote, a crushing defeat for an incumbent-- and one who had basically spent two years voting like a Republican. Cazayoux was similar story. He had been elected in a special election by promising to be a representative for working families, including inner city working families in Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge inner city precincts put him over the top and no one could possibly say otherwise. But as soon as he got to Congress, he started ignoring his own constituents, cultivating Big Business lobbyists and his district's Republicans (i.e.- the Blue Dog model). It was his (well-deserved) misfortune that a Democratic Baton Rouge state senator, Michael Jackson, jumped into the race as a third party, candidate and sealed Cazayoux's fate.

Now, let's look at 2010 and what The Hill claims to be Maxine's threats. Most of the worst Blue Dogs-- the most consistent aisle crossers-- are in hopelessly red districts with huge Republican majorities. Most of the ones making the most trouble over health care reform are in backward, reactionary districts where Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson are the primary sources of conventional wisdom. These are the voters who believe Obama was born in Mecca or Kenya or Mexico and that the health care bill would mean euthanasia for granny. The most that could be hoped for by pouring resources into races against Gene Taylor, Dan Boren, Chris Carney, Bobby Bright, Jim Marshall and Travis Childers-- the worst of the worst-- would be replacing them with even worse Republicans (which is what happened in Louisiana and Texas), not such terrible outcomes, since at least their excisions would prevent a further deterioration of the damaged and confusing Democratic brand and a further drift inside the Democratic Party away from representing the interests of working families and progressive values. But it is hardly a goal many Democrats-- other than some Blue America donors-- will embrace. (I fully embrace the idea myself, in case you're new to the site.)

On the other hand, many of the housebroken Blue Dogs are from heavily Democratic districts and have modified their reactionary orientations to better reflect their constituents demands. When the Blue Dog leaders brag that they have 51 votes to cross the aisle and kill the public option, they're not telling the truth. Mike Michaud, Patrick Murphy, Adam Schiff, Sanford Bishop, Mike Thompson-- to name a few-- are not going to vote with the Republicans against the public option.

That leaves us with a few vulnerable Blue Dogs who are bad players and who can be taken out in primaries: John Barrow (who, ironically, Obama saved from political oblivion last year), Insurance Industry shill/anti-reform fanatic Jim Cooper (whose Nashville district sounds exactly like what Maxine was talking about), Henry Cuellar, Leonard Boswell, Joe Donnelly (the worst cross-over artist among Democrats in the House), and Jane Harman, who has a very serious challenge from local progressive heroine Marcy Winograd.

Let's keep in mind that last month, a NY Times/CBS poll reported that the GOP’s favorability ratings have sunk to an astounding record-breaking low-- 28%, down from a high of 59% in November 1994. Republican Party voter registration numbers are in the toilet. If voters view GOP obstructionism as adding to the country's problems-- the way they did after Roosevelt was elected to fix the economy that runaway Republican policies under Harding, Coolidge and Hoover had wrecked-- there is no reason why we won't see double digit GOP losses in the House and at least 5 or 6 Senate seat changes from red to blue. However, more bad Democrats is not going to solve anyone's problems.

It wouldn't bother me one bit if state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (KKK-MS) takes out one of the most reactionary of the Blue Dogs, Travis Childers but it's incumbent on progressive activists to get involved now-- the way Blue Dogs do-- to recruit and support progressive Democrats. One of the best examples is in the Florida district that Adam Putnam is abandoning where Blue Dogs are strongly supporting-- with cash-- an anti-health care conservative, Lori Edwards, while progressives are rallying around progressive navy vet Doug Tudor. If you'd like to donate to Doug's campaign, you can do it here through Act Blue.

It's important to get in early on races like Doug's because if we don't, we'll be presented with a fait accompli by either the Blue Dogs or the DCCC (or, as is often the case, the two groups working in concert). And speaking of Doug, there's another Doug I want to call your attention to, Doug Pike, the progressive candidate running for the open seat in the Philly 'burbs being abandoned by Jim Gerlach. His potential opponent is a sleazy reactionary state senator, Andy Dinniman, who brags that his values dictate that he vote with the Republicans more than with the Democrats (60/40 by his own estimate). Just what we need-- and, of course, a perfect Blue Dog candidate. I suspect Dinniman's values wouldn't allow him to send out an e-mail like the one I got today from Doug Pike:
Right now, in compliance with the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law (DADT), the United States military is firing good soldiers-- simply for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. This policy is wrong, and it makes our nation less safe.

I reject the argument that the U.S. military can't function effectively with gay men and women serving openly. Many of our allies allow gay men and women to serve openly in their militaries, and no
one would ever accuse these militaries-- the Israel Defense Forces or the British Army-- of lacking toughness or suffering from morale problems.

I also don’t accept the argument that the men and women in the U.S. armed forces lack the professionalism to work alongside servicemembers who are gay. We have the greatest military in the world, and they are ready to do their jobs without this outdated policy causing them to lose capable comrades-in-arms for no good reason. We’re fighting two wars, and we need all hands on deck.

What’s more, over 100 retired generals and admirals agree. They recently signed a letter urging Congress to repeal DADT.

I endorse the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1283), which would replace DADT with a policy of non-discrimination, allowing gay individuals to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.

...It is past time to repeal this policy. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 75% of all Americans-- and 59% of Republicans-- believe gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military.

Moreover, the DADT law is a huge waste of our nation's time and resources at a moment when we are facing a financial crisis. According to a 2005 GAO study, American taxpayers paid at least $250 million and possibly much more to replace servicemembers under DADT.

That sense of fairness and resolve is what we should expect to hear from Democratic candidates, not mealy mouthed conservatism seeking to preserve the status quo. Real leaders-- like Doug Tudor and Doug Pike-- lead. Only 15 Democrats opposed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill-- and every single one of them was a Blue Dog cur. They're not Democrats; they're conservatives, using the Democratic Party for their own career advancement.

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